How to fix sagging headliner without removing it?

The headliner inside your car plays a crucial role in providing insulation against the cold and heat, as well as the noise coming from outside. Unfortunately, it is not immune to wear and tear; and if exposed to some undesirable circumstances, the headliner eventually starts to sag.

A sagging headliner not only takes away from the aesthetic appeal of your vehicle’s interior but also makes it look old. In most cases, fixing a damaged headliner involves taking the entire headliner out. Luckily, a few hacks can save you all this trouble, yet still restore the integrity of your car.

In this post, we discuss various ways you can fix a sagging headliner without removing it!

What is a Headliner?

You know what…It just occurred to me that you might be a newbie car owner who doesn’t know what a headliner is (it’s not a common word come to think of it). Well, a headliner simply refers to the material that is fitted to the roof of your car. It is usually made out of smooth fabric with a soft texture that is pleasing to touch.

The headliner is the reason why your car maintains a calm and silent atmosphere inside even when there is a lot of commotion and noise outside. The fabric it is made of also serves to insulate the occupants of the car against cold or heat. 

What Causes a Car Headliner to Sag?

The headliner is held against the roof using strong glue which unfortunately loses its “sticking” property when it’s exposed to heat. If you reside in a hot region, your car’s headliner is likely to experience sagging sooner than you might expect. But this is just one of several reasons why you may have a sagging headliner.

Another reason that  may cause this is prolonged contact with water. This makes the adhesive lose its potency, resulting in the headliner getting separated from the supporting board. 

Finally, the glue holding the headliner in place tends to deteriorate over time. That is why a sagging headliner is a more common phenomenon in older cars.

Fixing a Sagging Headliner

The good thing about a sagging headliner is that while it is pretty much inevitable, it is also quite simple to fix. Below are just some of the many options you can use to fix the headliner without removing it:

Option 1: Glue it up the Old-fashioned Way

This is one of the first things that come to mind; after all, headliners are usually held up using some kind of glue. If the headliner has partially sagged, then it shouldn’t take you too long to fix. All you require is a strong glue to hold it firmly back in place. Your best bet, in this case, would be to apply a spray can adhesive.

Inspect the headliner to see whether there are any tears aside from the sagging.. Remove the central cabin light  as this will make it easier to fix the headliner and locate all the sagging areas. 

You might have to pull down the headliner to fully expose the damage then wire brush all the surfaces on which you’ll be applying the glue. Ensure the adhesive is sufficiently distributed on both the headliner and the roof of the car so that it sticks strongly when you push it back into place.

Remember to reinstall the central cabin light once you’re done with the restoration. If the headliner feels firm and even when you run your palm along it, you have done a great job. If not, you might have missed some spots where the headliner is still sagging. 

Option 2: Use Sequin Pins

people inside a car

If you don’t like the sticky feeling of glue in your hands, a less intrusive option for you would be to hold the headliner up with the help of sequin pins. These are quite easy to use and you won’t be needing any tools to get the job done. As usual, you want to start by inspecting the sagging headliner to know which areas have come off.

From here, pin the headliner material into the supporting board so that it remains in place. Just push the headliner up against the roof with one hand and use the other hand to drive in the sequin pins. Apply enough pressure with your thumb so that it is securely held up.

The benefit of using pins is that you can get creative and arrange them in an appealing pattern that will enhance the overall look. This way everyone will assume it’s all part of the interior design. 

Option 3: Stick it with Hair Spray and Staple Pins

Using staple pins may sound like a long shot but people have been known to use them in fixing their sagging headliners. Keep in mind that a paper stapler may not be effective in this case, rather use a staple gun for this. 

Just push back the sagging spots on the ceiling and pin them back in place using your staple gun. Once you’re done with this, take some hairspray and apply it to all the places you have stapled. The hairspray serves to melt the adhesive that once held the headliner fabric and supporting board together, helping to restore its stickiness. 

Let the ceiling sit for a couple of minutes as you allow the surface to dry before you remove the pins. The only downside to using this method is that the fix is short -lived. The ceiling will need similar repairs after a relatively shorter time but this is a cheap and quick solution to fixing a sagging headliner without removing it. 

Option 4: Stick it Up with Clear-headed Pins

Twist pins effectively screws into your existing headliner and is another reliable solution to your sagging headliner.  Similar to the method explained in option 3 above, all you need to do is push up the ceiling and drive the pin into the supporting board and twist.

These pins will enable the headliner to stick firmly to the backboard. You have the opportunity to experiment with charming patterns when using these pins to improve the look of your car’s interior. One advantage of clear-headed pins compared to the staple or thumb pins is that they don’t leave behind holes in the ceiling, which doesn’t end up damaging it in the long run.

Not to mention that they are cheap and readily accessible!


Option 5: Fix it with Double-sided Tape

Another fast and easy way to fix a sagging headliner is with the help of double-sided tape. This special tape is made in such a way that allows it to stick on both sides, making it possible to join two surfaces simultaneously. 

Place the tape on all the loose areas on the ceiling before pushing it back against the supporting board for the fabric to stick. Be sure to apply enough pressure when pushing up the headliner so that it sticks firmly. The good thing about double-sided tape is that it sticks exceptionally well on both sides so the results are long-lasting.

This method is also preferred by most car owners as it gets the job done without punching holes into the backboard and headliner fabric, unlike thumb pins. The material remains intact even after restoration. 

Option 6: Use a Steam Cleaner to Revive the Adhesive

Finally, the last option is using a steam roller to fix the sagging headliner. The heat of the steam roller warms the degenerated adhesive, causing it to melt underneath the headliner and regain some of its stickiness. Although it may not be as potent as when initially applied, it will do the job of holding the ceiling up.

While using the steam roller, make sure that you work on all the sagging areas. Using a paint roller, press the material against the backboard for uniformity once you’re done with the restoration job. 

This is another wonderful technique that doesn’t interfere with the look of your car. It leaves the headliner looking as lovely as it was before and there are no wrinkles or crevices to worry about. Also, the heat from the steam roller is just sufficient enough to do the job without causing damage to the adhesive. 

How Long Do the Above Fixes Last?

Any of the options above can serve as a great solution when you want to restore your damaged headliner, especially when you don’t have the time or finances to do a complete repair job. Luckily, you can also expect the results to last you for a decent amount of time.

For example, when you use the steam roller to restore the adhesive beneath the headliner, it can remain in place for up to a year. Nevertheless, good maintenance practices will be key to maintain the repaired ceiling of your car. Just do your best to avoid exposing your car to water, excessive heat or cold, or anything that deteriorates the potency of the adhesive. 

Important Things to Note

When using any of the options above, there are a few things that you need to bear in mind:

  • Clean the surfaces of the headliner and backboard before applying the glue
  • Take care not to damage the fabric when removing the staple or thumb pins
  • Use as few pins as possible when holding up the headliner to minimize damage to the fabric
  • Apply the glue evenly to achieve the best results


It’s important to note that the above methods only provide a temporary solution and that you can’t expect them to restore your sagging headliner for the long haul. They are best recommended when you are looking for a quick fix and don’t have enough money for a complete restoration job.

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