Recovering Headliner by Trevor Hughes (Gridlock)

Recovering Headliner

After years of neglect, the headliner in the Fiero is sure to be ready for replacement. Vehicles equipped with the sunroof may have allowed leaks to occur, which over time will ruin the existing headliner. If the sunroof has leaked in your car, be sure to fix the leak before the headliner. Instructions on drilling drain holes can be found on www.alldata.com or in the archives of the forum. These instructions are applicable to sunroof and hard-top model vehicles of all years, but do not reference the T-Top models of 1988.

The materials should cost approximately $40-$50 for the material, trim and trim adhesive.

Tools and Materials
  • Material-available at upholstery shops, JC Whitney and other supply stores. It comes with foam backing and you will require 1.5-2 meters (5-6.5') for headliner to allow for errors. Vinyl can also be used.
  • 3M general trim adhesive. Other companies do make satisfactory products as well
  • Sharp razor blade
  • Fiberglass resin for board repair if required
  • Flat head screw driver and small hammer
  • New plastic trim for around the sunroof

Removal should take an hour. Replacing the material will take approximately one hour plus drying time. If the backing-board requires repair, allow for 2 additional hours.

Warning: The adhesive used is toxic if used within enclosed areas. Be sure to perform this procedure in a well-ventilated area. The old foam particles would also contain adhesive and would not be good to breathe as well.

Step 1 - Removal of the headliner backing-board from the vehicle
Caution: The headliner backing-board is fragile and if the sunroof has leaked, it will be weaker still. Be sure to use caution in its removal.

The first step to removing the board is to remove the hooks located in the rear of the roof, the sun visors, the map light, and if equipped, the sunroof latch cover should also be removed. The plastic trim that surrounds the sunroof opening just pulls out of the groove. There is no adhesive used here.

The board is also secured by the plastic trim around the door opening. Both internal sail panels need to be removed. The seat belt is attached with#10 or #12 torx bolts. Several screws will need to be removed as well. The sail panel will then be able to be removed. This will allow the trim along the door to be removed. They are attached with clips. At this point, the board will be able to be removed.

Step 2a - Removal of old material.
The material will separate from the foam on the backing board with a small amount of force. Keep the old material as a pattern to use for rough cutting the new material. The remnants of the old foam can be scraped off the headliner board. Having a smooth surface is important at this step as any lumps will show through the new material. If the board is in good condition, you can proceed to step 3.

Step 2b - Repairing Headliner Board
If your headliner board is in poor condition, it will need further repair. The easiest way is to place it back together using thin strips of wood on the back and use fiberglass resin over the split. Several people have used fiberglass resin over the entire board on the material side to add strength. Using this technique could cause problems with the adhesive used for the material. The foam will cover some amount of unevenness in the board surface but not a lot.

Step 3 - Adding New Material
Cut a rough shape from the new material, using the old material as a guide. Be sure to leave at least a 3-inch margin around all edges. The material will wrap around the board and be glued on the backside. It is easiest to cut the final shape after the glue has dried.

To begin gluing: Spray a patch of glue in the middle of the board in a 1-foot square on the board and on the material. Wait the amount of time specified by the manufacturer of the adhesive. The easiest place to begin is in the middle of the board from the map-light. The next place to glue is the middle of the board in the rear to avoid having the material stretch out of place. With those two places glued; start working towards the edge, one side at a time, alternating from front to back. Be sure not to stretch the material to avoid creases.

Step 4 - Finishing Process.
The best time to cut the final shape of the sunroof is after the board is back in the car. Put small holes as reference points for the hooks and the sun visor brackets to aid in their installation. Installation of the board itself is the reverse of removal. It can be helpful to have someone hold the board in place while attaching the hooks in the rear, the visor attachments and the sunroof latch to hold the board. The rest of the installation can be done alone. There is some black adhesive/grease that may be on the sail panel; make sure that is removed before putting the panels back in the car.

The sunroof opening can now be finished. Use the screwdriver to put the material into the groove and cut the remainder with the razor blade. The plastic trim can be put back in place with light taps from the hammer. Continue to remove small amounts of the material until the plastic trim sits flush and secure.

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