How to Fix a Sagging Headliner in Car

Noticing a sagging headliner whilst driving can be annoying and it’s daunting to know your car is slowly deteriorating. Just because your headliner is sagging, doesn’t mean that you need to get it repaired or get your car replaced, it simply means that your headliner is slowly coming off and you need to do something to stop it. A sagging headliner is common in older cars or cars that have been on the road for a number of years. It’s just a normal sign of wear.

If you’re not sure what your headliner actually does, it’s a crucial piece of fabric that keeps your car’s interior together. The headliner is the piece of fabric above your head that’s secured to the roof of your car. This fabric is consistent around the whole car and it can give your car’s interior a nice smooth texture. The headliner helps to absorb sounds waves when your speakers are too loud, and it stops it from leaking outside. The fabric also helps to trap heat within your car so on a cold day, you feel the cold a lot less than if there were no headliners.

If you’ve had your car for a long time, it’s common for it to sag and become loose from the roof of your car. Because it’s part of your car’s aesthetics, chances are you want to get it secured to the roof as quickly as possible. If you tend to drive it in extreme conditions like hot weather, it’s common to get a sagging headliner. This happens when air gets trapped in between the fabric and the foam board. Due to the hot weather, the air expands causing the headliner to become loose from the top of your car.

How to Fix a Sagging Headliner

Tip: If you’re not confident in car repair, this may not be for you. There are ways to get a headliner back onto the roof without removing it and that’s a better option if you’re not sure what you’re doing. If you’re a mechanic, and have experience with car repair, taking the headliner off just so you can repair it shouldn’t be a problem for you.

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1. Disconnect Car – Before you do anything, you need to make sure that your car is turned off and that the negative battery terminal is disconnected. In order to completely get the headliner off, you may need to remove the right passenger seat.

2. Remove the trim. Then remove the visors, grab handles at either side, the lamps, and anything else attached to the top of the car. Then, you’ll need to remove the seat belt mounts and pull the trim panels back just to have access the edge of the headliner. If you aren’t able to get to the edge of the headline, you’ll need to remove the trim fully to gain access. However, this usually isn’t needed.

Next, you’ll need to lower one side of the panel and slide it all the way down to the end to expose the whole edge of the headliner. If you fully removed the trims, then this step won’t be necessary. Once you’ve exposed the edge of the headliner, completely take off the panel and remove it from the vehicle.

3. Remove the Fabric – place the headliner panel somewhere else to work with. Then, pull the old fabric from the board. There’s adhesive so it won’t be easy to get this off the board. If the foam backing is too strong and isn’t allowing you to pull the fabric off, you can use something to rub the foam backing until it’s loose. Once you’ve removed it, you should see foam bits remain on the backing board. In this case, you’ll need to vacuum these bits off.

4. Install a New Headliner Fabric – if the board is rough after removing the old fabric, you’ll need to cover up the roughness and this can be done using aluminium tape (View on Amazon). Once you have your new headliner fabric ready, you can lay the fabric over the board. To help you secure it properly, you can pull half of it back over itself. Then, spray some headliner adhesive glue (View on Amazon) on the board and the fabric. For the fabric that was pulled back over itself, carefully start laying it down from the center to the end using your hand. With the other half that’s been laid down but not secured, you need to start with your hand, smoothing it down from the center making sure that half of the fabric is secured.

5. Trim Up Edge of Fabric – You’ll need to fold over the front and rear edges of the fabric and glue them to the edge of the board on the other end, making sure that the fabric leaks an inch over the edge of the board. Then, you’ll need to cut the sides of the edges to make sure that they’re neat on the board. At this stage, you’ll need to cut out appropriately sized holes so that the sun visor, seatbelt mounts, and handle mounts can be placed back on the headliner.

6. Put the headliner back onto the car – You’ll need to take the previous steps and reverse them in order to get the headliner back into the trims. You’ll need to start with one edge of the trim panels and secure the headliner into here making sure the rest of the headliner is resting over the edge of the other trims. Here, you’ll need to secure the headliner into the other trims.

Then, reinstall the seat belt mounts, handle mounts, and the sun visors as will as the lamps. Brush over the headliner lightly to get rid of any marks of fingerprints.

