How to Fix a Sagging Headliner

As careful as we are though interiors can start to fade, wear and in some cases even sag. In this article we will look at the problem of a sagging headliner. This can be distracting, basically unsightly and possibly dangerous so how can we fix it without too much extra fuss?

What Is the Headliner?

I would not be massively surprised if you were today years old when you found out what the headliner in a car is. For those who are still not sure, basically the headliner is the fabric material that covers the vehicle's interior roof.

Not only does the headliner add to the look by covering the bare metal of the inside of your car's roof but it has practical purposes as well. This fabric serves as insulation from the cold outside and also helps to dampen noise from the outside of the vehicle.

It is usually constructed in a few sections with the portion closest to the roof being cardboard, fiberglass or foam. Covering that will be some kind of cloth, leather or vinyl designed to give the interior a nice look. In older vehicles this covering material can begin to sag which is not a good look.

How Do You Fix a Sagging Headliner?

There are several methods you can use to fix a sagging headliner and as with many things the earlier you catch the issue the easier it is to fix. What usually happens is that the adhesive holding the headliner in place starts to wear due to exposure to UV rays. This is why you often see the first signs of sagging near the top of the windshield.

Glue

There is no need to get too fancy repairing the headliner issue as you might be able to get the job done with a little bit of glue. This is one of the most common ways to fix the issue although it can be tricky if the sag has become very advanced.

If you catch the issue early while the sagging is just noticeable glue will be your best bet for success. You can purchase headliner adhesive from an auto parts store (yes, this is so common they have something especially for it). Simply follow the instructions and take care to keep the repair as neat as you can.

Thumbtacks or Pins

The headliner when it starts to sag is pulling away from the layer above which should still be firmly attached to the interior roof. This means that if you are careful you can actually tack it back to the foam or whichever material is above it with pins of thumbtacks.

This is not the prettiest of fixes but if you are creative you might be able to find pins or tacks that match the color of the headliner or create an attractive pattern that looks deliberate rather than practical. The best pins to use ideally would be ones that can screw in as this will make sure the headliner holds in place and the pins do not pop back out.

Staples and Hairspray

If your main concern is the distracting nature of the sagging headliner you may opt not to worry if the repair looks perfect. This fix may only look bad for a short while though and if it works you may be very pleased.

The idea is to use a stapler to tack the material back to the liner underneath using the staples to hold it in place. You would then spray that section of headliner with hairspray. You may want to wear a mask or have the doors open when you do this.

Allow the hairspray to dry before very carefully removing the staples. If this works and you are gently taking out the staples the headliner may be stuck back in place and looking just fine.

Double Sided Carpenter's Tape

If the sagging is extensive and you can actually reach between the liner and the material beneath you may need something like double sided carpenters' tape. You can secure the tape to the headliner material at the edges. Remove the backing from the other adhesive side and carefully attach this back to the material underneath.

If you do this delicately you may be able to get it looking tight and smooth as if there was no problem at all. This will not work however if the headliner has started sagging in the middle as you need an edge to affix the tape to.

Steam

Take a leaf from the pros book and use a little steam. If you were to go to a specialist they would likely use steam to try and reactivate the adhesive. Use a portable steam cleaner to test and see if steaming will make the glue sticky again.

Test a small section first and if it works you can do the rest as well and hopefully have the headliner looking almost as good as new. If the glue is too far gone however you will be out of luck.

What If None of These Fixes Work?

It has to be stated that it is possible that the potential fixes suggested may not work or at best will work partially but not look great. Once the glue starts to fail it will get progressively worse so there is a risk you may need a whole new headliner.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace the Headliner?

If you really must have a beautiful headliner and you can’t get that sagging issue fixed then you may want to replace it completely. This is not cheap to do though as it can cost between $200 - $500 depending on your vehicle.

Ultimately this is a mainly aesthetic part of your interior so you could choose to remove it and go without or just deal with a not perfect looking repair. Financially it is not usually worth the cost to do this replacement unless you have a classic car which means a lot to you,

Conclusion

Headliner sagging is an unsightly and annoying problem that essentially occurs when the glue holding it to the material underneath starts to lose its potency. The headliner starts to surrender to that old enemy gravity and pulls away due to the weakened glue.

There are a few basic ways to try and fix the issue but ultimately it will continue to worsen. Replacing the headliner can be expensive so you need to balance the value of your car with the need for a good looking headliner above you as you drive.

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