Car Window Tinting Advice
September 18, 2008 11:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking into tinting my car windows a) Should I do it myself or get a professional to do it? b) Can anyone recommend a good shop near Bristol, RI. c) Can cops tell if you tint the windows slightly more than the legal amount?

Part A:
I'd like to tint the windows on my car. From what I understand, you can tint them yourself by getting a kit at a place like, but the job can be fairly hard to do right, requires a dust-free indoor space (which I don't have. I would be doing this on the street), and offers no guarantee as to the quality of the work. In general, I enjoy doing things myself when there is a reasonable expectation that I can do a good job of it without too much training/experience. Realistically, how hard is it to do? Has anyone used kits like those and what was your experience? Would you recommend a kit or a pro job?

Part B:
I live in Bristol, RI. Has anyone had their windows tinted near here (I would consider Providence to be "near" but would prefer not to drive too much farther) or know of a good place that does tinting? I'm looking for a place that has high-quality film (not the kind that will turn purple and bubble up in a year), offers a warranty, and is not too expensive.

Part C:
Can police officers tell if your windows are too tinted? In general, would they care enough to pull you over and give you a ticket? I'm not planning to get limo tints, but if I got 5% stronger tint, would that be a big deal? Can windows be tested for how much light they let through and do cops do that?

Other Info:
My car is a '98 Honda Civic EX. I'm fairly competent doing simple mechanical/electrical work but have no experience with glass or tinting.

Thanks in advance.
posted by d(-_-)b to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
As for part C), if the cops are looking for an excuse to pull you over, they can most definitely use the potentially too-dark tint as a reason (assuming that's a law in your state). Here's the window tint laws for RI (according to this website).
posted by nitsuj at 11:29 AM on September 18, 2008

Adding to nitsuj, the fact that you're rollin' in a Civic means that any kind of modification is going to be further scrutinized by your local police. I was going to give you the website that he did, he's too fast!
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 11:32 AM on September 18, 2008

There are definitely tools that can be used to tell how dark the tint is. I don't know if cops carry them around, but your car may fail the biannual safety inspection if the tint is too dark. (Some states check this; don't know whether Rhode Island does.)
posted by phoenixy at 11:41 AM on September 18, 2008

C) There are usually state laws regulating window tinting. A guy I know in New York had a cop use a razor blade to slash big Xs in the tint layer during a traffic stop.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:45 AM on September 18, 2008

My stepbrother bought a car on eBay. It came with very darkly tinted windows. He was stopped by the police in Virginia, where he registered the car, and they had an optical tool they hooked onto the window to measure the tint. It was too dark, so he was ticketed and had to have the tinting removed. So, yes, in some jurisdictions they can and do check the tint level.
posted by procrastination at 11:51 AM on September 18, 2008

Part A:
Do not do this yourself. The people you see rolling around in nice tint went and had it done. The people you see rolling around in faded purple tint with bubbles in it, they did it themselves. If you see someone with a nice tint job, tell them so, and ask where they got it done. If you get a few fingers pointing to the same place, check it out. People that do tinting are ridiculous super ninjas that have all of the right tools and hundreds or thousands of cars of experience.

Part B:
No idea, again, ask people. The kind of people that tint their windows typically like to hear compliments too.

Part C:
Police officers _can_ tell, but it is usually a secondary offense (they can't pull you over for it, but they can ticket you for it if they pull you over). The penalty is usually very small. If you plan on having drugs or weapons in the car (or driving like a maniac), it is probably better that you avoid any extra attention. Know what the laws are (what % is allowed in the front, what is allowed in the rear . . . If you stick to that, or right near it, the differences are pretty imperceptible. If you are darking out your whole car limo-style, that is going to stick out big time (especially if you have a dark interior). The laws are normally cited using "transmittance" (percent of available light getting through). This is an easy thing to eyeball and a much more difficult thing to measure exactly. A police officer will probably not have the equipment on hand to measure this (but he can write a ticket on it anyway). Unless you are able to go to court with "evidence" that shows that your tint is actually ok (despite the cop's testimony) you will probably be found guilty. Punishment is probably a fee, court charges, and removal of the tint.
posted by milqman at 11:53 AM on September 18, 2008

Actually they can pull you over just for your windows being tinted. It happened to me. In MN the law is the windows have to allow 50% of visible light in. The cop had a device that he slid over the window and it measured the amount of light in. Since my window let 46% of light in he gave me a warning and said to get it removed. I actually had my car broken into the next week and the criminals were nice enough to break both front windows so I didn't have to worry about it.

I was lucky however. I know people that have gotten $150-$200 tickets for just having their windows tinted. So if you do it chek your state laws.
posted by dyno04 at 12:00 PM on September 18, 2008

It's definitely a job for a professional, I wouldn't even attempt doing it myself. I've had it done on my last two cars.
If you want to know what a homemade tint job looks like, pay attention to the cars around you and look for someone with purple, peeling, or bubbling tint.

A good professional shop will have the tools to do it, and will guarantee their work.
posted by smitt at 12:13 PM on September 18, 2008

Don't do it yourself unless you know what you are doing. I know a couple of people who did it themselves and it came out real crappy.

As far as the cops, I do not know what the law is in your state. Try asking a local cop and see what he has to say.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 12:14 PM on September 18, 2008

I've tinted a couple of my own cars (disclaimer: I tend to drive old stuff). the side windows are not hard to do, and I've never had trouble with purpleness or bubbles. The rear window, however, is a nightmare, as they are usually hard to reach, and compound curves. There are lots of places that sell the tint precut now, to fit specific cars, which would make things considerably easier. My advice would be to price a pro tint job, and if you just can't bear to pay, then buy a precut kit and roll your own. Just make sure your windows are really really really clean, then scrape them with a razor blade and clean them again. Its dirt that makes those bubbles.
posted by midwestguy at 12:16 PM on September 18, 2008

Don't do it yourself, it *will* look terrible unless you have a lot of experience with it.

Another case against doing it yourself-- the cheap tint you buy at Pep Boys or Wal-Mart doesn't keep heat out as well as more expensive, professionally-installed metallic or ceramic tints.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 1:02 PM on September 18, 2008

Yes, at least in New York City, the cops can and will pull you over just for window tint. We bought a minivan from Florida -- a white, 5-year-old Town and Country, of all non-suspicious-looking cars -- and got pulled over solely because the cops suspected the front passenger & driver-side window tint was too dark. They put their little measuring device on the window, and then gave us a ticket. We had no idea we were breaking the law.
posted by ROTFL at 2:06 PM on September 18, 2008

If you get pulled over, roll your window down. Not to hide it, they'll have surely seen it, but as a courtesy, because it can't be fun to approach a car not knowing if the driver is pointing a gun at you.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:07 PM on September 18, 2008

What they said. Also, when you have the pros install it, ask about "charcoal" tint vs. "smoke." When I had cars tinted a few years back, I was told "smoke" is the one that fades to purple.
posted by Tubes at 2:40 PM on September 18, 2008

Nthing the don't-do-it-yourselfers.
posted by box at 5:31 PM on September 18, 2008

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