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Is Your Car Window Tint Too Dark? What You Need to Know

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Tinted car windows can add a sleek look to almost any vehicle, but did you know tinting windows too dark is against the law?

Window tinting laws vary from state to state. Before you head to the auto glass shop to have your windows darkened, be sure to check local regulations.

We’ve put together this easy guide to help you learn about the care of your newly-tinted car windows and the laws on tinted windows in California and Oregon.


What is Window Tinting?

The goal of tinting car windows is to darken the surface of the glass. You might choose to darken your windows for a few reasons — from adding visual appeal to reducing exposure to UV light.

There are three main ways to tint windows:

  1. Glass that’s already tinted
  2. Spray-on coating to darken the glass
  3. 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 usually only find directly from the manufacturer when you buy a new car.

Window tint is measured in percentages of Visible Light Transmission (VLT). The percentage tells you how much light is allowed through the tint. The lower a percentage, the darker the tint color.

For example, a 10% VLT tint only lets 10% of visible light through the film. An 80% VLT tint allows a much higher amount of light through the film. States, including California and Oregon, often use VLT percentage to determine how dark is too dark when tinting windows.


Caring for Tinted Windows

It’s likely your tinting shop will use film when tinting your windows. The shop applies the film and uses a tool to push out air bubbles and moisture for a closer fit.

You might notice a haze from water droplets pooling under the film. This is completely 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 for a long time:

  • Avoid rolling down your windows after installation. Your newly-tinted windows can take up to four days to cure fully. 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. Strong chemicals like ammonia can potentially harm the film and cause 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.

Window Tinting Regulations in California

Like most states, California places restrictions on the darkness of a car’s window tint. You won’t be able to completely darken all of the windows on your vehicle. California window tinting laws specify tinting for both sedans and SUVs or vans:

  • Windshield: Tinting allowed on the top 4 inches of the windshield. The tint must be non-reflective.
  • Front Side Windows: Film tinting must have a minimum visible light transmittance (VLT) of 88%. The windows cannot be tinted any darker than 70% VLT.
  • Back Side Windows: No restrictions on the VLT of back side windows.
  • Rear Window: Any darkness is allowed on your rear window, but you must have dual side mirrors on your vehicle if you tint the rear window.

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

  • You may not tint car windows with red, amber or blue colors in California.
  • The tint film manufacturer must certify the film and you must carry the certificate in your vehicle.
  • You may be able to receive a medical exemption that allows for lower tint levels on all of your windows.

California also restricts the reflective properties of any window tint you add to your vehicle. Your front and rear side windows cannot be more reflective than a normal window. Although reflective window tint film exists, you shouldn’t use it on a car in California. To ensure your car is compliant with California regulations, check with your car dealership or window tinting mechanic.

Window Tinting Regulations in Oregon

Similar to California, Oregon regulates which windows you may tint in your vehicle, as well as the darkness allowed. Oregon restrictions vary depending on the type of vehicle being driven.

Sedan window tinting regulations in Oregon:

  • Windshield: There are no restrictions on the darkness of the tinting material or total light transmittance on the top 6 inches of your windshield.
  • Front Side Windows: Window tint must allow at least 35% of light through.
  • Back Side Windows: At least 35% of light must be allowed through the tint.
  • Rear Window: Tinting must allow at least 35% VLT.

SUV, pickup and van window tinting regulations in Oregon:

  • Windshield: Non-reflective tint is allowed at any darkness on the top 6 inches.
  • Front Side Windows: Front windows must allow at least 35% VLT.
  • Back Side Windows: Any darkness of window tinting may be used.
  • Rear Window: Any level of window tinting darkness may be used.

Although SUVs, pickups and vans can have darker windows in the rear sides of the vehicle, there are limits on the reflectiveness of the side windows. All front and back side windows in Oregon must be less than 13% reflective.

Additionally, Oregon regulates certain aspects of car window tinting to make darkened windows safer on the road:

  • Tint colors of red, green or amber are not allowed.
  • You must have dual side mirrors if you tint the rear window.
  • The manufacturer of the tint film must provide you with a certificate of the VLT percentage and reflectance.
  • You may be able to get a medical exemption for a darker window tint with a certificate from a licensed physician or optometrist.

If you don’t follow Oregon window tinting laws, you could face a ticket and up to several hundred dollars in fines.

Check Before You Tint Window

Tinting the windows on your vehicle could help the interior stay cool, add privacy or help keep your skin from harmful UV rays. Regulations may change so it is best to always check with your window tint installer to see that your new window tint meets your local state regulations.


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