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Headliner install

Posted: 08 Jun 2018 12:28
by heli006
Datsun 510
I can speak for other headliners as I only bought one. I purchased it from headliner mart on eBay and I found it to be of excellent quality. Properly designed and measured, and the material is a beautiful, plyable patterned vinyl. I accumulated a bunch of supplies before hand and put a great deal of thought into planning how I was going to execute the installation, watched plenty of videos, and searched many forums for info so I was well equipped with ideas about how I was going to do it, having selected the info I felt was correct. There are many adhesives one can choose from, but it’s important that it’s appropriate for headliner installation, will withstand heat, moisture, cold, and will last a lifetime. A good move is to call up a pro and ask them what product they recommend. They are to my knowledge, all one form of contact cement or another, an important point because it needs to be repositionable, which, if you have followed the directions properly, will do so, only locking into place and becoming permanent only after clamping and leaving for the cure period. There are also three forms of adhesive one can use. The first is a brush on, second is an aerosol can, and the third is a liquid sprayed on with a pneumatic spray gun. Most professional shops will use the latter as they do many of such installations one after the other and it saves them time and money, but for a guy doing one in his garage, that’s an unnecessary complication. I chose to use a combination of aerosol and brush on liquid as I wanted the flexibility to take my time with the installation. I chose a 3m adhesive as they make excellent products and will last a lifetime, put up with heat, humidity, and cold. The choice is up to you and it’s a contentious issue with people all throwing their opinions at you about how you did or didn’t use the correct adhesive, so I won’t be naming the product I used.
In my case, my car was missing one of the bows so I had to fabricate one out of 1/4” mild steel rod, which I took time with to ensure the curvature and angles were correct. It’s important to note that the bows are different depending on where the are in the car, front to back and are color coded with paint on the ends, so before you rip out the old ones, take note of which bows go where. If memory serves there are 5, but maybe it’s six. My missing one was not like the others so I curved it at my discretion and I believe I got it right. Once you have labeled each bow as to location, you can removed the old headliner, keep the bows aside for later and begin removing the old adhesive and cleaning everything up for the new installation. I had stripped my car to the bare shell and had the entire chassis chemically dipped, and pickled for rust prevention in Vancouver, removing everything that wasn’t metal, rust included, so stripping adhesive was a moot point for me.
Supplies needed:
*Headliner (obviously)
*Adhesive (your best educated choice)
*Pack of popsicle sticks (100 or so, from a craft store or dollar store)
*Bull dog clips (goes by many names, but they are a simple spring steel clamp used for holding together sheaves of paper, get 100 or so from an office supply store. I found that if you measure the thickness of the pinch weld around the doors with headliner material and a popsicle stick together and choose your clamp size based on the combined thickness of all three together, that will work the best).
*pack of acid brushes, or small disposable paint brushes
*heat gun, or at the very least a hair dryer (this will be used at the end to tighten up any minor wrinkles in the finished installation, and there will be some).
*The instructions included with your headliner will be quite helpful, as it will describe some important steps, most notably, where to snip the bow pockets on each side, (this will become clear shortly).


