Automotive Window Tinting
By Hugh A. Casiano
Window tinting has come a long way from the old purple, bubbling products that were installed by your local hippie in Birkenstocks and cargo shorts.
That statement is only partially true.
The true part is that the advancements in manufacturing have not only increased the durability and performance of solar treatments, but have also expanded into the manufacturing of architectural windows, solar panels and even flexible batteries. Additionally, the technology behind window tinting has received many accolades including a noteworthy ‘Top 100 Inventions of the Millennium’ by the techies at Popular Science® Magazine.
Although the progressive side of this industry prides itself on these achievements, there are still manufacturers and installers who provide products that are not much better than their colorless predecessors. The market is riddled with Lifetime warranties containing lots of fine print limitations and slick advertisements that contribute to consumer confusion. Some of the largest brands participate in deceptive advertising that place profits over integrity and quality. It’s not a hopeless situation and with a basic understanding about the construction of higher quality materials and a little common sense, a consumer can find light in a dark situation.
Firstly, you get what you pay for… unless you overpay.
There are rarely bargains in the window tinting business. Companies that offer cheap specials are probably not very special at all. Having window tint installed on your car with a quality product by a competent professional should be reasonably priced, but never a bargain. As a starter product, you can expect to get a lifetime warranty on a dyed polyester tint. Dyed tinting is created from a clear polyester base that is heated, to open the pores in the material, then dipped into a dye bath for coloring and cooled to encapsulate the dye. There are UV inhibitors in the polyester designed to prevent the dye from fading. The better of these products are dual layered for added durability and are also available in several shades at no additional charge. You can expect to block a little less than half the heat and practically all the ultra violet rays without breaking the bank.
Secondly, “What’s in a name?” Answer, “Only the name.”
On more complicated products, tint manufacturers share equipment time and costs to maximize production. Products with subtle differences may have been partially manufactured in the same facilities, so don’t get hung up on a brand or a cool name. As an upscale option to dyed tinting there is a product treated with an infra red absorbent coating that can greatly increase driver comfort. This coating is commonly referred to as ‘IR’ or ‘Ceramic’ technology and is designed to absorb the most intense part of the heat. Several variations of this product are available and the price range can go from reasonable to ridiculous. Although there are tons of great marketing tactics and demonstrators for IR or Ceramic tint, they are basically the same dye material with an additional treatment added during manufacturing. You should pay accordingly.
Furthermore, if you are going to upgrade… knowledge is power.
Sadly, most consumers will not be offered the highest level of protection from the sun. ‘Spectrally Selective’ tinting is expensive to inventory and complicated to install. The products are designed to break down the light spectrum and allow visible light to pass while blocking the heat and ultra violet rays. High tech alloys are attached to a polyester base in micro-thin, multiple layers that are invisible to the human eye. The virtually clear material reflects heat, like a mirror, without shine or color. Popular with European car makers like BMW and Mercedes Benz, this technology is integrated into factory glass as on option on higher end cars. However, buyer beware, you can expect to pay handsomely for the luxury of being the coolest driver on the road.
Lastly, buy American. We are the best in this business.
Proudly, the United States is the highest quality manufacturer of window tinting products in the world. The demand for American materials is so high they are often exported to foreign countries such as Singapore, China, and all over Europe. We remain the undisputed first choice of professional window tint installers around the globe. American technology and manufacturing consistently sets the standard in this industry, so if the box doesn’t say Made in the USA, I would pass.
A little homework before you shop...
Keep in mind these simple tips while shopping for your best option:
1. Shop by phone
It’s easier to interrogate a potential vendor over the phone.
2. Check pricing in at least three locations
Prices are usually consistent throughout an area. Don’t be shy when asking about the competition.
3. Personally visit at least two locations
Visibly inspect the facility, installers and quality of their work.
Some thoughts to keep in mind when you finally make your decision:
A. Things go wrong
Occasionally a glass gets scratched, little things break, or at the very least, your kids roll down the window early. Although it is rare, when it happens someone has to pay. Everything should be covered under warranty. You shouldn’t have to pay for anything beyond the price of the tint job. Be sure you are working with a company that thinks this way.
B. Walk around your car
Take a moment to walk around your car before and after you contract the work. Take a mental note of any scratches or dings. This will avoid any question of responsibility for damages.
C. This is supposed to be fun
If you have to get within six inches of the window to spot an imperfection, respectfully, the problem might be you. Don’t over think it. If the price you pay is comfortable and the installer and facility seem qualified, get it done and start enjoying the benefits.
You are now armed with some basic information about the most relevant products on the market today. Although there are several other variations of materials available, (hybrids, metalized, sputtered) the details above cover the most popular options. However, if you find yourself in need of a long and incredibly boring conversation about window tinting, give me a call. After 25 years, I enjoy lengthy discussions about adhesive weights and scratch coats… Unfortunately, most of the world, including my wife, are not as interested.