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Are the tinted windows on my car illegal?

A man tries to see through a tinted car window. Stock photo by Getty Images

Tinted windows can be a great feature. They help keep the car a bit cooler, screen out harmful UV radiation and protect the car’s interior. Also, they look pretty cool.

The law, however, is less appreciative of how cool your car looks and your dark windows could be illegal.

It’s an often-overlooked problem when buying a car. Manufacturers adhere to federal standards, but dealers or previous owners could install after-market tints, which are regulated by provincial laws.

Those laws vary in several respects, including which windows you can tint and how dark they can be. In general, you can tint your rear windows and rear windshield as much as you like, although a few exceptions apply.

Nova Scotia allows no rear windshield tinting, except for what came from the manufacturer — typically a small bar at the top of the windshield.

In Manitoba, the rear windows must allow 35 per cent of light to penetrate. Some police will carry photometers or light readers that allow them to measure that percentage.

Front windows and windshields that don’t allow you to see inside the car are illegal in virtually every province and territory in Canada.

Some provinces allow a certain degree of tinting, but others ban it outright.

Traffic laws in Quebec stipulate windows must let in 70 per cent of the light. Ontario doesn’t prescribe a specific percentage, but windows should not be so dark that police can’t make out the driver’s face or see properly inside the vehicle. This can make a ticketable tint entirely at the officer’s discretion.

Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan don’t permit any front-window tinting at all.

Those laws exist primarily for safety reasons. Drivers need the ability to make eye contact with each other and with pedestrians, and police want drivers to be visible as well.

Unfortunately, those laws apply as soon as you drive into the province. Your legal-in-Ontario tints could still get a ticket in Nova Scotia, so be aware of the laws and don’t be too shady on the roadways.


Read more:

Ontario Highway Traffic Act

Standards of Vehicle Equipment Regulations (Nova Scotia)