The Great Debate: Two-Staging Versus Bottom-Loading

April 5th, 2023 by Chris Collier

There are two popular methods for installing window tint: two-staging and bottom-loading. I will talk about the age-old question—which is better? And how do you decide which one is right for you?

The Two-Stage Method

Marco Cazorla is passionate about training others, helping them discover their best selves throughout the process. (Photo credit: Eliu Albelo)

The two-stage method is a process where the window tint installer does not take apart the door panel on the vehicle at all. Instead, the installer heat shrinks the tint to mold to the curve of the glass. The installer then puts the tint on the top section of the window with the window being down about one to two inches from the top gasket. This is the first stage.

The installer squeegees the tints and takes out the soapy water with a squeegee. Then, the installer rolls the window up and installs the lower section of the tint. This is the second stage—hence the term two-stage.

The Benefit: The two-stage method does not require the installer to take anything apart. However, it requires a methodical approach, and the installer must have a process in place when installing. If one step is missed, the installation can go wrong because the installer is out of sequence. The two-stage method requires constant repetition and technique to master, like any new skill.

The Bottom-Loading Method

The bottom-loading method is a process where the installer removes the door seal or the entire door panel. The installer does not need to heat shrink the tint (on 95% of cars), so this saves time on the installation. After the window is thoroughly cleaned, the installer can install the window tint in one piece and slide it into place to fit the pattern of the window.

Similar to the two-stage method, the installer squeegees the top section of the window, then rolls the window all the way up and pushes out all the soapy water with the squeegee. The benefit of bottom loading is that you can drop in the window tint without any obstructions like the seal (sweep). Any tight side gaskets can be easily bypassed because of all the room on the bottom of the seal, and the ability to press gently on the glass while sliding the window tint in.

The Downside: A negative surrounding bottom loading is the risk of breaking expensive door panels or scratching these panels. It’s important to try both methods and see which way you like. Whichever method you choose, the more you do it, the better you get.

My Opinion: Choosing the right method for installing window tint can make all the difference. The two-stage method requires a methodical approach and constant repetition to master, but it does not require the installer to take anything apart. The bottom loading method is quicker and easier, but there is a risk of breaking expensive door panels or scratching these panels. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and experience.

I am personally a bottom loader and comfortable taking apart everything from a $700,000 Rolls Royce to a Honda Civic. But there are some cars that I will not attempt to take apart like the 2020-2023 Mercedes Benz S Class because of the tights panels … if removed, they will never go back on the same.

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  1. Love the read but you fail to mention that 2 stage is actually the fastest way , shrinking the film ( 15 seconds to a minute) versus removing all door panels or sweeps ‍♂️

  2. I use both methods everyday. I weigh the time it takes to remove the panel versus my ability to get a clean install on said vehicle using the two stage method. It ends up being about 50% one method and 50% the other.

  3. I feel to be a master installer you should know both techniques. There are some cars where two stage is the best option and if you can not do that well it will show. Older cars are at risk of snapping clips. These clips are pennies. The time saved will.offset any cost of any. With 40 years of doing both ways the bottom loading was a more consistant and an easier way. Work smarter not harder. Some are stuck in thier ways and will swear on one or the other. I find it best to use the best way to make money. This means consistancy not waisting time or film producing the cleanest work possible and always getting better. Thank you for the read.

  4. So there’s actually a third method that is kind of a hybrid. It’s just like 2-stage where you don’t take any door panels apart, but it’s like bottom loading because you still install it in one piece without the liner on any part of it. I do it 95% of the time. Xpel and Gasket Pro Tools sell the Gasket Wizard tool or the Xpel EZ-Tint. These basically slide behind the gasket making contact with the glass. When you push the tool away from the glass, it creates an opening just wide enough to slide the tint in. That’s how I’d do the Mercedes TIGHT gaskets and all other gaskets for that matter. I rarely 2-stage unless there are certain conditions that make it easier to do instead of bottom loading which aren’t many, but knowing the method helps for when I need it.

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