Is your car window tint legal in California now? Find out about the lawful tint reflection, colors, darkness, and measurements in this article.
Many people in California and over the world enjoy modifying their cars in many ways. One of the most popular and inexpensive modifications is to tint the windows. When you tint the windows, it protects you from the sun. That is good because harmful UV rays might cause skin diseases such as cancer, cause premature aging, and be bad for health.
This modification also protects the driver and passengers while in the car. Also, tinting gives a vehicle a more stylish look. Still, in 2021 in California, tinting windows is not always legal. Be careful because the state has restrictions on the degree to which you can tint your window.
What is the California Window Tint Law?
In 2021, window tint law in California changed. These changes have already gone into effect, so you should know what is legal. The front side windows and a windshield need to have a certain tint to be legal. For windshields, you can have only a transparent strip of 4 or 5 inches.
For the front side windows, at least 70% of the light should penetrate the tint. These restrictions cover all types of vehicles, so you might drive a van, SUV, truck, or sedan and still adhere to these rules. Otherwise, you might receive a fine, a ticket, or need to remove an illegal tint.
California Tint Laws
The following information is the brief of California window tint law. We will look at it closely and explain it in the next sections.
- Front windshield: 4 inches of tint,
- Front side windows: 70% VLT if factory tinted plus aftermarket film, 88% if only aftermarket film.
- Rear and back side windows: Any
- Reflectivity: No more than the standard window
- Other: Amber, blue, and red tints are not allowed. If you have back tinted windows, you should also have dual side mirrors.
For example, a window rated at 50% allows 50% of light to pass, 25% allows 25% light, and so on. The lower the number, the darker the tint. Today in California, the front windshield and front side windows should have at least 70% VLT.
So, the window should let in lots of light. According to the California car window tint law, the tint on the rear and back side can have any VLT percentage. Still, if you have a tinted rear window, you should also have dual side mirrors.
Windshield and Front Windows Tint
Increased Energy Savings
Most surfaces of the front windshield cannot have a tint. According to the law, a driver needs a clear view of the road, so tinting is unlawful. Still, you can tint the top section of the windshield, which is sometimes known as the “eyebrow.”
You can only apply a non-reflective strip. Its width is also limited and should cover no more than 4 inches at the top of the window. This amount of tint will block the sun and prevent the driver from being dazzled by the light. At the same time, it has enough field of vision to drive a car safely. As for the front passenger windows, they can have a tint, but the rating should be at least 88%.
Back Side Windows and Rear Window
These windows do not affect the driver’s field of vision. That is why there is no limit on the VLT, which means you can have the tint of any darkness both for the back side and rear windows. Still, mind that those windows shouldn’t be more reflective than the regular windows.
Lawful Tint Reflection and Colors
Some automobile owners tint their car windows with a tint that reflects incoming light to reduce glare and heat. However, now, a window tint on a vehicle must not produce more light reflection than the standard window. Moreover, in the past, colors silver, blue, red, amber, and some other colors were allowed. However, today you cannot have a color-altering film on any of the windows.
Window Film Certificate
If you have tinted windows on your vehicles, you also need to have a signed certificate from the tint manufacturer where they state the percentage of VLT of the film. You might get such a certificate from the tint installing company. It should have the name and the address of the manufacturer.
Notably, the manufacturer should first certify the film for California before they start selling it there. This certificate should always be in the vehicle if the authorities decide to check if your window tint is lawful. According to the California tint law, the installation company should also give the owner of the vehicle a certificate or sticker with their address and name.
There are also rules for the medical exemption of tinted windows in California. Drivers can apply to the state for medical exceptions to the ting regulating laws. Some groups of people can use tint or other sunscreen devices on their front side windows. Still, you can’t use them at night. That is why the law recommends that people with medical conditions install a colorless, clear, and transparent film.
How to Apply to Window Tint Exemption in California
Automobile owners who need to get medical exemptions can get a signed document or a letter from an adjacent healthcare specialist. Find a licensed optometrist, dermatologist, surgeon, or physician that will examine you and approve that you need window tint to shield from the sun. If there is a severe medical condition when people suffer from the sun rays, the doctor will sign your document.
When you already have the letter, submit it with your window tint exemption application. You can receive permission to use window tint if you hand in documents to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The changes of 2017 say that with the doctor’s note, you can get additional window tints for the car. In the 2021 laws, this is still applicable.
How to Avoid Front Side Window Tint Tickets
To avoid getting a ticket for a front window tint in California, make sure that the aftermarket film meets all the requirements. Always mind window tint percentages in California. An aftermarket tint film on the front side windows should allow 88% of light to get in. If you have a factory-tinted window combined with aftermarket tint, it should have a minimum VLT of 70%.
What is Prohibited by the Tint Law
The statute of California that governs window tinting is called Vehicle Code 26708. According to it, the driver is prohibited from putting any materials or objects that obstruct the driver’s view on the rear, side windows, and the windshields. The policemen are strict when it comes to the driver's side window and windshields, so they will enforce the tinting statute.
A vehicle also cannot have decorations such as stickers on the front side windows. Also, the law indicates that torn, worn, or bubbled window tint film is forbidden because it obstructs the view. To be lawful, it needs repairing or removing.
What Are the Penalties
If the police stop the driver because they failed to comply with tint law, there might be different scenarios. In many cases, officers will issue a “fix-it ticket” to those who offend the first time. That is a warning ticket that tells the driver the reason why the vehicle is not in compliance with the law. It also orders them to fix the tint issue immediately.
If you violate the tint law for the second time, it can result in a $25 fine and an order to remove the window tint. The third time violators can be fined $197 and charged with an infraction.
Visit Your Local DMV to Clarify
If you are not sure if your tint complies with all the rules, visit your local California DMV office. There, you can ensure that your vehicle complies with all the requirements. California has been issuing tinting laws since 1999, so there might be some confusion about the legal and illegal tinting.
The 2021 Californian car window tint law states that you cannot tint your windshield. However, you can have a 4” strip of tint at the top of the glass to prevent dazzling. There are also limitations for the front side windows, as they should have VLT no less than 88%.
As for the back side and rear windows, they can have any darkness. However, there are also color limitations. All colorful tints are prohibited, and reflectivity shouldn’t be more than the standard window. Check if your car windows cater to all the requirements of 2021. If they don’t, this can lead to a ticket or a fine.