Car Headliner Repair: Do These 5 Simple Steps

What is a Car Roof Lining?

A car roof lining is also known as a headliner or headlining. It is a fabric material that is on the inside roof of automobiles.

Its primary purpose is to:

  • Enhance the car’s interior aesthetics by giving it a smooth texture
  • Absorb excess noise from outside
  • Regulates the internal temperatures by buffering heat and cold from outside

As a result, car roof linings have multiple layers of composite materials. Also, manufacturers observe head impact counter-measures when making roof linings. Others integrate LED lighting technology behind the fabric.

For uniform appearance and soft touch, most roof linings have napping of tricot knit fabric. Manufacturers then stick this fabric to melted polyurethane foam. Eventually, they glue this fabric-foam to the inner fiberglass roof of the car.

Presently, there is an invention of environmentally friendly roof linings. They consist of recyclable face fabrics and adhesive backing.

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How to Install a Headliner

A headliner is the foam-backed cloth covering that is attached by adhesive to the ceiling of your car. It is not unusual for a car headliner to become unattached and cave in if it has been exposed to excessive amounts of moisture or if the car is an older model.

You do not have to hire a professional to come in and fix a saggy or dirty headliner. You can replace it yourself by following these steps for how to install a headliner.

  1. Remove the old headliner.
    1. Pry off all the trim that surrounds the headliner and holds it in place.
    1. Detach and remove all of the seatbelt covers, lights, speakers, visors and clothes hangers. You may also have to remove some of the upper A, B, C pillar panels to get the headliner to drop form the roof area. You may have to unscrew some bolts and/or pry some parts up with a flathead or torx screwdriver.
    1. Unclip any clips that are holding the headliner board in place.
    1. Slide the headliner board out of the vehicle and set it on a flat work surface. A large table or the floor will do.
    1. Remove the material from the car headliner board. It should peel off without much effort.
  2. Scrape off any foam that remains stuck on the headliner board with a bristle brush or lightweight sandpaper. Be gentle, so as not to damage the board. The smoother the board surface is, the better your finished headliner replacement will look.
  3. Lay the replacement headliner fabric over the headliner board. Spread it out flat and smooth out any folds or wrinkles.
  4. Fold 1/2 of the fabric back onto itself, leaving 1/2 of the headliner board exposed. Working each half of the fabric application separately makes the job easier to manage.
  5. Prepare both surfaces for adhesion. Brush contact cement on the underside of the headliner fabric and on the exposed half of the headliner board. Alternatively, 3M makes a spray adhesive that is much easier to work with.
    1. Get the strongest glue you can. Because of the location of the headliner, many weaker glues will fail with heat.
  6. Stretch the cemented material over the cemented half of the board, pressing it in place with the palm of your hand as you go.
  7. Fold the unattached half of the headliner fabric back on itself and repeat the gluing, stretching, pressing process for the other half.
  8. Wait for the adhesive to dry. Drying time will be listed on the adhesive label.
  9. Cut holes in the car headliner where the lights, seat belts, visors and clothes hangers need to be attached. Use a hobby knife for this.
  10. Trim any excess fabric from the edges before you install a headliner board back in the car. Leave about 0.5 inch (1.27 cm) of extra fabric around the circumference of the board so that it can be tucked in during installation.
  11. Return the headliner board back to its place in the car.
    1. Tuck the excess fabric under for clean edges.
    1. Secure the headliner with the car’s headliner clips (if applicable).
  12. Replace the accessories and trim that you removed for the headliner replacement process.

Reason for a car headliner repair to be needed

Over time, the car lining gets loose and detaches itself from its backing board. We call this process sagging.

When a car’s roof lining fails, it either sags or falls from the board in severe cases.

The sagging may be due to:

  • Extreme heat
  • Extreme humidity
  • Poor maintenance
  • Old age

Sunroof tops are dangerous for your car. They can leak moisture inside the car’s roof. Doing so accelerates the sagging of the lining despite the age of the vehicle.

car headliner repair

How to Repair Car Headliner

The majority of car owners put a lot of effort into the external maintenance of their vehicles. They are unconscious that the interior of a car also suffers gradual wear and tear.

Realizing too late that your car’s interior roofing needs attention can be a painful ordeal. As such, you need to examine the condition of the roof lining frequently. If you notice any sagging, it is recommendable to fix it immediately.

There are two ways through which you can fix a sagging roof. You can either replace it with a new one or just fix the lining without removing it.

Replacing a roof lining can be financially draining. It is even worse if your car is already old. You may end up paying an amount that is equal to the value of that car.

Also, fixing the sagging by a professional is a bit expensive. You can do it yourself in incredibly less time using the following tips:

1. Using Clear-headed Twist Pins

These pins are appropriate for fixing large areas of a roof lining. They are also known as saggy stoppers.

They are incredibly affordable and readily available in the market. You can use twist pins to fix a roof lining that is just about to fall off.

The most fantastic thing about these pins is that they don’t leave holes on your board. As such, it is preferable to other methods.

2. By Use of Glue

The simplest way to reattach car roof lining back to its place is by gluing. It works best if the fabric is sagging partially in the edges.

