How To Install Car Window Tinting Film

How To Install Car Window Tinting Film

23 October 2015

Tinting your car windows is a sure fire way to give it new look, but it can be tricky affair to get right. However, with some patience, perseverance, and the help of an assistant, it is possible to save hundreds of dollars if you do the job yourself. Nonetheless, it is important to first do some research on the laws that apply to window tinting in your state, since in a few cases, tinting is not allowed on some windows. So how difficult is it to apply window tinting, and is it worth the hassle? Read on and we will tell you all you need to know about window tinting.

Pre-Cut, or Self-Cut?

If you have never done window tinting before, we strongly advise you consider buying a kit that contains all the pieces you need already pre-cut. You can of course do your own cutting, but this requires a skill that takes time to learn, and while there are many ways to go about it, you are almost certain not to get it right the first time.

With a pre-cut kit on the other hand, you can be sure that all the pieces are cut to fit the windows of your car exactly, since each kit is specific to the make, model, and year of almost any car. Cutting tint film to size accounts for at least 80% of the job, and no matter how well you apply the film, if it is not cut properly, you will not achieve a professional looking result.

Preparing the Windows

Regardless of whether you are using a pre-cut kit or doing the cutting yourself, it is vitally important to prepare the windows properly. The most effective way to clean your windows is by using a proper window cleaning solution, and a rubber squeegee to make sure you get all the dirt and grime off. For the best results, clean the windows two, or even three times in a dust-free area at temperatures between 40-980F, and do NOT use solutions that contain vinegar or ammonia, because it can damage the film.

Remember to clean the rubbers holding the windows in place as well to prevent the transfer of dirt, dust, and grime. Even the tiniest speck of dirt will prevent full contact with the glass, and you will end up with bubbles in the film that are impossible to remove.

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Cutting the Tint Film

If this is your first time, you will be well advised not to use the window as a template. Instead, use a piece of cardboard to cut a template for each window. This way, you can get the shape exactly right without wasting any film. If you get the template wrong, you can just make another, but when making the template, remember to add about three quarters of an inch below the rubber seal, and about a quarter inch to the sides and top to give coverage below and under the seals.

When you have a working template, lay both it and the film on a firm surface, and use a sharp Exacta or similar knife to cut along the edges so that the cut film exactly matches the shape of the template. Now you have a shape that will fit the window, but double check the film by placing it over inside of the window.

With the help of your assistant to hold the film in place, you will be able to do any trimming to make sure the film will fit properly, but make sure you cut right into the corners to avoid ending up with gaps between the rubber seals and the film. Remember that the tint film goes on the inside of the window, so check that the film fits properly, since the outside and inside window seals are sometimes different.

Applying the Film

Once you are satisfied that the film will fit the window, apply a generous amount of application solution with a squeeze, or trigger spray bottle, and peel the protective layer off the tint film, and spray the exposed adhesive as well. Now comes the fun part:

  • With the help of your assistant, carefully place the adhesive side of the film over the window, starting at the bottom edge. While working upwards avoid crinkles, as many bubbles as you can, and pressing too hard, since the adhesive is sensitive to pressure. If you press too hard at this stage, the film will stick to the window, and you will have to start over. 
  • If you are satisfied that the film is in place, use a rubber squeegee to push the film firmly onto the glass by using even strokes, starting from the middle and working outwards. At this point it is important to wet the outside surface of the film to provide lubrication for the squeegee, and while there are many solutions that work for this, a good idea is to use a few drops of chemical free dish-washing liquid diluted in a pint or so of water in a trigger spray bottle. 
  • Continue to wet the film while working the air bubbles and application solution out from under the film, but avoid pressing to hard, or changing the direction of the squeegee in mid-stroke. Remember that the film has not yet fully bonded with the glass, but it will bond progressively more as the solution is removed from under it. Make sure you are able to access the corners and edges of the window- if you cannot, use a piece cut off from a second squeegee to make sure you get the film to stick around the edges as well as in the middle. 
  • Apply progressively more pressure on the squeegee as air bubbles are worked out, and by the time all the application solution and bubbles are removed, the film should be firmly bonded to the glass, with no wrinkles, no trapped air bubbles, and no gaps around the edges.
  • Repeat the process for the other windows, and allow at least 48 hours for the adhesive to cure before you either wash, or roll your windows up or down.

A Final Thought About Car Window Tint Application

How well the tinting process works out depends on your skill, dexterity, patience, and of course, how well you prepared the windows. This article is for general informational purposes only, and makes no claim to be the last word on the subject of window tinting, nor does it encourage you to do the job yourself.

If you are in any way uncomfortable with the idea of tinting your car windows yourself, the better option would be to have it done professionally. You can find a local window tinting service and get a free quote here.