How to Fix a Car Headliner Using Five Easy Methods

how to fix car headliner

A sagging headliner can not only cause panic to set in, but is also certainly not a good look for your car and you!

The headliner may sag for a couple of reasons, including the effect of time on the car. 

After a while, the headliner adhesive may start to come off, and it’s helpful to know how to fix it when that happens!

While the hope is for the headliner to stick to the foam backing board during the car's lifetime, that just might not be the case. 

If you’re someone who has owned their car for a while and wants to know how to make this simple repair, this article is for you. 

It’s extra valuable if you want to know how to fix things cheaply, so you don’t have to spend the extra money to get this simple repair done by a professional.

We’ll show you how to repair a sagging car headliner, as well as the preventative care and the tools you need to finish the job. Let’s get into it!

Tools and Materials for the Job

FIX A CAR HEADLINER

Repairing a sagging headliner will require a few tools. 

Some of them you’ll already have lying around, while others are specific things you’ll need to purchase from a hardware or auto parts store. Here’s a list of things you’re going to need:

Headliner Adhesive

Headliner adhesive does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin and is used for adhering the headliner fabric to the foam board inside your car. 

There are a wide variety of headliner adhesives, but they all work largely the same. 

Fabric

You’ll need fabric for the headliner itself. You can use the existing headliner if it is still intact, or you can replace it if this is damaged or stained.

Scissors

You’ll need scissors to cut the headliner fabric! You probably already have these; it’s even better if you have fabric shears. 

Bristle Brush or Light Sandpaper

A bristle brush or light sandpaper is going to be very useful for removing the old adhesive from the headliner board to create a smoother, fresher finish. 

How to Fix a Car Headliner

How to Fix a Car Headliner

Repairing or replacing a car headliner is a pretty straightforward exercise if there isn’t a great deal of damage or wear and tear. 

In this section, we’ll take you through the steps for this simple repair so you can get it done in an afternoon:

Remove the Headliner 

First of all, you will need to remove all of the interior trim that holds the headliner to the car’s ceiling. 

Then, after removing everything that holds the headliner in place, you will need to remove the headliner board from the car’s interior.

Take the headliner board to a workbench, a table, or any other flat surface, and peel the headliner off. 

It shouldn’t be too much of an issue and should come free fairly easily! Be steady and gentle so as not to damage the headliner fabric. 

Cleaning the headliner Board

You will need a fresh surface for the headliner adhesive to stick to, so it’s important to clean the headliner board of any remaining glue. 

Using a light sandpaper or a firm bristle brush, simply scrape or scrub away the remaining adhesive to leave a clean surface to work on later.

Cutting the New Fabric to Size

Lay your headliner board on top of your new fabric and mark out the new size of the liner and any spaces for trim. Leave a few inches around the edges and don’t cut the trim spaces just yet, as it will be easier to remove them accurately once the headliner is affixed to the board. 

Applying Adhesive to the Headboard 

Apply your adhesive to the now clean headboard. Follow any and all instructions listed on the package to ensure the best results. 

Attaching the new headliner to the board

Attach the new headliner to the board and firmly adhere to it. Make sure it lies flat and has full contact with every part of the board. You will need to leave the adhesive time to stick, and once again, make sure it is completely stuck to the board with no ripples or folds in the headliner. 

Final Cutting the headliner

With a blade or a pair of scissors, cut the headliner up to the edge of the headliner board and the spaces for any trim to attach to. You now have a fresh headliner attached to your headliner board.

Reinstall the Headliner board

Reinstall the headliner board, following the steps you took to remove it in reverse. 

Tips for successful headliner repair

While the step-by-step of removing and replacing a headliner is pretty easy, there are a few key tips and tricks to make the project smoother, safer, and better. 

Work in a well-ventilated area

Headliner adhesive can give off some unpleasant fumes, so be sure to work in a well-ventilated area like outdoors, or in a shed or garage with plenty of airflow. 

