3M install

Hints on Window Tint

Shelley Widhalm is a freelance writer and editor and founder of Shell’s Ink Services, a writing and editing service based in Loveland, Colorado. She has more than 15 years of experience in communications and holds a master’s degree in English from Colorado State University. She can be reached at shellsinkservices.com or shellsinkservices@gmail.com.

The transition from wrap to tint may seem simple, but wrap shops wanting to get into the business of tinting windows will want to research the industry and make a few adjustments in how they install the product.

A wrap is meant to be seen and provide accents, advertising or color changes to a vehicle, while the objective of a window tint is to provide heat rejection for occupant comfort and protection from ultraviolet, or UV, rays.

“Vehicle wraps, paint protection film and window tint all go hand-in-hand. A shop with the ability to sell and install all three products opens up the door to increased potential sales and customer loyalty and enables a consumer to visit a one-stop shop for all of their vehicular needs, whether it is customization or protection,” says Ryan Nufable, operations manager of service group distribution for DUB IR Window Films in Santa Fe Springs, California.

Wrap shops entering the window tinting market need to start with education before they expand their services, says Jane Chao, global application engineering specialist for the 3M Commercial Solutions Division in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“The first thing we recommend you do is approach the manufacturer who you want to work with and talk to their representative to learn about the window film offerings and training available for installers. It’s very crucial you get proper training,” Chao says. “It’s important you understand the products and who you want to partner with.”

What Customers of Window Tint Want

Part of the education involves knowing what the customer wants in a window tint and that customers typically fall into three categories, Chao says. They purchase a tint for aesthetic reasons to give a dark look to the vehicle’s windows; they want UV protection and performance, specifically for heat rejection and comfort; or they want performance but in a clear glass look that allows them to be seen and maintains the authenticity of the original car, such as in classic vehicles, she says.

Two additional reasons to purchase a tint is for privacy and safety, because the material will help prevent shattering by holding the glass together in the case of a car accident, says Eric Holmes, North American sales manager for automotive at Eastman Performance Films, a division of Eastman Chemical Co. in St. Louis.

“Buying window film is about the customer experience,” Holmes says. “It’s going to block heat, keep glass intact and protect from UV rays.”

Wraps shops also need to understand the federal and state tint law requirements, Chao says. Each state differs in the maximum visible light transmission, or the amount of light that is allowed to transmit from outside the vehicle to the inside space, she says. The VLT tint law dictates that the net tint is measured after the tint has been installed on windows, which may already have a tint, she says.

The International Window Film Association maintains a chart of individual state requirements so that shops and customers can know how dark they can tint windows, Chao says. The darkest tint is at 5 VLT, or a limousine tint similar to application on limousine vehicles, providing nearly 100 percent privacy, she says.

A tint blocks out three aspects of sunlight, including visible light, infrared light, IR, and UV light. The higher the number of Total Solar Energy Rejection, or TSER, the better the overall protection and the less amount of heat that can come through the glass.

Different Types of Window Tint

Wrap shops will need to research the different types of window film, Nufable says, adding that most customers will not know the difference between a regular window tint and a UV and IR-rejecting film.

“Your basic dyed polyester film is inexpensive and does a great job for aesthetics but does little to protect the occupants of the vehicle from heat, and more importantly, the damaging rays of the sun,” Nufable says. “Metallic films offer some heat rejection but are reflective, sometimes difficult to install and may interfere with the vehicle’s electronics systems.”

DUB IR Tint is a nano-ceramic, laminated film that is scratch resistant, non-reflective and easy to apply and shrink, while also offering heat rejection and protection from the sun’s UV and IR rays, Nufable says.

“DUB IR Tint was created specifically for the automotive market and not a film taken from an existing flat glass film line and marketed as an automotive film,” Nufable says. “We have spent countless hours researching and testing our film specifically for automotive use and have marketed directly to automotive consumers and enthusiasts to ‘ask for it by name’ and request that their local shops carry and install our film.”

As another option, 3M offers three lines of tint products ranging in performance, quality and price, Chao says. A poor quality tint will quickly fade and peel, the adhesive will bubble, and the color will turn purple within six months, she says.

