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Is Car Window Tinting Legal in California?

Learn the Laws of Window Tints Before You Install Them in El Cajon or San Diego

San Diego and the rest of southern California is blessed with so many sunny, warm days. Because of our gorgeous weather pattern, you’ve probably considered having your car windows tinted. Tinted windows can make for a better driving experience: they protect your skin from harmful UV rays from the sun, improve your visibility by reducing glare, and safeguard your car’s interior from sun damage, like fading and cracking.

And without a doubt, tinted windows look cool.

But it’s easy to understand if you have some concerns about having your car windows tinted because you don’t want to break the law and be burdened with tickets and fines. A major question is, “Is window tinting even legal in California?” The short answer is yes. The long answer is also yes, but with restrictions.

Let Stereo Depot break down California window tinting law and help you understand what you can and can’t do, and why, when it comes to darkening your ride’s windows.

What’s the Purpose of Window Tinting Laws in California?

The main issue people have with window tinting is that it reduces the amount of visible light that shines through your car windows. This is called Visible Light Transmission, or VLT. A very low VLT can make driving inherently dangerous, especially at night when it’s already harder to see. It’s also hard for other drivers to see who’s behind the wheel of your car to avoid potentially dangerous situations; this becomes a safety issue for everyone else on the road.

To keep everyone safe, California legislators came to a very reasonable compromise. Window tinting isn’t outright banned, but there are laws that regulate the placement and level of allowable tint; we think the policy is quite generous. A car audio store that offers professional window tinting understands these laws and will never install illegal tints on your vehicle.

How Dark Can I Tint My Windows in San Diego?

This is another question that doesn’t really have a simple answer. The easiest? “It varies.” The full explanation? The degree of darkness of the window tint depends on the location of the window in your car; we’ll outline this more in-depth.

If you want to add an aftermarket window tint to the two front side windows, California law requires that the tinted windows allow more than 88 percent of light in, which is usually a minimum of 70 percent VLT, if your windows were already factory tinted.

For your back windows and rear window, you can really go all-out. There are no restrictions on these windows, so you can make them as dark as you choose. The only legal requirement here is that you have side-view mirrors that provide at least 200 feet of visibility.

The windshield can only be tinted for the top few inches. This is known as an “eyebrow strip,” and it can really help block glare while achieving a custom look for your car.

Let our window tinting experts at Stereo Depot help you determine how dark to tint your windows based on how it will look and function on your vehicle. For example, you may want even tinting on all your windows, so you never surpass 70 percent VLT. Or, you may want very dark rear side windows, with lighter front windows. We’ll make it happen for you!

What Other Window Tinting Restrictions Should I Know About in San Diego?

Aside from how dark your tint is, there are a few more laws you’ll want to be aware of with regard to window tint.

First, your tint cannot be any more reflective than a normal window, meaning mirrored or metallic finishes are off the table.

Second, colored tints, including red, amber, or blue, are completely prohibited. In general, California doesn’t allow medical exemptions for their window tinting regulations; the law is the law. If you have serious concerns, you should talk to your doctor about your options.

How Do I Prove My Window Tinting is Legal in California?

Window tint manufacturers are required to be certified by the State of California. So, if you have aftermarket tinted windows on your vehicle, you’re required to carry a certificate, signed by the tinting company who installed them, that lists the manufacturer’s name and address and clearly states the VLT of the film used on each window of your car.

Stereo Depot recommends keeping your certificate with your proof of insurance and registration inside a secure compartment of your vehicle.

Why Should I Get Professional Window Tint Installation?

Car audio stores who install window tinting are well-versed in California law and can complete the installation project with the certainty and confidence that only years of experience can bring. Professional installation usually comes with a warranty on both the product and the workmanship.

If you attempt to tint your windows yourself, you not only risk bubbles and creases, which can limit visibility, but you also risk violating the state’s window tinting laws. If you’re pulled over in violation of these laws, you can expect a hefty fine. You won’t be able to get your money back on the packages of window tinting you purchased.

Now That You’re Armed with the Facts … Get Your Windows Tinted at Stereo Depot!

At Stereo Depot, we know the law, and we’ll work with you to customize the look of your car while remaining in compliance with California’s tight window-tinting restrictions.

We only use tints from certified, top-quality manufacturers, such as SolarGard, 3M, and SunTek, and we’re so confident in the quality of our workmanship, we offer lifetime warranties on the labor for our tinting services.

To find out how window tinting can transform the look of your car and the comfort of your ride, stop by one of our two locations at 6445 El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego, or 1149 Broadway in El Cajon. Give Stereo Depot a call at 619-286-1234 in San Diego, or 619-873-2210 in El Cajon.

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