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Posted by showplatesexpress
January 21st, 2020 at 9:43 am


If you have already embraced the 3D Gel Plate look for your number plates, then the latest development in the good looking registration stakes is now 4D, a new technology which can really make the characters on your plate stand out in sharp relief – they really are popping!

Picture of 4D plates presented in yellow and white.

Many motorists think that that 3D gel plates (see our 3d gel plate guide) are legal and 4D are not just because the DVLA makes specific mention that 3D plates are compliant in their regulations.  Well, 4D plates are legal too because actually, they are 3D but with a bit of a twist.  They are only called 4D to emphasise the added difference to 3D and to mark them out as the latest design innovation.  Some manufacturers call them 3D Plus or 3D font style so that they reduce the confusion but rest assured, 4D is both road legal and MOT compliant providing your platemaker stays within the regulations prescribed for number plates in the UK.  These rules are very specific and have been in place since 2001 when the reflective element was added to the standard issue of white plates with black characters on the front of the vehicle and yellow and black on the rear which appeared as far back as 1973.  However, there are many other legal rules to comply with such as:-

  • There is only one prescribed font and that is Charles Wright 2001
  • Characters must be 50mm wide and 79mm high
  • The dimension of each character must be 14mm
  • The space between the characters in each group should be 11mm with the central space separating the age identifier and the three random letters listed as 33mm
  • The border around the plate so the gap between the characters and the edge of the plate is 11mm
  • You can choose a badge or flag from a designated list, the flags of the Union excluding Northern Ireland plus the EU flag although that might disappear once Brexit is complete
  • The platemaker is required to include the British Standard number in small print as well as his name and the postcode of the business premises

Plates must be compliant and legible at all times – no dirt, cracks or chips  – otherwise, you risk an MOT failure or a fine of up to £1,000.  It’s easy to see why there are limited options to personalise or alter a standard number plate and not everyone can afford to go for a private registration.

What is the actual difference between a 3D gel number plate and a 4D plate?

A 3D gel resin plate has a polyurethane gel resin applied to the characters to give them a super shiny domed appearance.  4D plates are laser cut which, when you match this up with the 3D technology, gives the letters and numbers a really raised appearance on the plate.

4d plate laid on a table

Most plate makers who produce both 3 and 4D only use superior quality materials so even the actual yellow and white acrylic plate is top-quality to give the end result a real showroom feel.  Plus, premium materials mean that the plate will be more hard-wearing against the inevitable dirt and debris which the lower part of the vehicle encounters on the road.  Stones, grit and rock salt can create chips, scratches and cracks so it is important that the plate can withstand these to keep its super shiny and pristine 4D effect.

Weathering and fading is another inevitability with sun and rain and also frost.  Most 4D plates can survive the car wash but you might want to think twice about jet washes which have such an incredible force of water they could over time damage the plates.  Either avoid the plate if you can or cover it whilst you wash the car.

4D plates are legal

What is not legal is a plate which has had the standard specification tampered with or a dirty, faded, cracked or chipped plate, basically anything that interferes with the ability to read the plate clearly.

Use 4D to make a private plate super special

4D technology is the ultimate finishing touch to a private registration plate.  Let’s be honest, if you have splashed out on a personalised plate then you will want everyone to notice it.  4D is the ultimate finishing gloss to an eye-catching private registration.

What is the difference between 4D plates and show Plates?

4d Number plates on a Range Rover

A show plate is a free-ranging number plate style that breaks all the rules as it is deliberately not designed or permitted to be used on the road.  You can have whatever finish you want as it is not the finish that makes it illegal, it is the fact that it strays outside the standard UK requirements for an on-road number plate.  Show plates are popular at car shows and garage showrooms because you can really highlight and advertise a vehicle and if it is a static display, then there is never an issue with the car going on the road.  4D technology can be applied to great effect on both show plates and road legal plates.

How much do 4D plates cost?

4D plates retail at around the £50 mark for a pair, this would be without any additional badges or flags or any other special effects such as frosting or neon.