If you live in the Southwestern region of the United States, you probably know how much damage the sun can do to your interior. Even if you store your pride and joy in a garage most of the time, the summer shows and cruises, and trips to the beach or a car club barbecue party can still wreak havoc on your upholstery.
Car show season lasts a little bit longer on the West Coast, but no matter where you live the sun can be your interior’s biggest enemy. Car covers protect your car at home, but during car show season cars will sit out in the sun for hours on end. Only the lucky few find the shade of a tree – even then it’s only for a short while before the sun shifts. If you drive your classic car often, there’s another solution to protect your interior: window tinting.
Just like there are various levels of performance for automotive parts like intakes, carburetors, and tires there are also various levels of performance for window tinting and various price points for both the film and the installation. We’ve all heard the saying, “you get what you pay for” and that mantra holds true for window tint film just like anything else we install on our car.
Likewise, just as there are shops that have expert installers and other shops that probably shouldn’t be working on cars, the same falls true for window tinting. When you want performance, it’s best to shop around for an experienced technician who installs quality films.
We know better than to expect high performance from a set of new tires that cost only $99. Sure, it’s a bargain but it’s in our inherent nature to expect these inexpensive tires to lack performance qualities. The same holds true for the shops that offer to tint your windows for $99 – you can expect poor performance from inexpensive window tint film. There’s a reason why good tires cost more money, and there’s a reason why good window tint film costs more money, too.
Most of the films used for these “affordable” installations won’t last more than a couple of seasons. The glue-based dye breaks down with the sun’s UV rays, and the adhesive can no longer adhered to the window. Combine the poor quality adhesive with the heat and you have a recipe for failure.
The UV properties of these films is poor, at best; higher quality films fade very little and hold up to the sun’s UV rays. If you’ve ever seen a car with windows that had a purple-ish hue, then you’ve likely seen some of the lesser quality tinting film on the market. After a couple of seasons in the hotter climates, the tint fades to that purple-ish color and basically loses all of its UV blocking properties – as well as all of its appeal.
Most quality brand tint films have long-term warranties against fading and adhesion properties when installed by an authorized vendor, and this is the reason why companies like 3M, Scotchguard, Llumar, Madico, Sun-Gard, SunTek, and a few others don’t sell directly to the public. Unlike the lower quality glue-based dyed films, the higher quality films are color stable, meaning they don’t lose their color over time.
The process for these films is PET chips (Polyethylene Terephthalate) are melted down and stretched biaxially (both directions) in an extrusion process, adding in UV blockers. These films are better than dyed films but have a similar look, without the dye.
There are even better films, such as carbon or ceramic films, that will block even more heat, however, most people would be perfectly happy with the color stable film. From the DC Services Window Tinting website:
“A Color Stable film works primarily through increased absorption. A dyed window film is just that, a dye based product. The color absorbs the solar energy at the glass, reducing the direct transmission into the vehicle. The window films tend to be darker so they block more heat because they are blocking the heat you feel from visible light. Color Stable window films block about 30% to 55% of heat depending on the degree of darkness of the window film.”
Don’t Be Fooled By Exotic Cars And Fancy Websites
An exotic car seems to be the pièce de résistance with some shops – suggesting that if someone trusts their $220,000 car to that shop you should trust them with yours. While there are some very high quality shops that do incredible installs on high-end cars, don’t let the dangling-carrot draw you in without doing your homework.
We made a visit to a local shop, and seeing all of the exotic cars they’ve tinted we figured we would be in good hands. However, they told us they would have to remove the rear window, which made us a little uncomfortable. They also stated that they would have to do the rear window in two pieces, leaving a line across the back window where the film overlapped. We’ve seen plenty of cars that didn’t require multiple pieces for the curved back window, so we decided to keep searching.
We checked with another local shop and they weren’t sure if they could do the tinting without removing the rear window, either. They quoted us a reasonable price, but then raised their price two times before we showed up. Another red flag. High end shops with experience will quote you one price, and stick to it. If they’re not sure, it’s possible they’re not experienced enough. We wanted to find an installer that could provide us with quality film, a clean installation, and reasonable pricing.
Window Tint Magic: Working From The Outside In
Our rear window does pose a bit of a problem for some: it has two compound curves that require someone with experience working with tint films. Removing the rear window opens up a couple of potential problems: it could break, and if the shop doesn’t reseal the window completely, we could end up with leaks. After being in the car for over 50 years, we didn’t really like the idea of removing the window.
We found out that word-of-mouth is the best route to take when it comes to tinting a classic car. In the end, we’re glad we had problems with the first two shops before we called Sun Solutions Glass Tinting in Southern California. Their website didn’t try to lure us in with high-priced exotic cars and name dropping. In other words, he lets his work speak for itself and doesn’t rely on fancy gimmicks to draw you in.
Sun Solutions is also mobile, and he was willing to do the install at your home or office, but having a garage to keep away from the wind and heat is always best. He initially asked for our location, and for us to send a couple of pictures and details about the car. We received a response and a very reasonable price of $315 – which was about $150 less than the prior estimate. And get this: he told us he would do the rear window in one piece, without removing it. Too good to be true? Not at all.
The side windows are fairly simple to do, but the real challenge was going to be the back window. If you’ve ever tried to install window tinting, or even a large vinyl graphic, you know how difficult it can be. We were looking forward to seeing how this could be done, especially with a single piece of film.
There are two elements that were used to install the window tint: lots of water, and lots of heat. The water that is sprayed onto the glass is a solution that helps to inhibit the adhesive on the film, but it also allows Duane to work with the film and cut it to the proper shape and size. He cut a large piece and laid it across the outside of the back window, then used his heat gun to stretch and shrink the film so that it could be applied to the curves in the glass.
Once he was satisfied with the shape and the properties of the film, he removed the backing and carried the film inside the car to apply it to the rear window. He used plenty of solution to allow maneuvering the film into position, and a squeegee to pull the solution out from behind the film and help it to adhere to the glass. The heat gun helped to soften the film and allowed him to press it into the curves until he was happy with the installation. The whole process took a couple of hours, and he succeeded as promised.
The rest of the window tint film went on in no time, and we used a lighter color for the front windows than we did on the rear. It’s always best to check with local and state laws to see what’s acceptable, and the shop tinting your car should be able to tell you what you can get away with.
We’ve seen everything from limo tint to tinting a windshield, but what’s more important is to make sure that you get something that you’re going to be comfortable with. If you’re going to push the limits of the law, you’ll have to expect that one day Johnny Law might ask you to remove it.
Quite often, people go for the darkest tint possible, and he does stock limo tint, but was quick to advise us that we might not want it on our musclecar. Duane was quick to remind us that while it may provide further protection, it would also make it harder to see out of the windows when it was darker outside. He suggested something in between and we were happy with that, as much as we drive this car to events all over Southern California we wanted something that would help protect our interior, keep the interior a little cooler, and also something we could live with.
After an entire season in the sun and heat, and now coming up on our second car show season since we had the tint installed, everything still looks as great as it did the day it was installed. Remember: just because you don’t increase your horsepower it doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time and money. Besides all of that… it just looks much cooler now.