Does your favorite old classic car have a sagging headliner? Well, you are not alone. Many old cars pre-year 2000 have this issue. Not only does it look horrible it is actually a safety issue that could obstruct your vision if it all falls down.
What actually has happened is the glue that manufacturers use is starting to get old and brittle. The foam that is between the fabric and the pressed cardboard liner has turned into dust and as such has lost its adhesive properties. Cars parked and left outside in the hot sun are more susceptible to this problem.
If your headliner is only peeling in a corner you can use a product called 3m headliner and fabric adhesive. The easy fix is to spray this into the corner of the peeling part. Use a detailing roller or a credit card to squeeze in the fabric into the 3M headliner spray. This will fix your problem.
In this post, we are going to show you how to fix your car roof lining without removing it.
Table of Contents
Sagging Headliner Repair Easy Fix Glue
If it’s only a small section of the vinyl fabric peeling off the ceiling of your car you can fix it with the 3M Headliner spray glue shown. Only use the 3M spray, not hot glue, super glue, silicone, wood glue, or contact cement. All of these products will seep through the fabric and look ugly.
Make sure to use a small wire brush to clean the small section you are wanting to stick down. Usually, over time the glue that the original manufacturers had used has started to turn into a powder and react with the vinyl or fabric headliner. This original old car headliner glue has now lost its bonding capabilities and down comes your car ceiling.
You may have to pull off some car trim or even get out the screwdriver and take apart the sun visors and light fittings depending on where the sagging has started.
Spray a short burst of the new car headliner repair glue to fully cover the area to stick down. Spray it on both sides and leave it to dry for a few minutes.
Use a vinyl roller or a credit card to stick down the fabric. You may have to pull the fabric to fit it into position.
If the whole car roof headliner is sagging then you are up for a little more work but don’t worry it’s only going to cost you a few hours of your time and a bottle of 3m headliner adhesive.
How to remove your car headliner – The proper way
The hard part is working out where all the bolts are hidden in your vehicle. Most car headliners are held in place by the trim, sun shades, light fittings, and the rear vision mirror.
Start by using a small screwdriver to remove all the screw covers in each item. It’s usually a good idea to wrap a layer of tape on the screwdriver blade to stop any scratches when lifting out the bolt covers.
Slowly lift out the fabric and pressed cardboard headliner and lay it down in an area when we can get to work and make some dust. Peel off the old fabric and get yourself a strong bristle brush or for the tougher glue and foam, a wire brush works best.
What we need to do is rub off all of the old foam and glue. This can be a time-consuming process but it’s very simple, just very messy. It’s a good idea to wear a dust mask due to the fine dust particles you will make. We need to rub off any old loose powdered glue.
Once the pressed cardboard is rubbed down clean of all the old foam and glue, it’s time to get some new fabric. You can reuse the old fabric to make the project cheaper. If you do use the old original fabric you will also need to rub off any loose glue and foam off it.
It is very hard to do a headliner repair without removing the whole thing/
How to apply the headliner fabric adhesive
Now we are ready to apply the 3M headliner fabric adhesive. It’s always a good idea to read the instruction on the back of the spray can. With a 30 to 60-minute dry time, you have plenty of time to work.
First, completely cover the whole of the old foam/cardboard headliner with the 3m spray. I mean completely cover it left to right then up and down with the spray can. The 3m spray is white when it comes out of the can so it’s easy to see that you have covered the whole area.
One can is fine for a small car like my 1997 Toyota Corolla. For larger station wagons and 4 wheel drives like the Jeep Cherokee its best to get 2 cans to make sure you can cover the headliner properly.
Place the new fabric, or the old cleaned fabric onto the glued headliner. Use the nylon roller or an old credit card to press the fabric into the shape of the headliner. Make sure to get into every corner to drive out any trapped air. We don’t want any sagging fabric.
You will have some time to work so if you find that you have a small crease or an air pocket, just lift the fabric and reposition.
Check out the video below for a quick 3-minute explanation on headliner removal and fabric repair on a Mitsubishi Magna.
3M Headliner Adhesive spray Specs
- Product Number: 3M-38808
- Manufacturer: 3M Company
- An exceptional strength adhesive which can bond heavyweight automotive materials.
- Versatile spray formula effectively bonds fabric, foam, and plastic to metal and wood.
- Aerosol can dispense controlled, even layer on any irregular surfaces.
- World-famous product for headliners, carpets, and other fabrics in vehicles.
- The formula dries in 30 to 60 minutes
- Resists the deteriorating effects of moisture, humidity, heat, cold, and other environmental conditions that will last the test of time.
- Bond Foam to MDF for 1 or 2 sided applications
- Temperature resistance 170°F or 50°C
3M Headliner Specially designed to permanently bond new or damaged automotive headliners. The fast-drying formula does not dissolve polyurethane foam; it will not discolor most headliner fabrics.
How much does headliner repair cost?
It can cost anywhere between $150 to $500 to repair a headliner depending on the make and model of the car. Age of the vehicle, material size, and labor charges also play a factor in the total cost.
DIY Headliner repair tips
At the end of the day for a very professional headliner repair that you can do it yourself, it’s best to use new fabric. Just take a sample cutting off your old car trim to any fabric shop and they will have something that matches.
For a very small patch, you can you Fabri fuse fabric glue which we have reviewed earlier on and it works very well on the corner patch of a friend’s door trim.
Don’t take shortcuts and use substandard glue. The best is the 3M Headliner adhesive followed by Permatex Headliner and carpet adhesive. This is if you have difficulty getting the 3M stuff.
It is important to follow the instructions closely. If the can says spray both sides and let it dry then do it. Many people have had bad results by only spraying one side. Also. shake the can very well to mix it all up. Remember to wear gloves and a dust mask for safety.
Sagging headliner pins
Another option for those that would like a quick headliner fix is to use those Repair Rivet Buttons. They come in different colors so I’m sure there is one color that will suit them. I haven’t used them yet but many say they work well.
These are great for a headliner repair without removing it. Makes life easy. Just be sure to space them out evenly.
Let us know in the comments below how you went about fixing your sagging headliner.
I am a qualified Industrial Electrician for the past 20 years and I love to share my knowledge on home repair and maintenance jobs.
I love fast toys like Motorcycles, Cars, Jetskis, Boats, and Computers so writing about them is easy. Working on them is fun.
To keeps costs down I do all my own mods, repairs, and servicing. These skills I want to share with everyone. DIY is a skill everyone can learn.
A quicker, easier and cleaner way to remove the crusty old foam is to heat it up with a hairdryer on full blast and just peel it off. No mess, no dust, and no sticky or crusty glue residue on the headliner. DO NOT use a heat gun, you’ll set it on fire!
I did the roof of my Mercedes SLK in about an hour with no more effort than waving the hairdryer about!
Thanks for the info about headliner sagging. My car has a sagging headliner. I’ll look for an auto service that can fix the headliner for my car.