*Clean and prep and surfaces that will receive glue for bonding the headliner, (around door openings, front and rear windshields, A, B, and C pillars etc).
*install jute padding for sound insulation using heat resistant adhesive between where the bows will be on the inside roof of the car. You can mark a line from the bow installation holes on one side of the car to they other for reference. There should be at least 2-3 inches between jute pads to allow room for the bows as they either come close to the roof skin or touch the roof skin when installed, and padding will inhibit proper fitting of the bows. It’s not necessary to have the entire inside roof metal covered in jute, just long pads between the bows. Use a spray adhesive for this, spraying a coat on both the jute pad and the roof skin and allowing a set time as per the manufacturers instructions, before fitting pads. Unlike the headliner, once you press the jute pads into place, that’s where they will stay, and will not be repositionable.
Determine which end is the front and which end is the rear of your headliner and insert the appropriate color coded bows into the liner pockets. Follow the headliner instructions to determine where to snip the pockets to allow the bow to be free from suspending the liner and allow the liner to then stretch down to be glued around the window and door openings. You can use some discretion here based on what you think is best. But stick fairly close to the instructions. Generally they suggest 2-3” from the end of each pocket if memory serves. Before I snipped anything I inserted the bows and hung the headliner to check if their recommendation looked correct and used my judgment, making only small adjustment to their recommendation.
This step will highlight something to consider when installing. The bows are free to move around a bit between the jute pads you installed on the roof and when stretching the liner from front to back when you are preparing to glue it in, the bows may flop down from a vertical position and you don’t want that. There has to be enough room between the jute pads to swing each bow into a vertical position where it will stay, but not enough to allow the bow to flop down and out of position when installing, so examine this step before gluing any part of the headliner into place. Starting at either the front or the rear, swing the first bow into the vertical position, maybe gluing small squares of jute into place on either side of the bow between the large pads to hold the bow In place, this will become clear as you actually install. Continue with next bow, and the next until all are locked in place and the headliner is hanging from all the bows. It’s when you begin stretching that bows can fall from vertical and when you begin gluing this would become difficult to fix which is why I recommend securing each bow into place with little jute pads on either side on the center of the roof.
When you’ve got that all sorted and are confident that the bows will stay when you begin stretching and gluing, you can begin. Spray the back of the liner in a swath across the front windshield and rear window area and on the corresponding sheet pinch weld. Personally, I did only a foot at at time using a brush to get glue only where I wanted it. If you’re going to spray your adhesive on the inside metal I recommend masking off where you don’t want the glue to go and peeling it off immediately after spraying, waiting for the glue to set up, then stretching and placing the liner. I used a brush only on the sheet metal so I could work a foot at a time, I wanted to work slowly.
Keep in mind that you want the headliner to be glued fully into the pinch weld right to the edge, the excess will be trimmed when the vinyl is placed in position , pressed firmly into the crevice, and then start clamping. The vinyl must go right to the edge of the pinch weld before trimming. Some say wrap and glue the vinyl around the edge of the pinch weld to the other side but I think that’s a bad idea because the vinyl has a tough time making that 180 without pulling away due to its reluctance to turn that sharp a corner, not to mention that it would be much more difficult to install your windshield with weatherstripping over that increased thickness.
If you put enough thought into how/where you want to stetch and glue like I did, your likely to come to the same conclusions. I started the gluing front center/rear center, then left side center to right side center, stretch snug and pressing into place as I go, trimming and clamping, more clips and clamps are better than not enough and I put a popsicle stick under the clamps on the vinyl side to spread the clamping force between the gaps in the clamps. As I progressed I generally had about 1” between clamps, and on tighter curves, or areas of higher tension I had clamps touching each other, you can’t have too many clamps! It’s important to progress symmetrically, stretching evenly as you go, which is why I started center fore and aft, then center side to side, then divide those sections in half, and start at those centers, moving them to the opposite side, so you won’t end up with large ripples of gathered vinyl at any point which would be a major problem. I thought I had taken more pics of the process but I’m including the ones I have and I’ll try and annotate them here as well. When you’ve gotten everything stretched, glued, trimmed and clamped all the way around, go over every square inch and make sure you have an airtight bond, with no air bubbles, separation etc. if you find areas that aren’t bonded well, peel it back, apply a thin layer to both sides, let set up, then stretch back into position and clamp again. The vinyl is easy to stretch, forgiving, and if you have followed the glue manufacturers instruction well, you will be able to peel back, stretch, and reclamp easily. These glues are formulated with this in mind, and only become permanent after many hours or days of cure.
After you have completed all this, there will inevitably be some minor wrinkles in the finished product, don’t be concerned, I would leave them until you have reinstalled the pinch weld door stripping and let everything cure for a few days, then let the car sit in the hot sun for a day, you’ll likely find they will sort themselves out, or take a heat gun or hair dryer set to its highest setting and gently heat the vinyl in these areas with a sweeping motion from a distance until they relax and disappear, which if they are minor wrinkles, will disappear before your eyes.
Voila! Your done!

Just to reiterate some salient points, think about how your going to proceed, before proceeding.
Take your time, the pros will shoot glue around the whole car and the whole headliner and tackle it all at once, but this will be pretty intimidating for someone that’s never done it before as was the case for me. So I did mine a section at a time, with a brush and spray, applying, pressing, trimming and clamping, and it turned out perfectly, so don be afraid to take it slowly, the last thing you want as a DIY’r is to have to to take it to a pro after you’ve messed it up, because you got ahead of yourself. In the end, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be and I’m ecstatic with the result.

Re: Headliner install

Posted: 08 Jun 2018 15:17
by two_68_510s
Very detailed nicely written piece.

Thanks, the headliner has always been a mystery area!!

I would like to see the pics if possible.

Re: Headliner install

Posted: 11 Jun 2018 05:16
by Three B's Racing
Ice cream sticks? That's a great idea. I used my old removed pinch weld door stripping cut in 4" lengths and simply pushed it up on around the material and clamps where needed but unlike you, I glued on both sides of the pinch weld and wrapped the headliner material up and around to the outside just like factory with no issues. Nice write up and nice job.

Re: Headliner install

Posted: 21 Jun 2018 17:49
by Pista_510
Excellent write up!
This has demystified the process somewhat for me and is most timely as this is going to be happening on my build in the next few weeks, too.
Thank you!

Re: Headliner install

Posted: 21 Jun 2018 18:55
by RMS
great write up. I too used bits of pinch welt..... after the cloths pegs failed. a warm environment is also needed or the vinyl wont stretch well.

I watched a pro install the headliner on my 68 canadian, he used a heat gun to force the vinyl to make the sharp turn at the pinch. I was not so successful
when I did it by myself on 6inches, the windshield was tight and and it was a little bulgy in the corners. to compound my problems my 3m 777 spray adhesive was past its shelf life.... it didn't fully cure.... figured its new in a spray can should be good. I was wrong.

