Volume 9, Issue 5                    November/December  2005

Some Installations Cause Problems for Even the Best Tinters (Part 1 of II)

by Les Shaver

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part story that looks at difficult installations automotive tinters face; in a future issue we will explore difficult flat-glass installations.

It seems all tinters have one or two cars they hate to film. Jeff Davis, a film applicator for Sound Depot and Performance in Gainesville, Fla., never wants to see another 949 Porsche again. Other film applicators, such as Anthony Dysart, owner of Precision Tint in Union City, Tenn., hates to see the early 90s-era four-door Oldsmobile Cutlass Supremes come into his garage. Then there are others, such as Les Helton, owner of Performance Window Tinting in Carrollton, Ga., who would just as well avoid an old car if it’s the dirt and grit he’ll be forced to fight through.
These three people aren’t just any tinters though. They’re the cream of the crop in the industry, having competed in the 2005 International Window Film Tint-Off™ in Orlando in March. Yet, just like a rookie tinter who has just started out, they have cars they’d rather not do. While each tinter has his or her own little pet peeves, there are some common themes. The biggest: No one seems to like cars with curved back glass. Others don’t like pre-installation obstacles, whether they be dirt or difficult-to-remove panels.

Curved Concerns
If the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme isn’t the most disliked car in the industry, it’s definitely in the top three. Just listen to what some tinters say about it:

“The back on the Olds separates the men from the boys,” Dysart said.

Andrew Doiron, an installer with Window-Kote in St. Petersburg, Fla. and second-place finisher at the 2005 Tint-Off, was even more blunt.

“Thank God they don’t make that car anymore,” he said.

Why does everyone seem to hate this car? Because of its curved back glass. 

“There’s just a lot of curves in the Cutlass,” said Eric Lucio, an installer at Mother’s Window Tint in Austin, Texas. “When you shrink the film, you have fingers. Those fingers are bigger. And, the bigger the finger, the harder the job.”
While doable, the car can take more than two hours—much longer than most film applicators would like.
“It’s hard to shrink,” Davis said. “I can do it, but I don’t like to. The curvature of the glass makes it hard to shrink. The way it comes out of the bottom is like a duckbill. Then it curves back out. It’s ridiculous.”

While the Cutlass Supreme seems to stand out, tinters acknowledge that there are other vehicles that pose problems with the curved glass. 

“The old Saturns look like the Cutlass and have reverse curves on the bottom of the window,” Doiron said. “It doesn’t want to stick.”

Carlos Falsis, owner of Dark Side Glass Coating in Seattle has similar problems with the new Volkswagen Beetle, considered by many to be the hardest vehicle on the market right now to tint.

“The curve around the back window is like a bubble,” he said. “It turns in every direction. The heat shrinking takes longer because of the curve of the glass.”

Helton also said the Beetle is difficult. 

“All of the windows in the car require heat forming on the outside as if you were doing back glass, so you can’t put film up on car, cut it out and install it,” Helton said. “With the Beetles you have to heat form from the outside before you install on the inside. If you go to install a flat piece of film on the doors, the fingers on the inside would be so big that you would never get them to lie. So you heat form those on the outside as well.”

Helton also puts the new Corvette high on the list of cars with tough back windows.

“It’s a short back window so you have to use a lot of heat in order to get it in one piece,” Helton said. “When it’s short and curved, you have a smaller area for mistakes. The shorter the window, the closer the fingers are from the top to the bottom. When you make your slap across with your water in the middle and with the short back window, the fingers coming from the top to the middle and the middle to the bottom of the glass are closer together.”

New mini vans cause problems for similar reasons.

“Some of the hardest back glass to heat form is the new Chrysler mini vans and the Honda Odysseys,” Helton said. “To be more aerodynamic, the back window will be more curved. The manufacturer didn’t keep us in mind when making the cars. I wish we had some say on that but we don’t.”

Preparation Headaches
While tinters can thank creative engineering by the car’s manufacturers’ and designers’ for some of the funky curved glass they face, these people are only partially to blame for the preparation obstacles film applicators face. A side window that’s difficult to access on an old truck or windows that go up and down automatically in new automobiles are big hassles, too, but there are also dirty, weather-beaten cars that aren’t kept clean. And, to many film technicians these vehicles can cause as much of a hassle as curved glass.

“The car I hate the worst is an old, dirty car with ten air fresheners in it,” Doiron said. “I don’t want to do that one.”
With the early 90’s Honda Accord, Helton has to pull out a lot of components off of the car before he starts. Dirt makes this even more time-consuming.

“The Accords just take a long time to do,” he said. “Once you pull the panels off, you have to remove the back seat and the speakers and all of that. A car that’s ten to 12 years old is lot dirtier too.”

Windows can also take a beating over time. This is what troubles Davis with Cutlass Supremes.

“They’re like the old Camaros,” he said. “They used to be easy but now they’re hard as hell because they’ve been beat up on. Things tweak the glass where it could have broken, but it didn’t break. It gets a funny hit on it. It should have broken but it didn’t.”

Old cars aren’t alone in causing problems for film applicators though. New cars are just as guilty, with the modern gizmos made to make the driver’s life easier. Unfortunately, they just add to the headache for tinters.
Scott Huntley is the owner of Tennessee Tint Company in Bartlett, Tenn. His favorite examples of these hassles are the Mini Coopers, Ford Mustangs and BMWs with windows that roll up and down automatically. When someone shuts the door, the window will roll up half an inch. Conversely, when someone opens the door, it rolls down half an inch.
“You have to trick out the door lock to make to work,” Huntley said. “A lot of tinters finish tinting the window. Then they shut the door and the window rolls up. Then they have a light gap across the bottom. When you lay the film, you have to have the window in the up position.”

Components on the new cars also trouble Helton. With cars like the Kia Amonte and Lexus 400, he has to take everything apart.

“Any car where the brake is molded into the rear decking, we have to remove everything to get a good, clean job,” Helton said.

One problem encountered by Mike Burke, owner of Lighting Mike’s, in Charlotte, N.C., and his film applicators is the oversized back window on the Porsche 944. 

“You have to take windshield wipers and whole assemblies on the inside out,” he said. “The back window needs to be relief cut. It won’t go down in one piece without a relief cut.”

BMW’s have felt around the windows, which can also make things a hassle.

“When you are putting the window on, you have to tape it,” Burke said. “When you try to get the film tucked in, the felt connects underneath the film. It’s not hard to tint, it’s just hard to get it perfectly clean because the felt attracts itself to the adhesive of the film before you put it in.”

Along those lines, Falsis notices the rubber seals on a number of new automobiles can also create problems.
“A lot of new cars have rubber seals, which can scratch the film,” he said. 

Despite the rubber seals, dirt and grime, and curved glass, many tinters still welcome many of these difficult cars. At heart, film applicators are a confident bunch that likes a challenge. Helton certainly is.

“We like doing stuff that gives a challenge—new stuff we haven’t done or older stuff that we haven’t seen in awhile,” Helton said. “We like to see if we still have it. It sucks when do the same thing over and over. We don’t consider ourselves assembly line workers. We like difficult stuff. The dealership stuff you do over and over is no fun. It’s like you’re a robot.”

Fortunately, for Helton, with the new, technologically advanced cars coming off assembly lines around the world, it doesn’t look the challenges will disappear anytime soon. 

Les Shaver is a contributing editor to Window Film magazine.

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