Josh Buis, Scorpion Window Films, has plenty of suggestions, beginning with, “I’ll cover tools first. Tool manufacturers make hundreds of different tools for installation. Most tools will have a varying hardness, thickness, length, etc…They have tools made specifically for back windows, for working around gaskets, brake lights, and anything else you can think of that may make it difficult to install film. Maintain your tools: Keep the edges clean to prevent scratching, gouging or even tearing the film. The right tools make the job easy and save time.”
“Techniques will vary. You can ask 100 film installers how they do a certain installation and you can receive 100 different answers. My biggest tip to new installers is about practice and cleanliness. I believe window prep is the most important part of film installation. Once you get a few cars under your belt, cutting patterns and shrinking becomes easy. Making sure your glass is as clean as possible is crucial. You can cut your best pattern, shave the edges, have the perfect fit – and the install can be ruined by debris in between the glass and film.
Mark Gershenson at LLumar/Solutia gave us this one: “One of the very biggest, game-changing tools to date has been automated computer cutting systems for window film. Many installers might overlook such systems because of initial cost outlay, but there is a solid payoff in terms of speed, volume and variety of film work than can be done with this these systems. These cutting systems cannot serve as substitute for the traditional manual skills and knowledge required for successful film installation, but combined with those skills they can be one of the most important tools for an installer.”
Ari Sacal, of Saint-Gobain North America, gave us a clean one: “One tip installers might overlook is the amount of soap they use when installing film. It’s important not to use too much soap in your mounting solution. Too much soap added to the mounting solution makes the film very easy to position, but can negatively affect the film’s ability to adhere to the glass surface in the short and long term. Installers should also ensure proper removal of the mounting solution fluid by using a squeegee in good condition. It should have a sharp edge and be free of grooves and nicks. A squeegee with a nick in the edge can leave a small trail of fluid, resulting in an uneven dry-out and a longer dry-out period.”
Johnson Window Films’ Fred Zwilling says, “It is tough to put an installation technique into a few words here,” he notes, “but there is one piece of advice I can give: Practice before you sell. Accept that you need to invest the time and energy doing several free tint jobs for friends and family. Do 10 cars and go look at them after a few days. You will learn a lot from examining your work after a few days because the water has dried and your brain is fully separated from the installation effort. It’s easier for you to be more objective in your analysis and will help you focus on your weaknesses. Do it a few times. You’ll be amazed at how fast you improve. As far as the tool I am glad to have, it would be the Contour. It is incredibly effective when working in tight corners and sliding film underneath gaskets.”
3M’s John Price says, “Installation techniques are mostly unique to individual installers. However, there are some fundamental tools needed for installation: knife with stainless steel breakaway blades – important to have stainless steel, not carbon steel; and breakaway will allow a sharp cutting tip on demand. A squeegee flexible enough to conform to the contour of the glass, but stiff enough to remove slip/mounting solution without scratching/tearing the window film being installed. Proper type of slip/mounting solution will provide enough slip to allow repositioning during installation, but not too slippery to hinder squeegeeing and lock-down of window film. Typical slip solution can be a soap/water mix with some type of baby shampoo. Do not use dish detergent with grease-cutting agent in the formulation. Ideally a variable-heat-setting and high-airflow heat gun (minimum 11cfm air flow) should be used.”