Car Window Tint Installation and Maintenance

Go to the Pros to Add Tinting to Your Car Windows

Window tint makes your car look awesome, sure. But it is so much more useful than that. While many people choose to tint their car windows purely for aesthetic reasons, others understand the benefits of darkening their car windows, and do it purposefully and with great care.

If you choose to apply window tint to your car, you should know a few important things before you purchase your own tint supplies or make an appointment for professional installation.

The Benefits of Installing Window Tinting

Car window tinting, although stereotypically known for making cars look extra sleek or tricked out, actually offers lots of benefits for your personal health, and the overall health and safety of your vehicle.

Window tints block glare from the sun and oncoming headlights. With improved vision as you drive, you can travel in your vehicle much more safely than before. Similarly, some window tint products block the sun’s UV rays, which cause skin cancer and fade the interior of your car. While you can’t pass off your new window tint as a medical device, you’re doing your health a big favor by tinting your windows.

Tinted windows can also improve your fuel economy and keep your car cooler in the summer. Window tints block about 70 percent of solar heat from the sun, which means you don’t have to blast your air conditioner as you drive. Because your car interior stays cooler without your air conditioner, your vehicle will use less fuel, thus improving your car’s efficiency.

Applying window tint can make your vehicle feel more private and secure. Darkened windows prevent people from seeing inside your car’s interior. This blocks you and your possessions from direct view, decreasing the likelihood of smash-and-grab break-ins and adding privacy as you drive down the highway or through the neighborhoods of your city.

How to Install Window Tint

There are two ways to install window tint. The first is to purchase a kit and do it yourself. The second is to take your vehicle to a professional for installation. If you choose to do it yourself, you’ll need to buy a kit or purchase tools separately. 

You’ll need:

  • A clean razor blade to remove residue from your auto glass.
  • A utility knife to cut your film to the right size and shape.
  • A squeegee to properly clean your windows and smooth out bubbles in the tint.
  • One part soap to 10 parts water, in a spray bottle, to clean your windows before applying tint.
  • A microfiber cloth to dry windows after cleaning.
  • Duct tape to help keep the felt liner from your car’s windows from getting in the way during tint application.
  • A heat gun to help the window tint to conform to a curved surface.

First, prepare your windows for the installation process by thoroughly cleaning the glass and taping back the felt liners around your windows. You may need to remove your door side panel, too, and any hardware that might interfere with the tint application. Thoroughly dry your windows with the microfiber cloth. Make sure you don’t leave behind fingerprints or lint, which will remain under your tint forever!

Next, cut your window tint to the right size and shape. You can purchase kits with pre-cut tint, but if you don't, you’ll need to cut the tint to size. You can test the tint size and shape by spraying down the exterior of your window with soapy water and laying the tint adhesive side up. When cutting bulk tint, cut the bottom edge and left side first. 

Before sticking your tint down, clean the interior of your window again. Begin peeling the film liner, leaving half attached. Spray the exposed adhesive with application fluid (or soapy water, depending on the film). Open the window about ½ inch, and place the tint adhesive side down, aligned with the top of the window. The application fluid or soap will let you slide the adhesive into place. Once the film is flush with the top of the window, work the film under the seal on the right and left sides of the window.

Spray the film with soapy water again, and then use the squeegee to remove the water from underneath the film. Start from the middle, and run your squeegee from the middle and outward and upward. Never push the water downward. Roll the window back up, and then follow the same spraying and sticking directions for the bottom of the window. Use the edge of your squeegee to tuck the bottom of the film into the bottom seal, then smooth the liner out completely with your squeegee, working outward and downward. Spray the exterior of the liner with soapy water as you go; without it, you risk tearing the tint.

Avoid rolling your windows down for up to 10 days to give your new window tint plenty of time to adhere and fully dry. Rolling down your windows before then will risk wrinkling your film.

As you can see, window tinting installation is a complex, slow, and painstaking process. Because of the hands-on work required to install it, many people turn to the professionals. In fact, window tint installed by professionals often comes with a warranty that you would probably not get if you attempt a DIY installation. 

Maintaining Your Newly Tinted Windows

Aside from careful cleaning practices, there is little to do to maintain your window tint. To keep your window tint in good shape, you will need to care for it properly. When cleaning your windows, use gentle cleaners without ammonia, and cleaning cloths that won’t scratch.

To clean your windows, always park in the shade, but avoid parking under trees that may drip sap and damage your car. Spray your tint-friendly cleaner onto the windows, and wipe away dirt. Go along the tint film edges with a damp cloth, followed by a dry cloth to prevent cleaner from seeping under your film. 

If you see any bubbles forming, you can wrap a hard, plastic card in a microfiber cloth and gently push the bubbles to the nearest edge. If the bubble isn’t smoothing out properly, use a fine-tipped needle to poke a small hole in the bubble to release trapped air. Smooth it out with the microfiber-wrapped card.

Never use ammonia or other abrasive cleaners or cleaning sponges to clean your windows, which can damage your tint. Never use a razor blade on your film, either. If you need to steam clean your car’s interior, keep your windows rolled down, so the steam doesn’t damage your window tint. 

If In Doubt, See a Professional for Installation

If you are unsure whether you are capable of a DIY window film application, or if you have attempted a DIY installation and it isn’t going well, a window tint professional is happy to help you finish the job right. Even with it professionally installed, window tint is an affordable option to improve the look and functionality of your vehicle.