How to Fix a Sagging Headliner without Removing it

If you’re not experienced with car repair and you don’t want to risk damaging your cars headliner as well as all the accessories on the roof of your car, then you can attempt to secure the droopy headliner back in place without removing it.

Using Glue

The first way to get your headliner secured back in place is to use glue also known as headliner adhesive (View on Amazon). If the sagging isn’t too severe, then glue should do the trick. For headliners that are sagging too much, this may not work. Here, you’ll need to apply the adhesive in the areas of the headliner that have come off. A spray can adhesive is also a good option in this case because it’ll distribute the glue evenly. If the adhesive didn’t stick the headliner down, you can use a different type of glue.

Use Pins to Hold it Up

If glue didn’t manage to stick your headliner down, then you can use pins (View on Amazon) to stick the headliner back in place. This fix doesn’t require much time or money, but it can be effective when it comes to securing your headliner. You’ll need to get hold of some sequin pins or anything that you think will be effective and push them into the foam board the headliner is secured onto. The downside to using this method as a way to secure your headliner is that it can be an eyesore. You can lay down the pins in a way that looks pleasing if you’re concerned about this.

Clear Headed Pins

Another way to stop headliner is to use twist pins (View on Amazon). This is a cost-effective way to get your headliner back in place, just like the pins. When you secure the pins to the foam board above the headliner, it won’t cause damage to it like the pins will and the stoppers can be visually pleasing whereas the pins can look tacky and ruin the interior aesthetics of your car.

Use a Steam Cleaner

Since your headliners come off due to the glue on the foam board losing its stickiness, you can attempt to revive the glue’s stickiness by using a steam cleaner. A steam cleaner will melt the glue securing the headliner to the board and this can revive the glue stickiness. When you use the steam cleaner on the headliner, you can use a paint roller and glide it over the headliner to make sure that the headliner is secured using the glue. When using the paint roller, you need to make sure that no wrinkles are created in the headliner.

Double Sided Tape

Another thing you can use when the headliner won’t secure to the board is double-sided tape (View on Amazon). This tape is sticky on both sides meaning that you can attach one side to the headliner and the other to the foam board. Make sure to evenly distribute the tape around the board making sure that each part of the sagging headliner gets secured to the board.

Headliner Still Sagging?

If your headliner is still sagging, then it looks like the adhesive has completely lost its stickiness and the new adhesive that you’ve tried on it doesn’t work. If you don’t like the look or the method of the pins, it’s understandable why. Since nothing else has managed to stick down the headliner, you’ll need to take it to a workshop and get them to handle it. In the workshop, they’ll remove the headliner from the back board and apply new headliner adhesive. This will ensure that your headliner gets stuck down properly. The costs to get your headliner fixed isn’t too bad. The average price in a local repair shop will cost around $200 to $350.

Stop Headliner Sagging Again

If you’ve managed to stop your headliner from sagging by using the methods above, you’ll need to do some regular maintenance to make sure that it doesn’t sag again. The headliner often starts to sag after a period of bad handling or a lack of care. Another reason why it can sag is due to wetness so if you’re getting the inside of your car wet periodically, then you’ll need to stop because it’s affecting your adhesive.

Making sure that the headliner is cleaned periodically will prevent dirt from getting underneath the adhesive and affective the glue. Dirt can also degrade the headliners material. Make sure not to clean the headliner more than what you already need to unless excessive water can damage the adhesive used to stick it down.

To clean the headliner for minor stains, wipe the dirty spot using a cloth. If the stain is stubborn, you need an upholstery safe cleaner and apply a small dab to the microfibril cloth. Then, work the cloth into the stain on the headliner. Make sure to use the dry part of the cloth to reach excess moisture on the headliner. You’ll need to check if the stain can come off. If it didn’t, you’ll need to use a toothbrush and apply some of the cleaner onto it. From here, you can scrub the stain off the headliner making sure to use the cloth afterwards to get rid of moisture. If you do this periodically when the headliner gets dirty, you won’t have to worry about the headliner’s fabric being damaged from dirt.