North American Turbocoupe Organization



Replacing the headliner & recovering the sun visors
andrewjs18 Offline
Administrator
#1
Replacing the headliner & recovering the sun visors
by anasazi4st

One of the tasks I had on my list of upgrades for my 1987 Turbo Coupe was the replacement of its headliner. From what I could see inside the car and what little I was able to find on the Internet some years ago, it did not look like a very inviting task. So, in the fall of 2018—when I finally decided it was time—I devised and advanced a plan for it. Although it would not be until the spring of 2020 before I finally got it done, it turned out to not be anywhere close to as difficult as I thought, or you might believe.

There’s a lot of confusion out there regarding this whole process. What I am going to describe here are the facts—what I learned to be true about not only the process required, but also the supplies to purchase and the procedure to follow.

After searching the Internet, this and other sites, I found the best place to purchase both headliner material and cans of spray adhesive to be the retail outlet, Joann’s Fabrics. They sell several different colors that are actually designed to be exact replacements, as is the spray adhesive. It’s listed as High Temperature, which is important. No matter where you live, the sun will be beating down on the roof of your car when it’s exposed to the elements, and it can get pretty hot there. The last thing you’ll want is to come out to your vehicle and find your new headliner draped across the seat backs because the glue you used wasn’t designed for that.

   

The individual at Joann’s told me she had used the same products to replace her headliner a few years ago. She was a big help in deciding how much adhesive to buy and gave several tips on the installation process.

The cans of adhesive aren’t cheap, averaging just under $25 a can, and you’ll need about four cans. Frustrated by the likely price markup associated with retail, I searched for less expensive outlets for the stuff. The usual suspects— Walmart and auto parts stores—don’t sell it. Even Amazon had the adhesive for about the same price as Joann’s, and it would have taken several days to get here, as opposed to just walking into that store and buying it.

The headliner is listed on Joann.com at $14.99 for 2 yards, which is the minimum. It’s 55 inches wide, which is ideal (the actual measurement of the fiber board—which is the headliner base—was 52” across in my car). I purchased extra, as I was also re-doing the visors. I got 2 1/2 yards; after recovering both visors I have enough left to do two more, which will come in handy as the first one did not turn out as well as I would have liked (more on that later).

The site no longer lists grey headliner material; only tan and black. The UPC code for the grey is 40003490644. The site offers a variety of coupon discounts—I saved 20% overall on my purchase that way, by displaying the coupon on my iPhone at the store.

https://www.joann.com/search?q=Headliner%20Fabric

The material resembles thinner cotton t-shirt material, with a foam backing. Lots of sites show professional installers cutting the stuff with razor blades, but they do it all day every day. I have steady hands but still wouldn’t trust them to cut such sharp lines, where the slightest twitch could go off-course and ruin the installation. For the more precise work I used sharp scissors.

Now, let’s get to the confusion and misinformation. I found a YouTube video with an installer replacing headliner on a Ford F-150. In the video he shows how to remove the existing fabric; after he’s done the base material was fiberglass. He uses lacquer thinner and a plastic scraper to gently and gradually get the old stuff off. I recall thinking, “That’s easy! This is going to be a snap!”

Not so fast. My car doesn’t have anything like that, and yours probably doesn’t either. Instead, once I got the headliner out of the car, which was surprisingly easier than I expected, I found that the existing material is glued to a base surface that more than anything else resembles the fiberglass insulation found in older houses (the yellow stuff, not the pink cotton candy stuff they use now). Once I saw that, it was on with the safety goggles, face mask/paint respirator and rubber gloves. The stuff sure looked like fiberglass insulation to me, and I don’t want that stuff in my lungs or eyes. It’s in layers, which makes removal much more difficult.

And sorry, I know some here have left the OEM stuff on there and glued over it. I was not going to do that, and you probably shouldn’t either. The old stuff is very fragile and dry rotted, and you’re going to stick new stuff TO that? What makes you think that’s going to hold, and for how long? As I was removing the old from the base material, I was surprised how easily sections of the top layer just...pulled away. So no, that old stuff is coming off.

Here’s the basic steps to getting this done right. Most of this is self explanatory, though.

1) Park the car in an open area of shade where you can freely open its large doors the whole way. Flatten the front seat backs for more room in maneuvering the headliner out of the car. Position a large table or work bench nearby, preferably out of doors (if this stuff is fiberglass you probably don’t want it near your children or pets).

