Removing a Headliner

Rattle Trap

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I have an involved process, but all is necessary. This is for a coupe. A sedan is slightly more involved.
First remove pass side front seat and duct tape the driver seat release lever in the loose position. You won't be twisting that thing out without one gone and the steering column is in the way of going out the driver side.
Then remove dash top and pad to access the A-pillar trims.
Remove both door frame top steel rails and windshield top bow and finish removing A-pillar trims.
Replace windshield top bow with a single screw loosely on one side hole but not an end hole.
Remove sunvisors. The front half is now hanging on the single loose screw holding the windshield bow, so now go to the rear.
Remove rear seat entirely.
The rear window interior C-pillar plastic side trims are valuable so be careful. Remove top bow and unscrew bottom bow. The bottom bow is going to be gooped in window adhesive and not easily removed. It will break the bottoms off your plastic side trims if not careful. There are between one and three screws in each side trim. Remove all but one left loosely in each. Now get whatever form of pry bars long screwdrivers and hooked knife (I have modified carpet knives especially to have less shank and more hook). Place a roll of 2" masking tap on the package tray with your other tools and remove the last screw from the side trim you'll be working to get first and hold it loosely in one hand while working between tools with the other. Pry on the steel from the top and bottom to loosen for better access. Once you get the steel out a bit on the one side start twisting on it while moving the side trim forward and back with it and cut the goop loose from top and bottom working your way to the center. You may get the side trim loose this way. Or you may need to use the tape to hold it to the rear glass and the rest of the plastic for now while you work on the other side. Repeat on that side but being careful off your other loose side. You need this lower steel piece just out enough to get some ability to pull that first side's tabs from the steel that's hooked around each bottom edge of the plastic. Once you finally get it loosened enough to get one free, you're home free with the other side.
So next order of business, remove the steel clips that are keeping your lower seat belts from retracting beyond the plastic interior quarters. Don't loose those! I hate losing those!
Unscrew the interior quarter coat hooks lower and center screws and pull them forward and get em outa there. So at this point you're only holding the headliner up with the loose front bow, the top front seat belt covers and the dome light. If you're nervous, you can loosely reinstall the rear top steel, but it's got to come out again soon.
Replace each upper door frame steel Loosely with a single screw you can reach from a seated position from the center of car and remove the front outer seat belts entirely, or at least get the tops out of there and drop the rest on the floor.
if this is a very late 78, 79 or later, it will require that you remove the plastic open door locking button mechanisms from the door jambs and feed them up the B-pillars to come out with the retractors. Almost done.
The whole rear section is just dangling behind the dome light. Make sure you've only got a couple threads in the steels now and remove the rear top if you put it in. You want everything loose because you're going to pull the cardboard right out of their support in a moment.
Sit on the transmission hump and finally remove the dome light. Better have the drill driver on the hump right next to you when you do that. Because now you're holding the whole thing up with one hand and while reaching for it. Shoot that screw out of the pass door steel where you're going out from, drop the drill, and grab the headliner with both hands. Slide it back til it clears the front bow.
Move yourself toward your exit and droop it down toward that side so it slips to the right and free of the driver side steel. It's all in your hands at this point.
Crouch down and let it lay on the driver seat while sliding it forward to the dash. Now it's a good thing you duct taped the driver seat release because it's job is done.
Lift the headliner and fold the seat up on the steering wheel for the extra lower room you need to push the headliner up on top of the dash for support while you readjust yourself.
Then swing this deal right out the door. It's approximately 56"x56" so you'll need that front section down at dash height to fit thru the 61" door opening now.
Slide yourself over that rocker feet first and take it out with you.
All done!


Moderator, a light editing was performed for clarity, Moderator
 
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BudW

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Well said and thank you Rattle Trap.
4-door cars will still require the Right Front seat and rear seats to be removed. The headliner is still roughly the same size but the door hole is now smaller.
Just be careful around some areas like the sunviser holes, seat belt holes and other areas like that for it is easy to damage them in those areas.
Headliners are getting hard to find and I would prefer not to repair an existing one (if possible).
BudW
 

Rattle Trap

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I've only removed sedan headliners through a removed front or rear glass. Is it possible to fit one through a front door opening? I'm thinking you might have to loosen the steering column at the firewall and lay it on the floor to get the headliner sideways enough to fit the right front opening. Can't say I've tried though.
 

