Instructables

Car Headliner - Brand NEW using white glue for under $10

Picture of Car Headliner - Brand NEW using white glue for under $10
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Hello everybody. How many times have you used pushpins to keep up that annoying sagging headliner?

Guess what. With $10, a bottle of White Elmers glue, some fabric, a plastic bristle brush, and a screwdriver you can stop this headliner problem forever!

This is a one-page write up of how to repair your sagging headliner.
~ The pictures and vehicle I worked on was my 1988 Pontiac Fiero 2m4 ~ Bringing back the 80's baby! :)

1. Remove all ceiling devices; hangars, center dome light, sun visors, brake light cover(if applicable), and anything else that holds up the headliner. - Use your screwdriver for this step.

Some cars will have rubber trim holding up the headliner. In this scenario; you can remove one side of (door) trim and angle the headliner out of the car while keeping the other side of trim installed.

2.  Remove the headliner. The best way to do this is have both of the front seats in the down position. Angle the headliner out the rear passenger door. (If 2 door, out the front or trunk)

3.  Peel all old headliner material off the old headliner!

4.  Scrape the old glue off the headliner with the plastic bristle brush. This is a LENGTHY process. Can take 30-90 minutes depending on the type of material in your car. My headliner had both foam and glue. Took me nearly 2 hours! You should be very deliberate: Removing more old glue/material ensures your new headliner will last longer. (Like paining a car; preparation is 90% of the job!)
Be careful on this step. You do not want to ruin your fiberglass headliner.

5. New Headliner material - I used felt on my first headliner and cotton on my 2nd one. The pics are red felt. I purchased 2 yards of this stuff at JoAnn Fabrics for about $8. You can get fabric there or at Walmart. 2 yards should suffice for a car. Maybe 3 yards for a van or SUV. * If you are not sure, measure first* allow a few inches of extra for the edges to be stuffed under the trim

6.  Measurement - Lay your fabric on the headliner fiberglass board and do a rough measurement. You want your fabric to be slightly larger than your headliner.

7. Cut the fabric to size

GLUE - I have replaced 2 different headliners and used 2 different types of glue.
     8a.  Elmers White Glue - the stuff you used as a kid, cost about $1.70 for 20 ounces. This works well and you can apply generously!
     8b.  High Tack Spray Adhesive - typically found at Home Depot or Lowes (I used "Locktite" brand) This has a very strong chemical odor and is VERY sticky! Cost about $8-10 for a can.

Personally, I would go the Elmers White glue route. It is cheaper and easier to use. Easy clean up too!

9. GLUE - Actually glue the headliner to the fiberglass backer board. Be sure to smooth out any air bubbles. Be deliberate about how you lay the fabric down and smoothing out bubbles. The last thing you want is a new headliner with wrinkles! DO NOT RUSH THIS STEP! (Dry time on white glue is roughly 60 minutes)

10. Optional - Tape and/or Staple the leftover extra fabric to the backside of the headliner. (this would essentially be the part you can't see if you looked up while sitting in the car. The "ugly" side of the headliner.

11.  After the headliner is dry, get ready for installation. Double check to see all corners are firmly glued (and stapled) in place. Double check that you cut out holes where the sun visors and clothes hangers and dome light will go.

12. Install! - Enjoy your new headliner!
Put those pushpins back on the noteboard where they belong :)


Thank you for visiting my headliner write-up. Please take a minute to view my personal Gym Member Education website below. After 13 years working as a fitness professional I realize personal training is too expensive for the average person. My goal is to help the world learn how to exercise w/o prohibitive costs of personal training. I provide equal access to exercise education!

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ajensen271 month ago

can you brush it on or do you just squeeze it out of bottle onto the fabric/fiberboard(fiberglass)? BTW FYI I used the spray kind but only to recover an existing piece with new fabric for a color change(armrests door pillars and console covers) but I replaced the foam/fabric headliner on my ranger and used the spray kind again and it sagged in spots that I didn't completely clean off.

m0ose4 months ago

I put a navy blue felt headliner in my car using Elmers glue. It has been in the car for a month without problems. It has seen some freezing temperatures, but no hot days yet. In one spot I put the glue on too thick and it blead through. My bad.

TheGeniusCreates (author) 11 months ago
The headliner made it all summer. Plenty of hot days. Zero sag or droop. The Elmer's Glue worked. Save $ and skip the heavy duty high tack spray stuff. Elmer's glue is DIRT CHEAP with going back to school sales.....
TheGeniusCreates (author) 1 year ago
UPDATE: My car has seen a full week worth of sunny 80+ degree weather in Ohio. I am guessing my car interior bakes well over 110 degrees (windows up).
SO FAR SO GOOD! The headliner is perfect! :)
The problem with fixing headliners, at least here in the south, is the extreme summer heat. Temperatures of 140 plus degrees inside a car in full sun will make most glues and contact cements turn loose. I have never heard of anyone using a water based glue like Elmers. You may have really hit on something here. Has your Elmer's glue made it through a summer yet?
Hi biochemtronics,

I am sorry to hear the extreme heat ruins headliner replacements for you in the South. Lucky for me I live in Ohio, where the summer sun is not ridiculous.

I replaced the headliner in my Ford Escort with the Elmers Glue because 2 whole cans of high tack spray glue DID NOT WORK AT ALL (making me think WTF?)

Elmers was a backup! I will find out this summer if it goes well with heat. So far so good! :) I also threw a bunch of dryer sheets "into the ceiling" above the headliner to make it smell fresh. Just a little "mini-tip". Try it out tell me what you think!
When you used the spray glue, did you spray it on both the panel and the material? It works much better that way that just spraying one surface.
TheGeniusCreates (author)  etlerd1 year ago
etlerd,
Thank you for responding to my thread. I did spray the fabric on both the headliner and the fabric. I am guessing either the headliner had too much old glue residue or the new fabric was too pourous and unable to adhere properly.
FELT works great for headliner! That is what I used above in the Fiero; red felt! It is cheap too!