Tint shops that install 3M window tint products are authorized dealers that have a storefront and are knowledgeable about the product, Chao says.

Three Different Lines

The basic 3M product is FX Premium, an entry-level dye film that provides 5 to 55 percent VLT. The mid-range product is Color Stable, which offers better heat rejection than FX Premium, using a 3M patented technology of nanocarbon particles infused in a type of polyester, or polyethylene terephthalate, PET, the basic component of window film. The carbon, used as a colorant and heat rejection additive, provides a better match to original equipment manufacturer, OEM, glass, which is tinted by the manufacturer by adding dye directly into the glass.

The glass, typically behind the driver’s rear side and back windows, can be 15 to 20 percent VLT by federal law in multi-occupant vehicles, such as trucks, suburban vehicles and vans, Chao says.

“Those car owners tend to come to a tint shop and would like a tint that matches the tinted glass to blend in with the glass that’s already dark,” Chao says about what is called a factory tint match.

3M’s top product is Crystalline, a high-clarity, multilayer optical film that offers 20 to 90 percent VLT, Chao says. 3M is the only company that produces a technology that allows clear film to have heat-rejection properties and outperforms the limo tint, she says.

“When you put the Crystalline on, you can’t tell there’s a window film on unless you go darker,” Chao says.

The Installation of Tint

Wrapping a car and tinting windows have some similarities—they use of some of the same tools and require prepping of the vehicle with a clean environment and surface application.

“Outside of that, tint is installed as a wet application where the majority of wrap films are applied dry,” Nufable says. “Certain vinyl wrapping films and paint protection films are more forgiving than window tints in that they can be easily manipulated and moved into position prior to final installation.”

For the installation of a window film, there is a difference in how wrap and tint products are handled, and working with a tint requires an understanding of product properties, Chao says. One main difference is that a wrap typically stretches and shrinks, while window film mainly shrinks, she says.

“The same techniques for wraps will not work for window film,” Chao says.

Film is either hand cut to the pattern or is product cut by using software to input the pattern and a plotter to cut it, and any excess film is removed, Holmes says.

The first step in installing the film is to make sure the installation surface is clean, as well as the entire vehicle to avoid any dirt and debris, Holmes says. The film consists of a pressure sensitive adhesive covered by a silicone liner, which is pulled off the adhesive and lined up to the edges of the interior side of the glass, he says. The film is applied to the glass by spraying the adhesive with a mounting or slip solution as the liner is slowly released from the film, he says.

“Once you get it lined up and everything fits right, use a squeegee to remove the slip solution and water out of the pattern,” Holmes says. “You need to use slip solution to properly mount the film to the glass and use a squeegee to get rid of the slip solution between the film and the glass.”

For the first few days after installation, moisture can build up or form moisture pockets, because the film is porous and can have small amounts of leftover moisture, Holmes says. The curing process can take two to three days in sunny weather up to two weeks, he says.

For the back and door windows that have some curvature, the film needs to be heat formed to shrink down to fit that curvature, unlike a wrap that can be stretched and pulled, Holmes says. Heat forming can be done in different methods, such as through dry shrinking, using a dryer sheet sprayed with water to coat the window, Holmes says. Once the coating has dried, the glass is prepped with an H pattern and the film is installed, smoothed by a hard Teflon card to tack the film to the glass, he says, adding that another tool needed for the process is a utility knife.

Finding a Tint Partner

Wrap shops, once they understand the installation process for film and make modifications to their shop space, also need to partner with the right manufacturers and suppliers to help them develop and grow their businesses, Holmes says. Most film manufacturers and suppliers carry a vast array of window film, sizes and shade options for VLT, and wraps shops need to become well educated on the product offerings to be able to sell them to customers, he says. Shops need to know how to pitch the products and explain their purposes and how to help customers choose what works best for them, he says.

“Buying window film is about the customer experience. They need to be made aware of the benefits of window film,” Holmes says.

The cost of the film varies and is the least expensive part of the installation, Holmes says.

“With the film itself, it is not very expensive, less than 20 percent of the job in most cases,” Holmes says. “What the customer is paying for is the labor to put the product on.”