Tinting car windows - Giant Guide

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This guide is based on experience of hundreds of cars window tinted.

The main obstacle a window tinter has to face are shrinking the film, dust and sealing of the windows. This guide + good tools are the solution to these obstacles.

Tinting car windows at home usually causes stress and wasted films to the tinter. If you glance, even quickly, at relevant forums, you will notice that people are usually encouraged to take their cars to professionals for tinting. But you will also notice that people usually try to tint their cars without proper instructions, tools or films.

Cheap films bought from markets are usually the reason for the three main factors in successful tinting project to go wrong. You can usually spot cheap and bad quality films from that they aren’t sold by the meter, but in a ready made package with instructions and tools (exception: Foliotec).

The instructions that come along are usually way too short to be useful in any way. The are likely to cause more trouble if they are used instead of proper guides like this one.

Some of the problems of bad films are; bad durability, scratching and weak heat protection. Additionally they don’t shrink enough, or at all, which makes installing them on curved surfaces (i.e. rear window) nearly impossible.

The killing blow for the DIY window-tinting project are the tools provided with ready made tinting packages. They aren’t usually good enough to install the Window films without scratching or wrinkling them.

We believe that even an amateur can successfully tint the windows of his car, if he has detailed instructions, quality films and good tools. Patience and careful approach is still required although.

Congratulations, you have already found comprehensive and detailed instructions for tinting your car windows. You have also found a web site where to get professional quality Window films and tools. You are encouraged to carefully got through this guide to avoid mistakes and wasting time and/or money.

We deliver Window films quickly and for free (for orders over 70€)!

 

Tools

window tint tools

 

Lets begin by finding out the tools YOUR project needs:

Have there been prior window films, stickers or something else applied to the window you are about tot int, which could have left glue residue on the window? Has the car had multiple previous owners?

If you answered yes to either one of the questions, then add to your shopping list:

 

If your car had previous Window films installed and you want an easy to way to get rid of the glue residue left behind by them, check this Guide and get yourself:

  • A Steam cleaner

If the rear window isn’t attached to the tailgate (sedans, some coupés), you can make the tinting easier with:

  • A plastic roll, around which you can roll the Window film

 

Additionally get at least these tools:

Tools that make the installation easier:

 

 

Clean place of installation and right temperature

 

Generally windows can be tinted anywhere. The only requirement is that the surfaces for the installation must be absolutely clean. Outside wind can throw dust and dirt on to the windows, so doing the tinting outside is always a risk. That why you should strive to do the tinting indoors.

If the windows tinting is done in a garage, the garage should be kept clean and dust-free. You should clean, or at least were, the floor to prevent dust from flying around.

Even subzero temperatures donate prevent the film from attaching to the window, as the adhesives in modern window films can tolerate coldness. When working in freezing temperatures, however, it is smart to let the films dry up for a couple hours before moving the car from indoors to outside. After the installation, you should quickly warm up the films wit the hot air blower.

 

Steps to be taken before installation

window tint place of installation

 

Vacuuming and cleaning the car

General cleanliness and dust-freeness are important when tinting car windows. You should vacuum the car and clean the insides carefully before installing the sun protection films. Even the roof should be cleaned to stop dust falling from it to the insides of the windows.

If the car is also used by dogs, you should clean and vacuum it twice. Also, you should clean the window to be tinted twice, as hair can easily ruin an otherwise successful tinting project.

 

Cleaning the outsides of the windows

The windows to be tinted should be cleaned well on the outside, even though the Window film is installed on the inside. This is because, before the installation inside, the Window film is cut to the right size on the outside and shaped to to the shape of the window by shrinking it with the heat of the hot air blower.

Clean the window with a microfibre cloth and Llumar Dirt-Off or soap water, after which scrape the water of the window with a rubber squeegee.