MoparDan

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I replaced the headliner on one of my Fifth Avenues, I got it in and out though the right front door, I didn't have to loosen the steering column or take the front seats out or anything, I just reclined the passenger seat all the way back, and carefully got it back in, it would've been easier if the driver's seat reclined too but it didn't. It took a little patience but I got it in
 

Mikes5thAve

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Yeah with reclining seat and tilt steering wheel it's easy to get the headliner out. Most of the 80s headliners are flexible which helps too compared to the earlier models made out of that hard fiber board stuff.
 

89.Fifth

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I have never gotten one in and out without partially ruining it. I expected that and spent some time fiberglassing the weak spots and reinforcing the whole thing before putting it back.
 

Justwondering

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I got my Fifth Avenue headliner out through the front door opening as well without removing the seats.
Being patient.
Do it on a cool day.
Mark your sun visor attachments so you get them back in correctly without having to rotate, rotate, rotate until you get it lined up correctly again.

JW
 

R.W.Dale

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You guy’s reports of removing the 4 door M body headliners without pulling windows or the entire interior is very encouraging to me.

I honestly don’t see it being possible but I’m game to try
 

BudW

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It can be done.
That said, don't do it on a very windy day. I took the one out of my '86 Fifth Ave in one piece, then the wind took it parasailing. By the time I got it chased down, I ended up with five or six pieces (it hitting a fence, broke it in half, and things went downhill from there). It would have made a great Keystone cop style movie...maybe.

There are a bunch of different types, sizes and length screws used. Bag and tag your screws and you should be fine (a bag for the upper windshield trim, a bag for A-pillar trim screws, etc.).
If you can do it on a cool to warm day is even better. There is not much air flow inside of a car and a hot day makes it miserable.
BudW
 

BudW

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I found a "recently recovered" headliner at a local Pull-A-Part. It cost about $20 and an hour on a hot day to get it out. The hard part was carrying it, solo, then transporting it (in my pickup) home, without damaging it.

Having a (patient) second pair of hands for final removal/install and for moving it outside of the car is well worth a couple of 6-packs.

I don't know of anyone making or repop-ing FMJ headliners.

Note: There are a couple different styles of material used for F/M headliners. One is a pegboard design (pressed paper) and other is a type of pressed fiber that looks like leaves or feathers mixed with something. The later is covered with a layer of fabric - which has the tendency to fall off. I can't remember what J-bodies use (been too long).
BudW
 

Justwondering

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I did mine on my own ... there is a thread on here. and if I remember correctly.
Open up all the doors.
Put the steering wheel down as far as you can.
move the front seats as far forward as you can.
Then lay the front seat backs down as far as you can (toward the back seats).
I jockeyed mine out the front passenger side.
But I moved is down and towards the back glass so I could jockey it out.

And yes, I know from an intellectual standpoint that the size of the opening is the same on both sides at the front doors.
But I swear, I had an easier time getting it out the front passenger side than the frpmt driver side.

and ...
I have slept since then so I could be totally confused and just dreamed that I removed it out the back ... lol

JW
 

BudW

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would all this info apply to a 82 Mirada?
Yes.

2-door vehicles are MUCH easier to remove/replace than 4-door vehicles are.
Station wagons and hatchbacks are easier still - but really need more than one pair of hands to man-handle.

When the factory builds the car, they will install the headliner as one of the first inside items. They also support the headliner with the center dome light assembly (tightened down) then add the pillar trim next.
When i do it, I add the dome light loosely to give more wiggle room. Then, add the various pillar trim somewhat snug, then tighten everything down. It might be more work but it is way I do it.
BudW
 

mopops

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Yes.

