Falling headliner

A caller with a jeep asked what to do about a falling headliner. Replace it? Rip it out? Tom and Ray suggested gluing it.

I had a headliner fall out where it met the rear window.

A body shop I called said they don’t work on cars unless they’ve been in an accident. Since the headliner was blocking my view out the back window we agreed I’d probably be in an accident pretty soon anyway so they went ahead and gave me the quote. It was somewhere between $300 and $400.

I gave some thought to ripping it out but it was definitely ugly under the headliner and being an avid do-it-yourselfer I figured I could come up with something more aesthetic. I opted for a $5 can of spray glue. I used a polyurethane adhesive but later found that headliner adhesive is available at fabric stores.

I ran into a few problems.

First there was a bunch of foam dust that would have kept the glue from sticking to anything so I had to vacuum and scrape it out before I tried anything.

Second, gravity was not my friend. The weight of the headliner and glue would separate it from the roof before the glue had time to cure. I ended up having to re-glue it 3 or 4 times and it only fully cured when I made a rig to keep pressure between the headliner and roof. I used a thick block of foam the size of the headliner area I was trying to reattach. The foam formed to the roof shape and kept even pressure on it. I supported the foam with a plank of wood underneath it and some more pieces of wood as struts between the plank and the back seats. I had to leave it there for a month before the glue fully cured. Man, it was ugly. At least I didn’t have to deal with any back seat drivers because no one could sit in the back seat.

Last, the glue contracted each time I reapplied it. So after 3 or 4 times the headliner had shrunk and left some exposed roof foam anyway. So much for something more aestheic, but at least my rear view mirror wasn’t pointless for anything other than hanging air fresheners.

When the foam deteriorates above the headliner, the glue method doesn’t work very well because there is nothing to glue the headliner to. A trim shop replaced my headliner for about $125 some years back, so $300-400 sounds a little high. I have had really good results with the screw in pins available at auto parts stores on the “HELP!” rack. The job done by the auto trim shop lasted about 10 years and the car wasn’t worth a second headliner repair. Therefore, I went the route of the screw-in pins. It doesn’t look bad and holds up the headliner.

BTW, I had a 1965 Rambler Classic that had a solid, one piece fiberglass panel for the headliner. It was quite satisfactory. I’ve never understood why cars use the upholstered headliner instead of the way it was done on the Rambler.

I fixed the headliner in an old Buick with a staples. Thumb tacks sometimes work too. You can make some pretty cool patterns on the ceiling of the car.

Gluing a headliner that has disbonded will not work. OK, it might work for a very short while (a couple weeks), but not over the long haul. Regluing an area that came unglued does nothing to answer the original problem: why did it debond to begin with? The only long-term solution is to pull the headliner out, scrb down the cardboard to remove all the old adhesive, put new adhesive on, and install a new headliner cloth. The old headliner cloth will have old, failed adhesive on it and won’t work.

My dad has had this problem for years with his Chevy station wagon, and he too found that glue did not work. He had pretty great success, though, sewing it up with dental floss, using one of those big flexible curved needles. We used cinnamon flavor to match the reddish headliner! :slight_smile:

I heard the show… Could magnets possibly be helpful?

Yep, I had to scrape the roof and headliner. And then my first couple glue applications held for 3-10 days. I think the temperature variations are especially tough on the glue. After I made the foam and strut rig to keep pressure while the glue cured for a month, it wasn’t going anywhere. I just wish I’d done that first and it might have ended up looking pretty good.

They would have to be pretty powerful magnets to hold though the thickness of the material between the fabric and the medal roof.

I had my last '65 Rambler Classic about three years ago. The fiberglass headliner was STILL perfect. It also had its original muffler which was ceramic coated on the INSIDE. No wonder they went belly up. Their cars were too good.

Note that the “Classic” was not the most expensive model AMC made.

If you’re going to keep the car for a while, i’d probably throw down $400 and let an upholstery specialist (one of those mobile guys) do it. Might as well get it done with black cloth too, as it looks so much cooler!

My 1965 Rambler Classic was the bottom of the line 550. It had very comfortable seats and the 7 main bearing 199 cubic inch 6 (the more expensive models had a 232 cubic inch 6) ran beautifully. It had plenty of torque, so I could go around a corner and not have to downshift to second gear. I’m glad to see someone else appreciated these cars.