On Tuesday, the state Department of Motor Vehicles informed Main Street Auto Repair that because of new legislation, signed Nov. 28, mechanic shops like theirs are required as of Jan. 1 to include window tinting inspection as part of all their vehicle safety inspections.
Each mechanic shop is therefore responsible for acquiring a window tint meter — costing about $150 or more.
To Gary McCracken and his son Gary McCracken Jr., owners of Main Street Auto Repair, at 163 Main St., the news was a surprise.
“It caught us off guard,” Gary McCracken Jr. said. “We heard about it from our customers before we knew about it.”
The law on tinted windows has not changed — tint on the windshield and front side windows of a vehicle cannot block more than 30 percent of light. The new rule makes repair shops responsible for enforcing the existing law.
To police officers, the law is common knowledge as they look out for heavily tinted windows every day, but for many repair shops that never had to be concerned with tinted windows before, it is an unknown quantity.
And the message sent to Main Street Auto Repair, as well as every other New York state repair shop that works on light and heavy duty cars and trucks, gave no mention of the law. In general the message was “really vague,” according to Gary McCracken Jr.
“I wish we were given more of a heads up and given more information,” he said.
In terms of the tint meter the shop is required to purchase, the message did state the required tint meter must be capable of testing light transmittance of all vehicle windows, not just those that roll down.
Each shop must spend its own money to purchase the meter. McCracken Sr. said his shop has yet to look into purchasing one because, although the state does not require the repair shops to purchase a specific model, it is unclear if they should be purchased from a specific place.
Also, most inspection tools are bought through the state DMV, so McCracken Jr. said it is unclear if the shop needs to do the same for the tint meter.
Aside from having to purchase the meter, inspecting the windows will now make the inspection process longer, according to McCracken Jr., with no benefit to the shop. The price for an inspection is state mandated and is not intended to increase with the added procedure.
“We’ll deal with it,” he said.
Cars with tinted windows over the legal limit will not pass inspection and must have the tint removed, according to Joe Reagan, owner of Royal Auto Group, of Cortlandville, who is also dealing with implementing the new procedure at his shop one step at a time.
If a driver is pulled over by a police officer for having tinted windows over the legal limit, that driver is given an equipment violation ticket, said Capt. Robert Derksen of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office. If the tint is removed from the window, the ticket will be voided.
He said the reason for the law on tinted windows is that they could be a safety issue for police officers, who approach a car and cannot see what is going on inside.
However, he said tinted car windows have not been a major problem in Cortland County, as tickets are not often written for tinted windows. He did not have specific statistics available during a telephone interview Thursday.
Cal Bacon, owner of Clean Rides, at 73 N. Main St., Cortland, said he has seen an increase in tint-removal jobs, having done about a dozen in the past two months. But he has seen a greater decrease in window-tinting jobs.
“People usually want dark tinted windows,” Bacon said. “Some come in with a doctor’s note and need it for medical reasons.”
He said he does offer light tint options that are at the legal 30 percent mark, but the tint is so light people would not even notice the window is tinted.
Most aftermarket tinted windows are stick-on tint that can be scraped off, Bacon said. However, peeling the tint off gets more difficult the longer it is on the window. And most factory tinted car windows are a dyed glass, so if the tint had to be removed, the whole window would have to be replaced.
New vehicle owners and buyers will not have to worry, though, as Reagan said no new vehicles come with windows tinted over the legal limit.