How to Repair Car Headliner?

Is your car headliner dirty or already disintegrating? Are there dusty residues and exploded seams that make your car interior look ugly? Don’t worry because you can repair that car headliner!

You don’t have to be embarrassed to let people ride your car any longer. It’s fairly easy to repair or replace your car headliner. So just read along to learn how to repair car headliner to make it look like brand new while saving yourself a couple of bucks by doing it on your own.

In professional car shops or car interior shops, they make use of a spray gun and a pressure pot. Contrary to popular belief, an aerosol-based spray adhesive won’t work well for a headliner. So better make use of contact cement that is used by interior shops. Most of the hardware stores out there carry this product so just ask the sales associate. You’ll only need to lay on the adhesive with the use of a small brush instead of using a spray gun or a compressor. So now, let’s start this easy project.

  1. First thing you’ll need to do is to remove all the trim surrounding your headliner. It will be easier for you if you first remove the rear seats as well as the door panels. It will give you more room to work on this project. You don’t have to remove your front seats but if you’d like to do so, it will give you more room later on. Open all the doors for the entire duration of this project.
  2. You can take a photo of how everything is clipped together so you have a reference later on when putting back everything. At the same time, put your new headliner and “ear muff” under the sun to remove any wrinkles.
  3. Now, you need to remove the shoulder harness. In older cars, the harness is attached on to the roof with small clips. Unscrew them and keep the screws in a safe place for later use. There should be two 1/2-inch bolts keeping the shoulder harness strap on to the roof. Lift the rubber cover to access and remove it.
  4. Now, remove the screws holding each visor bracket. Again, set aside the screws for reinstallation. The rearview mirror has a rubberized trim cover which you will need to pull down to access the screws for it. You can clean and polish these things before you put them back later on.
  5. In each side of the roof rail, you’ll find a long strip of pinch-welting trim. From the front, pull it down from the edge all the way to the back to the “ear muff” at the rear quarters of your headliner.
  6. There’s also a metal trim piece at the lower back corner of your rear window. Remove the screws as well.
  7. Now, remove your dome light lens and bezel, remove the bulb and unsnap the wire ends from the plastic.
  8. Now, we’re ready to pull the headliner from the front corners all the way to the edges at the back. Work parallel towards the back. While you remove it side by side, you’ll have an idea on how to put the new headliner you’ll be installing.
  9. You’ll see two “ear muffs” by the rear quarters. They snap into position with a metal tab to its back side. Save them for reinstalling later on because they usually have the factory part number and date of manufacture stamped on the back. If your new headliner has a tab, you can just keep your old one for reference.
  10. Once the old headliner has been removed all the way around the interior, it’s time to remove the metal bows. Start doing so from the front all the way to the back. You’ll find that there are several holes where the bows can be inserted. So make sure you mark those that were used so you’ll know where to insert them later on. You can also sand the bows quickly if they’re already rusty. You can also give them a coat of protective paint to make it last longer.
  11. Now, insert the original bows to your new headliner. You can slide the rod carefully so as to not ruin your new material. You can use a chalk to mark the centerline of the new headliner for easy installation.
  12. Now brush the back of the material with contact cement on the outside edges with a brush. Create four inches of glue throughout the edges all around. Before you install the new headliner to your car, wait for the glue to become tacky.
  13. Now use a piece of cardboard as a mask. Apply cement to the inside tack strip all around the interior. Wait for it to become tacky. Then, reinstall the new headliner. When the glued surfaces meet, they will stick together. Don’t worry because you can still pull and stretch it for the final fit.
  14. Start at the rear as you install back the bows into the holes you’ve marked early on. Then snap the center bow into the plastic clips. You’ll need a little pressure but be careful not to break the clips. You can trip excess material at the end of the bow pocket. Start with the material at the center of the front and back windshield.
  15. Pull the material outward towards the sides. Work your way around as you gently pull it to the sides to remove wrinkles forming during installation. Just trim the excess material so that you are leaving about ½ inch hanging down the tacking rail. You can just fold the material behind the rail. If you have extra pieces of material, you can use it for your car’s “ear muffs”.
  16. Install the “ear muffs” and snap them back to its original position. Clean the pinch-welting before you reinstall them. Then, all the other hardware can be replaced back to where they were originally located. Clean and polish everything before you bolt them back in place to ensure a “like new” look. Screw everything back including the dome light bezel, the bulbs, and the wires.
  17. Now, simply smooth wrinkles, if any, with the use of a hair dryer. Be careful not to let it touch the vinyl. Now, enjoy your new car headliner.

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