Operation: Unpimp My Ride

Recently, my 8 year string of good luck came to an end and I got a ticket for illegal tint on my front windows. It was one of those traffic safety checkpoints. I thought I’d be OK (as I’m pretty sure I’ve been through them before), but when they stopped the car in front of me, I saw the officer clip a little black box onto the driver’s window. Suspicion confirmed when he got to me, it was an electronic tint meter. It accurately said my windows were only letting 36% of light through, far below the 70% minimum stated by law. I also got another ticket for a clear license plate cover (in NYS, you cannot have any covering on your plate. they’re afraid that it will obscure it enough to mess up a photograph; like when you’re using an ez-pass lane.)

Thus begins the unpimping of my ride. Thankfully, none of my unpimpings are as drastic as the ones in the VW GTI commercials. Removing the license plate covers (yeah, there was one on the back too), was no big deal. But I was little torn on what do about the tint. Figure its best to get rid of it (on the front windows for now) and eliminate the hassle in the future.

I have a lifetime guarantee on the tint from the installer, and there are some problems in the tint (mainly too many bubbles), that probably should be redone under warranty. I could probably get tell them to just remove the tint, since they’d have to remove and reinstall under their warranty obligation.

Or, I could see how handy I am. I’ve seen the guys who install tint and they’re not rocket scientists. So taking it off can’t be that big a deal, right? I figure, what the hell? So, last night, I gave it a shot on the drivers door. Before starting, I went to the home improvement store and got some tools: some razor blades (with a cool little handle) and a plastic scraper.

The top rear edge of the tint was already peeling back about 1/16th of an inch, so I used that as a starting point. I was really paranoid about scratching the glass, so I tried using the plastic scraper first. Turns out that due to its shape, its not really useful due to the curve of the glass. So, I loaded up the razor blade scraper. I got right under the tint no problem. I worked a big enough section so, I’d have something to pull. Surprisingly, the tint is pretty strong and likes to come off in big chunks. I’d work about 4″ free and put in a cut so if I broke the current piece off, I wouldn’t have to start from scratch again.

I’m guessing it took about a half hour to get all the tint off. I was extra careful along the bottom and trailing edges, because I’d prefer not have to take all the door trim apart to get the tint on the extreme edges of the glass. Thankfully, the tint is strong enough that you can really tug on it and not worry about it breaking off and leaving a piece that you can’t reach.

Thus begins phase 2: adhesive removal. The tint appears to be 3 layers: a thin plastic protective layer on the inside, the tint itself, and the glue that holds it on the window. Most of the time all 3 layers come off at the same time. But, if you pull too hard, the tint separates from the glue and stays on the glass. Unfortunately, this is some extremely sticky stuff. Windex didn’t seem to cut it, so I switched to a goo-gone adhesive remove clone. I thought it would zip right through the tack, but it didn’t seem to help much; I suspect my stuff might have lost its zip, as its been sitting in cupboard for a few years.

So, I went back to the windex. I found that if you work on small sections and work it with a fingernail, windex will take the gunk off. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of gunk to get off. I worked on it for about 30 minutes and got through about 1/3 of the window. It was starting to get dark and the mosquitos were starting to find me. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish up this window tonight. Then maybe I’ll start the passenger front window.

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