How to Remove Car Window Tint: the Not Messy, Cheap, Easy Way

1,343,356

116

157

Posted

Introduction: How to Remove Car Window Tint: the Not Messy, Cheap, Easy Way

Removing tint & stickers from car windows
So easy you'll slap yo' mamma!!!

This instructable covers removing tint (and stickers) from windows. It is specifically geared to removing tinting from 5th generation Honda Preludes from 1997 to 2001, but can be used on anything from Kias to Hummers, to house windows.

Background:
I recently bought a nice 5th generation Honda Prelude with tinted windows. I always liked the way that tinted cars looked, but didn't think it was practical because most of the driving I do is at late at night. The new car also had radio reception problems. The antenna in my car is a thin wire layer on the back window above the defroster lines. Asking around I learned that the tint in my rear window was likely causing my poor reception (it was). These two reasons drove me to removing the professionally installed tint the car came with.

After calling a tint shop and getting a quote of $140 to get the 5 window (2 doors, 2 rear quarters, and rear window) tint removed I decided there had to be a better way. I did some research online and prepared myself for a messy painful process. It turned out to be easy, so easy I figured I'd write it up for you.

The advantages of this method are that you do not need to cut the tint off at all (no razorblades = no mess) and so it is safe on your rear window without any fear of messing up your rear defroster or antenna lines. The method is also significantly faster, cleaner, greener, less messy, and less hazardous to your health.

General idea:
The goal here is to steam the window and tint so much that the glue releases itself from the window. Then all you have to do is slowly pull the tint off of the window (as you continue to steam) and the glue comes with it - no mess!

References:
This write-up is a basic version of the special technique used by the professionals at Tint Removers (tintremovers.com).  Tint Removers uses a specialized green method of tint removal that does not leave toxic chemicals for professional car, home, commercial office and store window tint removal services.  This write-up is based on an interview with Tint Removers.  If you are interested in professional service or have specific questions for Tint Removers, they can be contacted at quotes@tintremovers.com.  Feel free to reproduce this article but make sure to include a link to this article.

Disclaimer:
Steamers release extremely hot steam... which translates to hot condensate. When combined with tight spaces and or the use of beer as a motivational tool, injury can result. Use common sense, don't burn yourself with the steamer.
Tint will make your car look better to the opposite sex, protects from the UV rays, and wards off thieves. Removing it however, will make it easier to actually see while driving, sometimes important.

Thanks for all of the positive comments. If you liked this article, please rate it, and include your pre-tint-removal & post-tint-removal pictures! (if you didn't like it, let me know what is missing)

Keywords:
Window tinting,remove tinting, tinted, car tint, prelude, steamer, window steamer, remove tint, removing car tint, removing window tint, removing tinting, tint removal, bubbling tint, old tint, how to remove tint.

Step 1: Gather Supplies!

Gather the following supplies
  • Cheap clothing steamer (hey, it works on your clothes too!)
  • Long extension cord
  • Bottle or cup of water (so you don't have to go inside to refill the steamer every 10 min)
  • Some rags
  • Windex
  • 6 pack of beer & a good CD (to keep you entertained while steaming the windows)

Clothing Steamer
This is the lynchpin of the entire operation.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a cheap clothes steamer on sale at walgreens for $12.99 to stay stylish, and I figured it just might do the trick on my tint too. Apparently, I got quite the deal, when looking for examples for this write up they were all about $25-$30. If you want to find a deal, you might try your local thrift shop, Ross, Tuesday Morning, yard sales, Kohls, TJ Max, etc.

