There's no real question as to if whether or not you should protect yourself from the sun. For all the good it does to provide warmth and vitamin D, it also causes some severe biological reactions, and when you're spending thousands of minutes in your car every year, it can seem like you're at the mercy of the sun's harmful UV rays. So protecting yourself by layering your windows and windshield with a film is kind of a no-brainer. When it comes to the windshield, however, there are a handful of additional considerations that must be made.
Because the windshield is the way you see most of what’s going on around you when driving, it’s essential that any windshield treatment doesn’t interfere with your ability to see obstacles, signs, and other vehicles—especially at night.
As a result, many states have specific rules for window tinting:
California allows only the “uppermost portion” of the windshield to be darkened, while Colorado allows a full tint, as long as at least 70% of light makes it through to the driver.
The AAA makes a great reference guide that summarizes all of these state rules, which you can find here.
Once you’ve determined whether your state allows windshield darkening, and exactly how much film may be applied where the question is simple: should you? The answer is a definite yes.
In fact, any amount of windshield and window film will provide at least some benefit in protecting your car from the following:
However, there may be an even better solution for you: a new breed of clear, heat-blocking windshield films.
While clear, heat-blocking films for automotive window and windshield applications have been around for about a decade now, they aren’t as well-known as their darker, visible counterparts.
Working in much the same way as a window film, a heat-blocking transparent film is basically a sheet of special plastic that adheres to your windows or windshield, filtering out the heat and UV radiation while allowing as much as 90 percent of visible light into the car.
You might think to let in all that light wouldn’t have much effect on the heat in a car, but 3M’s Crystalline Window Films, for example, block 99.9 percent of all UV radiation (equivalent to SPF 1700+), and 90 percent of infrared (heat) radiation even while allowing up to 86 percent of visible light to be transmitted.
Because this newer type of nearly transparent coating blocks so much of the harmful effects of the sun while allowing much greater visibility, even those who don’t like tinted windows can get the benefits—and, in some states, those benefits can extend all the way to the windshield, completing your car’s defense against the sun.
Should you tint your car’s windows and windshield? The answer is a definite yes. The only question you have to answer is how you want to do it within the bounds of your state’s laws.
automotive freelance journalist