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Installing headliners.

Prepare the car by carefully removing the old headliner and all the tacks and staples. Remove the bows and number them from front to back, in order. Install the new windlace at this time. You will not be able to do this later. Headliners can be fastened in three methods. Your car should use one of them. If not, contact the supplier.

The three fastening methods are:

  • staples or
  • tacks, glue, or
  • tucking under a barbed strip;
The latter generally found on the sides of cars. Sometimes cars will use more than one fastening method in combination.

Now let's begin installing your new headliner. Find the front of your new headliner and insert the bows in the listings sewn into the backside of the headliner. Check in the center of the roof for a row of V-shaped prongs across the car. This is where the short bow will attach. If you do not have the V-prongs, skip the next step.

If you have the V-prongs, push them through the bow listing that corresponds with that location, starting in the middle and pulling slightly to the sides. Then bend the prongs in with a small hammer. Install the rest of the bows.

For those cars without V-prongs, begin with hanging the headliner by the bows. Then check the rear of the car to see if there are two short wires, one on each side above the rear window. These wires attach to the back bow.

After these wires are attached or after the center bow is attached begin pulling gently forward on the headliner in the center and fasten to the front tack strip or the front header. Working out from the center, pull the front of the headliner to the side, enough to flatten the fabric, and fasten from the center to the sides until you are about two inches from the corners.

Next, pull the rear of the headliner back in the center and fasten it to the tack strip below the rear window or to the rear header. Do not attempt to fasten to the rear window frame until the rear of the headliner is completely installed and the sides and front are completed.

By now your headliner should have many front to back wrinkles in it. Begin in the center (near the door post) and pull firmly to the side on each seam until the wrinkles disappear. Fasten only the seam and not the fabric in between the seams. You can work the material to each side by gently patting the material along the seams toward the outside edge. Pull the quarters diagonally into the corners of the car and fasten in place. Finish the rear quarters and trim off excess materials.

Push the headliner into the rear window ring and fasten at the center top and bottom, then work your way around the ring. You may have to cut a relief in the center of the fabric. Trim out excess fabric only after you are satisfied with the appearance. Put in the new package tray below the rear window.

Finish the sides over the doors with the wire-on included in the trim kit, if applicable. This gets stapled on and then folded down to hide the staples. Your new headliner is now complete.


Headliners, one piece.

A common problem with one-piece headliners is that they fall down or sag. The reason for this is that the foam that the fabric is bonded to is disintegrating, allowing the fabric to fall. Very annoying. The solution is to replace the fabric (or vinyl) with new, while using the existing shell to maintain the original shape of the headliner.

The first thing to do is remove the headliner. In most cases, you may use the following shortcut:
remove all hardware that bolts through the headliner, such as the visors, coat hooks, dome light, and sometimes the rear view mirror. Then, by grabbing the headliner by the dome light opening and patting toward the edge, move the headliner toward one corner of the vehicle, allowing the opposite sides to come out from the surrounding molding and dropping down slightly into the passenger area. With the dropped corner below the surround moldings, work the headliner back in the opposite direction, releasing the other two sides and allowing the headliner to drop out completely. You may also do this side to side and front to back if that is more comfortable for you.
You may now remove the headliner from the vehicle. You may accomplish this by sliding the headliner toward the rear of the car and dropping the front of it down below the steering wheel, then moving the headliner, front first, out the passenger door. It helps if you can recline the front seats a little when doing this.

With the headliner out of the car, you are now ready to remove the old covering. First, peel off the old fabric. You will see the disintegrating foam underneath. The easiest way I have found to remove this foam is with 36 or 40 grit sandpaper. I merely drag the sandpaper across the foam until it is gone. The old foam usually balls up and can be swept away. It is OK to leave the thinnest layer of foam (it will look like paper) on the shell. The main thing is to get the majority of it off and to have a smooth surface. If you have any cracks or holes that need repairing, you can use masking tape for that.

When your shell is prepared, you are ready to recover it. Begin by placing the new material on the shell and positioning it where you want it to end up. Then fold back half of it over the other half, exposing half the shell. Spray or brush contact cement on the exposed half of the shell and the backing of the exposed half of the headliner. Allow the glue to set up. You can test the glue by touching it, and when you no longer stick to the glue, it is ready.

Now roll the headliner fabric so that it begins to adhere to the shell. Then take the corners of the headliner fabric and flip the rest of the glued half over the shell, but do not allow it to touch. If you feel nervous about this procedure, you may place wax paper over the shell to prevent the glue from adhering. Of course, you must remove this before the headliner will stick to the shell, but it will help prevent you from sticking the fabric where you don't want it.

Now, while holding the corners, pull slightly toward each corner and then place the headliner fabric on the shell, smoothing from the center towards the corners. The gentle pulling towards the corners will help mold the fabric to the correct shape. When this half is complete, do the other half in the same manner.

Then trim the edges about 1/4 to 3/8" long. Cut out the holes for the dome light and sunvisors, and poke an awl through where the coat hooks go.

You can install the headliner the same way you took it out, making sure that it is properly aligned so that all the holes line up. I use an awl to find the holes. You might want to use a putty knife with the corners rounded to help tuck the edges under the surrounding moldings. I recommend that you use the fabric, rather than vinyl, because it is so much easier to shape, and it is lighter weight and less likely to fall down.

If all this seems like it is too much for you to tackle, then consider a conversion headliner. You will not have to remove your old headliner at all. The conversion headliner is made from the same foam-backed material as your original headliner. It has pockets sewn to the back of the headliner which metal support bows go through. These support bows slip in between the outer plastic molding which surrounds your headliner and the original headliner, itself. The edges merely tuck behind the outer plastic molding (use putty knife with rounded corners for this). You will still have to remove and replace the sunvisors, dome light and coat hooks, and maybe the rear view mirror, but the entire installation takes only about a half an hour and does not require any glue. The difference in appearance is that there are a few seams that go side to side, and the headliner will look like the old style headliners rather than the molded type. Some people think that they look better this way.

contributed by Fryer's Auto Upholstery