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How to Tint Your Car Windows (Legally)

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This guide will tell you everything you need to know to tint your own car windows.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know to tint your own car windows.

Tinting Your Own Car Windows

So you've decided to tint your car windows. That's great. Whatever your reasons are for making this decision, this guide is meant to provide you with a complete guide on how to tint your car windows successfully.

Do-it-yourself window tinting can be difficult if not done properly. This guide is broken down into specific sections to make sure that you do a good job. The first section describes all the materials you will need to get the job done. All the sections thereafter describe the actual application of the window tint to your car window.

Also, see the last few sections in this article that go into detail about the legality of your chosen window tints and the pros and cons of certain tint choices.

Materials You'll Need

Before your start tinting your car window by yourself, you will need (at minimum) the following materials (some are optional, but very useful to have):

  • Window Tint: Obviously the most important thing on your list. Make sure to pay attention to the tint manufacturer's instructions for application and maintenance of the tint film. Also, see the below sections regarding the selection of legally acceptable tints and the tint varieties available.
  • Film Application Solution: When you buy window tint, application solution usually comes with the film tint itself. It is best to use the application solution that comes with your choice of window tint.
  • Razor Knife/Blade: Any simple razor blade should be sufficient for applying tint to your windows. This razor blade will be used to shape and cut the window tint to shape your car window.
  • Scraper Blade: This item is often sold together with the window tint and film application solution. If you do not have one, they are usually sold at auto shops, car washes, etc.
  • Lint-Free Cleaning Cloth: This cloth will be used to clean your windows before you attempt to apply window tint to your car yourself.
  • Squeegee (Optional): This is very useful for smoothing out edges and getting rid of air bubbles/trapped water.
  • Heat Gun (Optional): This is very helpful for ensuring good adhesion of the tint film to the glass surface.

Some Prep Work to Do Before Getting Started

Before we get down to the business of how to apply tint to your car windows, let's look at the prep work that has to be done.

Check out the laws regarding window tints in your state/city.

The laws that regulate window tinting your car windows vary from state to state in the U.S. These laws regulate everything from how dark or how reflective your window tint can be to where window tint can actually be placed on your car. Check out the "Legal Tints" section at the bottom of this article for information about your state's rules and regulations.

Decide which type of tint you want.

After you have investigated your state's rules regarding legal window tint, now it is time to choose the type of tint that best suits you. These days, not only are the different types of window tints innumerable, but the methods for applying these tints are extensive as well. See the following two lists for a brief breakdown of your available options.

Different Types of Film Tint:

  • Dyed window film
  • Metallized window film
  • Hybrid tinting film
  • Ceramic film

Tint Application Methods:

  • OEM tinted glass
  • Coating tint
  • Film tint (The application method we will be dealing with here)
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First, wash your windows.

First, wash your windows.

1. Wash Your Windows Thoroughly Before Tinting

Use the lint-free cleaning cloth and wipe down the target car window as thoroughly as possible. If you wish, you can use a non-ammonia-based window cleaner to really get rid of any stains or particles that are stuck to the glass. Clean the window until it is to your satisfaction.

Roll tint onto wet window.

Roll tint onto wet window.

2. Wet Window and Roll Film Tint Onto It

Applying the tint to a car's outside? I was confused when I saw this the first time too. In applying a car window tint yourself, you have to make sure that the tint conforms exactly to the shape and size of your window. This is best done through a process called shrinking.

First, use the application solution on the outside of the window so that the film tint can adhere. Then roll out the film tint, and place it on the car window liner side facing you. (Liner side = the side that peels off.) You can also squeegee the liner a little bit to make sure it is holding in place.

Film in the shape of the window

Film in the shape of the window

3. Cut the Film Into the Shape of the Window

Now start cutting the outline of the film into the shape of the window. Start with the bottom of the window and move onto the sides. Save the top of the window for last. Make sure to cut the film at least 1/2" to 1/4" from the window gasket and the other window borders.

Once you reach the top, roll down the window a few inches. Now start cutting the top of the film while keeping within 1/2" to 1/4" of the window's edge.

At this point—even after using the squeegee—you might notice some "fingers" or bunchy areas on the window film. You can try to squeegee them out. (You'll get there.) But you can also use a heat gun to further adhere the film to the glass and get rid of bunchy areas for good.

Once you are satisfied with the smoothness and shape of the film as you have applied it to the outside of the window, take off the film from the outside of the car window.

Peel off liner

Peel off liner

4. Peel Off Liner and Apply Tint Film to Inside of Car Window

Alright, now the exciting part. Now that you have the window tint cut out in the general size and shape of your car window, remove the liner from the tint itself. This can be easily done by putting masking tape on one side of the tint/liner sheet and pulling the two apart.

Once you have the tint by itself, proceed to spray the interior of the car window with the film application solution. Now spray the sticky side of the tint with the solution as well. Then, and this is the important part, put the window tint onto the inside of the car window. As seen in the picture above, you should use the scraper blade to firmly adhere the tint to the window itself.

Remove bubbles, then wait at least seven days to cure.

Remove bubbles, then wait at least seven days to cure.

5. Squeegee and Remove Bubbles From Inside Window Tint, and Let It Cure

Lastly, you should squeegee out any remaining bubbles and streaks from the window tint. Although the tint should fit nicely, because it was shrunk to fit the window from the inside, you may still notice little deformities here and there. You can simply squeegee them out or use a heat gun (sparingly) to achieve good adherence.

However, your work is not done. You should let the window tint cure for a minimum of seven days to ensure an absolutely good seal. During this time, make sure the car is in a place where the air temperature ranges between 40 and 98°F (4.4 and 36.7°C).

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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