How to Remove Car Window Tint

Removing car window tint is not a difficult or technical job. I’ve done it several times and am barely what can be considered a “handy” person. So, if I can do it, anyone can. The main thing you need, in addition to supplies, is a bit of patience.

The adhesive in most brands of car window tinting varies in strength, so some tint sheets will come off easily and others won’t. Also, if the tint has been in place for several years, it tends to get sort of “baked” on and can present a challenge.

Choose one of the methods below, based on your personal preference, and begin. If you’re like me, you probably have most of the stuff you need in your kitchen or garage. Just make sure to protect the interior of your car from spills and stains by putting plastic sheeting everywhere, and don’t forget to wear dish gloves to protect your hands. Good luck.

The Best Ways to Remove Car Window Tint

Method One: Soaping the Tint Off

There are two soap-based methods: one involves just soap and a blade, while the other calls for soap and sheets of newspaper.

Mix a very soapy solution, about one quart or more, in a bucket. It helps to use warm water and dish soap or even laundry detergent. Remember to wear gloves so you don’t dry out the skin on your hands too much. Some detergents can be pretty harsh on human skin. Dish-washing gloves are ideal for this job, by the way. I always keep a pair handy for DIY chores.

Put some of the warm, soapy liquid into a squirt bottle and cover one window with it. Let it sit for a while. Now use the razor blade to begin peeling the tint sheet from a corner, moving and pulling toward the center of the sheet. You’ll be spraying and scraping alternately as you go. If the tint sheet doesn’t want to “give” at some point, spray some more solution where the sheet meets the glass and wait a minute.

The second soap-based method is a bit more ingenious. Cover all the tinted area of one window with newspaper and spray the soapy liquid over the paper. Wait about an hour, making sure to re-wet the newspaper whenever it begins to dry out. Now use the blade to pull the paper up in a corner of the window. It should take the tint sheet with it as you pull. Use the razor blade to take the newspaper off. If you meet resistance, re-wet the stubborn area and wait a minute or two.

Method Two: Use Heat to Remove Window Tint

You can use a professional steaming appliance or a simple hair-dryer to apply heat to your car window. Be sure to wear gloves and avoid aiming the heat jet directly at your skin. Even a hair-dryer can burn you, so be careful! The key to success with the heat method is making sure to peel a corner of the tint up with the razor blade and then aiming the steam or heat directly at the area between the sticky tint surface and the glass. You’re basically “melting” the adhesive with the dryer or steamer in order to remove the window tint film.

Method Three: The “Ammonia Technique”

Cover your car’s interior with plastic sheeting to protect it from any droplets of ammonia. Do one window at a time. Spray the outside of the window with soapy water and cover it with a cut-to-size sheet of plastic from a garbage bag. Spray the inside of the window with an ammonia-water solution (about nine parts water to one part ammonia) and cover this wet, interior surface with a cut-to-size plastic sheet from a garbage bag. If possible, park your car so the window you’re working on receives direct sunlight.

After about one hour you should be able to remove the tint easily. If any adhesive or tint sections won’t come off, simply scrape them away with a razor blade.

Pros and Cons of Removing Car Window Tint

Removing car window tint is one of those tasks you need to think about. I currently have two cars, one much newer than the other, and both of them with window tint. The older car’s tint has outlived it usefulness and is starting to look terrible. One reason is that I’ve lived in extremely cold and very hot areas while I’ve owned it, so it’s been through a lot.

My newer car’s tint job still looks great and I really like having a nice, shady interior on hot summer days. Plus, window tint can block up to 80 percent of incoming heat, according to one authoritative source at https://technicstint.com/auto-window-tint-reduces-heat/.

So, my most recent tint removal job was on the older car. I made quick list, while trying to decide, on the pros and cons of removing tint. Being a “list person,” writing down the good and bad points of car window tint removal helped me make up my mind without hesitation. Here’s the list I came up with:

-Pros of car window tint removal:

-The car will look nicer if the old window tint was damaged

-The car will be ready for a brand new application of tint

-It will be easier, in most cases, to sell a car that does not have tinting

-You’ll learn a valuable new DIY skill for future use

-You will be in conformity with local laws if your old tint was too dark

-Cons of car window tint removal:

-It can be a messy job if you do it yourself

-It can be a costly job if you hire someone to do it for you

-You’ll learn a new skill, which means friends and relatives will now be hounding you to help them remove tint from their cars

Window Tinting Removal FAQs

Before you begin a tint-removal job, read through the FAQs below to gain a fuller understanding about what’s involved and what some of the complications can be.

1. Why should I remove my window tint?

In a way, it seems counter-intuitive to remove car window tinting. I remember how much trouble I went to, way back when, to find a local shop that did quality work. I lived out in the boonies and ended up driving about 60 miles into the “big city” to locate a top-notch professional to do the job. Plus, it wasn’t cheap, so why would I now want to remove the tint?

