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What’s the best window tint?

Window tint might seem like an obvious mod, and I explain some different options and how to install on my M3.


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“Why aren’t your windows tinted?” I hear it all the time. But I just wasn’t sure about the look, especially on blue. Now, it’s time. What’s the best window tint for the M3? I’ll go through everything you need to know.

Throwing shade

M3 window tint

Do you know the temperature outside in New Jersey as I write this? 92 degrees. Feels like? 101. They tell me it’s because of climate change, but I dunno – summer’s always been hot and humid here.

So, yes, window tinting will help reduce the heat going in the car. It’s been so hot that I can’t even grab the leather shifter until the AC has had a chance to pump through a bit.

Of larger concern are UV rays, which can damage the leather and plastics in any car over time. Even more importantly, window tint will protect me, the driver. Ever notice how hot your left arm gets on a day like today? Car window glass as it comes from BMW does not protect against all forms of UV light, so it’ll be nice to have some added protection.

Finally, the look. If you have not guessed by now, I’m going for an OEM+ look on my M3, so super dark limo windows are not in the cards. Still, everyone looks (sorry to disappoint, it’s just me inside), so some privacy would be nice.

Selecting the right window tint (guy)

M3 window tint
Chris at Autoworks has a hot rod focus, but will tint anything from my M3 to a Rolls Royce.

I actually didn’t know much about this process before venturing to write this article. I had tinted the back half of my old 528i and 335i for my daughter’s protection in the back seat, but beyond that never saw much of a need. My E92 was never tinted.

Before doing anything, I needed to select a place to install it, and went with Autoworks in Middletown, New Jersey. Chris, the owner, was kind enough to open his shop up to me and let me document the process.

There are tons of shops that do this everywhere, but Chris came highly recommended from TySpeed, and I was eager to try a new place after a rather large shop in New Jersey did a sub par job on the 335. Not naming any names.

Autoworks was awesome, meticulous and understanding in the exact look I wanted.

Selecting the right window tint

M3 window tint
There are multiple shades and material to choose from.

Autoworks offers three types of tinting film. This is different from, say, the back of your X3 or X7’s rear windows – those are actually dyed from the factory. Here, we’ll essentially be gluing a big dark decal onto the inside of the glass. That’s simplifying a bit – the end result is seamless.

There’s regular window tint, which is fine and about half the cost of the option I chose – ceramic. They look the same, but ceramic window tint helps to reduce UVA penetration even more, up to 99%. They won’t interfere with the electronics inside the car, and also cut down on infrared light. Ceramic also won’t fade over time. Since I’m all about doing things the right way, let’s go with maximum protection here.

M3 window tint

The other option is darkness level. A naked window lets in 100% of available light, so tinting is based on the the level of brightness it allows. I selected 45%, which is a pretty light tint compared to what many go with, but I asked, “What tint would the M3 come with from BMW if there was such an option?”, and believe this to be the answer.

I also still want you to be able to see the inside, because half the fun is the orange leather and awesome seat backs. On a darker car, I might select a darker tint to match the paintwork more, perhaps 30%.

Finally, I did not tint the windshield, but may do so in the future for a complete look.

How to install window tint on a BMW M3

This is one of those jobs that doesn’t look difficult because the guys installing it are experts. I’ll show you a few extra touches they do as well.

M3 window tint
We start by cleaning the windows with a mixture of baby shampoo and water – alcohol is too harsh.
M3 window tint
Chris removes the third brake light in the back window.
M3 window tint
To create the proper shapes, a large format die cutter is used.
M3 window tint
The computer has the shape and size of pretty much every car loaded up.
M3 window tint
The sheet is taken and placed on a board that allows the shapes to be cut out with a knife.
M3 window tint
The tint sheets are then placed on the outside of each window to ensure the shape is proper.
M3 window tint
The tint is heated on the outside to ensure it will conform properly.
M3 window tint
The interior of the windows is then cleaned with a scrub pad.
M3 window tint
The back window is perhaps the most complex due to the defogger lines.
M3 window tint
Chris made quick work of it.
M3 window tint
Everything is moved small amounts with a squeegee and finger tips, and constantly sprayed down until the final fit is ready.
M3 window tint
A heat gun is used once everything fits nicely.
M3 window tint
You don’t need to remove any door panels here. The tint is tucked into the trim for a seamless fit.
M3 window tint
The tint is actually cut out a bit larger than needed so the end can be filed off for a factory look.
M3 window tint
Excess is filed away…
M3 window tint
..until you can’t see any edge at all.

The final result

After letting the tint dry for three days, I was able to clean and roll the windows down.

This is by no means a huge transformation, but does help to give the car a cleaner overall look and adds to that coveted OEM+ feel. The entire job took about three hours.

So what’s next? A big surprise – something that will turn this build into something truly unique.

M3 window tint
Minus light shining directly through, the windows look darker.
M3 window tint
Difficult to capture on a camera, but the shade is obvious.
M3 window tint
M3 window tint
Light can still come through.

Thanks to Chris for accommodating my lens for the day!

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I use Nikon camera bodies and lenses, a Westcott Ice Light 2, Manfrotto tripod, B + W filters and an iMac Pro to make the art you see here.

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