Reference Manual

Chapter 7: Interior: Headliner Replacement

Article by: Wes Worsham

I recently replaced my headliner, and it worked out beautifully.   I'll share my experience in this article.

Backboard Removal:

First, here is a list of what needs to be removed from the car to take out the backboard, along with a brief description of the best method for removal:

Sun visors Phillips screws
Sill plates Phillips screws
Door jamb trim Phillips screws
Trim above door windows Spring clips – pull outwards and pivot down
Rear seat bottom 2 Bolts near floor
Rear seatback 2 Torx seatbelt bolts
Pillar trim Phillips screws
Top-of-windshield trim (front and back) Plastic clips – use half of wooden clothespin
Coat hooks Phillips screws
ONE sail panel Phillips screws, plastic push-in grip-clips
Dome light Phillips screws, one-way retainers – pry off and replace with new retainers

A good trick is to leave the one of the 3 clips above each door glass on each side until last.  This will support the backboard while you're working.  Also, cover the interior with plastic sheeting to avoid a mess.  

If you remove only the driver-side sail panel trim, you can work the backboard out from behind the still-installed passenger-side sail panel trim.

Put seats in full back and fully reclined position, roll down the passenger window, and unload backboard through the passenger door.


The following method worked very well for me: I got a Viking Upholstery Brush, Item# 995800 or 995810, at Auto Zone for less than 4 dollars.  I highly recommend this specific brush for this application, and it works well for cleaning carpet too.  With the brush dry, lean the backboard against a wall outside, and go over the board to remove all of the loose foam debris.  Now, sweep away the pile of foam from the floor, and get a big plastic bowl and a rag.  Wet the brush, and scrub down the board, dipping and rewetting the brush frequently.  Next, go over the backboard with the wet rag, dipping frequently, from top to bottom, working across, to wash off bits of foam and dirt.  Empty the bowl and fill it with water and dish soap.   Scrub the board with the soapy brush, top to bottom, and repeat with the soapy rag.  Now, brush it down a final time w/ clean water, and do a clean rag rinse.  Let dry for one hour or so, and you’re ready to go.

This process is fairly quick, and will not remove the old glue.   When you're done, you want to have a surface that feels like dry rubber cement to the touch.   I was told by the trim shop that it was not necessary to remove this tacky glue.


To reattach broken off corners, or to fix and reinforce cracks, try this method:

Get a dual syringe of Permatex Quick Set Auto Epoxy QM-50A at Auto Zone.  Also buy a piece of Bondo Fiberglass Cloth.  It is important to get the cloth, not the mat.  Each of these items costs 3 dollars.

To reattach corners, first dry-fit the piece to make sure all is well.  Then, mix up some epoxy with a stick, and wipe onto both the edge of the piece and the edge of the backboard, and put the piece in place, holding it for about 5 minutes.   For cracks, follow the same basic procedure.

Now for reinforcement…  Cut a piece of fiberglass cloth about 1/2" to 3/4" wide, and the length of your repair.  To reattach front corners of the backboard, you may want to try three small pieces of fiberglass.  Do not cover the visor screw holes.  Mix up a big glob of epoxy.  Using your finger, smear epoxy into the crack on the BACKSIDE of backboard.  Cover an area slightly larger than your fiberglass strip.  Now, put fiberglass in place.  Press it down w/ a clean finger until it is smoothly adhered, and begins to turn clear.  Next, carefully smear on another layer of epoxy over the fiberglass.  Be careful not to pull too much fiber material from the cut, fraying edges of the cloth.

These repairs will be very strong and durable.

Fabric Installation:

Foam-backed headliner fabric can be obtained at many auto interior shops, and is sold by the yard.  I paid 27 dollars for enough fabric to replace the headliner in my 84 H/O.

Cut the fabric to the right basic size.  Basically, follow the Fisher body manual here. Cover your floor or table with plastic, put the board down, and lay the cloth on it.  Cover one half of the cloth with a plastic sheet or some trash bags.  Fold the cloth over on itself.  Spray two liberal coats, one at 90 Degrees to the other, of 3M General Trim Adhesive 08088 ($9 at Wal Mart - Auto Zone doesn’t have this) to the exposed half of the backboard and half of the cloth.

Wait until the glue dries (3 minutes), and have a helper hold up the corners of the cloth as you press it down, starting in the middle, with your hand.  Do not stretch the material, but make sure it goes down smooth, and that all bonding starts from the middle.  Make SURE that the edges do NOT touch before you bond the rest of the cloth.  This is CRITICAL on the sides, where the board curves sharply.  Do the curved surface, then, let the edge touch.  There is no room for mistakes - this stuff bonds permanently and instantly.

Once you've done half of it, you can take a breather.  Use a coffee mug's smooth lip to smooth and press the sharp curves, and its sides to do the large flat areas.  A Dinner plate also works well for curves, as you can vary its angle to get different curvatures.  Do not do a lot of final pressing and slicking with your hands.  Your fingers will leave depressions in the fabric, which may or may not eventually go away.  The cup and plate are the way to go.

Glue the other side in this same manner, being sure you cover up your finished side before folding the cloth back.

Trim the cloth leaving a 1/4" margin around the edge.  It is not necessary to fold the material around the sides of the backboard.  Also, this 1/4" margin is recommended with the assumption that you didn’t stretch the fabric too much.

For cut-outs and screw holes, an X-Acto knife (Model 2000, $3 at Office Depot) and a Scratch Awl (Sears, price unknown) will do. 

This 3M 08088 is basically the aerosol version of the 3M adhesive that the Fisher manual recommends, and will bond fine.  Do NOT use 3M’s Heavy Duty trim adhesive, as it will melt your foam backboard.


Installation of the backboard is basically the reverse of the removal process.

My board had deteriorated yellow foam on the topside for sound deadening purposes.  I left what remained of it on there because I did not know where to get more at the time.  An upholstery shop might have it though.

One more tip:  When you reinstall the headliner, put your sun visors on before putting on the windshield and top-of-door-window trim.  Use the scratch-awl to line up your visor screw holes with the holes in the metal roof.  Installing the visors can sometimes be very tedious and aggravating.   It took 20 or 30 minutes of frustration to get mine installed without stripping any threads. 

Good Luck!

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