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.
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to reproduce this article but make sure to include a link to this article.
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)
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Step 1: Gather 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
- 6 pack of beer & a good CD (to keep you entertained while steaming the windows)
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
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.
- 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.
Step 5: Tips & Discussion
- 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)
(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.
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