 

Cleaning the inside of the windows

One of the most important steps in window tinting is the cleaning the surface on which the sun protection film is installed, that being the inside of the window. Even the smallest dust particles and hair show outside, as they are seen against the dark background of the window film. Dust and hair left on the window can also cause bubbles to form on to the film.

First see if there is any visible or invisible glue residue on the inside of the window from previous films or stickers or tapes. The glue residue can be removed quickly by scrubbing them with a cloth dipped in Llumar Dirt-Off or Sinol, after which the residue can be scraped off the glass with a razor blade. Note that if the car has had multiple previous owner, you should scrape the whole window, just in case. However, DO NOT use the razor blade for cleaning the rear window, as it will break the heating stripes.

Check instructions here on how to remove old window films and glue residue the easiest way.

The insides of the windows should be cleaned only after the films are cut and shrinked to the right side on the outside.

Wash the insides of the windows very thoroughly with a microfibre clothe and Llumar Dirt-Off to get the best results. Soap water also works quite well. However, avoid sprays and foams as they may contain silicones, which often stay on the surface of the window after cleaning. Next use a rubber squeegee (e.g. Blue Max squeegee) to squeegee the washing agent and the dirt in it off the glass. Remember to also squeegee (and clean) the corners of the side windows, that you can’t directly see.

Remember that when cleaning the installation surfaces, even the most minor details are important!

 

General guide for tinting car windows and important tips

tinting rear window

Next up we get acquainted with the actual tinting process. Below you can find short instructions, which allow you to install the films already. It is however, of a general nature, so in addition to it read the detailed instructions for different types of windows (rear window, windows on doors etc.) and alternative ways for tinting you car windows at home.

Installing the Window films

The installation is started by spraying on the cleaned outside of the window soap-water, after which the sun protection film is cut to about the right size against the outside surface. After that the Window film is shrinked, as if it would be “installed” on the outside. At this point, however, the sun protection film isn’t attached or its liner removed.

The shrinking is done by spreading the film on to the window with a squeegee and squeegeeing the air bubbles and soap solution off from beneath it. Remember to always spray the soap solution also on top of the window film before starting to work on it with a squeegee, to avoid scratching.

Soon you will notice, that under the window film, nail-looking bulges/bubbles will form. This is the result of installing a straight film on a curved surface. Luckily, you can shrink the window film on to such curved surfaces with use of heat.

Window films only shrink in the vertical direction of the film roll. So, if you buy a 50cm x 3m piece of window film, it will shrink to the 3m direction. This results in that when you take film from the roll horizontally, it will only shrink horizontally on the window. When you heat up vertical bulges, the film actually shrinks horizontally.

How this affects the process? So, that when squeegeeing the film, gather all the bulges and ”waves” on to top and bottom edges of the film, instead of the sides, as then they cannot be properly shrank away.

Before shrinking, gather all the bulges evenly to the top and bottom edges. Use your hand to divide the big bulges into several smaller ones, because the ability of the film to shrink in particular spot is limited. As a result, you should aim to spread the shrinking evenly over the whole piece of film. Bulges formed on the sides should be squeegeed on to the top and bottom edges, so they can be shrank. Often the sides slip open during the process (which isn’t bad, as the side bulges can be finally squeegeed to the top and bottom edges, and be shrank last).

While shrinking, zigzag shapes will form over the bulges. If this doesn’t occur, the hot air blower isn’t producing hot enough air, or the sun protection film is shrinking in the wrong direction.

Shrink the bulges by starting to heat them from the middle of the film and working them towards the top or bottom edges of the film with the squeegee. When heating the film, you will notice that the window film shrinks when heated with a heat gun.

After the heating, squeegee the shrunk spot off towards the edge of the window. Often the shrinking to the window film should be done by heating the bulge for an area of 10 cm, after which squeegeeing that spot towards the edge. After that heat what remains of the bulges and repeat. The amount of repetition required depends on the curve of the window. When tinting a really curved window, you should proceed slower and more carefully.