For the lining to evenly adhere back, it is recommendable to use a spray-on glue. Ensure that the glue you use is purposely for attaching car upholstery fabric.

Ordinary glue is not effective and cannot withstand adverse weather conditions.

Spray the glue on the entire upper side of the fabric. Also, spray some on the foam, which is under the lining.

Join the fabric to the foam and press firmly with your hands, removing any creases.

3. Using a Steam Cleaner and Paint Roller

A sagging car roof lining is as a result of glue’s impotence. A steam cleaner helps in melting the glue, and it can stick back.

A steam cleaner goes hand in hand with a paint roller combo. The roller helps to spread the lining firmly to the board without leaving creases.

This method is most effective on sagging fabric at the edges and corners. However, if the glue is old and has been dry for long, this method may not work.

4. Using Sequin Pins

Pins are also efficient in fixing car roof lining without removing. When the fabric is sagging from the center, sequin pins are the most appropriate instead of glue.

They don’t require much money or time. Even if half of the roof lining is coming off, these pins can effectively push it back. However, they are not recommendable to use for large areas.

After straightening the fabric, push the pins through to the foam backing. You can arrange the pins in an appealing pattern as you wish.

5. Using a Double-sided Tape

You can buy this double-sided tape from any auto shop in your vicinity. It works by sticking it to the roof’s frame and the lining.

This tape is very adhesive in that it can hold the lining in place for months. It is preferable for severe damages on the sides and edges.

This method is, however, not recommendable. You can only use it as a temporary fix before utilizing a more excellent approach.

Simple Tips to Protect Your Car from Extreme Heat

Extreme heat is the leading cause of lining sagging in a vehicle. It melts the glue, making the fabric loose and thus detaching itself from the backing board.

As such, you need to take proper precautions. Otherwise, the heat will wreak havoc on your car’s interior and exterior finish.

Here are simple and affordable tips you can use:

  • Always park your car in the shade. Doing so protects your vehicle from direct sunlight. As a result, the exterior and interior does not dry or crack.
  • Always use a windshield sun protector. It helps in keeping the inside of your car cool and prevents sun damage.
  • Wax your car frequently. Waxing adds an extra layer to your car, thus protecting it from ultraviolet rays. Waxing varies from one car to another, but it is recommendable to do it often.
  • Install seat covers. They are an incredible way to protect the leather and fabric seats. Also, these covers help keep the car seats fresh.
  • Wash and dry your exterior and interior often. Sun and heat can gradually fade and crack your car’s paint. Frequently wash and hand dry to remove dirt and dust particles. Doing so protects the finish of your vehicle.

Keeping the car’s interior clean should also be paramount. It helps prevent some particles from melting.

How to Clean a Car Headliner

In any of the steps needed to clean your headliner, the most important aspect is to be gentle. If the headliner is damaged during cleaning, or the stains are simply too stubborn, replacing the headliner might be a better option.

Spot Clean

For minor stains, a minor cloth, soft brush, and upholstery cleaner may be sufficient to remove them. The most important aspect to this cleaning step is to avoid saturating the headliner, which can loosen the glue holding it all together.

You might need a specific cleaner, depending on the stain. Alcohol and lacquer thinner work well on oil-based stains, like ink, crayon, grease, and makeup. General upholstery cleaners work on water-based stains, like soda and coffee. You can even make your own general cleaner with white vinegar, liquid soap, and warm water.

First, use the dry cloth or soft brush to brush away any loose soil without rubbing the dirt deeper. Then, apply the upholstery cleaner to the cloth, dabbing the stain to moisten it without saturating it. This should start dissolving the stain so you can remove it with a dry section of the cloth, gently rubbing the stained area.

Surface Clean

For more general cleaning of the entire headliner, use a foaming upholstery cleaner and soft brush. Without saturating the headliner, spray the entire headliner—aerosols tend to work best—paying special attention to notably dirty areas. After letting the upholstery cleaner work into the surface soils, use the soft brush to lightly clean the surface of the headliner.

The trick here is to let the upholstery cleaner work, as this will limit the collateral damage that can come from overzealous spraying and scrubbing. You can always try again if the first time isn’t acceptably clean, but the gentler you are the more likely your headliner will survive. Allow plenty of time for drying before putting your car away.

Deep Clean

Deep-cleaning your car headliner is reserved for extremely dirty headliners and ones that have absorbed too much odor. It is also the most likely to ruin the headliner, which is why it should be considered a last resort. If the headliner starts to separate, you might have to fix a sagging headliner before it obstructs your visibility. For deep-cleaning your car headliner, use a steam cleaner and upholstery cleaning solution.

When using a steam cleaner, be sure to not saturate the headliner, as this can lead to failure of the glue holding it together. Work small sections at a time, spraying on solution and vacuuming up the remainder. Fabric steamers can also be used this way, pretreating with upholstery cleaner and steaming, then brushing and vacuuming.

When deep cleaning, be sure to allow for thorough drying time. Leaving your doors and windows open helps, as do fans. This will give the glue a chance to dry out before it fails and prevents mold and mildew growth.