2) Start by removing all the visible trim at the roof. This includes the plastic trim above each door, the rear window, the sun visors and the Dome Light assembly, in that order. Be especially careful once the dome light is removed, because the headliner is likely to drop down—altogether or in sections—at this point. To get the trim around the opera lights off, you’ll have to remove the seat belt shoulder anchor, which requires a T30 Torx bit.

3) Without bending it too much, remove it from the inside. Most literature says you’ll need two people—I took the old one out and replaced it by myself, it wasn’t that difficult, YMMV. Because of the steering wheel you’ll find it’s best to bring it out the passenger side.

4) Place it on your work area and examine it carefully. Get some photos of how it looks before you start removing it. You’ll see that you’re not actually going to be removing the old stuff from the backing, but a thin layer of the backing instead, with the old material attached. It’s in layers, much like old fiberglass insulation. Obviously you’ll want to remove as little of the backing as you can, and as evenly as you can. Like primer, it can be difficult to see how smooth the working surface is until you’ve got the finished product on (or, in the case of primer, the paint)—that’s when imperfections really show up. Were I to redo mine, I would be more careful to not create shallow gouges or dips in the base material—mine could have a smoother surface than it does. I suppose a flat metal scraper or putty knife could be used. You’ll probably be surprised, as well, just how easily it comes off. (I actually glued back on pieces of the layers that
came off in chunks.)

   

   

   

5) Once it’s all off, lay the new headliner over the base part and carefully trace your cut lines with a Sharpie. The pros I watched just go right at it with a new single-edged razor blade, but they do this all the time, and I don’t trust my hand with that. Give yourself at least an inch or two around the base section, noting the front and rear outer edges in particular—you’ll be folding the material over those edges, so two is probably preferable. Remember that you can always cut more off later, but you can’t cut less, and you might need to reposition as you go. If you want you can mark the holes for the visors, dome light and rear push pins now, as well as the two slots where the bolts for the seat belt shoulder anchors go.

6) The proper procedure to attach the headliner is to lay it, foam side down, on the board. Then, fold about half back on itself. At this point, if you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to test how the adhesive is going to come out of the can. (I was curious and tested it right away.) It has an adjustable nozzle; I set mine on 8“L” (which I guessed to be LOW). The target area for the first application is right against the fold. Spray both the board and the headliner foam backing, about 6-8” out. Wait a few moments for the adhesive to get tacky, then pull on the edge closest to the application with one hand whilst smoothing the fabric down with the other. Repeat folding up the headliner as before, spray and smooth down. Continue until this half of the material is glued down; then spin the board around and do the remaining side. Press firmly on the material as you smooth it down, also be certain to pull on the loose end to help prevent wrinkles. When you get to the visor areas, press back against the sloping part first before smoothing down the front section, to prevent making that cavity too shallow.

7) Once done with that, using a VERY sharp blade, trim the excess headliner from the board. You’ll find that the edges have to be cut flush to have it fit back inside the car, but the front and back edges as noted have to be folded over. (Study the photos you made before, and you’ll see what I mean.) Test fold the material to see how much you’ll need to trim off. Then, spray the adhesive as before. With this part though you will have to wait until the glue gets very tacky to have the fold stay in place. Once done, mark (if not already done) and trim your holes—dome light, visor holes, seat belt bolt slots and push pin holes for the rear edge.

   

This is what mine looked like when I was finished, and I had trimmed it and cut the holes. If you look carefully, you’ll see the problem I mentioned earlier— that you can’t necessarily see the imperfections in the surface until the material is applied. Were I to do this again, I would devise a way to fill in those imperfections. Overall, though, I am quite pleased with the results, considering how I thought it might turn out...and it looked one HECK of a lot better than before.

8) Installation is more or less the reversal of removal, with the exception that proper alignment is essential. I installed the dome light first, as it was in the center and held up the assembled headliner fairly evenly. I did not snug down the mounting screws just yet—this is one time when making the holes a bit bigger was a very good idea, as it allowed for adjustment—and there will be quite a bit of that.

I had almost all the trim screws in place when I realized that the visor holes weren’t lining up properly, so I re-adjusted the headliner. Then, I saw a one-half inch gap above the top edge of the driver’s door, so I had to AGAIN pivot the headliner counter-clockwise a few inches, spinning it around to the left using the dome light as a sort of hub. Test-fitting all the parts first—and re-testing—is key for proper alignment.

