Car Ceiling Repair: A Guide for Fixing Headliners

Car Driving UK

Nothing is more annoying while you drive as having a sagging headliner constantly brush the top of your head. Like other parts of your car, the headliner does not last forever, and you need to take care of it to enjoy its services. As part of your car’s regular servicing and maintenance program, it’s important you include a visual inspection of the headliner.

However, as your headliner grows old, it might start coming off the car’s roof or start sagging. If this is particularly a problem, you can have it replaced. The other alternative is to apply a good headliner adhesive so the headliner stays in place, as it should.

The Basics

The headliner in your vehicle is mostly a layer of foam and a layer of beautiful material that you can see. One of the biggest culprits of a droopy headliner is heat. This is why you are advised to open your window a crack if the car will sit out in the sun for long periods – window tint also helps.

When your car sits in the sun, the interior gets hot enough such that the adhesive in the headliner changes chemical makeup, ruining its ability to hold the material. This results in sagging. It is your job to put the material back in place or replace it if it’s too damaged.

Removing Your Headliner

The toughest part of repairing the headliner is removing it. Any part that touches the headliner ought to be removed and components differ depending on the car you have.

Things like the side panels and rubber lining have to be entirely pulled off or just enough to allow freeing up of the ceiling. You probably need to use a screwdriver to remove items such as grip handles, visors and dome lights.

Once you have removed the ceiling, removing the car headliner is easy. However, you will need to recline your seats so you can slide the headliner through one of the doors – unless you have a hatchback.

Prepping for the Task

Make sure you’ve set up everything in a well-ventilated area that’s free of flammable materials as well as any other fabrics because spray glue can be messy. Position the headliner with the ceiling side up on a raised surface and remove the existing fabric completely. You will find a light foam residue underneath that you have to remove using a stiff plastic brush.

Depending on the headliner material, you can also use a wire brush to achieve faster results. Lay your new liner fabric with the foam-side over the headliner in a way, so it is fully covered. In most cases, you will require about three yards of liner fabric, but an overhang is also good for now.

The Repair Process

Use a clip to attach one of the fabric sides to the headliner and fold half of it back to expose the clean headliner below. Liberally layer your headliner adhesive using sweeping, long motions. Repeat the process until you have the entire surface evenly and completely covered – even the edges.

Wait for about 10 minutes for the foam side of the fabric and the headliner surfaces to dry. Ideally, the glue should feel sticky when you touch it, but it should not come off on your hand. Next, fold the fabric onto the headline carefully and use something flat to smooth the fabric into place.

Be careful not to use your fingertips or the fabric will have fingerprints on it. Press the new fabric around edges of any holes, so you have a clear outline. Release clips, fold back the fabric’s other half, and repeat the entire process on the other side.

Once done, use sharp scissors to trim the headliner’s perimeter, but leave at least one inch of excess fabric on all sides. For holes, cut Xs to mark them from corner to corner, fold excess fabric into the holes and edges, and use glue to hold them in place.


Reinstalling the headliner is easy. Replace and reconnect all components you had removed in the first step and you are done!

This fast repair job should last between five to 10 years. Apart from a new headliner, you will also have rights to brag about Your DIY upholstery skills!

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Paul Tomaszewski is a science & tech writer as well as a programmer and entrepreneur. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of CosmoBC. He has a degree in computer science from John Abbott College, a bachelor's degree in technology from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, and completed some business and economics classes at Concordia University in Montreal. While in college he was the vice-president of the Astronomy Club. In his spare time he is an amateur astronomer and enjoys reading or watching science-fiction. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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