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Tint Buying Guide

Applying darker precut tint to your car windows is the easiest, most effective way to protect your car's interior from harmful sunlight and prying eyes. As with most car modification and repair projects, you have two choices for installing your window tint: hiring a professional or doing it yourself.

If you are reading this, you probably decided to tackle the project on your own. While it isn't the easiest job you could undertake, it should scare off a confident do-it-yourselfer.

A successful do-it-yourself project will instill a tremendous amount of pride in yourself and your vehicle knowing you have accomplished a difficult task, and the do-it-yourself approach will give you complete control over the quality of the materials used for your car. If you take it to a shop and have a professional do the work, they aren't likely to give you the full range of choices available. They'll use the materials they have on hand, and you can't be sure they are sitting on the correct side of the price-quality trade-off.

The internet provides all the choices in the world - if you can't find it on the internet, it doesn't exist. With a galaxy of options, how do you know what you are looking for? We'll take a look at the different factors to consider as you compare different brands and formulations of precut window tint film, arming you with the information you need to choose an option that provides your ideal balance of ease of installation and quality of finished product.

Types of Window Tint

The first choice to make is to decide what type of window tinting you want. Each type of window film is made using different materials, and each type has its own unique set of positives and negatives.

Dyed Window Film

Dyed window film is a three-ply film, with a layer of dye sandwiched between a layer of adhesive and a protective layer on the outer surface. It is the most popular type of window tint because it is the least expensive. It is also the least durable, but you can expect several years of life out of a properly installed dyed window film.

Dyed window film doesn't deflect heat from entering the car because the material isn't reflective, so your car's interior will still get quite hot. It will protect against the UV rays that can be more damaging to the interior surfaces of your vehicle.

One big advantage of dyed window film is that it is devoid of any metallic substances, so it won't interfere with your car's electronics systems - such as GPS, tire pressure monitors, antennas and phones.

Dyed film will give you the darkest look, even if you find other styles that block more light. The dye itself doesn't have much visual character of its own - it's simply dark.

Metalized Film

Metalized window film is another popular choice, but many people find the drawbacks to outweigh the benefits. It consists of an adhesive layer and a protective outer layer with a UV-protective layer and a metalized layer in between.

The UV layer helps this type of window tint offer important protection from UV rays, which are harmful to both you and your car's interior. Car windshields may block nearly all UVA and UVB rays, but side windows are not required to offer nearly as much protection. Metalized window tints are also much more effective at keeping your car's cabin cool. They reflect UV rays, which is a benefit because heat overworks your car's AC.

Unfortunately, the metalized layer can wreak serious havoc within your car's electronic communication systems. This film will likely interfere with your radio if your antenna isn't externally mounted on your vehicle, and it could cause problems with your cell phone's reception, your GPS signal and even your tire pressure sensors. We aren't saying you will definitely experience these issues, but they are real possibility.

The additional material layers in metalized film make it quite durable. Properly installed metalized window tint can be reasonably expected to last the lifetime of your vehicle. The layers are less likely to delaminate and will not fade over time.

All of this durability comes at a cost. Metalized window tint films are more expensive than dyed film options.

The final consideration is how it will look on your vehicle. Since the metalized material is reflective, it is also shiny. This will give your car a much different appearance than if you used dyed tint film. Some people prefer one look over the other, so make sure you know what you want before you place your order.

Sleek black car with text describing hybrid film

Hybrid Film

Hybrid tinting film aims to combine the best features of dyed window film and metalized window film, leaving all of the drawbacks behind. The layer of dye will help give it the dark look that the dye film can provide, and the metalized layer will still offer some - though not all - of the UV protection of a standard metalized film.

It will be more durable than dyed window film, but less metal is used in its manufacturing, so it won't cause as many interference issues with your electronics as a standard metalized film would.

Reducing interference and cost while achieving a nice, dark appearance and UV protection seems to be the best of all worlds. Some compromises are made in all areas to achieve this middle ground, but it is certainly an attractive option.

Ceramic Film

Recently, window tint manufacturers have been introducing ceramic-based window tints. These tint films will block UV light and heat, and since there is no metal involved, it won't interfere with any electronics systems.

Carbon window film is the most expensive option on the market right now, and it is best installed by a professional shop.

Carbon Film

Carbon window films also fall squarely in the middle of your options in terms of advantages and disadvantages. Carbon film has no metal, so interference won't be an issue. It will also block UV rays and heat effectively, so it'll help you reduce the stress on your car's HVAC system. Carbon film isn't as popular as the other options, probably because while it does everything well, it isn't the cheapest option or the best option for any single criteria.

Color

Car window tint generally comes in two different colors: black and charcoal. Black is clean and pure, while charcoal can take on the appearance of other neutral colors like brown and gray.

Darkness

Window tint films are classified by the amount of light they allow in, by percentage. A 5% tint is much darker - and almost universally illegal on passenger vehicles - than a 50% tint. Factory tints on rear windows tend to be in the 50-70% range, so buying something on the lighter side might not actually accomplish what you are going for.

State laws regarding window tint are quite clear, and law enforcement officers don't always have a sense of humor about illegal tint. Know the laws governing car modifications in your area. If you are going to exceed the legal darkness level, know the potential consequences of your decisions.

Tinted white mustang

Thickness

Window tint films of all varieties come in 1- and 2-ply thicknesses. A ply is typically 1mil (1/1000th of an inch), so 2-ply films are about 2mil. Thickness can imply quality and durability, but it isn't always necessarily true. A manufacturer could add a second ply to a cheap product, but the resulting window film wouldn't magically be higher quality. Trust product reviews and recommendations from experienced installers to make a decision on quality.

