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Headliner woes

My parent’s 1993 Buick Park Avenue’s headliner material started dropping down & now is 75% drooping down. Any way to re-attach that is “easy”?

If you go to your auto parts store, in the “Help!” section, you can buy a package of little plastic thumbscrews that are designed to hold up a sagging headliner. Those usually work well in most vehicles.

On a car this old, I would use staples. You shouldn’t need a staple gun or heavy duty staples. Take a common desk stapler, open it up like you are using it to attach something to a bulletin board, and staple the headliner to the material behind it. If you do it at an angle instead of straight in, the staples might stay in better.

Upholstery screws work great and cost very little. They don’t look “factory,” but they work.

3M makes a spray adhesive that can be sprayed through a small hole with a tube. Or if you don’t care how it looks rip some strips of red cedar and use them as bows to hold the headliner up. A makeshift woody that smells like the ozarks.

I’ve used the thumbscrews to hold up the headliner in my 1978 Oldsmobile and it worked quite well. I also used wooden strips to hold up the headliner in a 1983 Mercury (not so grand) Marquis that I bought for my son to drive. This worked as well, but the thumbscrews were easier to install.

How about an early Christmas/birthday/anniversary gift for your parents - check with local body shops, bet you can get it done right for not too much $$.

The best way is to pay an upholsterer to do it. He takes it out, scrapes it off and glues a new one on. Then he reinstalls it in the car. Fun to watch if you hang around a shop. Otherwise, you don’t have the time.

I had this same problem with the headliners on two aged GM station wagons I have owned. The adhesive didn’t work because the padding was deteriorating and the surface of it was powdery and wouldn’t stick to the fabric, and staples only lasted for a few hours. But I came up with this – I sewed the headliner to the padding using a curved needle and regular thread. I just had to tack it in strategic spots; it looks like a puffy comforter, but my fix is very durable.

I’ve used the “bows” method Catz described . . . works pretty well, cheap as you can go. Rocketman

I have this in my Nissan PU. I used $0.37 package of thumb tacks. I spaced them in a diamond pattern and they don’t look too bad. It has held for about two years now.

I think this works because the foam backed headliner is glued to the same material that the fabric covered bulletin boards is made from. Neither staples or the headliner adhesive work for reasons posted earlier. Upholstery nails should work too but cost more.

on my 1987 Chevy Nova, I tried all of the above, and they worked for various amounts of time:

  • staples (start coming out and are a pain to sit on)
  • upholstery tacks (in a lovely quilted pattern) ((even bigger pain when they come down)
  • spray contact cement (lasted only a few hours)
  • spray headliner glue (lasted only a few months)

You can buy headliner fabric (Joann Fabrics sells the headliner glue and the fabric. I bought some after estimating the length needed. The headliner glue didn’t last long (because of the degraded foam that I couldn’t get completely scraped off but which gradually powders off — I think if you have a friend to do the temporary holding of the fabric, you wouldn’t even need the glue). I took off all the old liner (in tatters after over 20 years…) and unscrewed everything that was over the old headliner to remove everything (the visor screws, the screws for the hook to hang things on in the back seat, and the dome light. Starting in the middle of the piece of fabric, cut a hole that corresponds to the dome light. Then spray a little of the headliner spray around it (it takes about 30 seconds to become tacky). Then fit the opening over the dome light and screw the cover back in (in some cars, you may have no screws and just use a butter knife or something to poke it in. You can use glue if that’s working for you and work around in circles outward from the middle. But if the glue isn’t working, find someone to help hold it for awhile… Or get a pole or two to help hold it in place while you work. Using the knife or other tool poke it in all around the edges, screwing in the things you’ve removed to help hold it in place. I attach a couple of photos: the dome light, and the one area (around the mirror) that isn’t poked in anywhere. This looks nice and has lasted for over 5 years now with a repoking in one or two places about once a year.

I’ve replaced a couple headliners. Its a little work getting the shell out and the old stuff scraped off but you can do it in a morning for about $50. Factory mactched trim is available from Atrim in Ok City, OK. The auto upholsterer would do it for about $250 and would guarantee it “until the first stop”. I’ve also used the wood bows when I refused to do any more work on the car. Take your pick, bows, push pins, staples, or replace it to like new.

I found a simple temporary fix that has been a bit more than temporary fix now…

I used to pull the magnets out of old computer hard drives. Really powerful and hard to remove if you slap them on a flat metal surface. I think they’d be what they call ‘rare earth magnets’ only supersized (but realitively thin).

I placed a few of those strategically and they easily hold through the fabric and fiberboard headliner to the metal roof in mine. I suppose you could even cover some with like material. It’s pretty non-destructive if you might want to do it all correctly (removing it) later on.

The magnet suggestion is an outstanding one if you want quick, easy, and there for the duration.

I’ve bought magnets at Hobby Lobby for home electronic projects and those would probably work very well too. A package of 10 for 2.99 and they are very strong. You will likely need pliers to ever remove them.
Since they’re chrome in appearance and only 1/4" in diameter they may look great when applied uniformly.

For those of you who tried staples and had them come out, perhaps you were to stingy with the staples. I’ve never had them come out, but then again, I used a lot of staples, forming complex patterns, and the last time I used them to keep the headliner from pealing at the edge of the windshield, I applied adhesive under the fabric before stapling and on top of the fabric after stapling. If you think 5-10 staples would be enough to hold up your entire headliner, you’re wrong. Install more staples (at least 50), and that headliner isn’t going anywhere, especially if you vary the angle at which you insert them.

It depends on the type of staple. Staples used for holding a small stack of papers together wont work. Staples from a staple gun should work, but it is hard to beat $0.37 pkg of thumbtacks, not pushpins or upholstery tacks, but plain old white thumbtacks.

Headliner material in a Buick is fabric glued to a thin foam. Over time and with heat, the foam deterioates and turns to dust. The headliner is glued to a strofoam shell that then gets mounted to the ceiling. Staples don’e hold very well, and you probably are too far away from the metal roof for magnets to work. That’s why either the screw pins, wooden bows, or replace it seems to be the most effective way for a Buick.

Staples worked great in my 1985 Buick Skyhawk. Not one of them ever came out. I must have used at least 100 of them, with swirls and funky patterns all over it.