San Diego & El Cajon window tinting history

You might think car window tinting is a relatively new feature in the world of automotive customization, but the slick shaded glass you see on cars today is the result of literally centuries of development. So the next time you slip into your cool car on a hot summer day, thank the UV-blocking film on your windows, but also the innovators through history who made it happen.

Car Window Tinting in 3000 B.C. – 1300 A.D

The earliest known tinted glass originated in ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures, which developed processes for tinting and coloring glass for beads and decorative pots. Around 100 A.D., Romans began using clear glass for windows, and by the medieval period in Europe and the Middle East, the process for coloring glass by adding metallic oxide powders was widely used to make stained glass windows for palaces, churches, and mosques.

Car Window Tinting in 1940 – 1960

The invention of automobiles in the early 20th century changed the face of transportation, but cars didn’t proliferate across the consumer landscape until the post-war period. And as more people included cars in their daily life, more people began to notice how temperature and glare from the sun were magnified through glass. It was only a matter of time before EZ Eye, one of the first tinting manufacturers in the US, introduced factory window tint in a few car models, including the popular ’58 Chevy Impala.

Car Window Tinting in 1960 – 1966

Because window tinting was only available from auto manufacturers, a small industry of DIY window tinting started to crop up. Spray-on tinting was the most popular alternative window tint, but the result was a dark and often uneven shading that was difficult to install and prone to streaking. Some rudimentary dye-based window films were also introduced around this time, but not only did they have a tendency to turn purple and bubble in the sun, but they would also absorb heat into the car instead of reflecting it away.

Car Window Tinting in 1966 – 1969

Adhesives and laminates manufacturer 3M—best known for Scotch Tape—finally unlocked the key to sun control film in 1966 with technology that added metallic coatings to clear polyester for a flexible film that blocked much of the sun’s harmful UV rays and heat. Three years later, in response to terrorist bombings in Europe, 3M introduced clear security window films that held broken glass in place—a standard feature of window film today.

Car Window Tinting in the 1970s

The energy crisis of the 1970s prompted further innovation in heat reflection, and low emissivity films started to become popular in commercial building windows, as well as for automotive use. But it wasn’t until the late 1970s that tinted car windows became the top choice for privacy—limousines all over the U.S. started utilizing dark tints, some with shading of 80% or more.

Car Window Tinting in the 1980s – 1990s

Darker tints were great for privacy, but not so great for visibility. By the early 1980s, most U.S. states developed their own laws regulating the tint level allowed on car windows to reduce accidents. In the early 1990s, a second generation of window film was introduced: a “hybrid” film using metal, which reflected the sun’s rays, and dyes, which absorbed heat. Together, the film components reduced heat by about 50%.

Car Window Tinting in the 1990s – present

Although hybrid window films revolutionized UV-blocking capabilities, the development of other technologies posed a problem for metallic tints: they often interfered with electronic devices like radios and, later, GPS systems. To solve this problem, the window tinting industry developed the latest in window films, which use ceramics instead of metals. Ceramic-based window tint lasts longer, rejects heat and UV rays better, and doesn’t interfere with electronics at all.

The future of car window tinting in San Diego

So what’s next for the development of window film? Innovators are already approaching 100% UV and heat blocking technology, and while modern tint holds broken glass together, perhaps future film will prevent the glass from breaking in the first place.

If you haven’t already enjoyed the many advantages of tinted car windows, Stereo Depot can help. We’re so confident in the quality of our products, installation, and trained specialists that we offer a lifetime warranty on our car window tinting services. So give us a call today at (619) 494-3944 or stop by one of our two stores in San Diego or El Cajon.