Accidents always happen – it's inevitable, and part of driving a car. In order to best understand how to move forwards with fixing your headliner, you first need to be able to decipher where that is on your car, what it is made out of, the best process to begin for your specific model, and where you can get it repaired.
What is a headliner?
The headliner of a car is the material that is stuck to the inside of the roof of your vehicle. Typically, the headliner is composed of a face fabric with either a foam backing or a non-woven material. The headliners usually are made of multiple layers, which in turn, provide multiple functionalities. The combination of layers and materials are able to provide the necessary look, feel, and stiffness in order to provide the qualities the car is lacking.
Car headliners are usually created and optimized to be situated in accordance with head impact countermeasures, or for integrating lighting fixtures behind the face fabric. Most headliners in a car are built using a tricot fabric that provides a uniform look across the inner roof of the car. The fabric is then combined with polyurethane foam, which is attached to the inner fiberglass roof.
Can I fix a damaged headliner myself?
If your headliner is damaged, you can try and repair the headliner yourself. Here we will take you through a step-by-step process in how to safely and efficiently repair your damaged headliner without spending money at a mechanic’s auto body shop.
First, you need to get your car ready for the work you’re about to perform for the repair. Disconnect the battery terminal before starting the process, and remove the right passenger seat for easier access to your headliner. You may be able to access the headliner without removing the seat, but the removal will let you have an easier angle in which to perform the repair accurately and safely.
For step two, you need to start by removing the trim. The trim level on your car is a way to further identify your vehicle by utilizing a set of features. Higher trim levels are typical of high-end car models, and regular trim levels use more widespread and mainstream features.
After or during the removal of the trim before the repair, you need to unbolt your sun visors, and remove any other accessories that you may have attached to the ceiling and headliner area. Be sure to remove the upper seat belt loops since they are close to where you will be performing the repair. In addition, remove just a little bit of the interior trim panels in order to give you clearance to access the headliner’s edge.
Step three during the headliner repair process requires you to remove the old fabric from the board and to place the headliner panel on a clean surface. Pull the old fabric off of the board, and remove the foam bits from the board by vacuuming them.
Step four requires you to access the board, and decipher how damaged the board is. If it's damaged, you need to repair it using aluminum tape. You can utilize double-sided tape to tack it back onto your roof. Next, you need to use adhesive glue on just half of the board and the back side of the fabric in order to create a sticky surface for folding the board. It’s best to use specialist adhesive in a spray can designed for headliner repair, so that you can be certain that the adhesive is evenly spread.
After you have used adhesive on half of the board, you need to fold over the edges and glue them to the underside of the board, leaving a little bit of space around the edges. Be sure to cut the side edges in line with the board and cut any holes for any accessories that were removed before beginning the headliner repair.
Lastly, you need to reverse the steps you just performed in order to re-install the headliner into your car. Begin this process by raising the headliner into position over the trim panels and re-installing all accessories that were removed. After this is done, your headliner repair is complete.
What if my headliner is just sagging? Do I need to remove it completely?
Well, it’s first good to know why your headliner is sagging in the first place. A headliner can sag due to just a matter of gravity and the adhesive losing stick over time. The headliner is made of multiple layers, as we learned previously. Over time, certain factors can cause the headliner to sag, such as moisture and heat. The moisture and heat can cause materials to shrink, which in turn causes them to be removed from the outer pressboard, due to the lack of rigidity and taut material.
You need to make sure to fix your sagging headliner because it could potentially get in the way of your line of sight while driving. You could remove the headliner, but if you don’t need to do a full-on repair, it isn’t necessary. We have a list of steps for how you can fix a sagging headliner, detailing some inexpensive options, and some more expensive headliner repairs as well.
First, the simplest and least expensive way to fix a sagging headliner is just to use pins to pin the headliner back into place. You will probably want a more permanent solution as time goes on, but if you need a quick fix to get from point A to point B, a few push pins will help you get a quick headliner repair.
Next, you could use glue to get the headliner material back into place. A partially sagging headliner will only need some adhesive to get back to the right position. You don’t need a lot of tools for this option, which makes this repair easy for almost anyone to do. The only tools you will need is a glue gun, and ideally some type of wire brush to help clean the spot where you will add new adhesive.
