Can Speed Cameras Read Dirty Number Plates

Dirt can form over your number plate naturally over time, especially if you haven’t had the chance to clean your vehicle regularly. A clean vehicle is a necessity to ensure you have full visibility, and comfort whilst driving. However, what about things such as ANPR? Can the dirt on the number plate affect whether it can be read or not?

In this blog, we will answer the question ‘Can speed cameras read dirty number plates?’

Bespoke Plates is a renowned and legally certified registration platemaker and installer, with options of 3D Plates, 4D Plates, Show Plates, and regular / Electric Vehicle Plates and more. We are the one-stop shop for all things registration plates!

Whether it’s a Private Plate, Gel Plate, Standard Registration Plate or plating accessories, we have you covered.

As a certified and experienced team of plate fitters and makers, our plates are installed to the specification of UK law, provided alongside the appropriate paperwork you require. (The only exception to this is show plates.)

How to keep your number plate clean

How to keep your number plate clean

A dirty number plate can be the cause of a few problems if left unaddressed. So, how can you keep your number plate clean? Here’s how to effectively clean your number plate:


  • Bucket
  • Warm water
  • Dish soap (or another gentle car wash soap)
  • Soft sponge or microfiber cloth
  • Optional: Toothbrush (for reaching tight spots), non-abrasive cleaner (for stubborn grime)


  1. Preparation (Optional): If your plate is filthy, you can loosen debris by rinsing it with a gentle stream of water.
  2. Soapy Solution: Fill your bucket with warm water and add a few drops of dish soap or car wash soap.
  3. Scrub the Plate: Dip your sponge or microfiber cloth into the soapy solution and gently scrub the entire surface of the plate, including the lettering and edges.
  4. Attention to Detail: For tougher grime or areas around the letters, use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Be careful not to apply excessive pressure that could scratch the plate.
  5. Rinse Thoroughly: Rinse the plate completely with clean water to remove all soap residue.
  6. Drying: Use a clean microfiber cloth to dry the plate completely. Leaving water spots can make the plate look dull.

Extra Tips:

  • Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Stay away from harsh chemicals, abrasive cleaners, or stiff brushes, as these can damage the reflective surface of the plate.
  • Number Plate Frame: If you have a number plate frame, remove it for a more thorough cleaning of the plate and the frame itself. You can wash the frame with the same soapy solution.
  • Regular Cleaning: Make cleaning your number plate part of your regular car washing routine to prevent heavy grime build-up.

By following these steps, you can keep your number plate clean and reflective, ensuring it’s easily readable for ANPR cameras and other drivers.

Can speed cameras read dirty number plates?

Can speed cameras read dirty number plates?

Speed cameras in the UK are equipped with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology. ANPR relies on clear images of the plate to function effectively. With this understanding, a dirty number plate can cause problems for ANPR in a few ways:

  • Obscured Characters: Dirt or grime can cover parts of the letters or numbers on the plate, making them difficult or impossible for the camera to read accurately.
  • Reduced Reflectivity: A dirty plate might not reflect light as well, hindering the camera’s ability to capture a clear image.

In these cases, the ANPR system might not be able to identify the vehicle. However, there are things to consider:

  • Modern Technology: Modern ANPR cameras are quite sophisticated and can often handle minor dirt or dust on the plate.
  • Human Review: Even if ANPR fails to read the plate initially, some systems have processes for human review of unclear images. Officials might try to decipher the plate or use other identifying features of the vehicle.

Is a dirty number plate illegal?

Not exactly. While a dirty number plate might increase the chances of avoiding a speeding ticket from ANPR cameras, it’s not a guaranteed method.

It’s important to remember that Intentionally dirty plates are illegal having a dirty plate that obscures the registration is an offence, even if unintentional. You could face fines for not keeping your plate clean.

Furthermore, an unreadable plate makes it difficult for other drivers to identify your vehicle, posing a safety risk in case of accidents

Signs your number plate is too dirty

Here are some telltale signs your number plate might be too dirty and needs attention:

  • Visibility: Can you easily read all the letters and numbers on your number plate from a few feet away? If the grime is obscuring any part of the characters, it’s definitely time for a cleaning.
  • Patchy Appearance: Does the dirt seem unevenly distributed, with some areas caked on more than others? This can be a sign of built-up grime that needs a thorough cleaning.
  • Reflectivity: Does the number plate seem dull or lacking its usual shine? Dirt can hinder the reflective properties of the plate, making it harder for cameras and other drivers to see it clearly.
  • Traffic Concerns: Have you noticed any tailgating or hesitant manoeuvres from drivers behind you? This could be a sign they’re struggling to read your number plate.

Remember, even if you haven’t noticed any issues yourself, it’s wise to check your number plate regularly. Keeping it clean is not just to avoid fines, but also to ensure your vehicle is easily identifiable for safety and other purposes.

Where to buy readable number plates

Private number plates can be customised just like a regular number plate, as long as certain requirements are met. The most important requirement being that you visit a legal plate manufacturer. They will ensure that all the correct checks are made, so your plate does not end up being invalid.

As long as you have the relevant documentation, you are able to create a custom version of your private plate, which can include 3D/4D characters etc.

Bespoke Plates makes the hassle of getting yourself a brand-new number plate easy and efficient. This is regardless of whether you’re after a standard replacement number plate, or a gel plate. Here is the process.

By following these steps, you will also have the option to see the plate before making a decision.

Visualising how your plate can look in real-time, with the characters from your actual registration plate, saves time and makes it easy for you to know what you want before you get it. Let us walk you through the process of choosing your plate through us.

  1. Head to the Bespoke Plates website
  2. Select the plate style you want under the “Build Your Plate” tab. Alternatively, you can follow this link.
  3. Enter your registration (You can press ‘preview’ to see your registration with all the modification options you have selected.)
  4. When selecting your chosen plate, you can opt for 3D/4D options, a Hex plate, and whether you want a legal plate or a show plate.
  5. Select preferred optional accessories.
  6. Decide if you are collecting with installation, or if you want it to be delivered.

Installing through Bespoke Plates ensures the best service & secure installation for your number plate, along with guidance for any questions you may have.

Buy legal custom plates today

Buy legal custom plates today

In this blog, we have highlighted our plate options, and the information you need in order to obtain our stylish customisation options for your vehicle. We aim to have answered the question ‘Can speed cameras read dirty number plates?’

We hope that we have provided all the right answers and options for all of your plate modification needs.

Bespoke Plates has all the options you can ask for, as an approved registration vendor we can guarantee your modification abides by the DVLA rules whilst offering same-day collections and full fitting service.

To get in touch and discuss the full fitting service we offer with our plates, you can talk to one of the members of our team by:


Phone 0333 006 7878

Visit in-store

36A Broughton Street,


M8 8NN

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