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What's the purpose for the foam rubber liner under the headliner?

Dear Car Talk 's most recent entry is about repairing failing headliners. I got to wondering why there’s a foam rubber liner under the headliner in the first place? One idea might be to make hitting your head on the ceiling hurt less; but the foam rubber liner is so thin it doesn’t seem like it would be effective for that purpose. The foam rubber however might hide slight surface imperfections in the headliner backing. So is the headliner’s foam rubber liner mostly for appearance purposes?

I’ll play! I think it’s for noise reduction.

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Ah, didn’t think of that one. Makes a good deal of sense, good idea.

I’m not sure if the foam rubber portion is for sound reduction or not. But, having driven my car without the headliner (I had someone recovering it), I know for certain the headliner does function in noise reduction…a lot!

The headliner in my 59 VW was just vinyl with the wire bows to hold it up when I replaced it. I think this was pretty standard back then-no foam, just the sewn material. But using a Styrofoam shell with the foam headliner glued to it just makes a nice finished product, and no sewing required.

Then there is a convertible with no headliner, just saying.

The replacement is usually foam, the original used to be some fiber matting which held up for a while but wasn’t too good. How long will the foam last is what I might wonder about next.

Heh heh. My experience is at about 15-20 years of hard usage, the headliner will start flopping in the breeze. Then it’s spend $100 and a Saturday replacing it, sell the car, pin it up, or look like a dork driving a car with the ceiling flapping around.

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The headliner insulation improves comfort during not and cold environment conditions as well as providing a degree of sound insulation.

Vehicle manufacturers have been installing headliners with insulation in convertible cars for the last 30 years in an effort to offer the same comfort level in convertible as sedans.

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I can see that. I drove a 16-foot rental moving van east to west all the way across northern Nevada in the summer. The weather that day wasn’t even particularly hot, low to mid-90’s, but the uninsulated roof in back part (where the stuff I was moving was located) got really, really hot, much too hot to touch.