How to Tint Your Car’s Windows: Step by Step Guide

Seek Professional Installation for Best Results

Installing window tint on your own is a complex, multi-step process that requires special tools to do the job correctly. These reasons are why most people fork over a little bit of money to leave window tinting to the pros.

However, if you are sure you want to attempt the process on your own, follow these step-by-step instructions to learn how to tint your car’s windows.

Gather Your Materials and Tools

Before beginning, make sure you have everything you need to successfully tint your car windows. You’ll need:

  • Window tint
  • Large spray bottle full of soapy water (about one gallon total, made with dish soap)
  • Squeegee
  • “Hard card” (an old gift card or credit card can work for this)
  • Precision knife
  • Razor blade
  • Vacuum
  • Goo remover
  • Heat gun
  • Clean rag (microfiber works well)

Preparation

Before you can begin working with window film, you need to identify a clean, dry area to park your car. You’ll want it to be away from wind or breezes. Cleanliness is important because your goal is to prevent dust and dirt from clinging to your film.

Next, remove any stickers or other adhesives from the windows you’ll be tinting, both inside and outside. Use the goo remover when necessary. Then, vacuum the car’s interior closest to the windows to help get rid of dust and debris.

Using your soapy water and razor blade, you will now need to do a deep clean of your windows. Lower your window slightly so you can access the top edge too. Spray your dish soap solution, and use the razor blade to scrape away any buildup of dirt. You’ll want to do this on both sides of your window, even though you’re only applying your window tint to the inside. You’ll see why soon! Be sure to clean the edges and seals of your windows, and roll up your window all the way to do the bottom.

Tip: Never use Windex or other window cleaners with ammonia in it, which will give your new tint a purple haze when you’re finished with the application.

Once your windows are clean, wipe them down with a clean rag to dry the window. Use a squeegee to get them completely dry.

Leave your car in accessory so you can roll your windows up and down. Start with your window rolled all the way up.

Size the Window Tint

Just like a sticker, your window tint has a layer that peels off to reveal the adhesive. As you work with the tint in this step, make sure that is the side that’s facing you. This is called sizing the tint in reverse.

  1. Spray the outside of your window with soapy water. This will make your window slippery so that you can slide the tint around to move it into place.
  2. Place the tint over the outside of your car window so it covers it in its entirety. Leave the liner attached during this process.
  3. Ensure you have about 3 inches of excess tinting over the edges of your window, and then, using your precision knife, cut away any extra so that the sheet of tint is a more manageable size.
  4. Spray the film with your soapy water to help it cling – but not stick – to your window.
  5. Using your knife, cut along the bottom and left edge of the window. You’re essentially “tracing” your window using this knife, getting a perfectly shaped line so that your tint aligns perfectly. As you cut, use the squeegee to keep the film flat against the window.
  6. Shift the film 1 inch toward the left edge. Then, cut the right edge to size and slide the tint halfway back toward the center of your window. You should now have about ½” of excess tint in both directions.
  7. Slide the film down about one inch, so the bottom edge is lower than your window. This tint will eventually go into the door. Use the squeegee to flatten your tint.
  8. Roll down the car window by about one-half an inch. Cut the film along the top of the window. Pull it tint back to center. You should now have one-half an inch of excess tint around all sides of your window.

Prep for Adhesion

1. Working from the top down, use your heat gun and hard card to push any air bubbles to the bottom of the sheet of tint, working from the top down. When you’re satisfied, run the heat gun along the bottom of the window to make sure the area is dry. Leave the tint clinging to the outside of your window for now.

  1. Prep the inside of your window with soapy water and a squeegee, getting it as clean as possible. When it’s clean, spray down your window with soapy water.
  2. Peel off the top half of the liner from the tinting film that is currently clinging to the outside of the window. Do not peel the liner off completely!
  3. Spray the exposed section of adhesive with water.

Adhering the Window Tint

  1. With your window slightly down, line up and adhere the top of the tint to the inside of your car window. The soapy water will make it easy to slide around so you can get it perfectly aligned.
  2. Gently fold the tint (without creasing it) and work it underneath the seals on each side of your window.
  3. Spray down the window again, and use your hard card or squeegee to push the water out of the edges, toward the top and sides. Keep your free hand on the tint at all times so it doesn’t move as during this process.
  4. Roll your window up, and spray the bottom half of your window with soapy water.
  5. Peel off the rest of the liner, and spray this exposed tint with your water mixture. Both the window and your tint should be wet.
  6. Tuck the bottom of the tint into the bottom seal of your window. Spray it down with soapy water again, and use your hard card to push the film down and into the window as you pull back the seal with your free hand.
  7. Using your hard card, smooth out the window tint, pushing all the water and air bubbles toward the edges, working downward and outward as you go. Continue to spray your window with soapy water to prevent tears in the tint, until your window is perfectly smooth.
  8. Repeat on your other car windows.

Is It Worth It to Install Window Tint Yourself?

As you can see, installing window tint yourself is not an easy thing to do. It requires coordination and skill, along with serious patience and a steady hand. Professional window tinting installation is not that expensive, and so it can be worthwhile to take your car to a window tint shop. What you have to pay in money saves you time and frustration.

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