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Blog category: Driving

How Dark Can I Tint My Windows in California?

6 min read

Tinted car windows can add several benefits and a sleek look to almost any vehicle. Still, for drivers in the Golden State, it is essential to tint your windows in accordance with California’s tint law.

Window tinting laws vary from state to state. Vermont, New Hampshire, and New Jersey don’t allow any window tint at all. Other states regulate the windows that can be tinted, as well as the colors and the degree of tinting. If you want to avoid being pulled over, be sure to check local regulations before heading to the auto glass shop.

We’ve put together this simple guide to help you learn about the California window tint law and caring for your newly tinted car windows.

What is Window Tinting?

Before digging into the California tint law, let’s better understand the issues surrounding vehicle window tinting. Car window tinting darkens the surface of the glass. It can be applied to the windshield, back, and side windows. There are a few reasons you might choose to darken your windows — from adding visual appeal to reducing exposure to UV light.

There are three main ways to tint windows:

  • Glass tinted during manufacture
  • Spray-on coating to darken the glass
  • Film coating that’s applied to the window interior

Most shops use film coating to darken your car’s windows. Tinted glass is an option you can often get directly from the manufacturer when you buy a new car.

Benefits of Car Window Tinting

There are several benefits drivers consider when tinting their windows:

  • Keeping Cool: Window tinting reduces the amount of light and UV rays entering your car’s cabin, keeping the interior far cooler, especially in the summer.
  • UV Protection: Window tinting extends the life of your car’s upholstery by blocking UV rays. The tint can block up to 99% of UV, protecting your skin, too.
  • Accident Safety: Window tint applied as a film prevents shattered glass pieces from separating, minimizing the chance of flying glass shards in an accident.
  • Increased Privacy: Darker windows make it harder for fellow drivers or pedestrians to see inside your car. Valuables won’t be easily spotted in a parking lot, making theft from your car less likely.
  • Looking Cool: Let’s face it, tinted windows look fantastic. They give your car (and, by association, you) a sense of attitude and style.

With so many benefits, why do we have window tint laws? Window tinting doesn’t just cut down on the UV rays but also on the visible light entering your car. And that can be a hazard. It’s no coincidence that the most dangerous driving times are when visible light is reduced. Vehicle repair costs are rising. Don’t risk an accident by violating the California tint law with too-dark windows.

Rating Window Tints by VTL

Window tint is measured in percentages of Visible Light Transmission (VLT). The percentage measures how much visible light passes through the tint. The higher the percentage, the more light passes through the tint. The lower the rating, the darker the tint color.

For example, a 15 percent tint only lets 15 percent of visible light through the film, blocking 85 percent of the light. A 70 percent window tint allows much more light through the film. The California tint law specifies the VLT percentage allowable to determine how dark is too dark when tinting windows.

California Window Tint Law

Like most states, California restricts how much light you can legally block from entering your car. The concern is that a window tint that is too dark impairs your driving by making it harder to see. So, you won’t be able to completely darken all the windows on your vehicle. Since 1999, the California tint law specifies tinting for both sedans and SUVs or vans as follows:

  • Windshield: Tinting is allowed only on the top 4 inches of the windshield. The tint must be non-reflective.
  • Front Side Windows: The front side windows must be a 70 percent window tint or higher. They cannot be tinted any darker than 70 percent VLT.
  • Back Side Windows: No restrictions on the VLT of side windows in the back.
  • Rear Window: Any level of darkness is allowed on your rear window, but you must have dual side mirrors on your vehicle if you tint the back window.

In addition to restrictions on the darkness of a window tint, the California tint law includes additional notable regulations for tinting:

  • You may not tint car windows with red, amber, or blue colors in California.
  • The window tint must not reflect more light than an untinted window.
  • The tint film manufacturer must certify the film, and you must carry the certificate in your vehicle.
  • You may apply for a medical exemption allowing lower tint levels on all your windows.
  • Medical exemptions allowing a darker tint are available in some circumstances.

California window tint law restricts the reflective properties of any tint you add to your vehicle. Again, road safety is the reason for this restriction. Your front and rear side windows cannot be more reflective than a standard, untinted window. Although reflective window tint film exists, applying it to a car in California is illegal. To ensure your car is compliant with California tint regulations, check with your car dealership or window tinting mechanic.

Medical Exemptions to Window Tint Laws

California window tint law allows medical exemptions in some circumstances. You can apply for a medical exemption to tint your windows beyond their restrictions for various medical reasons. For instance, you may qualify for a medical exemption if you have Lupus, photosensitivity, melanoma, other skin cancers, or another condition requiring heightened sun protection. You will need documentation from a medical professional who can attest to your physical requirements for a darker window tint.

Caring for Tinted Windows

If you’re getting a cracked windshield repaired, having it tinted at the same time is tempting. However, the adhesive that holds the windshield in place needs time to fully cure before the glass is handled again. The time required can vary based on the adhesive type, the temperature, and humidity levels. Plan on several days before getting a new windshield tinted.

Once you have chosen the window tint options that comply with California’s tint law, make an appointment with a tinting shop or mobile window tinting service. They will likely use film when tinting your windows. The shop applies the film and uses a tool to push out air bubbles and moisture for a precision fit.

You might notice a haze from water droplets pooling under the film. This is entirely normal and might take a few days to disappear. The film used to tint windows allows moisture through it, so the water will eventually evaporate on its own.

Follow these tips to help your film-tinted windows last:

  • Avoid rolling down your windows for several days after installation. Your newly tinted windows can take up to four days to fully cure. Rolling windows up and down during this period can weaken the film’s hold on the window.
  • Use non-abrasive cleaning supplies to clean the interior of your windows. Try to find a natural window cleaner that doesn’t use chemicals like ammonia. Harsh chemicals can harm the film, causing it to strip from the window.
  • Be careful when loading and unloading your car. Although your tinting film is designed to resist scratches, a sharp edge could still leave you with a noticeable mark.

Check the California Window Tint Law Before You Tint

Tinting the windows on your vehicle could help the interior stay cool, add privacy, help keep your skin from harmful UV rays, and look cool. California’s tint law and other states’ restrictions are subject to change, so always check the current state regulations before investing in a new tint.

Like abiding by California laws and learning defensive driving, proper auto insurance coverage helps to keep you safe. Call and speak with a Wawanesa agent today to verify that your policy fully meets your needs.

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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