We’re about to cover one of the most difficult portions of restoring a VW Beetle, the headliner. Don’t fear though, we’ll show how with some patience and the right technique, just about anyone can install their own headliner. Our tech will go over the steps and cover tips that we’ve used for decades that have saved us time and most importantly money versus taking our cars to an upholstery shop.
Important notes: 1:05
Door pillar material installation: 1:49
Door pillar to quarter window installation: 4:22
Headliner bows installation: 5:17
Headliner roof test fit & configuration: 6:16
Headliner, roof to top of door opening installation: 7:15
Door opening to quarter window transition installation: 8:17
Roof to upper quarter window installation: 9:06
Headliner to windshield installation: 9:53
Rear view mirror installation: 11:12
Sun visors installation: 11:23
Upper rear window headliner installation: 12:12
Rear window to quarter window installation: 12:34
Rear to quarter window installation: 13:34
Side rear window headliner installation: 13:44
Headliner to fenderwell installation: 13:50
Lower quarter window material installation: 14:30
Lower rear window material installation: 15:52
Lower rear window material modification (lower edge): 16:35
Door pillar assist straps installation: 17:17
Dome light installation: 17:40
Tools used in this video:
Plastic Trim Tool
Pinch Welt / Snap-on Trip
With the sound deadening and headliner padding installed on our 1971 Super Beetle project, in our last two videos.
We can now get into one of the more difficult areas of a VW restoration, the headliner. We are going to install a unisuede conversion style headliner and because it is a cloth material, we'll use fabric spray adhesive instead of the quart can of headliner glue that we would use when installing a vinyl headliner. Cloth headliners cost more than vinyl headliners, but they are easier to install.
Along those lines, we'll note the conversion style headliners are often referred to as "easy install" or "one-piece" headliners, and those terms can confuse people.
A conversion headliner is easier to install than an OEM style headliner, but that doesn't mean it's an easy job.
The term one-piece refers to the main roof, above the rear window and c-pillars,
where the OEM headliner uses four pieces to cover the same area as the one-piece headliner does. The conversion headliner still had six pieces of material to install; two, door pillar pieces with the door trim windlace attached, the large roof piece, two pieces of material for under each quarter window, and one piece of material for below the rear window. This is going to be a long video and it starts with the installation of the door pillar material with the sewn on windlass.
We bend and pry the door grippers back for the windlass using a plastic trim tool,
and at the bottom, we'll note the front edge of the pillar where we'll add a scrap piece of foam. We test fit the windlass and slide it into place at the door opening, from the outside-in, with most of the material outside of the car. We want to see that the lip of the windlass is in place behind the grippers. They are pried back more as needed and once the windlass is in place from top to bottom, we pull the material inside of the car and use our trim tool to tuck any loose material in against the door opening.
The material is pulled back outside again and all the metal grippers are tapped down with a mallet to hold the windlass in place.
Then, we go back over them with a mallet and chisel, to make sure the grippers are secure. We take some scraps of foam and glue them over the grippers, down the doorpost. Then, we spray the door pillar and the back of the material with spray glue.
We don't spray the very bottom edge yet and once the glue is set,
we wrap the material from the doorpost into the quarter window opening.
Then, starting from the top, we work from the door grippers on the car, pulling and stretching the material as needed, to the window opening.
A trim tool helps to work the material into place at the body
and we continue down into the quarter panel opening. Here, we'll pull the material up a little as needed to make sure we can get it stuck to the body, closer to the door opening.
Then, the material is pressed in place at the quarter panel opening
and we continue working down pulling the material tight as needed, and work the material into the quarter panel.
At the bottom, we work the material on top of the base of the door pillar, stretching the wrinkles out as best as we can as we go.
We use a razor blade to cut a small x into the material at the seat belt hole. Then, since we didn't spray glue here earlier, now that we have the material stretched to fit, we pull it back, coat the surfaces with glue, and once it's tacked up, we work it back down into place. Now, we go back and cut small x's for the quarter panel clips with a razor blade. Then, we cut the excess material from the opening in the body.
Outside the car, we spray the edge of the body and the headliner at the quarter window opening, with glue.
While the glue sets, we cut relief cuts in the material, especially at the corners. Then, the excess material flaps are cut with a pair of scissors, and the material is folded over and pressed onto the window lip.