Reflective Properties

Dyed window tint film can offer that black, matte look because the dye used for the tinting absorbs light rather than reflecting it. A majority of this heat is transferred to the glass, where it is dissipated naturally. Dyed window tints won't make your car interior warmer, but the absorption means that it isn't as effective at keeping your cabin cool.

Metalized window tint film actually reflects sunlight and UV rays, which gives your windows an extra glossy look. The reflectiveness makes it the superior option for pure heat and radiation reduction.

The best window tint films reflect up to 85% of heat and ultraviolet radiation, so it's not worth settling for anything less than 50% reflection. Anything less is barely better than the performance of your factory glass.

Adhesive Properties

Window tint films use two types of adhesive: dry and pressure-sensitive. Both adhesive types are common on automotive window tint film, and while they are not exactly interchangeable, there aren't many practical differences between the two.

Pressure-sensitive adhesive feels tacky to the touch, kind of like tape. A mounting solution can help to position the film in the proper position before the adhesion takes hold. Squeegeeing helps to squeeze out the solution to put the adhesion in contact with the glass surface, while simultaneously putting pressure on the film and its adhesive to help strengthen it. The adhesion is then finalized by the curing process, creating the permanent bond.

Dry adhesives don't feel sticky to the touch the way pressure-sensitive adhesives do. Dry adhesives form a chemical bond with the glass, and this bond is activated by the water in the mounting solution. Because the adhesive isn't tacky to the touch, it should be easier to avoid getting foreign particles stuck between your window film and the glass. In general, dry adhesives will last longer and form a stronger bond, but that's not to say there's anything wrong with the pressure-sensitive alternative.

Pre-Cut Tint vs. Whole Sheets

Tinted tail light with text describing pre-cut sheets

When shopping for your window tint film, you will have the option of buying pre-cut sheets or whole, uncut sheets. Pre-cut sheets are a convenient way to save time in the installation process. With advanced software and precision cutting machines, pre-cut tint film will give you a great finished product with half the work.

If you are a perfectionist with a steady hand, whole tint sheets are the only way to ensure a truly custom job - custom to your vehicle because you did the cutting based on the measurements made on your own vehicle. This is a difficult trade-off, as the tools, skill and patience required to complete the job from whole sheets aren't always accessible to the average DIY-er.

Is It Pre-Cut 'Long' or 'Short?'

Long kits are meant to go under or behind the rubber gasket, while short kits go to the gasket. Long kits will be more difficult to install, but they last longer because they won't delaminate when you roll down your window. With a short kit, the gasket on the bottom of your window will pick at any exposed edge of your tint film, or create an exposed edge in the long run.

Precut and Pre-Shrunk?

Many pre-cut kits will also claim to be pre-shrunk, but don't be fooled. To get the most professional-looking results possible, you must shrink the film yourself. Pre-cut kits are cut from databases, rather than from the measurements taken on the actual vehicle. This DIY project will require a lot of work on your part, and it will never be a 100% perfect fit. Pre-shrinking the tint film before it touches your window will put you even further away from that 100% perfect fit.

Luckily, pre-cut kits can give you professional-looking results, but they depend on you shrinking the tint film once it has been applied to your vehicle. For more information on the shrinking process, see our guide to heat-shrinking window tint with a wet method.

Why Choose Rtint?

If you have chosen a pre-cut tint, Rtint offers several added benefits. For starters, Rtint is the only manufacturer that warranties DIY kits. Traditionally, the DIY route led you straight into "you break it you bought it" territory. Rtint offers you the peace of mind and confidence to tackle the job on your own, knowing that the manufacturer won't blame every defect on your inexperienced craftsmanship. If something goes wrong and it was the tint kit's fault, Rtint will make it right.

Additionally, Rtint kits have discounted replacement parts, so you do not need to purchase an entire kit if you make a mistake. This will also help to build your confidence level as you tackle such a daunting project. Rtint kits are shipped in crush-proof tubes and boxes. Creases ruin tint kits and there's no way to salvage the job, so we make sure your tint kit will arrive safely every time.

With our wide variety of tint levels and kit options, Rtint is sure to have a kit to suit your needs. If we don't offer a tint kit for your make and model, you can craft your window tint from whole sheets. Browse our huge selection of window tint above.


Reviews | 728 Reviews

Avg Rating
4.67
Out of 5

Price, quality, speed
by John, New Hampshire Mountains 5.00

8/29/2022
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Great product, at a great price and shipped quickly. Love the little details, I found tabs to remove the film from the backing when I finished the roll which was a nice touch. Little instruction card for the uninitiated. Well done. Ill be back for the next project.

Perfect size
by Greg Steinhauer , CA 5.00

8/30/2022
review-star review-star review-star review-star review-star
The film was perfect size and easy to install. Took about a hour and half to install. Good service and was shipped very well protected.

Great product, professional install recommended for very curved glass
by Joe B, Central NYS 4.25

9/5/2022
review-star review-star review-star review-star review-star
Amazing product, looks great, got the Nano Ceramic Avery Dennison tint, only issue was on very heavily curved glass, installation was difficulty and ended up failing due to use error. Would recommend getting someone to install on heavily curved glass if not a pro. But the tint that went on well looks amazing.

Reviews

4.67 | 728 Reviews