Tinting windows is a great way to customize your vehicle. Not only will it look good, it will help tackle glare and keep the interior cool when the sun shines.
But it’s easy to be put off from giving it a try. The internet is full of stories of hours of work ending in failure. So is it really that difficult? And just how long does it take to tint windows?
Take a look at our step-by-step guide, and find out how long you’ll need for each stage of the process.
What kind of vehicle will you be working with?
The answer to how long it takes to tint windows depends first and foremost on two factors.
One of those is how much glass there is in your car. You’ll need to go through the same set of processes for each window. It stands to reason, then, that the more windows you have, the longer it will take. And all other things being equal, larger windows will take longer than smaller ones.
The second is whether you have awkwardly shaped windows. If you can’t buy pre-cut tint to fit the model of your vehicle, you’ll need to add in cutting time. And the more fiddly the shapes you have to work with, the longer that will take.
As a rule of thumb, tinting the front windows of a pick-up will take between 30 and 45 minutes. A standard four-door saloon will take anything between 90 minutes and 2.5 hours. And if you’ve got complicated window curves or a steep window rake to negotiate, it can take much longer.
Do you have to remove old tints?
Another factor to take into account is whether there are old tints on the windows already. If that’s the case, they’ll need to be removed before you can apply new ones.
Professional removal is, of course, hassle-free. But there are a number of different methods for getting rid of old tint yourself too.
Some people use a combination of soapy water and scraping. Others use soapy water and newspaper (the tint sticks to the newspaper then lifts away). And if you have a long enough extension cable, you can use a hairdryer or steamer instead.
Whatever approach you choose, you’ll need to start by removing any stickers. And be prepared to take your time. Trying to remove the tint before it’s ready will just result in it breaking and the whole process taking longer.
When it’s all off, make sure you remove any remaining sticky residue too. You can use a standard window cleaner or invest in a professional adhesive remover.
So how long will it take?
Well, the precise length of time will depend on the condition of the tint. And as with applying tint, the more windows you have, the longer you’ll need to spend on the task. A reasonable guide is to allow two hours for this part of the process.
Pre-cut or cut by hand?
You might think this is a no-brainer. If there are pre-cut tints for your model of vehicle, using them would surely be quicker and easier?
That’s often the case. But don’t assume that pre-cut film will fit your vehicle perfectly. In many cases, you’ll need to make small adjustments. That might mean stretching or trimming. You may also need to apply heat to “pre-shrink” it, so that it will adhere to any curves in the glass.
It’s still easier than starting from scratch, but make sure you build in the time needed for those tweaks.
If you’re taking your vehicle to a professional auto shop, they may use machines to cut the film. These are able to work more quickly than cutting by hand. You might not get the precise finish of a hand-cut tint, but it should still be pretty neat.
Some professional services will offer the option of hand cutting, and this is also something you can do yourself. It can give you an excellent finish – but you do need to be prepared to take your time. Get it wrong, and you can waste your tinted film as well as your energy levels!
Attaching the tint to your window
When it comes to actually attaching the tint to your window, there are lots of different steps. And each one of them takes time.
First of all, you’ll need your window to be spotlessly clean before you start. Use a scraper to make sure there are no tiny grains of dust or debris to interfere with the smooth finish.
You’ll also need to keep both the glass and the tint wet as you work. Fill a spray bottle with soapy water and keep spraying it as you apply the panels.
You’ll need to trim the edges to get a neat finish. Use a sharp knife for this, and take your time to avoid injury. Make sure that you keep the blade as close as possible to parallel with the window surface. If you point it downwards, you may damage the glass as you cut the film.
Once the film is in place and the backing is removed, use a squeegee to remove all the bubbles. Finally, tuck it into the crevice at the bottom of the window using a card.
It’s not the easiest job in the world, so if you’re planning to do it yourself, patience really is the key. There are lots of videos online that will walk you through the process one step at a time.
It’s a good idea to estimate the amount of time you think it will need, and then double it. That way you won’t find yourself getting into a panic if things don’t go according to plan. As long as you’ve left yourself plenty of time, pretty much any mistake can be corrected.
Remember drying time
Finally, remember that while installing tint can take a long time, drying time is needed too. You won’t be able to wind down your windows until the tint is absolutely dry. You should avoid opening your car doors too.
Whether you’re taking your vehicle to an auto shop or doing the job yourself, make sure you schedule it carefully. There’s no easy way to tell visually if your tint is absolutely dry. So when it comes to drying times, err on the side of caution.
If possible, tint your car windows in the summer months. The warmer temperatures mean the tint will cure much more quickly. You’ll still need drying time of at least two days, though, and three days is a safer bet.
But if you’re having your windows tinted in fall or winter, expect the process to take considerably longer. The precise drying time will depend on temperatures. If it’s very cold, it may be several weeks before the tint has completely cured.
If you’re taking your car to an auto shop, it’s likely be easier to book it in during the winter. When the sun starts shining, everyone remembers that plan to get their windows tinted!
If the shop is temperature controlled, ask if it’s possible to leave your car there for a few days. This may be an option if it’s a quieter time. And it will mean you won’t need to open your car door until the tint is dry.
The plus side of professional tinting during the summer is, of course, warmer temperatures. So if your vehicle won’t be in a temperature-controlled environment, its downtime will be much less. If you can’t afford a couple of weeks of outdoor drying time, this will be the better bet.
If you’re planning to get professionals to tint your car windows, be prepared for quoted times to vary.
In areas where tinting is done regularly, practised professionals are likely to be able to complete jobs in a couple of hours. If it’s a less common job, or if your vehicle has unusual windows, expect it to take more time. In all cases, installation shouldn’t take more than half a day.
But bear in mind that a busy auto shop may need to operate a strict queuing policy. You may need to build in time for that when considering how long you’ll be without your vehicle.
Larger auto shops may be able to draw on additional labor during busy periods. If you’re planning on getting your windows tinted during the summer, they may be a better bet.
On the other hand, smaller outfits will have fewer customers. That personal touch can be very important when it comes to resolving any problems.
So in conclusion…
The answer to how long does it take to tint windows will depend on a lot of different factors. If you’re getting the job done professionally, expect it to take up to half a day. You may need to build in queuing time at the auto shop on top of that.
If you’re doing the job yourself, we’d set aside the whole day. You may not need that long – but if things get tricky, you’ll have time to sort it out. And you’ll avoid putting yourself under pressure and heightening the risk of making mistakes.
In either case, you’ll also need anywhere between two days and several weeks of drying time, depending on temperatures outside.
If you’ve installed tints, please comment and tell us how long it took! We’d love to hear about your experience.