Car window tinting refers to the process of increasing the darkness of the car window glasses. In other words, it refers to the measure of the percentage of visible light transmitted through the car window. In the recent past, window tinting has become a very popular after-sales car modification services. However, different countries and states apply various laws on the level of darkness that one can apply on a car. Nonetheless, car window tinting has been a preference for many motorists in the world as a means of enhancing glare, insulation from heat and increasing privacy. Despite the quoted benefits, the issue of car window tinting has been a divisive one for many years. The reason behind this is that despite the sense in using tints to reduce glare, regulate temperature and to increase privacy especially for the public road users, using too dark shades for tints is a security threat as well as a safety issue. For this reason, therefore, laws for the maximum tint shades allowed for motorists have been devised. For instance, in some countries and states, the law requires that the motorists apply a maximum of 30% tint shade. Due to the controversies about car window tinting, this paper looks at the issues surrounding the subject.
Originally, tints were auspicious consisting of a gold or polyamide film. The film was initially made for use in the Apollo program so that it could reflect heat while travelling in space. The film, however, had several disadvantages including being more expensive than the cars that they were intended for. Another disadvantage was that it lacked durability when used with cars on earth which expose it to a lot of friction as compared to its use in space where there is no friction. After a decade, a less expensive and tougher tinting form was developed to be used in office windows. The newly developed tint consisted of a vapor-coating sprayed onto a clear polyester film using mounting adhesive. However, it still lacked scratch resistance and produced a mirror-like appearance and hence was not fit for use in car windows. In the early 1970s however, the mirror-like appearance was reduced by introducing the dyed film with metal. Further to enhance security and safety on cars, the thick mounting adhesive was introduced a few years later.
Reflective and flat films for car glass have its origin in Western Australia in 1975. The technology used 20% silver films (Andreyev 11). It was however until the late 1970s that scratch resistance was added to the technology. Later on in the 1980s, the sputtering technology was introduced and this combined metals with alloys. During this period, car tinting rapidly gained popularity in other parts of Australia and as a result, laws, and regulations pertaining to visible light transmission (VLT) saw introduction. In the subsequent decade, the technology of car window tinting rapidly spread in Australia and other parts of the world. As a consequence, a move to dyed or coloured film with a 35% shade was mandated for both the side windows as well as the rear glass. For the rear glass, the car needed to have rear vision mirrors on both sides. Later, an opaque band or tinted line across the top of the windscreen was permitted. The requirements were that it does not occupy more than 10% of the height of the glass and it is above the wipers’ radius.
The peak of the industry is said to have been in the mid-1990s. During this time, more than 160,000 passenger cars were being tinted yearly in Australia. In addition, 15% of the registered passenger vehicles accounting for approximately 1.2 million vehicles were already tinted in Australia (Andreyev 15). As a result, the industry boasted about an annual profit turnover of about $50 million. In addition, 2000 people were employed by the industry in the country tasked with the application of polyester coats on the inside of the car windows through the use of adhesives. Although today the industry does not operate on peaks as experienced during the mid-1990s, more cars continue to be tinted in Australia as well as all over the world.
Car Window Tint Shades
Car window tinting is usually carried out in various shades. First, there are factory windows which refer to no tint. Such are clear glass-like factory installed regular windows. Then there is a 50% window tint shade. The tint thus is meant to block half of the available light while allowing half to get into the interior of the car. The tint is also referred to as light smoke and produces a subtle classy appearance. A 35% tint is the most widely recommended maximum tint by law all over the world (Auto One Glass and Accessories 4). The tint allows 30% of light to pass through the glass and is also known as smoke producing a subtle classy appearance as well. Next is the 20% tint shade which is the most popularly used in the world. It is also referred to as medium or midnight tint by some providers. It allows 20% of the available light to go through and is important whenever the vehicle is fitted with TV or game console. Lastly, there is the 5% window tint which is otherwise referred to as the limo or dark tint. Such tint only allows only 5% of the available light to penetrate the glass. The tint is commonly used with commercial vehicles for extreme privacy, preventing theft and preventing tool or equipment from being seen from outside.
Tinting laws are varied such that certain laws are applied on the front windows and windscreen. However, there are no laws at all that are applied on the tinting of the rear windows as well as a rear windscreen. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the Road Vehicles Regulations for Construction and Use of 1986 directs on the minimum amount of light that should be allowed to go through the front side glasses as well as the windscreen. However, the regulations are different depending on states and nations. But, the most commonly used limit is 50% for the front windows and 35% for the rear windows (Unrau 7). The most obvious reason for regulating the car window shade is that too dark tints reduce the driver’s visibility especially at night and this poses a security and safety threat.
Car window tinted shades are used not just to enhance the look of your car, but to also act as a protection from harmful UV rays. Additionally, it will reduce the heat and glare on the vehicle.
When choosing the car film type and shade, several factors such as the colour of the vehicle, interior colour and the levels of privacy needed, have to be taken into consideration. Although the laws in different countries have certain rules and restrictions on the percentage of use of tinted shades for vehicles, clear security film can always be applied to the front glass and the passenger windows. This film also rejects ninety-nine percent of the harmful UV rays. To the rear windows of the vehicle, any shade of film is legally allowed to be applied.
There are different types of window film available to suit the customer’s needs. Most the window films offer over ninety-nine percent protection from UV rays. While plain glass will merely block UVB rays that cause sunburn, tinted glass blocks the more harmful UV rays from passing through. Thus applying tinted films to the windows of your car assures that your skin is protected from the sun.