There are lots of reasons to remove car window tint. For starters, many states have enacted laws that limit the amount and kind of car window tint you can have. There’s a good list at Instamotor where you can see every state’s laws for tinting, at https://instamotor.com/blog/window-tinting-laws-50-states

If you tint is too dark, you might need to remove it to satisfy local laws. Or maybe you’re like me and just got tired of looking at damaged tint on an older car. Some people remove tint before selling a car, when they move to a new state with stricter laws, when the old tint gets “bubbly” and starts to look like a mess, or when the tint just accumulates too many scratches and areas of discoloration.

2. Will steam damage my windows?

Unless your windows are already cracked, steam will not harm them. Keep in mind, however, that if you car windows are very cold, you should let them get to “room temperature” or higher before applying steam. That’s because the temperature differential, from very cold to very hot, can lead to damage. So just be careful and don’t apply full-scale hot steam to freezing cold windows and you’ll be okay.

3. Will ammonia damage my car windows?

Unless you own a very old, classic car that has its original glass, ammonia will not harm your car windows. But, know that ammonia will do damage to leather, vinyl, rubber and most types of upholstery in a car. Be sure to cover everything carefully if you use ammonia to remove window tinting.

4. What are the 3 basic methods for removing tint?

You’ll sometimes hear about “Five ways to remove car window tint,” but really there are three main methods: heat, ammonia and soap. The reason for the misunderstanding here is because there are two heat-based methods and two soap-based methods. But that’s just semantics, so re-read the above sections and you’ll be familiar with the three basic techniques.

5. What to do about remaining glue patches?

No matter how diligent your are with removing the tint from your car windows, you’ll likely see a few remaining “patches” of discoloration due to glue and/or adhesive. These usually look like little “islands” of sticky stuff on the window and seem to defy all attempts at removal.

I’ve had luck using three things, in order, to remove stubborn glue areas. First, I put a bit of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and rub it into the glue in a circular fashion. This works well and will typically be the only thing you need to use. If I can’t get all the glue off with the alcohol swab, I try white vinegar on a cotton ball or a Q-tip. What the alcohol can’t get, the vinegar will almost always remove.

Be patient and let the vinegar remain on the glue for a minute or two before trying to wipe the glue off. Finally, if there’s any adhesive remaining anywhere on my windows, I’ll use a tiny bit of nail polish remover on a Q-tip. Cover your nose because this stuff stinks to high heaven.

But as a lost resort, it will get the gunk out. Here are some other ways to get glue off glass if you want to try them: see HowStuffWorks at https://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/household-hints-tips/cleaning-organizing/clean-stickers-tape-and-glue-off-glass2.htm

6. How much does it cost to have a professional remove my tint?

Prices vary widely, but one general estimate is at least $25 per window. See https://wheelzine.com/window-tint-removal-cost. This price is for the removal only, not for putting new tint on. Some shops won’t do just one window and thus charge full price no matter how much tint you want removed from your car.

Many shops where I live, in the Southwest U.S., charge $30 per window but $50 for front windshields and for rear windshields. For an “average” car, that would come to $220. Now you can see why I decided to go DIY with my recent tint-removal job.

If you do hire a pro to remove tint, be sure to ask for a quote first. Go to the shop so they can see your car. That way, they’ll be able to give you a very narrow price quote. It’s also wise to ask whether they regularly do tint removal from cars. You’ll want to use a shop that gets plenty of tint-removal business. In any case, if the prices seem too high in your locale, just remove the tint yourself.

7. How do I avoid scratching my windows if I use the scraping method?

Scraping off your car tint can cause damage unless you take the necessary precautions. For starters, if any of your glass panes are cracked or have tiny pock marks in them, you’ll need to be careful. Cracked glass is usually very weak, so you risk breaking the window if you press to hard with the blade. Pocked glass has lost it protective covering and could suffer more damage is you use a blade too close to the pock mark.

The way to avoid damaging the glass is to mark every damaged point with a piece of tape. That way, as you work at removing the tint you’ll be aware of the places where you need to take extra care.

Call Around for Pricing and Decide on Your Plan of Action

The first step for removing car window tint is deciding whether to do it yourself or have a professional take care of the chore for you. The first time I removed tint, it was just on the rear windshield and I paid a repair shop to do it. That was more than 10 years ago and the shop charged just $20 for that one window. Prices are much higher today so with my last car I decided to go the DIY route and save a few dollars.

Call around to the shops in your local area and ask what they charge per window. Be specific about what you want, how large your windows are and how long the tint has been on. Collect a few prices and then decide whether you want to do the job yourself.

Don’t be afraid to try removing the tint yourself. The task is relatively easy, doesn’t cost much in terms of supplies and requires more patience than anything else. My advice is to get the supplies you need, all of which are listed in the above sections, and give it a go. You’ll likely spend less than $30 all told and can easily do a full tint removal job in an afternoon.

Don’t worry about the mess. Just be sure to cover your seats and other interior areas with plastic sheeting before your begin work. Make a supply list and then gather everything together in your work area. You’ll be surprised as how easy the job is once you get started. The bonus is the amount of money you can save. Just go for it and next time you need to remove tint from a car window, you’ll be an old pro.

Automotive Expert

Your automotive Editor-at-large and car mechanic.

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