Tinted Glass – But Be Careful
By Michael R. “Mike” Newlon
I live in the southern California desert. My 1989 Lincoln Town Car is also a “local” car, originally purchased from Palm Springs Ford/Lincoln in 1989 and owned since new by two (so far) people who live in the Coachella Valley (the greater Palm Springs area).
It gets sunny here. To put it mildly. As previously shared, the Town Car suffered greatly by sitting outside, unprotected from the desert sun. The paint and upholstery paid a high price and are still on my “to do” list. Both remediation efforts will be reported in due course.
But one is already done – tinted windows, the subject of this missive.
Above: This is the Town Car just after I became the owner. You can see the windows had the light factory tint. This is easy to see on the driver’s side because the rear seat window is down just a bit and the driver’s window isn’t.
When I acquired the car, the windows looked normal to me. The windshield had some tint around the top but was otherwise perfectly clear. The other eleven (11!) windows. though, were lightly tinted as you can see below.
Above: Here’s a closer view of the “as acquired” driver’s side doors and windows. Light tinting can be quickly seen but, in my opinion, the desert sun demands more.
I shopped around in the local area and found a local shop that specializes in window tinting. Legal window tinting. Why the emphasis? Because California has some pretty stringent rules (Why was I not surprised?) about how to tint automobile windows.
To be as brief as possible, windshields can’t be touched. That’s a safety thing.
Above: This is after the tinting work was done. At first, it looks like the passenger side windows are down a bit. Nope. That’s the difference between the dark street and light concrete curb across the street, seen through the newly, and legally, tinted windows.
Front seat windows (the Town Car has four) have a set of specs and can only be just so “dark”.
Above: Clearly, the windows are tinted. They are as darkened to the maximum legal extent allowed by the California Vehicle Code; different, effective and 100% legal.
Rear seat door windows (The Town Car has six) have different rules and can be darker than the front seat windows. But only so much darker. It’s all in the “opacity” (darkness) specifications.
Above: Here’s the tinted Town Car outside in the desert sun. The driver’s side front window is down, as is the small triangular window on the passenger side directly in front of the right side rear view mirror. Note the tail pipe in photos 1 and 3 above is gone, replaced by the side exhaust exiting under the rear passenger door. Just like the one on the other side – REAL dual exhausts!
Finally, the rear window can legally be the darkest of all. It doesn’t have to be, of course, but it can be.
I’m sure you’ve seen some really dark automobile windows. I suspect most of them would be illegal in California if the driver and any front seat passenger(s) can’t be clearly seen from outside the vehicle. That’s a law enforcement/safety thing taken pretty seriously in my part of the world.
I told the tinting shop owner that I wanted the windows tinted as much as possible but conforming fully to California’s rules for such things. He looked outside at the blazing sun and agreed. Then went to work.
“Professional grade” window tinting material comes in large rolls, not spray cans. Each roll of tinting material has a specific opacity rating and can be legally used only where that rating is allowed.
He entered a code for 1989 Lincoln Town Car Base Model in his computer, put a roll of front side window material on the machine and stood back. A computer controlled cutter sliced out the pieces of tinting material so that scrap material was kept to an absolute minimum. He removed the pieces, inspected them carefully for scratches or imperfections, and carefully installed them somewhat like I did as a kid when I was putting decals on plastic model airplanes.
Next, the rear side windows were cut out by the same process, but with a different and slightly darker material. Then he carefully installed them.
Finally, the back window was cut out from a third roll of even darker material (but still per the California Vehicle Code specs), and similarly installed.
I was (and still am) delighted with the window tinting. The cost was reasonable and obvious benefits to interior upholstery and occupants alike told me that I had made the right decision.