Usually tinted films come in five different shades – dark, midnight, medium, light and very light. A lighter shade will give the vehicle a subtle and distinctive look. For comfort especially with kids and pets around, a medium or midnight shade will be a right choice. If privacy is what you are looking at or if your car is equipped with a TV screen in the back, dark shades will be the ideal choice.
Tinted films of a good quality will have certain salient features. They will be colour stable and will never turn purple with heat. There will not be the slightest unappealing bubbling or peeling. The films will be compatible with factory tints and they will be highly durable and have a scratch resistant surface. Checking for all these features and then investing in the car tinting shades will ensure long lasting life and a hassle free maintenance.
Where there are restrictions of the law, the clear and tinted film can be used. These provide an invisible but effective protection having a tough coating which is scratch resistant too. The best advantage of security films is they can hold glass fragments together if broken, so they do not get scattered. They also strengthen glass, so the risk of breaking on impact owing to accidents or some spiteful intentions is reduced. Security films can be tinted too so the benefits of both the film types can be availed in one.
Another type of film which has been developed in concurrence with the medical profession is called Dermagard. This is a clear film filtering UV rays and cuts out hundred percent of the harmful rays while allowing visible light to pass through unimpeded. It is especially useful in sensitive skin conditions that occur as a result of exposure to UV rays.
By using tinted window shades for your car, additional benefits of safety and sun protection can be achieved.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Tinting Car Windows
There are a number of reasons why motorists should consider tinting car windows. First, tints have the benefit of protecting the motorists from harmful rays from the sun especially ultraviolet radiation (Sommerfeld 8). With the ability to block over 65% of the sunlight and 99% of UV rays from accessing the interior of the car, tints assist the motorists, especially whenever there is no air conditioner (Sommerfeld 8). Other benefits of tinting a car include increased privacy and for commercial purposes, tints can be used to avoid theft of equipment onboard.
Besides using tints to reduce glare, heat transmission and air conditioning and increasing privacy, some motorists use tints to increase the aesthetics of their cars. However, several motoring organisations such as the National Roads and Motorists’ Association Limited (NRMA) in the United States discourages car tinting on the basis that the low light conditions can inhibit the visibility of the car driver. In addition, tinting is discouraged because it decreases the safety in roads by inhibiting the eye contact between motorists as well as pedestrians. Furthermore, despite the claims by the car tinting industry that tinting reduces the temperature in the car by up to 60 Celsius, there are several doubts about how effective it is in the area of air conditioning (NRMA 3). On the other hand, glare can as well be enhanced using better alternatives such as sunglasses.
It has also been claimed that tinting car windows reduce the penetration of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. However, this reduction is very minimal with the tinting of side windows blocking 97% of the UVB and 37% of the UVA (NRMA 4). On the other hand, clearly laminated window glasses block approximately 80% of UVA radiation and 100% of UVB radiation. In addition, car window tinting is said to reduce threshold contrast and this is dangerous as it is comparable to the process of naturally blurring the vision of an older driver. Further, tinting car windows has been opposed on the basis that it has a bubble effect. The bubble effect refers to the process whereby the tint separates from the window glass exposing bubbles which result into scratches on the film with the effect that the vision of the driver deteriorates. The bubble effect thus reduces the driver’s visibility further and may render the car not safe for the road.
Due to the fact that tints are liable to wear and tear, motorists who chose to use tints are advised to ensure that they obtain warranty on the tints from their providers. However, some car manufacturers offer cars which are already fitted with tints. In addition, it is not difficult for motorists to identify cars whose windows are already fitted with tints. Manufacturers have certain standard markings etched on the car window glasses that motorists are supposed to look for. The etching also includes luminous transmission codes or amount of light retention. For instance, code AS1 indicates clear glass, AS2 indicates light glass tint whereas AS3 represents dark glass tints (NRMA 6).
Most laws require drivers to apply the 30% tint shade rule. A survey carried out in 2013 indicated that more than 10% of the 1,134 vehicles that were counted along a certain busy road in the United States were being driven with illegal tints (Cheung 4). Therefore, the problem seems to be far from going away despite the widespread road safety rules. As such, most road safety experts advocates for more stringent rules to curb illegal car window tinting.
Privacy, cultural issues, air conditioning, and aesthetics are some of the reasons why people apply tints on the windows of their cars. However, depending on the use of the tint, there are several car window tinting shades ranging from no tint, 5%, 20%, 35% and 50% tints. The percentages refer to the amount of light allowed to go through the tint. The amount of light accessing the interior of the vehicle affects the visibility of the car drivers in various capacities. As a result, there are security and safety issues attached to tinting due to the visibility effects. Therefore, car window tinting is subjected to certain laws and regulations to prevent such impending dangers. The laws and regulations vary depending on one country and state to another. However, the authorities should ensure that the laws on tinting are strictly adhered to. The most recommended tinting shades are 50% for the front side windows and windscreen and 35% for the rear windows.
- Andreyev, Michaela. Car window tinting: Safe or not? Australia: ABC Adelaide, 2014.
- Auto One Glass and Accessories. Car Window Tinting Sales and Installation: Car Window Tinting Percentages. Auto One Glass and Accessories, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.autooneinc.com/car-window-tinting-percentages.htm
- Cheung, Philip. Dark window tints are a clear danger. The National, 2015.
- NRMA. Shedding new light on car window tinting. NRMA, 2017.
- Sommerfeld, Lorraine. Surprising facts about the dark side of tinted windows. Postmedia Network Inc., 2015.
- Unrau, Jason. How Much Can I Tint My Windows Legally? Silicon Valley: YourMechanic, 2015.