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August 1, 2012 5:50 AM   Subscribe

Where is the best place to research / purchase moderate to high quality automotive window tint and what brands are reliable and quality products? Other tint installation related input likely appreciated as well...

Not to pre-moderate the question too much but I've talked to a few people I trust about putting on automotive window tint myself and have heard the whole "don't do it" vs. "go slow and you'll be fine" so this isn't the place where I want to hear that sort of response. If you do have horror stories and can't resist asking me to take a pass on this job then feel free to memail me of course but I'd rather just focus on the supply / DIY side of things in this askme. If I had to deal with the back window of a sedan/4-door I think I'd pass and give a pro installler a call but honestly the Yaris's windows are pretty accessible and simple AND I'm already planning on replacing the driver and passenger window's rain seal at the bottom where it's finally given up the ghost.


Me - moderately to quite handy, very patient person.
Target Vehicle - Toyota Yaris Hatchback
Tint requirements - does not need to turn heads and wow people in parking lots, just needs to keep the sun out, not turn purple, and not have an abundance of bubbles/creases or whatever. Functional and longevity are the buzzwords here. We plan on keeping the Yaris until the wheels fall off and, even though she's a 2007 model, that means quite a few years.

I've done a fair bit of research already but was surprised at how little clarity I could get out of my product searches and at how hard it is to find simple information on what products are good for a consumer in my situation. Kits (precut pieces) are ok but I'm not exactly scared to do that part myself as a small waver here and there is ok, plus I might feel up to doing a tint job on our '62 Beetle, which also has VERY simple/small windows.

I'm on the fence regarding a tint strip at the top of the windshield, there's a crack in my windshield at the moment so I don't want to throw alot of money into something that's going to be replaced before too long but I'm open to input here.

Regarding colors/style of tint. I'm not picky at all. Probably the most forgiving tint that retains a decent heat/UV block rate is fine. I'm in FL so I think limo/darker tint is legal but I'd rather not make the car into something that cops in other states are going to red-flag and/or ticket immediately either. Increased privacy isn't even on the priority list at all for this purchase.

tl;dr - I'm not Snoop Dogg/Lion, I'm a boring person that prefers to DIY and not do a bad job. It's hot. My car isn't tinted. Please hope me to research/procure/install/maintain something that will make MrsEld happier when we get into the car.
posted by RolandOfEld to Travel & Transportation (2 answers total)
you can do an acceptable job by yourself. It will not match a professional installation for at least two reasons (and you can overcome them but then you become a professional amateur and it is just cheaper to pay somebody else). You (probably)do not have access to the tools and materials the pro's do, and if you do you will find them prohibitively expensive. However you can buy good quality DIY stuff, i would use Amazon to research the products and find an online car forum that specializes in customizing cars to get more product recommendations. The biggest difference is in longevity I bet, in that the stuff you can easily get is going to bubble/purple/crack before the professional stuff but it is still likely to last a few years with even a mediocre install.

The next problem, and harder to overcome, is practice. The first few tints you install are going to suck. It is just the nature of doing skilled manual labor, it takes skill. I would try to get some cheap panes of glass to practice on the application techniques and tool handling to try them all out and watch lots and lots of you tube videos on how to do it.

And the last thing is the right way to do this is to remove the glass from the vehicle. The door glass probably isn't too hard (but will probably take a special tool or two) to remove and remount (i have replaced several broken car windows but nothing on a car made since 2000 or so) but the front and rear windshields are really, really tough to remove and harder to remount. this is best done by a pro (really, not for amateurs). The hardest (technically)thing I have done is put in a new windshield on a old Subaru without cracking it, and I rebuild my own carbs and have even overhauled a few engines. I had the help of a professional mechanic(my dad) and it took us hours and we both swore never again, that the money the glass shops charge is a bargain. And if you have a rear window defroster (all the little wires on the rear glass) you need a pro to install the tint on that without breaking the wires AND getting the tint to stick.

So my suggested actions: do some research, buy the highest quality buy lowest cost DIY stuff and try it out on some old junk window panes from a house or something. It that goes well try it out on the rear window glass (if you screw it up this will be the least annoying and easiest to remove). If that goes well than go to town on the whole car.

Also most states have some kind of regulation on the amount of tinting you can have applied to a car. You should find this out before you buy the tint and adhere to it so as to not attract law enforcement attention.
posted by bartonlong at 10:46 AM on August 1, 2012

I'd recommend 3M automotive tint film based on reviews when I was shopping it, but I have since heard that Madico (their Onyx line) and Huper also make tint films that reduce solar heat. Huper has a very long (30 day) curing time because it was meant for use in commercial buildings rather than for automotive applications.

If you're just tinting for heat reduction, consider the lowest level of tint sufficient to get the job done. As for color, pick "neutral." It will look gray to black, depending on light transmittance, but it's the least annoying. Also make sure that whatever brand you go with are non-metallized so they don't block radio signal. That has been known to cause problems with some manufacturer's tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), preventing you from getting the benefits of that feature and causing annoyance.

You can absolutely DIY your tint job. It is imperative that your glass be perfectly clean and chemical free. Friends have had great results with a small amount of Dawn & water. Failure to have perfectly clean windows will probably result in premature bubbles and peeling. Removing the windows is also required or, once again, you'll probably end up with peeling, especially on the lower part of the driver's window. The rear window, if you have a defrost system, is also going to be a serious PITA. I like DIY auto stuff as much as the next person, but I'd take this to a pro. They have all the necessary tools for the job, have a minimal chance of messing up delicate window sealing, and a reputable installer will take responsibility for repairing any mishaps that might occur. I'd spend my time working on other, more fun, DIY projects for your car.

Finally, research your local law thoroughly. Once you determine whether, and how much, tint is legal you should also research law enforcement's attitude toward tint. For example, in my state, the highway patrol's official position is ignorant of the law and they train their officers to incorrectly identify legal tint as illegal. While residents of my state can win these kinds of cases in court, it is questionable whether the benefits of their tint justify the risk. Also, you might want to look at your local law regarding the damaged windshield, another area ripe for a traffic stop.
posted by Hylas at 1:41 PM on August 1, 2012

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