How to avoid a window tint nightmare

Everyone seems to want their windows tinted, here's how to get it done right.

Brian Cooley Editor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and The PHM HealthFront™. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
Expertise Automotive technology, smart home, digital health. Credentials
  • 5G Technician, ETA International
Brian Cooley
2 min read

Tinted windows are sort of a de facto thing today. Drive down the street and count how many car's don't have them. I'll wait.

But getting your windows tinted correctly is not trivial. A bad tint job is a nightmare on two levels: First, it looks bad, all bubbling and lifting. Second, its really hard (and messy) to remove window tint to do it again, involving a tedious combination of water, steam, and razor blade scraping.

Unlike most of our CNET how to's this one isn't how to do, its how to shop, since window tinting is an art you probably don't want to learn on your own car! We took a trip to 3M's headquarters and watched a tint job by the experts at Bravo Protection Products of Wayzata, MN to learn what to look for.  

  • Look for clean. Tinting starts and ends with cleanliness. Any dust floating around the place will end up permanently stuck to your glass.
  • Look for light. Fitting a transparent film to a transparent surface is deceptively tricky. A dark, shadowy shop invites problems.
  • Look for tint tech. You may think tint equals dark, but the newest films are almost invisible and still block most of the UV and IR radiation that heats and ages your car's interior and your skin. 
  • Get a guarantee. A lifetime warranty on the film and the installation should not be out of the question.
  • Look at references. Have the shop show you a car they have done. Inspect it for edge to edge coverage, no bubbles or dirt trapped in the film and edges that aren't lifting.
  • Don't sweat the wet. Know that the inside of your car is going to a bit wet in the process. It's OK, it's less water than it looks like and a good tint shop knows where - and where not - to let water drip.
  • Let it cure. It will be anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks before you can put the windows down. New tint needs to breathe out all the moisture it was applied with.
  • Clean it carefully. Tint is applied on the inside of glass; Clean those surfaces with a non-ammonia cleaner so you don't break down the film's scratch resistant coating.