Resist the urge to just fold the material over and then come back and cut the excess with a razor blade.
The cut marks allow water and moisture to get to the metal, which will cause rust.
We use a piece of pinch welt or snap-on trim to help hold the material in place while the glue cures.
We'll use this material extensively on all the window openings later.
The opposite side door pillar material is installed in the same manner and once both door pillar pieces are installed,
we cut x's for the upper seat belt mounts and we can move on to the next step.
We didn't have headliner bows for our car so we'll start by cutting new replacement bows to length.
The headliner bows tuck into the left and right roof rails and suspend the headliners against the roof. We start by laying our headliner on top of the car, with the bow pockets up, so we can get a general idea of where the bows will sit. Then, inside the car, we stick a bow into the roof rail and mark the bow at the point where the bow sits at the rail, on both sides.
We pull the bow and note how far the bow stuck past our mark, where it was stuck into the rail,
add that length to the mark at the opposite side and we cut the bow to length.
Once all the bows are cut, they're fed through the bow pockets on the headliner and we install bow caps on either end.
The caps help prevent metal to metal contact against the roof and once they're on, the headliner is bundled up with the six bows together and brought inside the car. Then, inside the car, we align the headliner bows so they sit straight across the roof. Outside the car at the rear, we use a piece of snap-on trim to hold the material at the top center of the window opening. We pull the headliner taught from the rear to the front and use another piece of snap-on trim to hold the headliner at the windshield.
Then, inside the car, we align the headliner bows so they sit straight across the roof.
Now is the time to check the front-to-rear alignment of the headliner. Make sure that the rear flaps will cover the entire c-pillar, from the quarter window to the rear window and down to the fender wells and rear firewall. We also make sure to check if the headliner is centered left to right in the car. Then, we pull the headliner tight at the windshield opening, from the center to the a-pillar, and use snap-on trim to hold it for now.
Next, we'll get the headliner installed into the top of the door openings.
Now is the last time to make sure that the dome light wiring is still in place, so make sure it's still accessible. We tuck the wires in underneath the pad, inside the car. We use a trim tool to bend the door grippers down. A scrap piece of cardboard is used to help prevent overspray and inside the car, we spray the grippers.
Then, we spray the back of the headliner, and when the glue is set,
we pull the headliner tight up to the grippers and press it into place.
We cut back some of the excess material from about an inch in front of the b-pillar,
and up to an inch before the end of the grippers at the a-pillar. We also leave about an inch of material hanging off the roof. That loose material is tucked into the grippers with the trim tool. Finally, a rubber mallet is used to tap the grippers down into place. The process is the same for both sides and once they're done, we get to work on the transition from the door opening to the quarter window.
The overhanging material at the door is pulled down,
we cut it just in front of the b-pillar, and below the edge of the grippers. Then, we push the material into the grippers a bit so we know at what point the material will fold over. We want a clean seam from the door to the quarter window, across the b-pillar, above the assist strap mount.
So, the material is pulled out,
the excess flap is cut off, and we fold the headliner back to the quarter window and some snap-on trim holds it in place temporarily. The loose flap at the gripper is trimmed and then tucked into place and the gripper is tapped down.
Outside the car at the quarter window, the snap-on trim is pulled off so the window lip and the back of the headliner can be sprayed with glue.
We spray the glue on the inside of the lip as well, the headliner is pulled tightly into the window opening, up to the last cross seam of the headliner. A trim tool ensures a good contact.
Then outside the car, the material is cut up to the sewn seam,
folded, and pressed into the window lip, and snap-on trim will hold it while the glue cures. Inside the car, we can admire the progress before we follow the same steps on the opposite side of the car.
Next, we'll work on the front portion of the headliner.
For 1968 and newer Beetles, the headliner goes into the window opening whereas on older models it tucks into the roof rail above the windshield. We start by picking out a fold point from the door gripper to the windshield opening and then we spray on top of the a-pillar, around the area where the visors will mount, and the bottom edge of the body opening up to the rearview mirror mount.
The back of the headliner and the window lip are sprayed as well,
and while the glue is setting, we trim back the headliner at the corner where we'll fold it from the gripper to the windshield. We test the fit and spray the back edge of the material there. Once it's ready, we fold it over onto itself and pull the headliner into the windshield opening.
