Window Tinting Instructions and Tips
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If you are planning to tint just one car, it's really not worth the expense of buying tools and window film and then discovering just how difficult the trade is through trial and error. However, if you plan on tinting several cars, or going into the field, then this is a good place to learn. These techniques are by no means the only way to install window film, some cars demand a combination of techniques. These are merely the basics, a starting point that you can use to begin to teach yourself this most challenging of trades. More help can be found on the forum.
First, the basics...
Step #1: Let a professional tint your windows!
Otherwise, read on and proceed at your own risk!
Start with a clean car, and a relatively dust and wind free environment. The tint is applied on the inside of the windows, you may work the tint on the outside but it is finally installed on the inside of the windows with soapy water, so you may need to remove the 3rd brake light and/ or rear deck if they are against the clear part of the glass, this can be a learning experience in itself.
Here we are working with the film on the outside of the window. It is being heat formed to accept the compound curvature of the glass. Once the film has been formed it is then left in place and trimmed to the proper size.
First, get the right tools for the job, a heat gun...
You don't need a super high quality heat gun, an inexpensive one will do the trick. Always use the highest heat setting. Many tinters use two heat guns strapped together to get a wider, hotter working area. You can get a decent heat gun at any hardware or paint store for under 50 dollars. Don't forget the extension cord. ;)
... tinting squeegee (they come in long strips that you cut to shape)...
This is a black rubber smoothie tinting squeegee. They come in different lengths that you cut to your desired length. This will be your main working squeegee for car tinting. Some like to use the yellow or red turbo version. These versions are made of a stiffer material and are less pliable, but they move more water from underneath the film.
This is a 24 inch length of uncut squeegee material. I believe this smoothie squeegee material is only available from film suppliers as I have never seen it for sale anywhere else. Be careful cutting this stuff, I suggest using a vice to hold it and a hacksaw to cut it, but of course I don't follow my own advice, I hold it in one hand against the table and use a fully extended olfa knife to cut it. Don't try that at home kids...I'm a professional. ;)
...spray bottles, hard cards...
Here's the thing about tinting, every tinter works a little differently because this trade is really an art. Part of this art is crafting your own tools. Up until recently, no one really concentrated on making tools for window tinters, so we have to make up tools and techniques as needed. Hard cards are one of those tools that can't be bought, they must be made. I make some of my hard cards from "5 way tools", a stiff 3 sided trowel like object with a handle. I cut them into 4 similarly shaped cards like the white one on the left. A softer plastic style 5 way tool was used to make the yellow tool on the right. That one is good for tough to reach places, but doesn't offer much control.
These are Bondo cards that have been cut into triangle shapes. These are more pliable than the hard cards and are great for corners and edges that are tucked. They come in different colors which are different firmness's, you should experiment to see which ones work best for you. These things are cheap and very handy so keep plenty on hand.
This is a "Red Devil" paint masking tool. These things are GREAT. They are very thin, but they have a slight curve that gives them strength. They can be cut into various triangle shapes and work very well for holding the flaps back while tucking roll downs, or pressing out a pesky corner in a quarter pane. The only problem is, I can't find them anymore! They have been replaced by a thin aluminum version, which I'm sure works great for it's intended purpose, but they are now useless for tinting.
...a cutting surface (I use linoleum glued to plywood as a cutting table for patterns, a piece of flat glass will work too) butcher paper (plastic coated on one side), a snap off razor blade knife, razor blades, Baby Shampoo(15 drops per pint or so.), paper towels (preferably paper shop towels), and some hand tools.
First you want to clear anything that will get in the way or that is against the glass where the window tint needs to be, like the inner flaps on the door panel...
On this car the inner flap lifts right out of the door without having to remove the door panel. These cars are always nice to have as it saves a lot of time. A quick check should be made on all cars to see if the flaps lift out like this before removing the entire panel until you know which cars you can do this with. Some cars need to have the top of the panel pulled back a little before the flap rail will lift out. Be very careful when pulling the top back.
...where it goes down into the door, depending on the car, you can tape this back...
Here we have used tape to pull the felted flap back and out of the way. You can use masking tape, but I wouldn't recommend it. Masking tape will not stand up to water very well and you will only have a few moments to work before it starts to let the flap go back aganst the window. In the picture, I used duct tape. It holds up much longer while wet. It may sound expensive to use duct tape for this, but it's cheaper than buying new parts for a door panel. ;)
...with masking tape, or if that doesn't work you can take off the door panels...
Here we have removed the door panel to expose the bottom of the glass. Normally a felt covered flap would be at the bottom. The film can be applied with the panel in place, but it is a little easier if the door panel is out of the way. Most door panels are easily removed but some are very tricky so be careful.