How to Fix a Sagging Headliner

With our cars, we have a fantastic machine that helps us to get around town and perhaps even further. Over the years, they experience many different problems and they normally fall into one of three categories:

  • Huge issue needing immediate attention
  • Potential problem which should be fixed over the next year
  • Aesthetic problem which doesn’t affect the performance of the car
Headliner Recover 2
Mar 24

As you would expect, the first two issues are the first to get sorted and this is because they have a direct impact on the safety of our vehicles. However, this isn’t to say the third problem isn’t just as frustrating. Ultimately, it could be scratched paint, a broken sun visor, or perhaps a damaged headliner. Today, we will be focusing on the headliner because a sagging or damaged headliner can cause just as much frustration. Especially when the material flaps in your face as you drive.

Fixing Your Headliner

At first, you might feel as though this is something that needs professional treatment but this isn’t necessarily the case. Every year, thousands of people fix their own headliner but we have been seeing some common mistakes on various websites and videos which is why we want to provide the ultimate guide here today. With this video and the step-by-step guide, your headliner will be back to looking brand new in no time.

What You Will Need

In order to do the job correctly, there are a few things you will need:

  • Glue Gun
  • Contact Cement
  • Wire Brush
  • Hand Tools
  • Headliner Material
  • Tape Measure

Initially, you might be worrying about the glue gun but we should point out they aren’t as expensive as they once were. Nowadays, you can find the gun for around $29 and the glue for around $30. If you want to keep costs to a minimum you can use 3m upholstery spray can adhesive. They should run you around $20 per can. The reason we suggest a glue gun is because they are more efficient, they tend to provide a better stick. Also, you will need two cans per headliner so your already at $40 compared to $60-$70. Plus, the glue gun will come in handy for future jobs while the spray can will only get used once.

We mentioned ‘hand tools’ and these are any tools you have that will make the job easier. For example, some of the trim parts will require a screwdriver. Some parts you might need something to get underneath with a plastic pry bar and pop it out. If you have a drill, this helps if most of your trim panels are held on by screws. Also, some basic tools like wrenches and sockets will be needed.

A Word Of CAUTION! 

Before we head into the step-by-step guide, we should point out that many people suggest trying to glue the fabric back on from inside the car rather than removing the headliner but we think this is wrong for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it will only at best be a short-term solution and you will find yourself having to do the same thing again just a couple of months down the line. Essentially, it is a ‘Quick Fix’ solution in that it doesn’t actually treat the root cause of the problem. Secondly, this ‘Quick Fix’ can create more work because the new glue will create more of a mess to clean once you decide to fix your headliner properly.

Therefore, today we are showing you a long-term solution involving the removal of the headliner completely to peel off the old fabric and foam. Once this is done, you can replace it with new material and it will look brand new. Yes, this will be more expensive initially but, as long as you follow these instructions correctly, it will last for years to come rather than causing more stress in just a few weeks’ time.

The Process

Without further ado, let’s get started with the guide and it begins with a tape measure and your headliner so you know how much material you will need to order. Of course, every car is different and therefore you will need to order more than enough material for your model of car. Aside from this, the instructions below will be the same for most cars.

Step 1: Remove Trim Holding The Headliner in Place – To start, you will need to remove all the trim and fittings attached to the headliner including sun visors, roof lights, clothing hooks, and anything else. However, you should keep the dome light in place because this will prevent the fabric and foam from falling down as you try to unscrew the outer fittings.

In terms of the trim parts themselves, some cars use screws so these are easy to undo. For others, they use clips and perhaps even some type of strange fitting you haven’t seen before. When it comes to attaching trim panels, car manufacturers like to be creative but you should be able to pop them out with a flat-headed screwdriver or a plastic pry bar. Regardless of what you use, remember to be careful not to damage any of the parts, as they will need to go back on once the headliner is finished.

Step 2: Remove Headliner – Once you have everything off but the dome light, you can carefully release the screws of the light and you should be able to slide the headliner out and lay it on your workbench with ease.

Step 3: Remove Foam and Fabric – Now, it is time to remove the old fabric. You can normally rip this off by hand.

After doing this, the wire brush comes into play as we recommend brushing away the old foam. At this stage, you need to be cautious because you don’t want to scrape too deep. After the foam has been removed, you should be left with a solid material.

If you notice any cracks or broken sections to the actual headliner underneath the fabric and foam, we recommend covering these with material. For example, a simple piece of canvas glued on top will add protection and it will strengthen the area to ensure it lasts the test of time.

Step 4: Cut The Amount of Fabric You Need – With your roll of headliner foam, lay the material over the top of the headliner and cut off a little more than you need. We always recommend cutting more than you need because it prevents cutting too short and having to start again

Step 5: Start Gluing – In truth, there are many different ways to glue down the new headliner but our experience has told us the easiest is to split the process into thirds or fourths. Starting with the first third, roll it back and spray glue on to both the material and the headliner and let the glue dry until it no longer feels wet.

After doing this, you can stick this down and fold back the unglued section and continue the same process.

If you’re happy with both sections so far, glue the very last section and stick it down.

Don’t rush and it is always best to take it slow and glide your hands over the top to ensure it has fully attached itself to the surface.

Step 6: Fold Over and Cut – Now it is time to fold and glue the material over the edges that need it and to trim of the extra material.

You will always need to fold over the material on the edge that faces the windshield because it is visible. Sometimes you will have to do this to other areas as well. Just make sure to take note of these areas when you first remove your headliner.

Step 7: Reinstall – From here, you can slide the headliner back into place and secure the dome light. With the light holding the headliner in place, you can attach the trim back on install everything.

Essentially, you are reversing the process you did in the first couple of steps. Once all the pieces have been reattached, you have yourself a brand new headliner and you will notice what a great difference it makes to the inside of your vehicle!

Conclusion – There we have it, your complete guide to fixing your sagging or damaged headliner. For something that can be done in an hour or two, it is well worth the investment and it will make the inside of your car look brand new. Whether you need these tips yourself or maybe your friend is experiencing the problem currently, feel free to share the information around and show the world that you don’t need a professional service to get the job done!

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