9) Finally, time to button everything up. When you’re satisfied it all fits together properly, complete the installation. If you have lighted mirrors in your visors, be wary of the wire connectors. The ends are shielded with a plastic covering to prevent shorts. Mine had cracked and I did not realize what that meant—but after I had installed the visors and tested the lights for operation I kept blowing fuses. It turned out that the insulator had cracked enough to allow the “hot” wire from the roof to contact the car’s frame, so when I lowered the visor I was shorting the circuit.

I hope I made this process both informative and enjoyable. Enjoy your new headliner!


BONUS FEATURE: RE-COVERING THE VISORS

As complicated as this might sound, there really isn’t much to it. Certainly the rule of “measure twice cut once” applies. Sadly in my case I erred in my trimming of the first left-hand visor, which I will end up re-doing soon. So that won’t happen to you, I’ll share what I learned with this experience.

   


The inside of a lighted visor.

Once you have pried apart the visor and removed the old material—more on that in a minute—this is what it looks like, above. Resist the urge to trace the holes and edges onto the new material—I did that with the first one, and that didn’t turn out as well as I would have hoped.

   


This is the old material that I removed from the first—left— visor. It’s kind of ratty—that just visible blue tape at the top is actually painter’s tape, I was using that to hold together the old material. Sadly I don’t have a picture of the right
side’s material—it came off much better and it is what I used for that one, with much more satisfying results.

THIS is what you want to trace! Be mindful of the fact that the stuff has stretched and been pulled out of shape a bit as you go. In my car, the right visor wasn’t used nearly as much as the left one, as the passenger seat has been empty most of the time. You might want to start on that one, remove its material to trace and then flip it over for the left side, if it’s in better shape.

   

Give yourself a lot of excess around all the edges. I made the mistake of gluing the large flat part first, and I accidentally pulled it too far, causing misalignment for the open side where the mirror fits. As you can see, I actually have way too much material, which was the only thing that saved the installation.

Note the lines cut on the curved sections, to allow for that curvature.

I didn’t take a chance on spraying the material and the visor, as done with the headliner. Instead I used a 1/2” paintbrush to apply the adhesive to the material and the visor’s plastic surface. Again, it has to be very tacky to stay in place. Test fit and trim as necessary before gluing.

   

The left visor with material glued down. Note the hole made (by mistake, as it turns out) on the right where the dowel rod locates (and is visible in this photo).

In the center you’ll see a section where the dowel snaps into the plastic holder on the roof that holds the edge of the visor, as well as the spot where the hinge fits on the left (yellow rectangle). I made the mistake of cutting out both as holes, then re-gluing pieces of material in there after I realized my mistake. Just cut holes—as seen in the old material—and run the dowel through those holes. The hinge is simply covered over by fabric.

The fitting of the mirror part is straightforward. Again, making photos of the assembly first proves to be very valuable later on.

I used standard Gorilla Glue to glue the visor back together, hoping it would be strong enough. The bendable “flap” portion of the left side of the visor came loose and I had to re-glue it, I guess did not use enough. I placed thick books on
the visor to hold it together, as I feared that clamps would leave marks on the material.

TIP: There is a good chance you’re going to get some stray adhesive on the material. It won’t easily come off by itself. I found that GoJo Hand Cleaner—the stuff in the plastic tub—removes it with a few wipes as long as it hasn’t dried. To
prevent staining, I then sprayed the affected area with water from an adjustable squirt bottle and gently wiped at it until the GoJo was gone. At first it appears discolored, but will dry cleanly with no evidence.

   

   

The completed Right side visor.

In the above photos the wrinkles on the innermost side—the edge to the left of the mirror on the first photo—could have been avoided by pulling the fabric straight away from the visor; also by cutting the perpendicular lines in the material just a bit more to allow it to follow the curve better.
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ABird Offline
Junior Member
#2
This is great.  Thanks for all the detailed information.
AES
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anasazi4st Offline
Senior Member
#3
(08-20-2020, 02:12 AM)ABird Wrote: This is great.  Thanks for all the detailed information.

Well there’s also a lot of photos. I hope we can get them up soon.
Another proud dues-paying member.

1987 Turbo Coupe w/T5OD, 8.8 axle, grey smoke; most options. Got it in 1991 with 41K miles: 3 turbos, 2 heater cores, 1 T5OD full rebuild, 5 clutches, 1 head gasket, 2 Teves II ABS units, etc. later....
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