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How to Replace a Headliner

Learning how to replace a headliner is a skill that can help save you quite a bit of money versus having to pay someone else to do it for you. You might have a car whose headliner is sagging and maybe even falling off back behind your head. This can present a serious safety hazard on top of looking bad aesthetically, causing problems with visibility through to the back window. When the headliner starts to go, it is time to get it replaced, and doing it on your own is something that you can manage if you just follow some practical advice.

Materials for Replacing Car Headliners

There are some things that you’ll need to gather in order to make sure you’re ready to go with this job. Get all the materials together before you proceed with the project, and this is easier when you keep an organized garage. Start with replacement headliner fabric. You could opt to try and match up with the old fabric, or you could also choose to go in a totally different direction and make a style statement. The other basic tools that are needed are spray glue adhesive, a screwdriver, a pair of scissors, and some sandpaper.

Removing the Old Headliner

Once you have all of the materials in place to do the job, remove the old headliner. You’ll need to first take off everything that is in the way of doing so. Typically there will be dome lights, coat hooks, and visors that get attached through the headliner into the ceiling of the vehicle, so these will need to be removed to make it possible to do this job.

Take down the old headliner, grabbing it through the hole from the center dome light. Move it slowly towards the back of the vehicle. Some of the molding along the side edges might have to be removed or loosened in order to accommodate this removal. Take the en tire headliner out of the car through a door. You might have to guide it around seats and toward the front door in order for it to fit. Make sure not to bend it as you go. Once it is out, peel off the fabric.

Installing the Headliner Fabric

Once the fabric is off, sand off any remaining foam on the shell with the sandpaper. Place the new fabric on the headliner shell in the right direction. Fold some of it back to keep the shell visible. Spray adhesive glue on the visible part and once it has set a bit, fold the fabric over that part and get it smoothed over the shell. Do the same for the other half, making sure to get total coverage with the spray glue. Get the fabric on evenly and smoothly before the glue dries completely or the wrinkles will drive you crazy every time you step into the car.

Reinstalling the Headliner

Once the fabric is set in place over the headliner shell and has dried completely, you can trim off excess fabric using the scissors. Leave a little bit hanging over, maybe a quarter inch or so, because this excess will be tucked in behind the molding along the edges. Using the opposite steps to those you used removing the shell, put it back into place, once again taking care not to bend it. Replace or tighten up all molding pieces and replace dome lights, coat hooks, and visors. Reinstalling headliners is a job well worth doing because it can enhance visibility and safety, and because it can also do a lot to enhance your car’s interior appearance.


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