Once a spot is heated up, it has to squeegeed immediately as otherwise the film will be stuck in the wrong shape. Take caution as squeegeeing to much or too hard over the bulges can damage the film. Heat and work on the bulges until the window film has completely shrank on to the window.

Once all bubbles, all soap-water and all bulges have been removed from beneath the the film, and the sun protection film is in the shape of the window, it is time to do the precise cutting. When doing that, also round up the corners of the film, as sharp corners come off easier. The location of the window plays a part in choosing the best way to cut the film. Instructions for particular types of windows are situated later on in this Guide.

You can always cut the film more. However, especially when cutting films for openable side windows, you don’t wan to leave too much leeway, ad that often leads to mistakes in installation.

Now it’s time to wash the window from inside throughout. Do this with soap solution and rags, then finish it with Llumar Blue Max squeeqee.

Next up spray water or soap-water on top of the film to reduce static electricity. After that carefully remove the liner from the Window film and spray an even layer of soap-water on to the adhesive side of the film. Try to touch the adhesive side as little as possible, preferably not at all.

If you’re having touble removing the liner, use two stripes of tape to remove it easy.

Then it is time for the actual installation. Spray the soap-water agent evenly on the inside of the windows. Don’t spray so much that it starts to drip on the window. Place the window film on the inside of the window, with the adhesive side to the glass. Then remove the soap-water and bubbles from between the film and the window by squeegeeing. You should use one hand to hold the film in place, while squeegeeing it with other, as the film moves easily on the glass. You can ”fast-attach” the film on to the window by quickly heating it with the heat gun. That also effectively prevents new bulges from occurring on the heated area.

Take note, that when squeegeeing the soap-water out from the top area of the film, squeegee the soap-water towards the sides instead of squeegeeing it out from the top. If you remove it by squeegeeing it over the top edge of the film, the soap-water is likely to drip back underneath the film.

Because the sun protection film is already shrank to the shape of the glass in the previous phase, the installation itself requires little shrinking. You might still have to shrink it a little (as you did on the outside of the window), if you weren’t able to squeegee it on to to the window symmetrically. Finally, cut the film precisely to the size of the window, if you didn’t already do it on the outside.

 

Alternative ways

Some people like to remove the whole window for the duration of the tinting process. That way the installation is easier, as there is plenty of room. It may also save time, if the window is easily detachable. That very rarely is the vase, and we do not recommend this way. When shrinking the Window film on the outside of the window you have sufficient room to work. The installation inside in the end is a small job, as the shaping (i.e. shrinking and cutting) is already done on the outside.

DIY window-tinter often completely forget about the shrinking on the outside. The reason for that is often that the instructions that came with the Window films are silent on the matter. However, the shrinking done on the outside is of utmost importance for a successful installation, especially when it comes to curved rear windows. For small rear side windows, which re not the windows on the back doors, it necessarily isn’t necessary to do the shrinking on the outside, as they can usually be shaped to the windows just like that.

 

Tinting the rear window

The best way to tint the rear windows is cutting and shrinking the sun protection film on the outside of the window, after which the ready-shrank film is installed on to the inside. Instructions for this basic technique can be found from ”Installing Window films”. Also remember to clean both the inside and outside surfaces of the windows and cleaning the car!

Couple tips to help you with tinting the rear window:

  • The Window film is easier to cut on the outside, if you put extra lightning in the trunk of the car. This allows you to see the window better through the film.

 

  • The windows of new cars usually have ceramic dots, after which, when moving towards the edges, the window is completely covered with ceramic coating. The Window film cannot stick well to these places. The film for the rear window should be cut so as that it covers all the dots and spaces between them, but so that it ends before the wholly ceramic area.

 

  • Take note that sun protection film can be precisely cut already on the outside. The surface area of the window is larger on the outside than on the inside due to the curved shape and thickness of the window. The picture above demonstrates this. That is why the window film is always a bit ”larger” on the inside surface of the window and the film precisely cut on the outside may even be a little too big for the inside.

