DIY: Custom Headliner Madness

Published by Nadeem Muaddi on February 11th, 2014

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - DIY Custom Headliner

There are a lot of DIY auto upholstery videos posted on YouTube. Some are better than others, but most are complete rubbish. They either teach viewers how to incorrectly make repairs or skip so many steps that they’ll never last. Case in point: Check out this video titled “How To: Custom Headliner.”

According to the video producer, once a headliner board is removed from a car, you only need a thin piece of fabric (not foam-backed of course) and six tools to get the job done: needle-nose pliers, vacuum, kitchen scissors, spray glue, utility knife and clothing iron.

Once you’ve gathered your supplies, the trimming process is easy. Below are the eight simple steps:

    1. Use the needle-nose pliers to break all your trim clips.
    2. Do not tear the old headliner fabric off. Instead. vacuum it.
    3. Use your kitchen scissors to cut enough fabric to cover the board.
    4. Spray the fabric from top to bottom with glue.
    5. Spray the headliner board from top to bottom with glue.
    6. Lay the fabric over the board in one shot and rub down.
    7. Cut out all the trim holes with your utility knife.
    8. Flatten all the wrinkles with a clothing iron.

In the event that you need a visual aid, here is the video:

And that, my friends, is why professional auto trimmers are here to stay.




16 Responses

  1. WOW! just.. WOW! have I been doing it wrong all these years? HAHA. That looks like the same glue I use for some pattern making. If it is the same glue it’s releasable! Wont be long till that one falls down. Well He gets a B+ for effort anyway.

    • Chris Lauret says:

      was funny, he replied in his comments for people to use a better adhesive because it had fallen down within a couple of days.

  2. Cesar Cesar says:

    Nice! Interesting topics Nadeem…Thanks! This method would work when the ‘old headliner foamed fabric’ is in good condition…otherwise, you would need to replace first a new one before sticking the ‘custom fabric’. If the ‘custom fabric’ is heavier or thicker would be advisable to glue both surfaces (wrong side of ‘custom fabric and right side of the fabric that is on headliner cardboard)…if you don’t want it to fall down.
    It’s only my particular opinon

  3. Retired… Ive Done Up To 9 Headliners In One Day And Probaly Did’nt Break Any Clips. Good Luck On Buying Those Things Unles Your Tight With Aveco. Profeionalism Is In The Eye Of The Beholder And If The Glue Dosent Hold In Extreme Cold Or Heat Then Sooner Or Later This Car Will Meet A Professional.

  4. dunno if anyone else read the caption at the end but he said “after installing it and it sat in the car over night i noticed there were a few places that didnt have enough glue so i had to staple those areas”.
    wow. first the right glue, second even for a diy job…staples through the headliner?..really?

  5. coyotewiley coyotewiley says:

    Ok but it’s 2 in short in the back lomao

  6. Conrad Phoenix says:

    This guy has no clue what hes doing.

  7. Jdizzle says:

    I just did a custom headliner and it did fall down. Can any of you guys tell me what needs to be done to keep the fabric attached to the foam backed liner?

    • Sure. Take your car to an auto upholstery shop, where a professional can pull off any design you want and guarantee the work.

    • Nate says:

      Ignore these elitists that simply want to take jabs at anyone that wants to take some pride in trying to do something on their own. To answer your question:

      First thing you need to do is check the condition of your existing headliner after you have removed the old fabric and the foam. Youll have a fairly rigid form that actually makes up the strength of the headliner.

      If that is in good condition head out to your local fabric shop. Many of them sell actual foam backed headliner fabric. If you go with that material a spray adhesive like 3M 90 will do fairly well if applied correctly. A better, but less diy friendly, adhesive is a spray liquid cement that you spray from a paint gun. It is much more durable but is harder to work with and if you get the glue on the side that is supposed to be seen it will look like crap. When you are applying the fabric work in small areas and a small rubber roller can really help get everything smooth and professional looking.

      If you do a simple Google search you can find a lot of information.

      Source: I work in the automotive industry and asked our headliner vendor for advice on replacing mine.

  8. S says:

    A post and comments ad nauseum completely devoted to ridicule. When someone actually asks for information – he is met with the hogging of information (Looking at you, Nadeem). What a joke you guys are. I was on the fence about whether to seek a pro for my needs – and you turds just pushed me hard in the DIY direction. Wake up and tell the other cloth monkey guild members — It is a new era. Information is no longer the domain of the expert.

