Headliners are deceptively complicated. That perfectly smooth piece of fabric is supported by a fairly intricate combination of perfectly fitted boards and bows and a number of trim pieces. If there is a small tear or if your classic car headliner is kind of sagging in spots, it can ruin the overall aesthetic of your classic’s interior. So, with a bit of care, patience, time, and just a few simple tools, you can easily secure the fabric back in place and be on your way.

Is it an Antique Stitched or New Wave Classic Car Headliner Design?

If your collector car was built before 1970, there is a good chance that the headliner is stitched. Meaning that several metal or wood bows are affixed to the interior of the roof to which fabric strips are attached, and then the headliner is stitched to the strips and stretched for that seamless curved appearance. In the 70s and later, most manufacturers moved to a polyester fabric that is glued to a fitted board. Sometimes the glue wears out and you get that sagging headliner that looks awful.

Quick Tips for Stitched Headliner Repairs

The most common type of damage to a stitched headliner is a tear in the fabric. If you are not showing your antique and the tear is relatively small, you can possibly fix it without removing the headliner.

  • Using matching thread, and if there is enough give in the fabric, sew the gap closed using a whip stitch. Beware that tugging on old cloth to pull the tear closed can cause rips in other spots.
  • Cut a small piece of cardboard or foam that is slightly larger than the tear. Fold in half and poke through the tear so that it pops open once through. Use spray adhesive on the fabric and gently press into place against the cardboard. Test the adhesive before use to make sure that it won’t bleed through the fabric and leave a stain.

Both of these approaches will not erase the rip, but it may minimize the appearance so that you are happy to ignore it.

If the fabric of the headliner is old and you have multiple problems, replacing headliner may be the better choice. This will require the removal of the windshield and rear window, trim pieces, etc. You may want to consult with a restoration technician that is experienced in replacing headliners for tips or to complete the job.

Fast Fixes for Sagging Classic Fabric and Board Liners

It is odd how headliners fail far sooner in the newer classic car. Having a headliner waving in the breeze is not uncommon. In many instances, a fast fix can nearly return the liner back to a like-new condition.

  • Fast and Dirty: In many collector cars, the headliner uses fabric and a layer of foam that are attached to the headliner board. If the entire headliner is sagging, you can literally pin it in place using tacks. It can result in a quilted appearance when the tacks are placed in a grid pattern. This will never fly at a car show, but you can keep driving it until you save up for the replacement.
  • Fix for a Section with a Sagging Edge: Spray fabric adhesive! Buy a can with a long nozzle so you can put the glue where you want it, or use a cotton ball attached to a pencil or stick. Working from the area farthest in toward the edge, apply a small section of adhesive to the back of the liner, press the fabric in place. Be mindful to give the fabric a tug to eliminate wrinkles as you go. Once it is in place, it is stuck! Work carefully.
  • Tucking the Edge Back in Place: In order to get the perfect showroom appearance, the edges around the windshield and door trim will require removal of the trim. However, if this is your weekend ride for cruising and nobody will care, use a tack with a clear acrylic top to pin it in place right next to the trim. Add a squirt of adhesive to help it stay.

Replacing My Classic Car Headliner

Replacing a classic car headliner is an extensive process that requires the removal of all trim pieces and the windshield. To do so effectively, make sure you have an action plan that involves an expert’s help in disassembling your baby. Find a qualified restoration technician and look for appropriate materials for this restoration project. Just make sure to let your collector car insurance broker know about the modifications and updates being made to your classic vehicle, so they can guarantee coverage and update your insurance profile.

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