 

back window tint guide

Tinting the rear windows of sedans and coupés

  • With these car models, the small bulges forming in the edges of the film when installing the film on the inside should be located from the outside, where they are easier to spot. Once you have located such bulges, heat the car window from outside the car and then go inside the car and squeegee the bulges out with a rubber squeegee.
  • To make the taking of the film inside the car easier, wrap the liner-free window film, which is completely sprayed with soap-water solution, over a plastic roll. Open up the roll directly on to the inside of the rear window.

Tinting the rear window using multiple pieces

Some people like to tint the rear window with multiple piece of sun protection film. This is done as a consequence of not being able to tint the window with a single piece of film. The reason for that is usually bad window film or lack of knowledge. You, however, do not have to do that, because if you have read this guide, you will know more about the topic than 95% of DIY window-tinters. The rear window of almost any car be tinted with a single piece of sun protection film.

If you still want to do the rear window with multiple pieces, here some advice:

  • Leave some extra to the pieces when cutting them, so you can make a butt seam.
  • Shrink the pieces on the outside, just as if you were using a single piece.
  • Make butt seams between the pieces. So use a sharp box cutter to cut the films horizontally from the place where they are on top of each other. Remove the cut pieces of the film from underneath one film and from on top of the other. Now a you have a tight seam, which is not raised. The ends of the films should be opposite to each other, so that there is no air between them. NB! Be careful when cutting close to the heating stripes, as they break very easily.
  • If making the butt seam caused air or soap-water to get under the film squeegee them out.

Tinting the rear side window (non-openable window)

Tinting the small windows in the back corners of the cars doesn’t take much work. If the windows aren’t curved, you might not even have to shrink the Window film on the outside.

You should, however, cut the film to the right size on the outside. When doing this, always remember to put the film on the window in manner that the liner is pointing outwards from the car. Otherwise, the result will be a mirror image of piece of film which would fit on the window, in other words, the cut piece of film will (usually) fit the window on the opposite side of the car.

 

2-step tinting process for the windows of front and back doors

The tinting of front windows and the windows of openable back door windows is best to be done in two steps. Start by spraying the outside of the window with soap-water solution and cutting the sun protection film approximately into the right size on the outside surface of the window. Then spray the soap-water also on top of the film, so it wont scratch while you squeegee it.

Next up, do a ”quick shrink” for the film, so you can but it precisely. So squeegee excess water and air out from beneath the film.

Then open up the window a little bit, so you can cut the top edge properly. Cut the top of the film precisely to the shape of the top edge of the window. For this, you will need a really sharp box cutter, but another good tool for this is a scalpel, that is, a surgeon’s knife.

Then cut the side and bottom edges so as to make then 0,5-1.0 cm bigger than the window. This is done, because at the end of the installation, the edges of the window film will be hid under the sealing of the window. Lastly slightly round up the sharp corner of the sun protection film.

Then shrink the window film on the outside surface of the window with a heat gun and a squeegee. Make extra bulges to the film with your hands and shrink them. This way you can avoid shrinking the film when it is half-installed. You should make the extra bulges, as it allows you to complete the installation quicker and easier, and you don’t accidentally melt the drawings of the car door.

Once the Window film is shrank to the shape of the window, spray soap-water solution on top of it to avoid static electricity. Then remove half of film’s liner (top half) and leave the rest intact. The liner is easy to remove when the sun protection film is shrank against the outside surface of the window.

Clean the inside of the window thoroughly, and then completely spray it with the soap solution, Also spray the soap-water solution on the adhesive surface of the film. Spread the film on to the inside of the window, and precisely set it level with the top of the window. Remember, that the window is supposed to be opened a bit.

Start installing the top part of the film by squeegeeing the film horizontally once, from the top part of the film, so you can remove air and soap from underneath the upper edge. This seam makes sure that no dust drops on to the adhesive side of the sun protection film. Push the film under the sealing, as far as possible (and reasonable) at this stage, and use a thin squeegee to get excess soap solution and air out from beneath the sealing. Completely squeegee the upper part of the window film, which has no liner in place. Also squeegee from under the sealing.

