How to remove car window tint
You'll need a heat gun, some safety glasses, and a lot of patience to complete this task.
This article was originally featured on Car Bibles.
Time Needed: 1-2 Hours, Difficulty: Easy, Cost: $5-$40
The time has finally come. Maybe Johnny Law stopped you for a stern chat, maybe you finally saw the error in your ways and are trying to change, or maybe you’re remedying someone else’s mistakes. No, I’m not talking about becoming a confidential informant in a major bank robbery case, I’m talking about removing tint from your car’s windows.
Whatever your reasoning, we’re here to educate you on methods to remove window tint from your car. Once you complete a few steps at home, you’ll have nothing but fresh glass between you and the outside empirical world. The result will be less attention from the law, better visibility, and a cleaner car. Let’s get to it.
The safety brief
Removing window tint isn’t super risky, but it does involve blades, chemicals, and potentially hot water, so you need to be careful. Grab this equipment to stay safe.
- Mechanics gloves for not only protecting your hands from razor blades, but to also not coat your hands in gooey, disgusting tint glue.
- Safety glasses, because who knows, you might get soapy water or Goo Gone in your eye during the process of pulling tint off of your windows
- Give yourself plenty of room in a well-ventilated area. You’ll be heating up noxious glue and moving your arms a lot while pulling the tint off of your windows. You don’t want to jam your elbows into the garage wall or knock out an unsuspecting child who’s walking by.
- If you’re working with your car parked on the street, check to make sure you won’t be hassled by a city employee for working on your car where you’re legally not allowed to do so.
- If you’re using hot water, cover your hands, arms, belly, legs, toes, etc. This could be as simple as wearing close-toed shoes, jeans, a hoodie, a raincoat, and long, thick rubber gloves. Basically, cover up all of your skin so you don’t scald yourself!
The tools and parts you need
We’re going to explain two methods, the heat method and the steam method. They’re essentially one in the same, it just depends on the source of the heat. Here’s what you’ll need.
- Heat gun
- Portable steamer (optional)
- Mechanics gloves
- Safety glasses
- Razor blades
- Soapy water in a spray bottle
- Goo Gone or other glue-removing solvent
- Razor blade holder, plastic scraper (if razor blades seem too hazardous)
The task: How to remove window tint
1. Get your door’s window ready.
If you have frameless windows, like those found on some BMW models, you’re already well-setup to start pulling tint. If not, lower your window a tad to gain access to the upper right-side edge, where the horizontal and vertical planes of the glass meet.
2. Heat up the glass.
Heat up the glass on the outside to pull the tint away from the inside. Typically, you want the glass to get to just about being too hot to touch, or around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Pull the edge.
Using a razor blade, carefully pick at the edge of the tint.
4. Start pulling.
Carefully pull the tint away until you’ve got a good enough area to get three fingers on, and then continue pulling while ensuring it stays hot. Once you have a couple more inches pulled away, take the heat gun and continue heating the bit that’s about to be pulled away. Keep the heat gun pointed at the leading edge, which is easier if you have a friend helping, but otherwise you can totally make it a one-person job.
Keeping the tint hot makes the job a lot easier and also pulls away more glue, making cleaning the glass later on a lot easier.
5. Ensure the tint isn’t tearing away.
Keep checking to make sure the tint isn’t getting torn away. Though, if it’s a cheap tint, it might be a lost cause. Ideally, you should be able to pull the whole piece of film down.
6. Raise the window back up.
Once you get through the top portion of the window, raise the window so you’re able to pull the bottom bit off, but don’t pull it off just yet.
7. Leave the tint attached at the bottom.
Leave it attached, and hang it over the interior of the door, otherwise known as the door card.
8. Spray down the window with soapy water.
Spray it down from top to bottom, and carefully and lightly run the razor blade along the glass from left to right at a 30 degree angle to start pulling up the remaining glue. It’s important to keep the glass saturated while scraping, as you don’t want to scrape/score the windows. You’re essentially squeegeeing the glue off. Also, the purpose of leaving the tint attached at the bottom and hanging over the door card, is to protect the door card and window channel from getting gunked up with old glue. Then, use more soapy water and a clean towel to thoroughly wash the windows.
9. Remove the rest of the tint.
For that final bit you left hanging, wipe off any potential schmutz that’ll get on the door card and pull the rest of the tint off. It’s then a good idea to go over the window with a solvent like Goo Gone to ensure all of the glue residue is completely gone. Leaving some there will mess with visibility (especially on a rainy day) and just look gross.
Repeat the above steps for each additional door window, using a fresh razor blade for each window
11. Remove the tint from the rear glass, if necessary.
For the rear glass, do essentially the same process, but get an edge going by carefully cutting a small hole in one of the corners, then use heat to make it pliable and pullable. Having a friend holding the heat gun on the other side of the glass makes this a lot easier, too.
12. Other methods without a heat gun.
You can also use a portable steamer to do all of this, but this could be a tougher way to initially heat up the glass and get the tint ready for pulling. Similarly, carefully pouring on some near-boiling water can work as well. Though, ensure your skin is well protected and insulated, like wearing a hoodie and raincoat, and ensure the rest of your body is covered and insulated as well. You don’t want to scald yourself!
13. Work slowly
Take care to move slowly and methodically. Not only makes the job more efficient, but much safer as well. When we say it takes 1-2 hours, that could be best-case. Maybe carve out an entire afternoon to do this, as it could save you a trip to the emergency room if things go south while wielding a razor blade.
FAQs about removing window tint
We want to try to answer any questions you have. We’ve selected common points of confusion from our experience, as well as commonly asked questions from popular search results. We answered those questions below.
Q: What’s the legal limit for window tint?
A: This depends on your local state, county, or even city laws. It’s best to read up on any applicable government websites to see if tints are allowed, and if they are, what the maximum allowed VLT (visible light transmission) is.
Q: Will paint thinner or rubbing alcohol remove tint glue?
A: It will, but it will streak and be harder to clean up. Plus you’d need to be extremely careful with paint thinner around your car’s paint. It’s best to scrape (with adequate soapy water) as much as possible, wash, and then go over it with a special glue-removing solvent like Goo Gone after if needed.
Q: On which side of the glass is window tint typically installed?
A: The inside, but if the previous installer was either lazy or incompetent, it could be on the outside.
Q: I’m removing my tint because it’s too dark, but I still want shade and protection from the sun. What should I do?
A: Look into a tint with a higher VLT, or visible light transmission. The higher the percentage, the more light will be let in, such as 35 percent versus pitch-black 5 percent.
Learn more about window tint from this helpful video
Car Bibles’ editors understand that not everyone is a text-based learner. For those kinesthetic people out there, we have your back with a video showing you exactly how to completely remove window tint.