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Bow-Style Headliner Restoration - Roof Rehab
How To Install A Bow-Style Headliner At Home.
Nov 1, 2010
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
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Bow-Style Headliner Restoration - Roof Rehab
Here is what we started with, a dingy, hole-infested headliner that was so aged you couldn't even clean it without it falling apart. The older headliners were sewn with a cotton thread, which was fine at the time. The problem is cotton thread degrades over time, so even if the vinyl is in good shape, the thread holding it together is probably shot.
To cure our shabby ceiling, we contacted Classic Industries for the headliner and all related parts.
We picked up a light blue headliner made with the proper basket weave pattern. The new headliner is sewn together with a polyester thread that will retain its strength a lot longer than its stock counterpart.
We also ordered a pre-sewn set of sun visors in the same color and pattern. This will allow us to do the job without sitting down at a sewing machine. To complete the restoration and make it easier to see in the interior, we grabbed a set of sun visor mounts, a new dome light base, dome light lens and a very cool LED conversion that required no additional wiring.
Here are all the tools we used to get the job done. If you were planning to restore the entire interior at some point, we would recommend you buy a cheap/used spray gun and fill it with a professional grade contact adhesive like DAP's Weldwood. If all you plan on doing is the headliner, then a can of Permatex Heavy Duty Headliner & Carpet Adhesive or 3M's Super 77 Multipurpose Adhesive will suffice. A heat gun will be used to relax the material, but if you don't have one of these, you can always use the old lady's hair dryer. You will also need a few screwdrivers, a putty knife, scissors or razor blade, and an awl. The awl will be your best friend towards the end of the install so if you don't have one, either buy or make one.
The first thing to do is pull all the trim, sun visors and dome light. You will be using a Phillips screwdriver for everything except the removal of the dome light wiring from the housing. A small flat tip will help you pop out the ends shown in the photo.
With all the trim and stuff out of the way, go ahead and unstick the entire perimeter of the headliner. Go easy at the windshield area. There is a small metal strip screwed to the sheetmetal that the headliner sticks to and you don't want to bend it out of shape.
Now you should have access to the bows that are stuck into small holes drilled in the roof. Most cars have multiple holes for each bow so make sure to keep track of what hole the bow was in. Mark it with a pen or marker if your memory isn't the best. The easiest way to get the bow out is to pull down on the center, which should move the end over enough to pop it out of the hole. Do not remove the bows from the actual headliner yet.
The center bow on some cars (like this Nova) is held in place by a few sharp tabs poked through the listing. You will need to unbend the tabs to free the bow and a putty knife works pretty good for this task.
Take the old headliner with the bows still intact over to a work area. The reason we recommended leaving the bows in the headliner is because sometimes they are different lengths. Transferring them one by one eliminates the chance of messing up the order. Because the old headliner is pretty delicate, pealing out the bows should not pose a problem.
Before slipping the bow into the new headliner, clean off all the rust with some Scotch-Brite. This will help the bow slide in much easier and also help when you get to stretching the headliner side to side, but more on that later.
The listings are made longer than the bows so try and get them in the center as best you can. Speaking of which, the center of the headliner itself will have a centerline marked on the back made during the sewing process. You will be using this as a reference line for the install.
Now take the headliner into the car and start with the bow that attaches to the sharp tabs. Since the tabs prevent the headliner from being stretched side-to-side, you will need to do it as you go. Punch the center tab through the listing, then stretch the headliner to the side before sticking the next one through.
With the center bow done, you can pop in the rest of the bows. Remember to put them back in the holes they came out of. If you need to scrunch up the listing to expose the bow go ahead and do so. Then it's time to get sticky: Spray glue along the front and back edges of the roof and the back of the headliner.
Once the glue has tacked up, stretch the headliner forward, keeping the centerline centered, and stick it down.
Next, run to the back and stretch the headliner to the rear. You might need to unstick the front and re-stretch, but the idea is to get the center of the headliner nice and smooth from front to rear.
This is probably what the area by the bows looks like. Don't worry, we'll be addressing that right now.
Get in there with your scissors and trim the listing just enough to let you stretch out the wrinkles. The bends in the bows are what create the smooth arc on the sides of the headliner. The listing is what holds the headliner to the bow, so trim a little at a time until it's smooth. Trim too much and you will lose that nice arch and end up with a sharp angle, which looks bad.
This is what it should look like if done properly-a nice smooth arc. Trim, pull, and stick all the seams first, then come back and stick down the area between each seam. Fight the urge to pull down too much on the center areas, as this will create a weird looking bump between each seam.
If there is an area where the wrinkles won't come out easily, then break out the heat gun/hair drier. Keep the heat gun well away from the material and keep it moving at all times. If you apply too much heat in one spot for too long, it will definitely melt the headliner. The heat will soften the material and allow you to stretch it more with less force.
That basically takes care of the hard part of the headliner install. Since the sun visors are already sewn up, all we needed to do was insert the plastic bushing into the bracket before sliding the assembly over the post on the sun visor.
There is a retaining screw provided that will hold things together and allow you to set the tension. If the visors don't stay up, then you will need to tighten this screw a little more.
Here is where the awl will become your friend. The new headliner has covered up all your mounting holes for things like the visors, trim, and dome light. To locate the visor holes, the best thing to do is use your finger to feel for the large hole. Once you have found it, cut an X in the material. Now you can put your finger in that hole and find the backside of the screw holes for the visor. Now use the awl to punch a small hole in the material-just remember to get your finger out of the way first.
The awl will also help reinstall all the trim. Just put the trim up in place, then use the awl to find the hole.
The last thing to do was shed some light on the interior. The LED conversion from Classic Industries is a killer little product. Instead of having to wire up the LEDs, the unit is terminated into a dummy dome light bulb. All you need to do is pop in the dummy bulb and stick the bulb assembly to the housing with the preinstalled two-sided tape.
With that, the job is done, and hopefully we have given you enough information to try and do the job yourself.
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