Heat the the top half completely with a heat gun, once you’ve shrank it perfectly to the shape of the window. This way you make sure that the top part of the film doesn’t move around accidentally and that no new bubbles or bulges form under it. Then you can close the window.

Spray soap-water solution on the bottom half of the window, and squeegee off any dust from under the sealing. Remove the rest of the liner from the bottom half of the film and spray soap solution on the adhesive side of the film, and again on the bottom half of the window. Then push rest of the edges of the film under the sealing of the window.

Then remove rest of the bubbles, rest of the soap solution and the bulges by squeegeeing and, if necessary, by using the heat gun. However, be careful not to burn the doors!

 

Tinting the windshield

Tinting the front windows and the wind shields afterwards (i.e. after the car has left the factory), is illegal in many EU countries.

Installing Window films on the windshield is done in the summer manner as was done for the rear window. It is often the hardest window to tint, due to its large size and strong curve. Tinting the windshield takes a lot of time and nerves. Check out the instructions from the ”Tinting the rear window” -section.

 

After the tinting

skoda octavia window tint

Once the sun protection film is completely installed, you often should heat it up quickly again with a heat gun. This way you will do a quick dry on the film and it sticks well to the window, and no longer accidentally moves.

The soap-water solution activates the adhesive on the film, and starts the attaching process. It is a slow process and, especially in cold weather, may take several weeks. While the adhesive is still hardening, you should avoid opening openable tinted windows, as that may cause the film to move or scratch. A rule of thumb would be not to open the windows for two weeks after the tinting.

Jerking off the seat belt should be avoided. That may result in the buckle of the belt swinging and hitting the window, and the sun protection film installed on to it. When the metal buckle strikes hard into the window if often slightly damages the Window film.

Some Window films contain small logos (e.h. 3M CS and Llumar ATR), which are used to avoid counterfeits. However, you probably want the logo off your film. You can easily do it with a cloth and Sinol. One swipe is usually enough to remove the logo.

 

Summary

 
Tinting car windows can be done at home. Quality Window films, quality tools and good instructions are the key to success. Installing the sun protection films isn’t child’s play, but a patient person is likely to succeed well, even on the first try. The shaping of the film on outside of the window provides a good chance to learn the the shaping and shrinking before actually attaching the film to the window. Avoid burning the film by heating it up too much.

Installing Window film always requires a dustless work environment and carefully cleaned windows. Never underestimate the importance of that phase of the process. The glue residue left behind from prior Window films and stickers must also be properly removed from the window. You can find the Guide for that here.

Tinting the front windows should generally be done in two steps. Instructions for that are found here.

The Window film only shrinks in the vertical direction of the roll. The films also have a certain limit of how much they can shrink from a particular area. So spread the bulges and waves, caused by the curve of the window, into several smaller bulges or waves, by using your hands. This way a single part of the film doesn’t have to shrink that much.
 

A good memory list for installing window films:

  1. Vacuuming the car and cleaning the windows
  2. Cutting the film approximately to the right size
  3. Shrinking the film on the outside surface of the window
  4. Precise cut
  5. Cleaning the inside surface of the window again
  6. Installing the film to the inside surface of the window

 

Caution:

  • Take caution not burn the Window film with the heat gun. Keep the heat gun moving constantly, and don’t heat a single spot on the film for too long. The corners of the film burn the easiest.
  • Alway remember to add more soap solution also on top of the film, so it doesn’t scratch during squeegeeing.
  • Avoid swinging the belt buckle towards the window, as it may damage the film.
  • Reserve enough time for the tinting process. Tinting all windows from a car takes several hours.

 

We provide you with top quality Window films for your tinting projects!

3m car window film
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3m pa1 and felt cover
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llumar sun protection film
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