Raise The Roof

By Christopher Crown

September 6, 2018 4 min read

Nothing says, "This used to be my grandma's car!" like a sagging headliner. For those without an automotive inclination, this is the layer of fabric material stretched across the interior roof of your vehicle. Whether your car is a hand-me-down or just could use a little TLC, a saggy or peeling headliner can be an easy at-home fix with the proper equipment. From a complete facelift to a few tiny touches around the edge of your overhead light, learn the simple solutions and skip the expensive trip to the auto shop.

Auto experts from HeadlinerFix.com, an online resource specifically designed to encourage people to try this fix their headliners on their own, break down the usual costs. According to contributing writer Richard Steel, most auto shops will charge $200 to $350, while taking your car back to the original dealer might run you $650 to $850. These prices factor in a complete gutting/replacement of the headliner fabric AND the hourly labor. Steel recommends repairing the existing fabric and paying yourself back for the labor in saved money. The job can usually be done for less than $55, he states.

Now that you have decided to take on this endeavor yourself, there are several facets to this at-home fix. First off, there will be some minor disassembly of some of the internal parts of your vehicle. This can absolutely be done by the standard car owner. However, the Automotive Service Excellence-certified contributors to the online database ifixist.com strongly recommend disconnecting the negative terminal to your car battery before working with any electricals. If you are not comfortable working under the hood of your car, research this step more thoroughly or find an auto-savvy friend to help for the afternoon.

After you have prepped your car for safe work, contributors to MercedesMedic.com, a prominent and also non-Mercedes applicable car repair resource, recommend assessing the intensity of the repair needed. This can help determine what tools you need to get that headliner back where it belongs. For minimal and easy fixes, the website recommends small, upholstery pushpins with a low visual impact. For larger areas that need re-attaching, you will need to pull out the dome light, disconnect the power plug and remove the metal light frame. Ifixit.com agrees with this strategy, stating that this should work for most older cars that are prone to saggy headliners. When in doubt, research the specifics of your car's assembly in the owner's manual.

After you have removed the dome light attachment, there should be a reasonable amount of slack in the headliner and also a clear hole to see through to the board of the roof. All sources recommend finding a heavy-duty spray adhesive (examples include Gorilla Glue or 3M brands designed specifically for this purpose) and thoroughly coating the roof board with adhesive (wear a protective mask and glasses for spraying through the dome light hole in the fabric). Then, carefully press the fabric back in place. Different adhesives will have different dry times, so be sure to follow your can's directions. All in all, saggy headliner repairs can be a quick DIY process that will save you hundreds of dollars. The few hours of work will pay for themselves by avoiding the hassle of going to the dealership.

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