How to repair a fabric car headliner

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A 3D computer-rendered image of an old car driving down a dark street.

It was a dark, mysterious night, largely because his car's fabric headliner had sagged, covering his eyes like a shroud. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Lucas Benjaminh Krech/Light Cue 23)

Visibility is of singular importance when operating a motor vehicle. When a car’s fabric headliner sags down into the driver’s eyes while the vehicle is rolling down the highway, particularly at night, the results can be disastrous. Rather than driving blind, here’s how to repair a car headliner the right way.

Bad foam? You need a repair shop

This isn’t entirely a DIY affair, unless you’re licensed and certified to fix such things. It his highly advisable to take your vehicle in so that a trained technician can remove the old cloth and foam and replace it. This will likely cost somewhere between $75 and $250, depending upon your vehicle. With such a professional service, you’ll usually get a year’s guarantee on the work and a lifetime warranty on the materials.

Good ceiling? Give it a go

If the foam padding does not appear to be damaged, however, you may be able to pull off this car ceiling upholstery repair yourself. Remove the saggy fabric. If you are uncomfortable with pulling off the trim completely to do this job, it is possible to cut along the edges. Do so carefully, as messing up will result in an ugly car interior and possibly injury.

Poke and glue

Now that you have the fabric (or new fabric, if the old was too torn and soiled to be presentable) ready for replacement, it’s time to get the fabric in its proper place, pre-gluing. Make sure it fits into the trim and that all holes for ceiling lights and clothing hangers are in their proper place.

When you’re ready to glue and press the ceiling back into its proper place, poke a small hole int he fabric near the back of the ceiling. Open your vehicle’s windows for ventilation, insert the tip of a spray glue like 3M Hi-Tack Spray Adhesive 76 (what eHow recommends) in the hole in the fabric and spray like crazy in the space between the fabric and the foam. Do it this way so that you don’t mess up the glue while putting the fabric back in place, and so you don’t get glue on the interior of your vehicle. Let the glue sit for 30 seconds before you push the cloth ceiling cover back up.

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Using the right kind of tacks

Straight thumbtacks are never advisable, for the reason given above. The foam padding will deteriorate. If you use the type of cloth tacks called twist pins – which you can find at fabric shops – you can add stability to the fabric headliner. Cover the entire ceiling with twist pins.

If it’s worse than that and you’re feeling adventurous

If it’s worse that you feared and still don’t want to just have a professional do it, then you have to do a few things. Take out the entire headliner and all the press board foam. Pull it down, and scrub off anything that sticks. Glue the new cloth over the framework as previously described, and cut holes for the interior lights and clothing hanger attachments. Then reinstall the headliner with all edging gear, plus the pieces for the interior light that you took off.

How to repair your car’s headliner




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