Auto window tint offers car owners many benefits including privacy, upholstery protection, safety from glaring sun and keeping cool in the summer months, but let’s be honest, it just looks cool. Before you and “a guy you know” go to the local auto parts store and dive into a DIY project, it’s important to understand the different types of window tinting.
It’s like anything else, if you want to do the job right; you need the right materials installed the right way.
What the numbers mean and how dark is too dark?
A good first step to take before the auto window tint shopping begins is to understand your state’s laws. Click here to see our article on window tint laws. If your tint is too dark, you’ll pay for the ticket and the cost to have it removed. Tint shades are measured in units called visible light transmittance or VLT. It is a percentage of light that is visible from the outside looking in. When you’re shopping you may notice products that allow 5%, 10%, 35% and more. It’s simple, the higher the percentage the lighter the film.
How window tinting is produced
All window tint includes polyester film and thicknesses that vary from 2 to 7 millimeters. The surface in contact with the window is made with a water-activated or pressure sensitive coating that adheres to the window. The outer surface is a tough, scratch-resistant finish.
Three manufacturing technologies used to produce window film:
Dyed film absorbs heat. Now, it seems like that would cause the interior of a vehicle to only get hotter, but it actually helps the heat escape. The heat transfers to the glass from the film and then dissipates outward with airflow sweeping past the window. Some heat will get into the vehicle on still days, but on most days, there is more than enough air movement to keep that heat moving away.
This film is made by depositing a metal onto the film. Deposited film offers stellar protection at a low cost, but the applications for this type of product are limited because it is thicker. The end result is a darker and more reflective tint. This type of window tint is often called metallic window tint or film. (Note: metallic films have a notorious reputation for interfering with radio and GPS reception. For this reason, Chux doesn’t sell this type of tint).
A spluttering film is much lighter, thinner and can be used in a number of applications. Whatever type of rays you’re looking to block, this stuff can handle it. You can add a nice mirror effect, color shifting, and it provides excellent heat absorption while reflecting that nasty radiation.
Not surprisingly, spluttering film is expensive due to a complex production process that involves atomic manipulation. Yes, really smart people figured out how to shake atoms loose and spread them on the film’s surface. What you need to know is that spluttering film is the Cadillac of window tinting. That ’78 Pinto is not worthy.
Auto window tint will make your car or truck look and feel great, but it can make that sweet ride look like a clunker if you skimp on quality or have a knucklehead install it. Understanding the different grades of window tinting and asking questions prior to installation will keep your ride looking good.
One thing we should point out is that higher end films are great and do an excellent job at what they are designed for. But what are they designed for? Dealing with the intensity and frequency of sun and heat you get in places like Phoenix, Houston and Miami and other southern states, that's what. If you live in the Midwest, like we do here in Kansas City, a good basic tint is really all you need.
Quality grades of window tint
All that techie information above basically feeds into six different grades of auto window tint.
Economy film or one-ply film is really low-end, low-performing garbage. You and your buddy probably tried to slap some of this on a car when you were in high school and it then turned purple after six months.
Standard film or two-ply film is a little bit better, but it won’t last long. You will notice fading in less than two years and the heat rejection is not good.
First generation carbon offers more color stability, but the heat rejection still isn’t good. Some new car owners prefer this to metalized films because of occasional interference with electronic components.
High performance two-ply films perform much better due to a layer of metal. The color is stable, and it rejects heat with severe prejudice.
The metal in all metal film rejects heat and it won’t fade. It’s good stuff.
Metal free film with nano particles takes us back into the space age. The superior color stability comes from true carbon construction, and it won’t cause that pesky electronic interference we mentioned above. Navigation systems, keyless entry, iPhones and remote starters will function just fine.
OK, so this is a little more complicated than it appears. The key to having auto window tint or any upgrade installed lies in the hands of the installer. Ask plenty of questions and educate yourself before you shop.
By: Chris Ripper