The family Suburban turns 16 this year and with a little help from my kids, the tinting on the rear windows looks even older. I’m not giving up my truck until it’s dead, but I do need new tint.
Mike Sheurs at San Diego Tint (619-469-9393 in La Mesa; 858-202-0200 in Sorrento Valley; sdtint.com) gave me a primer. “Tinting involves putting a film on your windows. There are three kinds of film: dyed, metalicized, and ceramic. Dyed films are the standard — they look like factory tinting. Metal films will reflect more heat, and they’ll give a bit of exterior reflectivity so that the window looks a little bit like a mirror. Technically, it’s illegal to increase the reflectivity of any window. But some people like the look or they really want that heat reflection. Also, if you have a newer car — something with a satellite radio or a GPS system — the film will interfere with the reception. So, they’re kind of being phased out.” The relatively new ceramic film, he explained, will give you “the benefits of metal film without the interference issues.”
Sheurs said that tinting’s heat-reflective capability was mostly about “comfort while you’re in your vehicle. Your car is a big block of metal; if it sits in the sun all day, it will get hot,” tinting or no tinting. But “metalicized or ceramic films will reject about 65 percent of the heat” that would normally radiate through the windows, compared to “about 45 percent” for dyed films.
Dyed films, however, will “block 99 percent of UV rays,” just like metalized and ceramic. “That’s what hurts your skin and damages the interior of the car. In Southern California, some kind of tinting is practically a necessity. If you’re just looking to give the car a nice look and achieve some privacy,” dyed film is an effective and less-expensive option. “They used to have a problem with the dye fading to purple over time, but now, reputable companies use what are called extruded dyes, where the dye is bled into the film. It used to be that you could only get a three-year warranty on dyed film. Now there are lifetime warranties.”
According to Sheur, “reputable brands” include 3M, Solar Guard, Madico, and Llumar. “We carry all of them. It’s kind of standard for a company to carry just one brand and say it’s the best, but we try to pick the best from each manufacturer. Sometimes, a customer wants a specific shade, and not every manufacturer makes the same shades.”
Sheur said that San Diego Tint’s prices range from $180 (for dyed film) to $500 (for ceramic film). He urged customers to “make sure you get a manufacturer’s guarantee in writing. Don’t accept word-of-mouth and a handshake. For most manufacturers, if they offer a lifetime warranty, it’s good nationwide. So, if you move, you should be able to contact the manufacturer and get referred to a local dealer for repair.”
Javier at Oasis Trade Window Tinting, Inc., in Miramar (800-880-TINT; oasistradetint.com) gave me a little detail on shades. “The lower the number, the darker the tint. So, 70 percent is the lightest — it lets 70 percent of the light through. Limos tend to use 5 to 10 percent. You can make the rear windows as dark as you like. The front windows, legally, are supposed to be at least 70 percent. But most people ignore that.” (And the windshield is supposed to be completely clear, save for a tint strip up top.)
He also took me through installation. “The film is installed on the inside of the window, but the technician fits the film to the outside first. He’ll use a heat gun to shrink the film onto the glass, so it’s sized exactly.” That way, the installer never has to bring a cutting blade inside your car. “Then he removes it and installs it on the inside after removing the plastic coating from the adhesive side of the film. To make sure there are no air bubbles, he sprays the window with soapy water and then squeegees off the excess water. The whole process takes about two hours, but we recommend that you let the film cure for three to five days. Don’t roll down your windows, don’t open your sunroof.”
Javier estimated tinting on a four-door sedan would run $169–$300, with the high end offering a lifetime warranty.
Theo Polo of Majestic Motorsports (866-447-9218; majesticmotorsports.com) offers mobile tinting services. “We carry Johnson window films, which come with a lifetime manufacturer warranty. We have a location in Miramar or we can come to you. You can choose from several shades. Prices range from $160 to $180 for a two-door to $200 for a sedan.”