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Raul Dela Cruz, a worker at the Goldem 3M shop in Abu Dhabi, applies tint to a car's window.
Raul Dela Cruz, a worker at the Goldem 3M shop in Abu Dhabi, applies tint to a car's window.

View the road in a new light

A range of companies will tint car windows for motorists who desire more privacy.

In the Middle East, where temperatures hover around the 50-degree Celsius mark in the summer, many drivers consider tinted windows a necessity. As an obvious result, the window-tinting business has flourished. People covet the product for simple reasons - privacy and coolness, in both senses of the latter word. Many families want to keep prying eyes away, and choose the total blackout option. The younger generation, on the other hand, seeks the coolness factor, thinking that the dark tinting gives their vehicles a sleek and trendy look.

It is important to note that it is not the tint that offers protection from the sun's rays and the searing heat. According to those in the business, simply putting a dark film over the windows may make the vehicle harder to see into, but true protection from ultraviolet and infrared rays comes from high-end brands such as V-Kool and 3M. These companies have engineered products that block harmful rays and keep a vehicle's interior cool. The protection is present whether the film is dark or not.

Professional window tinting also protects your upholstery and dashboard from discolouration and cracking, and improves fuel consumption by allowing climate control systems to cool the interior more rapidly. As for tinting options, the maximum legal percentage is referred to as 30 per cent dark tint, which allows other drivers - and the police - to see inside the vehicle during daylight hours. At night, however, the vehicle's interior is invisible to the outside world.

The majority of providers in Abu Dhabi will tint a vehicle darker than the legal limit, but require the owner to sign a release accepting responsibility for this violation. The two main tinted-window providers are arguably V-Kool and 3M, who both are well represented by dealers throughout the UAE. They are a lot more expensive than your average window film, which you can find and have installed in some industrial areas of the capital and Dubai.

Although the price tag of Dh200 (US$54) may seem appealing, the lack of warranty will have you rethinking your choice when your tint begins to peel, bubble and turn purple. Having the job done professionally will cost more, but it will be worth it in the long run. According to 3M's Abu Dhabi facility, Golden 3M, the tinting it uses comes with a five-year warranty and reduces heat in your vehicle by either 71 per cent or 81 per cent, depending on the type of adhesive film selected. You pay according to the size of your vehicle.

At 3M, applying the film with 30 per cent tint and 71 per cent heat reduction on a Hummer H2 would cost Dh1,200, while 81 per cent heat reduction would cost Dh1,800. For a smaller car, such as an Audi TT, expect to pay Dh600 and Dh800 for the two grades, respectively. At V-Kool, prices are higher. In the installation bay were two Infiniti model four-wheel drives, a QX56 and an FX35. Eight technicians were working on the QX56. "You pay more for V-Kool, yes, but the work is truly professional," said Faten Dahche, the saleswoman. The inevitable question that followed was: "OK Faten, How much more?"

"For your Hummer we would charge Dh2,800 for 45 per cent heat reduction, Dh4,250 for 65 per cent, and for 75 per cent heat reduction the price is Dh4,950," she said. Prices for an Audi TT, which is half the size of my Hummer, ranged between Dh1,850 and Dh3,650. For a sedan such as the Lexus LS 400, prices would range between Dh2,250 and Dh4,400, depending on the level of tinting and desired heat reduction.

It makes sense to protect your car's interior from the sun's harmful rays, and it may be important to you to block your car's occupants from prying eyes, but either way we think both V-Kool and 3M are good investments and will enhance your driving pleasure. eghalib@thenational.ae

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