Your car says a lot about you. It’s an extension of your personality and an expression of your wants, needs, and desires.
Some people like bumper stickers, while others prefer a clean paint job. Some people like to change out their rims, while others are fine with stock rims. Entertainment systems, speakers, and seats – they all frequently get add-ons and upgrades.
But for car owners looking to enhance the aesthetic appeal, practicality, and value of their vehicles, something as simple and inexpensive as window tinting can make a big difference. People often apply window tint for a variety of reasons, including:
- It keeps the interior of the vehicle cooler.
- It protects the car’s interior from harmful UV rays.
- It enhances security by making it more difficult for burglars to see inside.
- It increases safety in a crash (contains more of the glass).
- It instantly makes a vehicle look nicer and more expensive.
However, window tint isn’t always ideal, nor does it last forever. Some car owners reach a point where they want to remove or replace their window tint. But there’s an art form to the process. In this article, we’ll walk you through exactly how to do it without damaging your vehicle or wasting precious time.
How Window Tint is Applied
It might seem odd to discuss how to apply window tint in an article about removing it, but anytime you’re taking something apart, it’s helpful to know how it was constructed. This gives you a better understanding of the big picture and allows you to reverse-engineer the process.
Window tinting can be done professionally or on a DIY basis. For someone who has experience tinting windows, a DIY kit can produce a nice finished look. Most people, however, benefit from taking their vehicle into a professional car tinting shop.
Tinting typically takes place in a dust- and wind-free space where debris can’t interfere with the application of the tint. Prior to starting, windows are prepped and cleaned using a simple soap and water solution. Then they’re squeegeed and dried to ensure a streak-free finish.
With clean windows, the installer takes the time to measure each window and then cut out individual pieces of film from one large roll. These sheets of film are then laid on top of the windows and cut to size with greater precision. It’s also during this step that a heat gun is used to shrink the film a tiny bit (which contours the film and allows it to gently curve to the glass during installation).
Most installers use something known as a “peel board” during this next step. A peel board is simply a glass work surface that’s used to cut out finer details and remove the liner for installation.
Once the film is cut down and the release liner is removed, it’s time for installation. This involves spraying a soap and water solution onto the window and the film. A specialized squeegee is then used to remove any excess solution under the film and to activate the powerful glue adhesive that ultimately secures the film to the surface of the glass. (If the rest of the process is technical in nature, this part is an art form. It requires a very careful, precise touch.)
After the windows are each inspected for any signs of imperfection, the job is complete. However, the vehicle’s owner is generally told not to roll down the car’s windows for at least 72 hours. And depending on the weather conditions and other circumstances, it could take a few weeks for the film to cure fully.
Common Reasons for Removing Window Tint
As nice as window tinting can look – and as intricate as the application process is – why would anyone ever want to remove window tint?
Well, there are plenty of reasons. And if you’re reading this article, one of the following likely resonates with you:
- Buying a Vehicle. Some people simply don’t like the look of tinted windows – or the specific kind of tint might not fit their style. If you’re purchasing a pre-owned vehicle from an individual or dealer and don’t like the tint on the car, removing it is always an option.
- Selling a Vehicle. If you’re selling a vehicle, you want it to look as nice as possible. Old tint can look raggedy and may detract from the other features of the car. By removing the tint, you eliminate an eyesore and let the vehicle speak for itself.
- Too Dark (Legally). Every state has its own window tint percentage laws that dictate how dark tinting can be on windows and windshields. There may also be other restrictions related to reflectivity and coloring. If you discover that your vehicle breaks laws, you’ll need to remove the tint.
- Prefer a Different Shade. Most people like tinted windows, but the percentage is a matter of personal preference. There’s a huge difference, for example, between 70 percent tint and 27 percent tint. In order to change to a new shade, you have to first remove the existing tint.
- Poor application. As mentioned, window tinting is both a technical process and an art form. If your window tint was applied by an amateur – or done poorly by a professional tint shop – it’ll need to be removed so that you can start over.
- Peeling. When tint doesn’t properly adhere to the glass, any number of issues can occur. Peeling occurs at the corners of the window and worsens over time. The only way to truly restore a clean and professional look is to remove the tint and start fresh.
- Bubbling. Everyone has seen an old vehicle with bubbling tint. It looks horrible and, unfortunately, there’s no way to fix it. Bubbling can be a sign of poor installation, but is also a symptom of failing adhesive. Eventually, most window tint will show signs of bubbling.
- Discoloration. This is another sign of aging. Over time, tint has a tendency to turn a purplish hue. Not only does this alter the look of your windows, but it actually diminishes the tint’s ability to block out harmful UV rays. Once discoloration occurs, it’s impossible to revert back to the original color without replacing it.