2-door vehicles are MUCH easier to remove/replace than 4-door vehicles are.
Station wagons and hatchbacks are easier still - but really need more than one pair of hands to man-handle.

When the factory builds the car, they will install the headliner as one of the first inside items. They also support the headliner with the center dome light assembly (tightened down) then add the pillar trim next.
When i do it, I add the dome light loosely to give more wiggle room. Then, add the various pillar trim somewhat snug, then tighten everything down. It might be more work but it is way I do it.
BudW
i have an 81 imp that needs one, yrs ago you could buy spray fabric will have to look tks
 

LSM360

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When the interior shops do them does anyone know if they usually remove seats on 4 door M bodies or do they know how to finagle them out usually?
 

Ele115

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It would be so rare for a headliner shop to ever see one of these who could even ask? I would take the seat out just because of how easy it is but that's just me. There aren't very many cars I would not do this on. I would hate to fight it or damage it. Your answer should be yes. Bending as headliner to squeeze it around corners and through a door should be "no" with a capital F. Someone has probably done it, but the seats come out way too easily
 

Justwondering

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I had a long chat with Arnold from Arnolds Auto Interiors one day when I was first looking for headliner fabric. Nice guy, been in business freaking forever.

He said
1. Man, I haven't done a 5th avenue in forever
2. We used to do them all the time
3. I would have to charge so much now that nobody would pay to have it done
4. Once you know how to adjust the front seats and steering wheel, you can get the headliner out easy
5. All those screws on all that trim, man that's old school
6. I can't believe you still have one of these cars

Basically, if you lower the steering wheel all the way down. Lay the front seats back as far as possible and the seats as low as possible.

Remove all the light covers, visors, etc and unplug what you need (vanity light in the visor-- etc).

You can lower the headliner and finagle it out of the car. Been there, done that.

JW

But it took me several trys and two calls to BudW before I understood the geometry well enough to get the thing out without bending it. Once I did, Arnold was right. Comes out easy.

But if you have the time, place and desire, it would be far easier to remove the headliner with the front seats removed. My rear bench was a pain to remove only because there was rust on the lower bracket. Its a friction fit, but I heck removing the rear seat.

Let me be clear though, I removed the rear seats when I was recovering all the pillar trim. When I did my headliner, I pulled it with all seats still in the car.
 

Justwondering

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Here's a link: Headliner Board

And another: 1987 Chyrsler 5th Avenue - Exterior Trim

Each link gives you a few tips or repeats a few tips on the install/removal of the headliner.

Since I was doing it by myself, I used two longer ratchet straps that I usually use to strap down round hay bales on the gooseneck. I put sacrificial cardboard on the roof of the car so the metal ratchets would not scratch the paint.

The hard part about getting the headliner out by yourself, with the seats in the car is the width of the headliner. Your arms are not long enough to hold up the left edge while you dance it out of the right rear door. So I used ratchet strap to hold it up in the front and rear. Then I could loosen the rear more than the front strap. That would let the headliner come down in the back but still be above the seats in the front.

Course you have to make sure you get the dome light finagled, but once you get the headliner loose and resting on the straps, you can drop the rear strap and loosen the front strap while pulling the headliner out. Bend it slightly and it will come out over the seats.

If you don't feel comfortable with the process. Stop. tighten the straps to raise the headliner. remove the seats, then try again with the seats out.

Its just a matter of taking your time and not forcing the process.

JW
 

Mikes5thAve

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Figure out if you can do it first without the straps. They're one more thing to be in the way.
The hardest part of the process is you need to support the headliner while the last pieces of trim come off or first ones go back on or it'll bend down and risk creasing. At least with the seats in you can use the head rests to hold it up.
On 5th avenues it's a fairly easy job because the back window tunnel is there to hold it for you. Taking headliner out you can easily hold it up while removing the last bits of trim and then slide it forward and out from that tunnel. Putting the headliner back in once it's in the car get some trim and screws within easy reach and you can slide the headliner over the tunnel first to support that end while you start working on the rest. You can also usually use the b pillar trim to help hold it up.
 
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