Here are some examples of fabric steamers
Target: SteamFast Compact Fabric Steamer $24.99
Walmart: Conair Portable Garment Steamer $29.93
Walgreens: Conair Compact Fabric Steamer $29.99
Sears: Conair GS16 Hand Held Fabric Steamer $22.49 (on sale)

Step 2: Prep

Steps for removing tinting:
1) Run an extension cord out to your car with plenty left over to reach inside.
2) Fill the steamer up with water, plug it in, and start it steaming (it takes a few sec. to get hot)
3) Open the moon roof, and windows of the car (to let steam out)
4) Turn on your stereo & crack open a beer

Removing stickers and other things you don't want on your windows:
Follow the same steps as above and in the following steps. The key difference will be longer steaming and more scraping with your fingernail. I still do not recommend using a razorblade, but it is up to you.

Step 3: Remove Tint

Start on one of the small rear panels (who cares about them anyhow)
5) Pass the steamer into the car through an open window (you can open the door, but then the door ajar chime will go continuously while you listen to music
6) Look closely around the edge of the window you're working on. You should be able to see the edge of the tint on top of the glass. Once you've found a corner where you can see the tint that is the corner you should start on. (sometimes it will continue just under the trim on one side, start on a different side)
7) Steam away! (don't worry that the molding will get wet, just put down your beer and wipe it with your free hand, or just drink your beer)
Start steaming that area. Hold the steamer there for probably a minute or so, just on that corner. Hold the steamer anywhere from 1/2" to 2" away from the glass, and steam the corner and the 4" or so around the corner.
Once you've steamed the hell out of the window, Carefully pick at the corner with your fingernail. If it isn't easy to move the tint a little with your fingernail steam some more (do not use a razorblade!) you do not need it, if it doesn't come up, just steam some more.
9) Keep steaming and then picking at it a little bit, until you have enough tint pulled up that you can pull it with your fingers.
10) Gently keep pulling, or if it does not come up easily, fold the bit you've pulled up under, so it doesn't stick again and keep steaming. As I pulled I was worried that I was going to pull the frit (black border around glass) off, but if you look outside the frit continues much farther than you can see inside & it didn't come off at all.
11) Keep steaming. Do not pull hard! If you pull hard you'll either break the tint and have to start all over, or the whole sheet of tint will come off leaving all of the glue!!!! You don't want this, you want to bring the glue off with both layers of the tint, so go slowly.
12) steam back and forth along the edge you're pulling up. Slowly steam and pull (lightly, more steam = easier to pull) as you go along the window.
13) As you get to the end slow down. If you pull hard at the end you will pull the tint sheet off without bringing the glue with it, then you will have to steam the glue left in the corner and rub it off with a towel (annoying).
14) After the whole sheet is off steam the whole untinted window to see if there is still any glue on the window (it will look like a thin film) If there is glue, wipe it off by taking a clean towel and pressing hard as you wipe. This way the glue will stick to the towel and come off. If you press too lightly the glue will ball up and fall inside your car, or smear across the window.
15) Wipe the window and molding dry.
16) Clean the window with Windex (why not, you're already right there).
17) Open next beer & proceed to next window.

Step 4: Prelude Specific Front Door Panel Removal

This step is required for removing tint from the front windows of a car (or any that roll down). The directions below are specific to 5th generation preludes, but will be similar for other cars.

If you want more information about removing your door pannels, look for directions on removing your door panel online. If you know a good site for directions, please post it in the comments. (thanks)

When you get to the side windows that roll down (drivers and passengers): (you should have practiced by doing the two small side windows first)
You will need to remove the door panel and any weather stripping until you can see the entire piece of tint on the inside of the glass (likely goes to about 1" above the bolts).

For instructions on how to remove a 5th gen prelude door panel see http://www.handaaccessories.com/prelude/preludeinteriortrim.pdf or follow these (copied from a bayarea prelude post by natcc99 post here)
  • Remove the screw that is hidden behind the cap located at the door handle.
  • Pull the door handle and tweeter unit out and disconnect all the wires.
  • Unhook the door handle metal rod with a flat head screw driver
  • Pull off the speaker cover. (There are hooks located closest to the door's edge. The other end are held by snaps.)
  • Once the speaker cover is off, remove the THREE screws located around the speaker.
  • Remove the screw that is hidden under the cap located inside the handle used for closing the door.
  • Remove the small plastic cap located at the upper corner near the door's hinge.
  • Lastly, grab the door panel from below and carefully pry the door loose.
  • Finish off by pulling up to unhook it from the window's edge and disconnect any remaining wires.