I was going to use jute padding but I was recommended to use reflective insulation (hot water tank bubble wrap. in the heat of the summer it is very noticeable

Re: Headliner install

Posted: 23 Jun 2018 08:05
by Byron510
RMS wrote:
21 Jun 2018 18:55
I was going to use jute padding but I was recommended to use reflective insulation (hot water tank bubble wrap. in the heat of the summer it is very noticeable
When James from Classic Threadz did the Greg Terry headliner, he too used the hot water tank insulation in layers because it s light weight, and won’t push back down on the headliner enough to see it. Also it doesn’t off gas anything when hot and is light colour and won’t bleed through if it ever did get damp as this is a white headliner- all good advice - and excellent service from James.

He’s based out of Abbostford BC, and I’ve recommended his work to anyone who has asked about a good upholstery guy. The work he did re-springing the stock 510 seats with heavier gauge wire and the material and workmanship he did on the seats was nothing short of amazing! His work was well worth the wait and cost.


Re: Headliner install

Posted: 05 Jan 2019 00:04
by Grinder
RMS wrote:
21 Jun 2018 18:55
great write up. I too used bits of pinch welt..... after the cloths pegs failed. a warm environment is also needed or the vinyl wont stretch well.

I watched a pro install the headliner on my 68 canadian, he used a heat gun to force the vinyl to make the sharp turn at the pinch. I was not so successful
when I did it by myself on 6inches, the windshield was tight and and it was a little bulgy in the corners. to compound my problems my 3m 777 spray adhesive was past its shelf life.... it didn't fully cure.... figured its new in a spray can should be good. I was wrong.

I was going to use jute padding but I was recommended to use reflective insulation (hot water tank bubble wrap. in the heat of the summer it is very noticeable
Just for reference the 3M 77 is not good for much other than holding stuff in place temporarily. 3M 80 and 90 are more appropriate and good to 130F so not necessarily applicable to headliner use either depending on your climate. Weldwood Landau adhesive is what you want to use but its very difficult to find in Canada.

Re: Headliner install

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 11:21
by eastbaysolo_73
Do you have any photos you can share of the process as well? Just got my headliner from Go-liners on ebay. I was debating on having someone installing it for me or being brave and doing it myself. lol Either way great write up.

Re: Headliner install

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 12:49
by zKars
I started this post to provide a place to put headliner bows (or bars) information for future reference. Searches here and elsewhere were disappointing, lots of info on 'how" but nothing about determining order.

I have to put a head liner back in a 2dr sedan this week, so I need this info.

I have two sets of bows in stock at the moment and one was tagged With numbers that show the order. The colors on three of the bows are still visible on one set. So I layed them out carefully and took some pictures and measurements.

The attached pictures hopefully show the details.

The sticky in the picture states the measurements, but I'll list them here in case the pictures get 'lost'

Red front, green center, blue rear. Bow 2 and 4 don't have a shread of color on them, but their measurements are very close so it may not matter. I remember a black color in the list as well, so the 2/4 order might matter, they are slighty different, if anyone has the correct location for the black one, let us know!

Front, red, 42.6875 (11/16)
#2 no color, 42.5
Center, green, 42.375
#4, nocolor, 42.625
Rear, blue, 43.0

Both sets have identical lengths to each rod.

The rods (if any one cares) are 6mm diameter. "Someone" is going to make their own at some point, I'm sure.

I lined up one edge perpendicular to the bench top (last pic) and then looked at the other end to see the relative differences (center picture).
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Re: Headliner install

Posted: 02 Feb 2019 06:42
by zKars
My headliner install went quite well yesterday. Thanks for the above instructions, it gave almost everything I needed to proceed with a painless process. i got it to the point of beginning the wrapping of the edges around the pinch welds to check fit. I should note that I'm using a old original headliner that was lovingly pried loose from a donor. I will be glueing the edges down today, I just went around and heated and stretched the edges over the lips and used the binder clips to hold it in place. It's a real tight fit.

I had used the butyl and foil backed sound deadener on the roof skin, and layed 12x12 sheets of sticky back foam insulation on the roof (about 4mm thick) with the recommended inch or two of gap where the bows go. This allowed the bows to pop into place with just a bit of a push to get them past the edge of the foam sheets.

Laying in bed last night the one missing detail popped into my head. There are some wires to run to that dang center overhead light that I forgot about! Time to do a little fishing from the edge to the center cutout!

Here is a shot of the roof with the foam insulation sheets in place, all except the last strip at the back. You can see the kilmatt under that, The roof was initially coasted with bed liner. Hopefully all this mass will stay put.
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Re: Headliner install

Posted: 06 Feb 2019 12:05
by yenpit
Yup, the biggest issue with using heavy sound deadening material on the roof on ANY classic car with a vinyl headliner, is if that material de-laminates and drops, you will see it weighing down on the headliner material. Make sure that stuff is stuck GOOD!!


Re: Headliner install

Posted: 01 Jun 2019 23:08
by eastbaysolo_73
I just wanted to say thank you for posting the colors and lengths of the headliner bows. With some warm water and a paper towel I was able to wipe the ends clean to find the red, green and blue bows. Now I have to measure the two with no color to put them in the correct spot.