I recently got pulled over in my car on the 401, at night, for having plates that were unreadable.
The story actually goes back a few weeks, as I noticed that the numbers were fading, but I thought still legible. I bought some blue paint to touch them up, but didn't use it as I found out this practice is also illegal. And it was very cold outside. Then about ten days ago I was driving at night on the 401 and noticed an SUV tailgating me, like about 2 meters behind me. I sped up a little and the SUV fell back, so I ignored it. Then I started to pass a large truck, and the same SUV was back again, tailgating. Instead of doing anything stupid, I slowed down a little, got behind the truck then signalled to pull in behind the truck and let the tailgater go through. Instead the tailgater stuck right behind me. And then it turned on all these flashing lights, that's when I saw it was actually a police car. So I pulled over on the side of the road. He came over to inform me my plates were unreadable, and that it was a $200 (or so) fine, but this was just a warning. He suggested that a new pair of plates was only $20, and I should get some.
When I got home a few days later, I went to the licence office, and was told the plates were actually $23, but I'm not going to quibble over $3. But I had to return the old plates immediately or I would have to pay for my full registration all over again. Since I had already waited in line for 15 minutes, and because the clerk told me I could bring in the old plates without lining up again, I went out to remove the plates in the snowy and cold parking lot. The old plates had been there for 8 years, so the screws were stuck, and I broke my cheap screwdriver. So I drove to Canadian Tire nearby and bought a pair of Vise Grip pliers, and successfully removed the plates. I went back into the office and paid for my new plates and they tossed my old ones in a special box. I then of course had to mount my new plates back on the car in the parking lot before I could drive away.
Finally everything was back to normal, and I had new unfaded plates. But I did notice my mother's car had much older plates that were not faded. Her car is parked outdoors like mine, with the back plate facing the sun, also like mine (the front plates did not fade). She got her car in 1997, so that's 17 years, but the plates were from her previous car, so add another 6 years. My faded plates were new in 1997. I think there was a bad batch of paint when I got my plates.
"Several years ago, in a similarly themed column in Wheels - Ont. Min of Transportation admitted that approx. 10-15 years ago they did, in fact, have a period when substandard paint was allowed to be used on what then were the early reflective licence plates. (if my memory serves correctly - at that time licence plates only contained 6 characters: 3 letters and 3 numbers)."