If you need to, you can completely remove the window from the car by doing the following:
  • Roll the window about 95% down.
  • Remove the plastic weather covering by using a heat gun to loosen up the glue. Once the area is warm, pull the covering to reveal the bolt as shown in the picture above.
  • Remove the bolts, BUT be careful not to drop the window!!!
  • Carefully lift the window upwards. When the window is half way up, tilt the back of the window up and pull it out of the rear tracks.
  • Continue to carefully pull the window up until it is off the car.
  • Lay the windows on some soft towels, as shown below.

Once you can access all of the tint on the window, you can go ahead and steam and remove the tint as you did before.

Step 5: Tips & Discussion

Tips:
  • DO NOT RUSH - it isn't worth it. If you pull the whole sheet off you will have to steam the glue separately and it makes a mess, is annoying, and makes hair grow on your palms.
  • Listen to music/talk on the phone/drink beer - why not?
  • If you do pull too fast or some glue remains steam the hell out of it (15-45 sec) and rub it with a clean towel. It will ball up into yellow balls that are not very sticky. Wipe them off by pushing on a towel and wiping it hard (otherwise you'll just smear the glue around). It isn't too hard, just use a clean towel & don't rush..... Have I mentioned not rushing yet?
  • Wipe off the condensation on the molding around the windows, but don't worry about it. It will be fine.
  • DO NOT USE RAZOR BLADES, if you have to use a razor you're not doing it right and are going to ruin your defrosters & antenna (not to mention make a mess)

Discussion
(from Questions and responses from previous posts on BayAreaPrelude.com and preludepower.com)

Using Ammonia and razor blades:
Many people use ammonia, soap, and razorblades, garbage bags, and sun heat to remove tint. This is definitely cheaper, and how most people online have recommended removing tint. (for more complete instructions just google "remove tint") This process works, however there are some major problems. Firstly, this method is messy and smelly. Secondly this method takes longer (steamer > sun). Thirdly, if you make a mistake you could ruin your rear defogger, antenna, or scratch your glass.
With the method described in this instructable, the only mess is steam on the inside of your car and possibly some small balls of non-sticky glue.
We are talking about the difference of $25-$30 for a clothes steamer that you can use and return if you want, or use later to clean your car (it works great at removing oil & dirt buildup on armrests etc.), and on your clothes versus a bunch of garbage bags, soap, & razor blades that cost a few bucks and the possibility of a huge mess & the risk of messing up your car.

Outside temperature:
When I did it we were having a cold spell and it was in the 50s or maybe even the 40s. If it is colder out then the steamer will have to heat the window more, but it should still work. I'd guess if you're not in the arctic (or Minnesota in the winter), you'll be fine.

Best of luck, feel free to post your questions or post your success stories.

Thanks for reading,

- The DNR

Share

Recommendations

  • Microcontroller Contest

    Microcontroller Contest
  • Science of Cooking

    Science of Cooking
  • Pocket-Sized Contest

    Pocket-Sized Contest
user

We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.

Tips

Questions

152 Comments

Awesome. I used a $20 hand-held version and it worked great! Easily 20 times faster than a razor-blade and ammonia. The only thing I would recommend is definitely keeping all the doors open. I had them closed on my SUV (hey, it was cold -- it gets down in the 60's in Phoenix) and the steam got on everything, which basically spread glue film/residue everywhere. My steering wheel, center console, and A/C and radio controls all have a weird tacky feeling now. Still, beats having sore fingers from scraping tint and glue off for several hours.

Fantastically easy. I bought the SteamFast Compact Fabric Steamer for $20 at Walmart. Took less than an hour to do back door windows and rear sides and only two steamer fills of water. I didn't bother with the tunes or booze and had an assistant pulling the tint film while I steamed.