Let the adhesive dry completely before reattaching the headliner board

If the headliner adhesive isn’t fully dry, the headliner can sag under the weight of gravity and you’ll be back to square one with the same problem you started with! 

Use a heat gun to form the headliner to the headliner board

A heat gun can help soften up the headliner fabric and the glue and make it adhere to the headliner board more easily and keep its shape. 

Be careful not to hold the gun too close or leave it in one place too long, otherwise you may damage the headliner or warm the headliner board.

Professional Headliner Repair

Headliner repair is one of the most straightforward DIY tasks any car owner can undertake! 

As long as you’re able to secure the right material and aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty, you’ll have a spick-and-span headliner in no time.

Getting in touch with pros who know their stuff is always a great idea. You can rest assured that your headliner repair will go without a hitch, and you won’t even have to go through the hassle of doing it yourself! 

Professional assistance is a wise choice for busy people who just don’t have the time. Since a botched headliner repair could be costly, it’s also ideal for car owners who would rather save themselves the anxiety of carrying it out correctly.

Professional headliner repair costs do vary depending on several factors such as your car make and model, the repair shop itself, and the material. 

However, you can expect to shell out upwards of $100 for a repair. It’s not uncommon to see quotes reaching around $300 or more!

With many places offering professional repair, it can be challenging to identify what suits you best. 

Consider primarily your budget and the reputation or reviews of the repair shop you’re eyeing. Knowing how long they’ve been in the business can also be a significant deciding factor.

It’s important to determine what goes into the bill. How much is the material? What about the installation? Getting these things pinned from the get-go will help you compare options properly! 

Maintenance and Protection for your Headliner

Protecting your headliner will prevent you from having to make this repair very often. It’s easy enough to save yourself work by following these simple steps: 

Regular Cleaning 

Wax Your Car Frequently

If you know how to wax your car, this will be an easy one!

If the wax is the first layer before you get to the car headliner, there will ultimately be less need for repairs. 

The extra layer protects the car headliner from UV rays and acts like sunscreen for your headliner. 

Avoid Common Causes of Headliner Damage

Stop Parking in the Sun

There are some situations where the only available parking spot is out in the sun. 

UV rays are not very friendly to the car's interior parts, as the heat melts the glue holding together the headliners and the roof lining. 

Before you know it, you’ll have a sagging headliner that requires repair! You may even end up having to replace the whole headliner.

Windshield Sun Protector

While parking away from the sun is a good idea, the earth rotates and the sun changes position (as I’m sure you’re already aware of). 

If you’ve parked under the only tree in the parking lot, the shadow may soon disappear. Therefore, having a windshield sun protector will save your headliner in the long run!

The thing with UV rays is that it has nothing to do with direct sunlight; that’s why you still need sunscreen on you even on a cloudy day.

The windshield sun protector will go a long way to protect the car seats, dashboard, and headliner.

Checking for Early Signs of Wear and Tear

Check the Headliner frequently for any Signs.

Headliners do not sag out of the blue. It starts with small parts coming off, and the problem graduates to other parts. 

The vehicle will eventually experience a sagging headliner because you did not catch it at the right time.

Check around areas around the rearview mirror, doors, and roof lights for telltale signs. These areas will come off first because it’s rare to find a headliner sagging from the center!

Cars are not easy to maintain if you let a problem move to the next stage. When you glue the parts that are coming off, the liner will likely be able to stay in place for months or years.

Final Take

Cars need a lot of maintenance, and it can be frustrating when dealing with large jobs like painting the exterior or replacing an entire headliner. 

The best thing to do is to have good habits that prevent the headliner from sagging in the first place!

However, if the headliner sags, there are certain steps you can undertake to keep you going for a while longer. 

The best thing to do for the car is to replace the whole headliner if the damage is extensive. However, if you catch a defect early enough, you can likely save the headliner.