get rid of bad tint?
November 28, 2006 10:00 AM   Subscribe

How do I remove bad tinting from the back of my car?

I just bought a used car that is great [well, other than having to learn how to drive stick] except for the horrible purple bubbling tinting on the back windshield. I would just leave it on, but I can hardly see out of the back because of the stupid bubbles in the tint film.

I have read this and this but this method strongly suggests the need for a warm sunny day and I have, at best, only cold, overcast days.

Can I still remove this tinting? Do you have any tips for making this work without ruining the defroster lines?

I considered getting it professionally removed but they told me it would cost ~$200 with no guarantee that the defroster lines would still work.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Ouch, that's a lot of money for tint removal. Have you talked to someone about retinting the car? If they are installing new tint, they may remove the old stuff for free. New tint can be bought for $200 or less, depending on what kind you get and where you live.

By the way, the purple/blue color of old tint happens when ammonia window clearner is used on dyed tint films; if you get new tint, make sure you don't used window cleaner with ammonia (Stoner's Invisible Glass or generic equivalents, for instance).
posted by Doohickie at 10:46 AM on November 28, 2006

Mine came off with Windex and a lot of single edge razor blades. A rear window will be a pain in the butt to clean. The $200 is reasonable considering the labor involved. BTW the film will still have to be removed if you retint.
posted by Raybun at 10:53 AM on November 28, 2006

The warm sunny day bit is mostly for warming and softening the adhesive. Can you duplicate the effect with a good hair dryer?

I've had to remove tint from side windows -- no defroster lines -- and it took most of a day to do a thorough job using solvents and a razor blade. $200 sounds like a bargain, if they can guarantee the defroster will work afterwards.
posted by ardgedee at 11:03 AM on November 28, 2006

The information I found via this Google search seems to indicate that soaking the window with ammonia and covering with plastic wrap or a garbage bag to let it soak is the key. They also mention the need for warmth but you might get that by running the car with the heater on.
posted by Carbolic at 11:27 AM on November 28, 2006

The main contribution of a hot, sunny day is plenty of even heat from solar action. You could substitute a bank of infrared bulbs, such as they have in auto paint shops to bake out enamel paint jobs, or at restaurants (to keep line food warm), but if you have to construct such, you'll spend more than the $200 you'd be giving a shop to do the removal job for you. Heat, and plenty of it, spread evenly and broadly, is the primary requirement for effectively softening and removing the most common tinting films. You really need to be able to bring the glass of the back window smoothly up to something more than 175 degrees Farenheit to accomplish any significant softening of the nature you need to remove long strips of the tinting film, and there will be significant risk of damage to your defroster grid, regardless of whether you or a shop does the job.

A professional heat gun such as paint strippers use will produce a heated air stream exceeding the necessary temperature, and enough air volume to heat several square inches of the glass at a time, enough to give 20 or 30 seconds of "tack" time in each area, but there is some risk of cracking the glass if you overheat it in one area too much; moreover, at the maximum heat settings, such tools can catch fabric on fire, so you'd need to excercise great care in the use of such a tool, to avoid damage to your headliner or upholstrey. For the same reasons, you'd definitely avoid using any open flame tool to try to create the heat you need, and I trust you would understand the difficulty of using irons and other mass heat transfer methods to accomplish your goal. A large amount of properly delivered external radiant heat is the way to go, and a sunny day is by far the easiest way to achieve that.

A hair dryer would be very unlikely to get to the temperature you need to soften the adhesive, as would methods such as running the car heater.
posted by paulsc at 12:59 PM on November 28, 2006

Have you gotten multiple bids? I recently got mine done (removal of old, bubbling tint and replacement with darker tint) for $100, and they managed to save all but one of my defroster lines. It costs a LOT more (and virtually guarantees destruction of the lines) if you try it yourself, fail, and have to take it in to the shop to be cleaned up.
Also, there are aftermarket defroster kits available. I have no idea how good they are, but if the lines end up damaged, they may be an acceptable substitute.
posted by katemonster at 1:30 PM on November 28, 2006

yeah, be very careful if you try to remove it yourself. I tried myself once, and managed to take off every single one of my defroster lines (i didnt scrape then, but i did pull it off when i pull the tinting on the lines off.
posted by jare2003 at 3:54 PM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: I have no interest in retinting. I just really want to be able to see what is going on behind me in traffic.

So, what should I do? Would the sun against the black trashbag be adequate on a cold (30-35 degree) sunny day?
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 4:54 PM on November 28, 2006

Best answer: "Would the sun against the black trashbag be adequate on a cold (30-35 degree) sunny day?"

I doubt it. The heat gain you recieve from solar radiance in winter is much less due to the low angle of the sun, and the heat loss to cold air is much higher. Unless the glass is above 175 degrees Fahrenheit, you're not softening the adhesive much.

You could try using a single edge razor blade to cut through the tinting on either side of each defroster line, and then work very carefully on removing the tinting between defroster lines with a heat gun and another single edged razor blade used as a scraper. You need to be careful working with the heat gun inside the car, do only a couple of inches square area at a time, and avoid getting the defroster grid lines hot.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the defroster grid doesn't get all that hot during normal operation. If you get it hot while trying to remove the tint, it will be just as likely to come off as the tint. That is why you are cutting through the tint on either side of the defroster line, and trying to leave the tint film over the defroster grid.
posted by paulsc at 6:48 AM on November 29, 2006

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