Installing a New Headliner

This tutorial will go over the basics of installing a new headliner in most common any newer type car. This is not a guide on how to remove your headliner or install it, just a tutorial on replacing the fabric. The material is a "Headliner" material, found at JoAnn Fabrics, and possibly other fabric type stores, and using 3M Super 90 Adhesive.

-2 Yards of Headliner Material (more of less pending on application)
-Wire Brush
-Razor Blades
-3M Super 90 Spray Adhesive

1. Remove Old Headliner
This is generally the first step! In order to remove your headliner, there are going to be several things holding it up. Several things like Sun visors, Dome Lights, Oh Crap! handles, and clothing hooks are attached to the headliner. All of them will need to be removed. Other things like weather striping will need to be removed or arranged in a way for removal. It is also possible that there will be body panels that will need to be removed or pulled back for access.

In some cases it may be necessary to remove a seat in order to maneuver the headliner out. You will want to be VERY careful not to bend the headliner board. It will crease, and will look bad! Slide it out of the car, and make sure it is supported very well.

2. Remove Old Material
This step can be very easy, but very time consuming. The headliner usually is attached to a either cardboard, or type of fibrous material, you will want to remove the fabric from that sheet. Now you are probably noticing that there is a large amount of foam material that was stuck to the fabric that isn't coming off. It is VERY important that you get all of it off. This is where the wire brush comes in handy.

Just use it to sand away the foam padding. It will create a mess, so it would be a good idea to vacuum as you go. Work outside too! Or else you'll be tracking the foam all over your house for weeks.

3. Get Material Handy
Now is the time to the materials for the new headliner. Measure the area you will need to cover, and then look for a suitable fabric at the fabrics store. I choose a material, that was almost an exact duplicate of the kind I took off. I just choose that I wanted to do it in black instead of the light gray it was before.

It may be possible to use more exotic materials, such as Velvet, Vinyl, Tweed, or Leather. I can not say that these materials will adhere well to the board, using just the glue. It is also hard to say whether or not the glue will bleed through the fabric. If you choose to go with these materials, you may need to have it stitched on with a sowing machine.

4. Ready to Glue?
Working outdoors, you should be ready to glue on your new material. It is very important that you use 3M Super 90 (not 77) for this project (or another Headliner adhesive). It has sticky properties that aren't affected much by heat or cold. You should thoroughly read the instructions on the glue bottle. I suggest waiting at least a minute for the glue to dry, and spraying both pieces. I mentioned that you should work outside before, and that is because this glue is extremely flammable, and toxic if breathed. You should have no problem, if you are outside though.

5. Laying out the Fabric
I arranged mine by placing a blanket over the ground, then lying the material good side down. With the glue side of the headliner next to that. You are not going to do the whole thing in one shot, that will make it really hard to get all the wrinkles out effectively. I think it works best to start with the end that is the flattest, for mine it was the back of the car side.

6. Ready Set Glue
You can now start by spraying a small stripe of the glue on both the fabric and headliner near the end. Make sure you get good coverage of the very end of the headliner. Also make sure there is some over hang to trim, you don't want to risk being to short or not lined up right. Spray the glue on and let it dry for a minute, then fold over when its still "tacky". Spread out the material, and get all the wrinkles, and conform it to any bumps. Wait a few minutes, and if it all seems to have gone right, you can continue down the rest of the headliner.

7. Trim the Excess
If everything went right, you should have a nice and strongly attached headliner. Now it is time to trim it a bit. Depending on how your car is laid out, you will either need to trim right up to the edge, or fold it back over the underside of the headliner. For mine I needed to trim to the edge on the sides, and fold over in the back and front. I used more glue to hold down those two that I folded over.

Using a scissors, trim just a few inches from the edge of the board all the way around. Now using a fresh and new razor, you can trim up as close to the edge as you can. I have noticed that the razors work great for cutting, but they get dull very fast. So if you notice it getting hard to slice through the material, get a new razor blade.

8. Access Holes!
If you have a sunroof, you may want to cut a hole for it.. but also other little holes in the headliner for the sun visors, Oh Crap handles, dome light, and other little snaps holding it up.

9. Install Headliner
Be very careful again, not to bend the headliner in anyway, as it may crease in someplace's, and would not look good. Put it back in the car, the reverse of installation. Sliding it back in, and attaching all the clips, dome light, sun visors.. etc.

Congratulations, you now have a sweet new headliner.

Here are a few pictures from my install in my 1998 Dodge Neon R/T. I went with a new black headliner to replace the light gray material. I had no real reason to do it, other than mine was dirty, and I was bored. I think it looks great, with all the accents in the light gray around the sunroof, and everything.

©2001 - 2005 AJ Quick