OMG..... what a great time.... Just me locked in the car with a bottle of Crown Royal and my Steamer.. Blasting my favorite tunes, playing the drums on the steering wheel and singing along off key... it was pretty damn easy, takes just about enough time for the Crown to hit your knees when get out of the car cuz you gotta potty... but good thing the bed is not far away from the Driveway. The neighbors REALLY loved it, infact they all called each other so they could stand in the yard across the street and discuss it before sending the weak one over to ask if I was okay. (Of course I pretended I didn't hear him and kept on steaming to the beat of the music.. (I think I need to get out more)

THANK YOU!!
You have saved us heaps of time and your advice was a total success. We headed to Bunnings (AUS) this morning to find no "cheap" steamers :-( then off to target we went to find out they haven't been available for at least a year :-( we were beginning to think we would have to drive further across town (probably wait until tomorrow) when I took the chance on the little cheap shop in the centre (like a crazy Clarks or reject shop). He had one left, right up high on a shelf and it looked like it had been used and opened. It was marked at $40.95 and I queried if it had been used and opened then asked if there was a chance of a further discount. $30 later we walked out the new proud owners of the steam cleaner!!! Got home and went straight to work and realised the 2 hours we had painstakingly done in the morning with a razor and methylated spirits (poor job) could of been reduced to 1 hour in total. 1 hour later and we had removed the tint and glue off all 4 car windows and the little side triangle windows at the back. I just wish I had of read your site before beginning this morning and convinced my partner earlier (he nearly wasn't going to let me purchase the steamer). Luckily he has now realised that we can use this steam cleaner for many other purposes and it was a $30 very well spent!!! Thanks again for your site and tips!!!!!
Queensland, Australia- 2016

This worked like a charm on my vehicle. Make sure to spend extra time with the steamer around the edges of the window to weaken the glue bond.

a steamer is a good idea. I have always used a heat gun (cheap at harbor freight) on the outside of the glass while removing the sheet slowly from the inside, but that requires a second set of hands for the rear window. Also, for those little spots of glue, some 000 steel wool from the hardware store and a spritz of simple green work wonders without scratching the glass.

Worked perfectly!!! After getting the tint off, I used Goo Gone and Goof Off to rub off the last bits glue. It took me under 2 hours to get my whole windshield off, which is NOTHING compared to what my friend went through when she used chemicals.

11257200_10152936859964065_7333454102473428535_o.jpg11212618_10152936859954065_6882224989656944883_o.jpg11227973_10152936859959065_3074780005853453483_o.jpg

These instructions worked amazingly!!! After pealing off the tint, I used Goo Gone and Goof Off to get the last bits of glue that were still stuck to the glass.

11212618_10152936859954065_6882224989656944883_o.jpg11227973_10152936859959065_3074780005853453483_o.jpg11257200_10152936859964065_7333454102473428535_o.jpg

If you are left with glue and don't wanna steam it off, an easy way to dissolve it is...drumroll...

Eucalyptus oil!

True story.

Went to Walmart and
purchased the only (CRAPPY) steamer they had. The steam method works very
well, even with the crappy steamer. The film comes in two layers and being that my steamer was not strong, I had to repeat the steaming process in some areas. There
was glue left behind. ( I was working
on my back window with
the defroster) I found that wetting dryer sheets with ammonia and placing
them on the window to soak works well to get those little pieces of unreachable
tint at the bottom of back window as well as the residual glue. Using a plastic "razor”, (that came with
my glass top stove); I removed the little pieces of tint. I waited about 10 mins and grabbed one dryer
sheet at a time, starting wiping until all the dryer sheets and adhesive were
removed. I then just used a damp washrag
and dried to a beautiful shine. For
those who live in "love bug country" use the same method for your
affected areas, replacing ammonia with DAWN and wet DS with water...let soak
and LB will come off. Been using this
method for years and saves time and money!
:)