After you evenly distribute the glue on both the headliner and the frame, you can then push the fabric back into place. If the ceiling regains tightness and doesn’t have any bumps or bubbles, then you have done a good job in ceiling off any air and creating a firm seal.
A third option for fixing a sagging headliner is to use clear-headed twist pins. Twist pins are a specific type of pin that have a pointy end. When you push the pin against a backboard, it will stay firmly in place after you twist it. This is another solution to a traditional push pin, since the clear-headed twist pin looks a bit nicer, and can hold firmer.
Clear-headed twist pins are a good choice for a short-term headliner repair because they do not damage the backboard of your car. They won’t create any unnecessary damage to the roof of your car by making holes in the backboard. This might cause them to be a better option for you than the push pins option for headliner repair.
A fourth option you can use is a combination of staples and hairspray. Ideally, you should use a staple gun so that the staple directly goes where you need it to, it goes deep enough, and it won't fall out. After you have stapled in the correct places to ensure the headliner will remain in place, you can now use the hairspray. Spray all over the spots you have stapled to melt the adhesive and provide stickiness.
After you have sprayed the hairspray, wait a few minutes for the surface to dry. After the surface has dried, remove the staple pins so they’re not sticking out of your headliner. This is a short-term fix that can use household items for a quick and inexpensive repair.
For option number five, you can use double-sided tape. It’s imperative to use double-sided tape to make sure that there is adhesive on both sides, for the headliner and for the underside of the roof.
You need to place the tape only on the spots that are loose and sagging, and space them in even increments so that the pressure is evenly distributed. Make sure you apply some pressure on the tape so that they can firmly stick to the backboard of the car and they don’t fall off. This fix can stay a decent amount of time if you purchase high-quality double sided tape.
This method is a popular method for those who don’t want to spend money on a more permanent solution that will take more time and effort, when they can spend relatively no money on a semi-permanent solution that works well.
An additional option you can use is to utilize a steam cleaner to remove the adhesive. The only thing that really attaches the headliner to the inside of the roof in most vehicles is the already-installed adhesive. Like we said earlier, the headliner can sag due to natural elements, such as heat and moisture, which causes the adhesive to become less sticky over time. You will notice this when there are sagging points or protrusions happening in the underside of your ceiling.
By utilizing a steam cleaner, you can attempt to rejuvenate the ailing adhesive by heating it to a high enough temperature to re-melt the glue underneath the headliner. This process will cause the adhesive to regain its sticky qualities. When doing this, you need to make sure that the steam cleaner hits all of the sagging spots in the headliner.
After you have ensured that the steam cleaner has touched all of the spots which are lacking, use a paint roller to press the fabric back into place, so that you can have a uniform material across the inner side of the roof.
This technique not only is a fairly-easy method to use and find the materials for, but it also does a great job at leaving virtually no wrinkles or sagging spots once you are done. This method of headliner repair creates a more permanent solution than the aforementioned choices.
Okay, so those are all of the methods for a home remedy to a sagging headliner. How long will each method last?
As we discussed, each method is slightly different in terms of price, longevity, and ease of use and acquisition of materials. Every method we went over can be a great solution if you don’t have the time, energy, or money to spend on doing a complete rejuvenation and replacement of the headliner in your car.
The fixes that we discussed can give you a good service if you put in the work. For example, if you don’t use ample glue on the spots which are sagging, the fix won’t last very long. However, if you use the glue on all of the spots which are sagging and you double check your work, you can rest assured that this temporary fix will last a decent amount of time.
Regarding the other methods, using the steam clear to bring life back to the original adhesive is one of the longer-term fixes that can last for up to 12 months. This will only last as long with good maintenance and upkeep of the headliner so that the repair was not in vain.
Depending on the severity of the headliner repair that is needed, you can choose to either do a complete removal and reinstallation of a headliner, or just to remedy the current headliner by fixing the sagging parts. You need to make a determination as to what option is best for you and your current situation before proceeding.
If you decide that a full removal is the best way to go, you may need to visit a mechanic. There are numerous places you can go to get quality work done on your vehicle. For example, just in Columbia, South Carolina there are various options for when you have to go to a mechanic to help you with the process. If you decide that you can complete the repair on a sagging headliner on your own, then we have detailed the steps necessary, the materials you need, and the amount of time each method is supposed to last.
Remember to keep your headliner in great shape so that if the time comes for you to junk a car, you can remove the headliner for some extra cash!