When a vehicle’s headliner sags, it’s time to replace it. Here’s how.
UpholsteryJournalMag.com | December 7, 2011
Story & photos by Marshall Spiegel
If the headliner in your customer’s vehicle rests on his head and obstructs his vision, it’s a hint that it’s time for a new headliner. The adhesive that used to hold the headliner taut and in place has dried and no longer bonds the fabric to the fiberglass headliner board.
In a feeble attempt to save some bucks, do-it-yourself-minded vehicle owners will try a variety of ineffective methods to keep the fabric from drooping and messing up their hair, including using duct tape and injecting adhesive with a hypodermic needle through the hanging fabric. The only viable choice is to drive directly to a professional upholstery shop.
The time-honored technique for installing a new headliner into a traditional vehicle with a fiberglass headliner board is relatively simple. First, remove all of the stock fixtures that are installed through the headliner fabric and headliner board into the ceiling—dome light, clothes hangers, air vents and pillar covers—so the headliner board can be dropped from the ceiling. Then the tired headliner fabric is peeled off the board. The board is scraped clean of the old, dried adhesive. Fresh spray adhesive is applied generously to the headliner board, and new headliner fabric is bonded to the board. The ceiling fixtures are re-installed and the new headliner board is secured.
Sounds easy when you say it fast, huh? Well, upholstery shop owners know it isn’t that easy. The more fixtures through the headliner into the ceiling, the more difficult the installation becomes.
To prove the point, Aaron Aguirre of Bud’s Upholstery in Long Beach, Calif., takes us through a headliner replacement in a 1996 Chrysler Town & Country minivan, a vehicle blessed or cursed—depending on your point of view—with numerous ceiling fixtures.
Headliner replacement: start to finish
The headliner began to fall just to the left of the driver’s head position. The owner brought it in for replacement immediately, before it got worse. Inset: At 15 years old, the 1996 Chrysler Town & Country was still in good shape when it arrived at Bud’s Upholstery for a new headliner.
Trimmer Aaron Aguirre begins the job by removing the passenger side sun visor, a deluxe fixture fitted with a light that also required disconnecting the electrical wiring. Aguirre then removes the stock overhead console, which is also fitted with lights to further complicate the job by requiring that the wiring be disconnected. He then removes the stock plastic covers on the front columns.
The headliner board is placed on a work table, fabric side up, so that the fabric can be peeled off and the old glue scraped away. Before stripping off the fabric, Aguirre must remove the air vents that are fitted into the headliner board.
He then begins peeling off the old headliner fabric. Aguirre’s technique for removing the fabric from the headliner board is to first carefully peel the fabric away from the edges of the board. He manages to peel the old fabric off the board in one piece, leaving no slivers.
When he is satisfied that the board is properly covered with the headliner fabric, Aguirre puts the board back into the interior of the vehicle to install it. Beginning with the dome light, Aguirre reinstalls all of the ceiling fixtures and reconnects the electrical wiring. He then gets the headliner board in permanent position flush to the ceiling, and reinstalls the stock plastic pillar covers, the visors, the overhead console and all electrical wiring. Then the lighted air-vent fixtures with grab handles are reinstalled.