Let there be light
So you’ve bought a car that doesn’t have tinted windows as standard equipment, but you want to use tint film to make your car stand out. One of the major considerations is how much light will be able to seep through the tinted screen. This is called Visual Light Transmittance (VLT), and is expressed as a percentage. The lower the VLT percentage reading, the darker the tint film, with less light passing through your windows. As a reference point, the VLT of clear car glass is about 85 per cent.
Can tint film be applied to all the windows?
In a word, no. Not even James Bond would get away with tinting every window of his Mercedes-Benz.
Here are the main restrictions to keep in mind:
- On car windscreens, only anti-glare bands are allowed – and even these may not be applied below the lowest point of the sun visor. On ‘Class MA’ vehicles (which are passenger cars, including station wagons), the darkest allowable tint is 35 per cent VLT on all windows, including the front side windows, rear, back and side rear windows. Vehicles with factory tinted glass may have a lower VLT than 35 per cent, in which case each window must be marked as being AS3 glass.
- Exceptions exist for vehicles such as stretch limousines and hearses. These have the same limitations on the front side windows and the windscreen, but these vehicles are permitted to have any level of VLT tint film applied to the rear side and back windows.
- Any vehicle with tint film applied to any window behind the front seats must be fitted with external rear view mirrors on either side.
- No mirror film or partial mirror film may be applied to any vehicle window, because it can be distracting to other drivers.
Tint film overlay or prints that are not transparent, such as advertising or perforated overlay, may only be applied according to strict regulations:
- When applied on the windscreen, it may not go beyond 100mm from the top or bottom edge of the windscreen or within 50mm from the edge of the windscreen.
- On front side windows, it may not go beyond 100mm from the bottom edge of the window or within 50mm from the top or side edges.
- On a rear window of a car (including sedans, station wagons, hatchbacks, sports cars and convertibles), it may not go beyond 100mm from any edge of the window. However, it can be applied to the rear window of any other vehicle – so that picture of Garfield might have to wait until you purchase a bus.
- Stickers and overlays may not have a mirrored effect that might dazzle or distract other road users.
- The performance and visibility of a central high-mounted stop lamp may not be adversely affected by the application of any sticker or overlay.
Are my windows legal?
Having been through the checklist above, you may still be wondering if there's a way to get away with the tint you had in mind. Be guided by this general rule:
Tint film and advertising overlays, even if they meet the legal requirements outlined above, also must not unreasonably reduce the driver’s vision through the windscreen or side front windows.
In short, the law says you need to be able to see where you're going and check for hazards - probably an outcome you're keen on as well. If you're still unsure, windows can be tested with the aid of a properly calibrated VLT meter. An organisation such as the WFAANZ (Window Film Association of Australia and New Zealand) has the proper equipment and trained staff to check the legality of the tint film on your car.
For more information on the legal aspects of having your windows tinted, start here:
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