Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Best adhesive for re-attaching headliner cloth?

My 2004 BMWs have sort of a soft thin felt lining the inside of the pillars and roof. It is starting to fall down. The cloth is attached to what appears to be smooth Styrofoam…

I first tried 3M spray headliner adhesive. Followed directions carefully. It went on beautifully and looked perfect…for two weeks until the cloth fell off again.

Then I used 3M Emblem and Trim Adhesive. It soaked through the cloth so you can easily see where each dab of glue is. It does not look good, but that patch of headliner is still securely attached a year later.

I have several more spots of headliner coming down now. Is there a better solution?

I can only think of one - replace the headliner.


The 3M stuff is some of the best stuff on the market. If that didn’t work, I don’t know what would.

I can only imagine that maybe you didn’t clean off the fuzzies on each surface and the 3M let loose? If there isn’t a clean surface that won’t just pull loose, it won’t hold. Try again, maybe?

1 Like

Call a few auto trim shops. You might find it might reasonable to have it replaced.

I recall some pros discussing headliner fixes and one thing they said is that the foam breaks down over time. So regluing the material to it often doesn’t work because the next layer of the foam just lets go.


I think the reason the adhesive didn’t work is that the foam is crumbling. No adhesive will work, especially now that the cloth has been contaminated with an adhesive.

If you’re not worried about the appearance, or if you can do it in an interesting symmetrical pattern, you could try standard office staples from a standard office stapler in the open position. I know it’s a hack solution, but it’s what I did on my car.

The only other solution I can recommend is to take the vehicle(s) to a body shop for a proper repair.

Yup you gotta just replace it. 3M heavy duty contact spray is the stuff to use but if the material is crumbling, nothing will work. My auto upholstery guy said he guarantees headliners to the first stop. I’ve done a couple replacements with no problems but it is a little work. You can buy matching material from auto upholstery supply places or Atrim out of Oklahoma.

1 Like

You have to prep the surface first to get the best adhesion. If you did remove the loose stuff, including old adhesive, then try after prepping the surface again.

I’ve heard from a friend of mine he sanded headliner and painted it with a textured paint like this

The upside: this thing will hold very well, can be cleaned easily.

The downside: it is relatively hard coating, so headliner will loose some of its intended sound dampening properties.

The headliner is usually glued to a piece of cardboard like material. The best results come by completely removing that cardboard piece from the car, then prepping and gluing a new piece of headliner fabric on the work bench. What’s involved to do this depends on the car, but often involves removing some or all of the seats. With hatchbacks sometimes you can wiggle it out the back without removing the seats. In any event you’ll definitely have to remove all of the foam rubber material from the cardboard before attempting to glue another headliner on. You should actually glue a new piece of the foam rubber material on before the headliner material, if you want to achieve the way it looked when new. I’ve used the product 3M-38808 Headliner And Fabric Adhesive for temporary headliner fixes, but have never replaced an entire headliner myself.

Here’s a vdo how to do it on a hatch-back, They use a DAP spray adhesive and a pro trim adhesive.

Pretty good video actually. Pretty much covers it but try a few different ways to clean the old glue off. Seems to me a scrapper worked better for me. One thing I don’t understand though is why they would do the video for “porpuses” and not people?

I had 2 headliners done in the last year

On my Camry, it cost about $220. The shop took a few hours to do it, and the results are good. The color and material are a perfect match for the sunvisors, which are also cloth covered and were not redone. A good reference point, I think

I live in Los Angeles, undoubtedly an area with a high labor rate, so it might be less for you, depending on your location. If your car has a sunroof, expect to get charged more

On the other car, the original headliner material appeared to be a type of vinyl. The shop redid the headliner with a cloth type of material, identical color. In fact, it’s a match for the a, b and c pillar panels, which were originally covered in cloth.

I did one. I got the material from a place that sold van conversion supplies. It was cheap. I used the adhesive recommended by an auto upholsterer. The adhesive was pricey.

It turned out well,but made a mess. When you remove the board, lots of dust and crap will be all over your interior. I used a new BBQ brush which worked well but makes another mess. I should have worn long sleeves as the adhesive likes to land on your arms.

Here in Florida, near where the video was made, headliner replacements are pretty cheap. This is a good example of a job you can do yourself, but the professional will be quicker and will clean up the mess.

1 Like

I had the same problem with a 1992 Buick. I used a large curved needle and thread to stitch the headliner to the Styrofoam in about a dozen equally-spaced places. It didn’t look too pretty, but it stayed up for the rest of the car’s life.


There is also an intermediate option, which is if you can remove and re-install the headliner yourself, then combine it with letting a shop do the work of removing and replacing the material.


If you want the shop to stand behind their work it is best to let them do the entire repair.


If you’re looking for a headliner cement, this is where I bought materials when I did the interior of my Piper Seneca (airplane), years ago. Look for “Duraseam cement”:

Thanks folks for all the great answers. The problem is mostly on the pillars rather than overhead. I think I will try Duraseam adhesive. If it holds well (or if it doesn’t), I will post back in a year or so reporting on results.