… they were wrong.
I’ve picked up on some chatter here and there about tinting the side windows of an SLC. The chatter summed up in 4 words is “it can’t be done”. I didn’t quite understand why but I endeavored to find out. The earlier generation side windows were tinted but didn’t have the anti-scratch protective layer. The current generation side windows are clear; I believe the anti-scratch protective layer is one of the reasons adhesives don’t like sticking to the window.
I brought my windows down to RDA Auto Glass in La Mesa. I spoke with the owner, Ryan, and when I showed him the windows he put his hands up and said “it can’t be done”.
I asked why and he tried to give me an education into the ways tint is applied to automotive glass. In order to get a good tint job generally you need to use heat to help shape and move the film around so you get perfect adhesion. In combination with the heat is pressure. They use several tools to get the film pressed down onto the glass to get that perfect fit. Since the SLC windows are plastic they neither do well with heat (they’ll melt) or pressure (they just bend and distort). Trying to get tint applied onto such a flexy, super concave shape was “impossible”.
After discussing it some more Ryan stood back and said “Let me give it a shot.” RDA stands behind their work and normally backs it up with a guarantee but in this case no guarantees could be made. I really wanted my side windows tinted because I believe this is a huge source of heat for the SLC. I think Ryan was feeling frisky and wanted a challenge so against his better judgement we proceeded.
RDA offers 2 types of tint; standard and ceramic. I’d heard about the ceramic stuff before but didn’t really know how effective it was against standard tint. To demonstrate the differences Ryan had a display unit setup; a heat lamp inside an enclosure shines light out one end. At the other is a solar power meter (measured in BTU/Watt). Between the two is a sheet of glass with tint film applied to it. With the sheet of glass removed Ryan adjusted the meter until it read 100. Then he slipped the first sheet of glass in place with the standard tint – it read 78. So the standard tint blocks about 22% of the incoming heat energy. Next up was the piece of glass with ceramic tint – it read 5. With the same level of darkness, the difference between standard and ceramic was 77%! Them’s a lot of BTUs!
Ceramic it is! Oh … complication … it seems the ceramic film is a bit tougher to apply which makes things even worse given the issues with the SLC side windows.
Ryan sucked in his breath a little and said he’d give it a shot.
I got a text the following morning saying the parts were done. I texted back “Great, any issues?”
Uh-oh, that doesn’t bode well.
When I arrived at the shop Ryan came out to greet me and he gave me this look – I knew things hadn’t gone well. He recounted his evening – his very long evening. He had to re-do each window several times to get it looking right. He stuck with it till pretty late but was finally able to get them presentable enough he’d be willing to let me have them back.
We walked over to where the windows were staged and I picked one up – it looked darn near perfect to me! Given the complications of this project and the universal “It can’t be done” I was getting, this seemed like a miracle! Ryan explained to me he put about 6 hours into trying to get the film to stick to the window. He had to start over several times on each side. I think Ryan’s a bit of a masochist and liked the challenge.
We shook hands and I thanked Ryan for all the work he’d done. I was cautioned to set the windows aside for a few days to let the film fully dry before installing them.
And why is it so important to me to have my windows tinted?
Most automotive glass will block UVB rays and windshields are additionally treated to block UVA. UVB causes sunburns while UVA causes longterm damage to skin. I don’t know if Superlite’s windshield has any UVA protection. In the 2 minutes of inter web browsing I did, it appears polycarbonate does have some UV blocking abilities.
In addition to saving my skin, I believe a good amount of heat energy going into the driver’s cabin is through the greenhouse so I’m trying to do everything I can to block as much of that as possible. The ceramic coated tint film is just one more element in my heat & noise blocking arsenal.
So here it is – I believe this is the first SLC with tinted side windows.
Having the windows installed made a TON of difference to cabin noise – it’s much more tolerable though I still have a lot of high frequency echo in the cabin. Having nearly all surfaces surrounding your head in super reflective carbon fiber does nothing to kill the noise and no amount of sound damper is going to help. The best way to kill this would be to put some carpeting along the rear bulkhead to absorb the sound before it can reflect back into the cabin – but that would defeat the purpose of having a carbon fiber tub. I think in this case, vanity has its cost – and high frequency echo is that cost. I think I’ll deal with it.
Back to the tint – wow, what a huge difference to the amount of heat intruding on my face. With my sunglasses on I could practically stare at the sun (but not too long because your retinas will burn). Windows + tint FTW, these two additions really make a huge leap in cabin comfort – the third being air conditioning of course. It’s not luxury car quiet, but it’s amazingly comfortable for a car that’ll peel your eyelids sideways and back. A huge thanks to Ryan over at RDA Auto Glass for sticking it out and doing the impossible.
**Update 12/21/18: During a recent drive I took a pretty hefty rock strike to the windshield. I got a pretty sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I looked over at my windshield and saw crooked fingered cracks spreading out from where the rock had hit my windshield. I gave Ryan at RDA a call to see what he could do (they also offer at-home windshield repair). He came down and took a look and agreed – things weren’t so good. The SLC windshield is super curved which makes it difficult for his repair tool to get a good suction. He pulled his kit out and went to work.