    • sewlow sewlow says:

      Viewing a few youtube videos does not make one an expert.
      The info in the original post is just one example of the self-proclaimed expertise available to you.
      If it wasn’t for the knowledge of the ‘cloth monkey guild members’, how would you be able to determine weather or not the process described was correct?
      It’s not, by the way! Lol! Far from it. Very far!
      But then, if something was worth doing once, it’s worth doing over again.
      Good luck with your DIY project.
      “Sooner Or Later This Car (Your car!) Will Meet A Professional.” -Edward Munday-

  9. Okie_Vet says:

    Just my 2 cents…Retired military pilot with a good chunk of that time spent as an instructor, I’m also a huge fan of DIY. Having said that, I’m also a realist.

    There’s certain things that no matter how many times you watch a video or read about how to do it you will either not catch some of the subtle details, or miss some key bit(s) of potentially critical information.

    Someone who does this for a living has, among other things equipment, access to products, knowledge, skill, and most importantly, experience that a DIY person does not have. Given enough money you could buy the same stuff a professional use, and with enough research you could match them there as well, but…skill, and experience are not acquired overnight which is really what you’re paying the professional for.

    I’ve “attempted” the diy headliner replacement on a grand caravan. I won’t go into all the details, but suffice to say it looked great, seriously, nice and smooth. You would have been hard pressed to tell it wasn’t an OEM job. I left it on the table overnight and installed it the next day. About 3-4 days later, thanks to the 100 degree plus heat the glue started letting go in areas were there was any amount of tension when originally glued. Yes I used the recommended glue in the recommended fashion, and if I lived up north it may have even held. I have a pretty good idea what went wrong, and while the glue is part of the problem it’s not the only one. Now, I have a choice. Live with it, try again – relatively inexpensive, or take it to a professional knowing that when it’s done, it’s done.

    The simple fact is that there are some things best left to professionals. If you want it looking like it was professionally done, or at least look as good as it was OEM then leave it to the pros.

    So, scratch of DIY headliner on backer (virtually any modern headliner) and leather upholstery – way too expensive if/when you screw up – best left to the pros.

    By the way, deriding “cloth monkey guild members” for supposedly hoarding information? As someone already told you pretty much everything they’re supposedly hoarding is out on the internet already. Re-read the first page of this website, they told everyone up front that this is not a place for DIY types.

    • sewlow sewlow says:

      Yes! Someone that ‘gets’ it! Thanks Okie_Vet!
      I also do some teaching/mentoring. I do get compensated for that.
      All the years that I’ve spent gathering the skills, learning & applying tricks, (Many from tradespeople outside of upholstery. Leather workers, saddle makers, shoemakers, tailors. Even metal fabricators & sheet metal workers) & learning by trial & error what works & what doesn’t, has got to be worth something!
      Some of the people I instruct are ‘naturals’. They have that touch. The vision. Can see things in their head before they even make that first cut. Confident behind the machines.
      Others struggle, but they have the drive to learn. They have to work at getting the feel, the vision, the confidence. If they stick with it long enough, no reason why they can’t be as proficient as the first group.
      Some should never pick up another pair of scissors in their lifetimes! Ever!
      So…just which of the folks with those various abilities are the ones posting up the How-To vids?
      Are they by multi-multi-year experienced tradespeople?
      Someone with a bit of knowledge & a lot of attitude?
      Or by someone that has watched someone else’s video & simply gleaned what they felt were the important details.
      And how does the layman deem which is the correct procedure?
      I’ve watched a couple of vids on ‘How-To-Fly’. Even worked on aircraft.
      Certainly not about to proclaim that I’m a pilot!

      • Okie_Vet says:

        Sewlow, I just found that guy’s attitude ridiculous, and it only got worse the more I read.

        I don’t mean to sound like I’m blowin’ sunshine up your knickers, but due to the DIY craze people have forgotten that what you’re doing isn’t “unskilled labor” any more than a professional painter, panel beater, or even a real mechanic – not the glorified code readers you find at most dealerships.

        Feel free to save this for when a customer balks at what it’s going to cost to do interior work:

        Wisdom – recognizing that it’s time hire a professional.


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