Window tinting. That box you try to get ticked to get the most out of the car salesman, the protection you add on when younger to hide your mis-doings late at night, or simply to look cool.
It’s not often talked about but the benefits of window tinting, especially for four wheel drivers, are significant. I don’t know about you, but my right arm is usually on the door somewhere when I’m driving; for hours on end. Melanoma kills an Australian every 5 hours! That’s a scary statistic to think about. The harsh conditions in the outback also generate tremendous heat that could affect your vehicle itself (think various plastic panels warping, discolouration etc), let alone the dreaded seat belt buckle burn. This heat can affect your vehicle contents too – we carry a lot of gear around with us when touring, so what effect does the heat in your vehicle do to them? Fridges run hotter and need to work harder, electrical products like satellite phones or navigators can be damaged or affected.
It’s a simple addition to your vehicle that’s often undervalued, but a quality window tint can be a tremendous investment that helps combat all of the above. But are all tints the same?
We got in touch with Rob from Hunters Hill Window Tinting and instantly knew we were in the right place when we noticed his supercharged FJ Cruiser (which is insured with us too!). Rob’s been in the window tinting game for over 30 years and operates right across Sydney on motor vehicles and properties, and has competed in tinting competitions (yes you read right) in Australia and across the globe. Most recently in 2018 he was awarded 2nd in the world at the International Window Film Tint-Off in San Antonio Texas; so we figured he’d be good enough to tint our fourby’s! Our mandate was clear, we are doing a lot of driving and often in very hot and bright conditions. What we wanted was to provide some UV protection for the occupants and also help to keep the interiors cooler.
Rob patiently walked us through the different options and our requirements in detail and recommended a Nano Ceramic Vortex film from Solar Gard. There is such an array of films available, from different colours, reflective or not, and a myriad of other considerations to walk through. This was really the first time that I had heard of a “ceramic” tint – it turns out the product uses Nano ceramic technology which rejects up to 96% of infrared rays with a total solar energy rejection factor of 65%; thus helping to keep the interior cool. There were so many benefits to the product that I wouldn’t have even thought about; an SPF rating of 285+!, blocking of 99% of skin cancer causing UV rays, the film is “signal friendly” so it won’t affect your mobile signal or boosters like the Cel-Fi in Aiden’s Everest, it improves the glasses impregnability and holds the glass together if it cracks, and the ceramic prevents the colour of the tint from fading.
Legality is always important to us at Club 4X4, so the outcome needed to be 100% legal. Talking through this with Rob was interesting. It turns out that the legislation actually permits passenger vehicles to have up to a combined Visible Light Transmission (VLT) percentage that differs from the front windows to the rear. It’s important to check with your local authorities and the Window Film Association of Australia and New Zealand is a good place to start, but on our Everest we were able to go for a combined VLT of 35% for the front windows and 20% VLT for everything behind the B-pillar. Interestingly on a commercial vehicle like the Raptor, the same 35% VLT is mandated for the driver and passenger windows, but you can go as dark as you like behind the B pillar. When you think about fridges and other bits that sit in the rear that would benefit from higher levels of blockout, you realise just how relevant this is to us as four wheel drivers. Note that the “combined” factor considers factory tint/privacy glass that some vehicles come with. A skilled window tinter will be able to advise you on the best way to approach your individual needs and remain legal.
The install process was pretty simple, for us anyway. Rob just needed a clean undercover area where he could do his work without the risk of dust getting between the film and the car. A thorough clean of the windows to ensure nothing was present that would hamper the application process, then a pretty fiddly process of application followed. It was amazing watching him cut out the film, apply, recut and get into the tight corners that present themselves in these newer vehicles. With some warning (and tape over the window buttons) about not opening the windows for 24hrs, the job was done in a couple of hours for each car.
How did it go?
I have to say the difference was immediately noticeable. Rob did the Raptor first which then got parked on the street in the sun. Not being able to open the windows for 24hrs after application meant It was a baptism of fire (sorry). The difference on my right arm between the sun coming in from the windshield and the side window was massive, which told me the claims about the UV rejection here are correct. The interior also definitely felt cooler than it would usually, so the air-conditioning didn’t have to work as hard to cool the cab.
How do you care for it?
We’ve all seen those older vehicles where the tint film looks blue and faded. You need to remember that this is a layer applied to the glass, so it does need to be treated with caution (despite our chosen Solar Gard film coming with a lifetime warranty). Rob’s advice was to be mindful of nicks and scratches, but more importantly, no harsh chemicals and certainly no ammonia based glass cleaner which can damage the hard coating of the film. A damp microfibre cloth and some mild detergent, if you have too, is what Rob recommends.
What’s it cost?
It depends on the vehicle in question, but obviously the more glass that needs to be tinted, the higher the cost for materials and time taken. Some vehicles will also be more complex which adds to the time factor. Whilst there are a lot of variables including the product and the vehicle, Rob states most range from $300-$500 + GST.
Ones thing’s for sure – I’ll never look through a tinted window the same way again!