Are Tinted Windows Legal in California?

If you’ve done any traveling, chances are you’ve seen cars with tinted windows, or have considered tinting for your vehicle’s windows. Tinting can block UV rays, prevent upholstery from fading, and reduce heat build-up inside the vehicle, reducing demand on the air conditioning system. It is legal to drive with tinted windows in California. However, there are various rules and regulations to follow, covering percentage of Visible Light Transmission (VLT), darkness, and reflection for specific types of vehicles.

Window Tint Darkness

 Whether you drive a sedan, SUV, or van, you can have non-reflective tint on the top 4 inches of a windshield, per California’s window tinting laws. Aftermarket film is permitted on front side windows. It must allow a minimum of 70% VLT if you combine that film with factory tinting. Therefore, aftermarket film must allow over 88% of the light to pass through it. For back side and rear windows, there are no legal restrictions on darkness.

Window Tint Reflection

California law permits automobile owners to use window tint that reflects incoming light. Such tint can reduce glare and heat. However, there are restrictions on its use. For sedans, SUVs, and vans, both front side and back side windows must not be more reflective than any standard window installed on the vehicle.

Other Tinted Window Laws and Regulations

Drivers are expected to follow a variety of other important laws, rules, and regulations, which include:

  • A vehicle with a tinted rear window must have dual side mirrors.
  • Red, amber, or blue tints are forbidden, and side windows must not have any color.
  • Manufacturers must certify the film sold in the state.
  • The driver must have the manufacturer’s certificate with them.
  • A certificate or sticker must state the name/address of the manufacturer and installer.

 Since September 2017 (per Assembly Bill No. 1303), state law has allowed medical exemptions regarding lower tint on all vehicle windows. For example, an individual can present a certificate signed by a licensed dermatologist, stating they have a medical condition that requires limiting UV light exposure. If so, a clear, colorless film could be applied to the windshield as well as side and rear windows.

There are also legal requirements governing the condition of the material. Torn or bubbled film, or that with any kind of wear, is forbidden because it can obstruct the driver’s vision. By law, one is required to remove or replace damaged film.

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