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The History of Car Window Tint and Tinted Windows


How Window Tinting Has Provided Cooling and Convenience Through the Years


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 as well as the innovators through history who made it happen.

Car window tinting from 3000 B.C. to 1300 A.D.


No, you didn’t read those dates wrong. 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 from 1940 to 1960


The invention of automobiles in the early 20th century forever changed the world of transportation, but cars didn’t proliferate across the consumer landscape until the post-war period. As more and more people included cars in their daily lives, they also 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 car window tinting manufacturers in the US, introduced factory window tint in a few car models, including the popular ’58 Chevy Impala.

Car window tinting from 1960 to 1966


Because car window tinting was only available from auto manufacturers, a small industry of DIY window tint installers started to crop up. Spray-on tinting was the most popular alternative car 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; however, not only did they have a tendency to turn purple and bubble in the sun, they would also absorb heat into the car instead of reflecting it away. Yikes.

Car window tinting from 1966 to 1969


Adhesives and laminates manufacturer 3M - best known for Scotch Tape - finally unlocked the key to sun-control window tint 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 car window tint 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 and 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 legal window tint level allowed on car windows to reduce accidents. In fact, California tint laws still reign supreme to this day.

Additionally, 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, ultimately absorbing heat. Together, the film components reduced heat by about 50%.

Car window tinting from the 1990s to present day


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 tint installation 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. And with variable tint levels, almost any professional-grade window tint brand - like the aforementioned 3M, or SolarGard - you choose will adhere to California tint law.

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. And if you find yourself wondering, “How long does window tinting take?” fear not - the entire car window tint installation process takes no more than a few hours out of your busy day. Give Stereo Depot a call at our San Diego location at (619) 736-9964 or our El Cajon location at (619) 873-4641.

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Stereo Depot El Cajon

1149 Broadway
El Cajon, CA 92021


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Stereo Depot San Diego

6445 El Cajon Blvd

San Diego, CA 92115


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Sat.              9:00am - 7:00pm
Sun.            10:00am - 5:00pm