Sagging headliners are something we have all experienced at some point in our driving lives.
We’ve compiled a selection of the top tips to fix a sagging headliner for you, and put together a little FAQ section at the end.
What is a headliner and what causes it to sag?
Headliners are also known as the headlining of a car’s interior. It is the fabric attached to the roof, giving the interior a nice appearance. Headliners are also designed to reduce noise and help insulate the air in the car.
As the car ages and the interior is exposed to all kinds of moisture, the glue that is used begins to dissolve. This can cause the fabric to separate from the backing board it is attached to. This is what is known as a sagging headliner.
Often it can be fixed at home and we have put together the best hacks for this below. If it is left to deteriorate it can obscure your field of vision, in which case you will need to have it removed and fixed.
If you are applying anything adhesive, ensure the surface of the backing board is clean and dry.
It is wise to remove the central cabin light in your car. This allows the headliner to fall in place more easily and allows you more space to work in. This also gives the security that you will not get adhesive in the wrong places.
If the headliner is sagging towards the front of the car, remove the sun visor so that the edges are exposed. This allows you to stretch out the fabric more evening.
This is a good fix to use for short-term solutions and in cases where the headliner is sagging around the edges.
Stick one side of the double-sided tape onto the packaging board, covering as much of the area as possible. Uncover the other side and press the fabric of the headliner flat against the backing board. Push to secure.
Gluing the headliner back together
Glue can be used in place of double-sided tape for a stronger result. The principle and method are the same, but this fix will likely last slightly longer.
Some people prefer to use hot glue, but we recommend using a specialist adhesive spray that you will find in DIY and auto shops. This will give a more even coverage than hot glue.
If you want a more refined finish, remove the backing board from the car and pull off the fabric. Clean completely of old glue then spray on some adhesive. Lay flat on top and press down. Allow to dry completely before reinstalling in your car.
Staples and hairspray method
If you have a staple gun lying about your house, this may be the hack for you! Hold the sagging fabric where it is meant to be, and simply staple to the backing board.
Spray the fabric with hairspray and leave in a well-ventilated area with the doors open to dry. When the hairspray dries it will act as an adhesive and you will be able to remove the staples.
This is very quick and cheap but will not last forever.
Pinning the sagging headliner back up
If pins are more your style, you can use ordinary thumbtacks to hold the sagging headliner in place.
You can even use bright colors and make fun patterns to amuse your kids on long car rides.
Using clear-headed twist pins
Also known as ‘saggy stoppers’ these are pins with a clear plastic head and a corkscrew needle. They are cheap and easy to use. They are designed for upholstery and will not damage your car.
The clear design makes them invisible to passengers in your car. These are also much more secure than regular thumbtacks.
Paint roller and steam cleaner combo
This method works as it uses heat from the steam cleaner to melt and reintroduce water to the glue on the headliner. Once it has melted, run a new clean paint roller over the surface of the fabric following the path of the steam cleaner. This will help the fabric to lay flat and smooth.
Beware not to heat the glue too much with the steam cleaner as it can shrink or burn the headliner fabric. This will not work if the original adhesive has dried out a lot.
If you do not have a steam cleaner, a hairdryer will work just as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long will these fixes hold for?
Re-melting and fixing the adhesive, or adding new spray adhesive can last for up to a year. Other methods vary, but none will be a long-term solution.
To prolong the fix period, keep your car parked in the shade and keep it dry. You can also install a windshield and window sun protectors to keep the interior of the car cool. Regular cleaning will also keep the car in working condition for as long as possible.
How much does it cost to replace the headliner?
The cost of replacement headliners varies depending on the car size and manufacturer. At an auto shop, for a standard 4-door sedan it will be in the region of $180, and an SUV/minivan will be around $350.
Auto dealers tend to charge a premium, and the cost varies between $650 and $850.
Can I use regular fabric for the headliner?
It is important to use a lightweight fabric when reupholstering your vehicle’s headliner. Standard fabrics are suede, vinyl, and other synthetic materials. They are backed by foam, but you must ensure you scrape all the old foam off the backing board before reupholstering.
You can use more non-traditional fabrics but these require more work. You must attach it to ⅛ inch foam rubber sheeting with a spray adhesive. Take care not to create air pockets in the process of sticking the fabrics together. This will give you a totally unique interior that everyone will be very jealous of!