Common Techniques for Removing Window Tint
Whether you’re buying or selling a vehicle, need a different shade/percentage, or are experiencing some form of deterioration due to age or improper application, removing the existing tint is the best course of action. But before you start pulling, peeling, and cutting, you need to come up with a plan.
Removing window tint is something that you can do, but you’ll need to be strategic about how you do it. There’s a right and a wrong way. Let’s walk through some of the proper steps for effectively removing tint.
- Heat Method
If you have a heat gun or hairdryer on hand, this is an easy, mess-free method worth trying. Here’s how it works:
- With the hairdryer set on the highest setting, hold it approximately two inches away from the glass. Begin in one corner of the window and apply heat for roughly 30 seconds. At this point, you should notice the corner start to peel up.
- Once a corner starts peeling, use a finger or razor blade to pry the film off the glass. Next, apply heat at the point where the peeling tint meets the glass and gradually peel it back until the entire sheet is completely removed.
This method tends to work well for tint that’s still in good shape. Old, deteriorated tint may rip or tear, leaving behind small specks.
- Soap and Scrape Method
The soap and scrape method is one of the most commonly used techniques. And while it requires more supplies and manual effort than the heat method, it often leaves a cleaner and more polished result.
This method requires dish soap, glass cleaner, microfiber cloths, a razor blade, spray bottle, and water. You start by making a cut in the corner of the film. This creates a small tab that you can use to lift the film off the window. Using this tab, start peeling the tint back. (Note: The tint film won’t always peel off in a single piece. You may need to make multiple cuts and tear off in sections.)
Once the tint is removed, prepare a soapy water mixture inside of a spray bottle and apply it to the windows. Grab your razor blade and carefully scrape the remaining adhesive. (Make sure you use light passes. Don’t dig into the glass or you could create permanent scratches.) Finally, clean the window with glass cleaner and microfiber cloths.
- Soapy Newspaper Method
If other methods don’t work, you may give the soapy newspaper method a try. It’s similar to the soap and scrape technique, but doesn’t require nearly as much manual effort. You’ll need all of the same supplies plus newspapers.
With this method, you create a mixture of warm water and dish soap in a bucket and then apply it to your windows. Immediately after applying the soapy water, you’ll want to lay the newspaper on top of your wet windows. Allow the soap and newspaper to sit for roughly an hour. If the newspapers appear to dry up, you can apply some additional soapy water on the outside. (You may need to do this every 15 or minutes.)
After 60 minutes have passed, use your razor blade to peel the newspaper up. If the method has worked, the top layer of the tent will pull up as well. You can then rub off the remaining layers of film with your blade and clean the glass.
- Steam Clean Method
If you have a steam cleaner on hand, this is arguably the easiest and most effective method of removing window tent. You simply steam the windows for a few minutes and the glue adhesive melts. As it melts, the tint peels right off. This leaves you with nothing more than a little bit of leftover adhesive to wipe off.
- Solar Peel Method
The solar peel method is the fifth option people commonly use to remove window tint. This can be an intricate and time-consuming method, but it’s also the most interesting. Here’s how it works:
- Spray the outside of your vehicle’s windows with soapy water and then cover with a black plastic trash bag. Take your time and smooth the bag out until it’s completely flat and free of bubbles and wrinkles.
- After all windows are covered, use a tarp or other cover to protect interior surfaces near the windows.
- Spray an ammonia solution on the inside of the windows and cover it with another trash bag. (Wear a mask and don’t breathe in the fumes.)
- Let the windows bake in the hot sunlight for at least 20 to 25 minutes and then remove the black trash bags.
- Grab a corner of the film and carefully pull the tint away from the glass. A scraper or razor blade is then used to remove any of the leftover film.
If the other techniques don’t work, the solar peel method should do the trick. It’s best to use this method on a warm, sunny day.
Final Cleaning and Window Restoration
Regardless of which method you choose to remove your window tint, you’ll likely be left with less-than-perfect windows. You may have a combination of adhesive, residue, specs of tint, and even tiny, surface-level scratches. To achieve a new glass look, you’ll need to apply some additional elbow grease.
The best method is to purchase some new #0000 steel wool. (It’s really important that you go with #0000, as anything higher could lead to permanent scratches in your glass.) Then, in a bowl, mix together some dish detergent with warm water. Dip the steel wool into the soapy solution and lightly rub the windows. Small circular movements are ideal. Avoid using too much pressure and/or large sweeping movements.
Once all adhesive, residue, dirt, and debris has been removed, use glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth to achieve a dry, pristine finish.
Window Tint Laws
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