We press the headliner in place against the inside lip with a trim tool
then trim it, fold it against the body, and push on some snap-on trim.
At the door gripper, we trim the excess material, tuck it in and tap the gripper down with a mallet.
Then, we follow the same steps on the opposite side of the car.
Once the front of the headliner is installed,
we cut an x into the headliner for the rearview mirror. The rearview mirror inserts at an angle and then twists down into place. Next, we'll cut the headliner for the visor clips noting the keyhole shapes. The clips are set into the hole vertically and pivot down into the horizontal position where a screw holds each one in place.
Next, we'll mock up the visors themselves
noting that there is a left and a right side that corresponds with the offset of the rearview mirror.
The large hole for the visor pivot is cut open and then we feel around for the screw holes and cut the headliner there as well.
The visors are installed and once they are, they can be twisted out on the mount so that they line up with the visor clips. It is much easier to get the visors and clips in now while the mounting positions are still fresh in your mind. Feeling around for them later might be difficult.
With the front complete, we'll move to the back of the headliner to the rear window opening.
After pulling the headliner tightly to the rear and to the sides, we spray the lip on the body and the back of the headliner. Then, the center of the headliner is pulled tightly through the rear window opening and pressed against the body at the inside edge.
Inside the car, we'll work on one side of the headliner from the rear window to the quarter window
and spray glue at both window openings on the inside, the outside, and on to the back of the headliner.
We press the headliner into place into both openings, working from the top down
pulling the headliner tight down the c-pillar.
Once most of the material is in place at the rear window, we move to the quarter window
and trim the front flap so that it runs straight up and down the body. We spray glue into the quarter panel opening, the bottom edge of the window flap, and onto the back of the headliner. The headliner is pressed into place at the rear window edge, and then we move forward and press it down into place at the quarter panel.
Here we'll install the rear seat backrest stops into the quarter panel after stretching the material into place.
Finding the hole later could be hard.
Now, we'll relief cut the headliner at the quarter window opening,
cut off the excess material, then press and fold it over the body before installing some snap-on trim.
The material at this half of the rear window gets installed in the same way.
Inside the car, the headliner material is pulled back, and spray glue is applied at the top of the fender, up the edge of the firewall, and at the back of the material. When the glue is tacky, we work the material into place, along the inner edge of the fender well, and up the firewall. The excess material is trimmed at the fender along with the extra material at the rear window and we follow the same procedure on the opposite side. Following the same steps to finish up the installation of the main portion of the headliner.
We're almost done!
We move to the quarter window next and mock-up the piece of material under the opening. The material could just be glued onto the top of the doorpost, which is what Volkswagen did originally. With cloth headliners though, we'll usually wrap the material over itself for a cleaner look. So, we spray some glue on the body, and the areas where the lower piece of material will overlap at the front and the rear,
and we spray the edge of the material
fold it over and glue it to itself.
The material is mocked up again, and we mark the back edge,
trim the material just past the mark,
spray the backside, and fold it over to finish the back edge. We spray the back of the material and set it in place in the body. We set it in place at the quarter window edge and down into the quarter window opening. The excess material is trimmed off. We cut x's in the material for the quarter panel clips. Then, we spray glue to the outside lower edge of the quarter window opening. The material is folded over and pressed down onto the body, and snap-on trim will hold the material in place while the glue dries. These same steps are repeated on the opposite side quarter panel.
Finally, the last piece of the headliner is the material below the rear window.
We'll install this just like we did the lower quarter panel pieces. We start by mocking up the piece to see where we'll wrap the edges. Then, we spray the lip of the window opening and the edges of the material. We fold the edges over, we spray the back of the material, and when the glue is ready, we lay it in place below the rear window. We make sure the edges are set evenly on either side.
Then, we smooth out the material and press it into place, at the inner window lip, with a trim tool.
Pulling the material back from the top edge ensures that we get the material pushed down to the body.
We could leave the material at the bottom edge as it sits and just carpet over it later,
but we'll cover one more step that you might choose to take.
We pull the material and foam up from the rear luggage shelf, up to the body seam, and then press the material into the seam.
This will give us a trim mark for later. We start trimming the rear piece at the top edge of the material, fold it onto the window lip, and press on some snap-on trim. Then, we'll go down to the bottom edge, trim back the foam and the material, just below our seam. We'll tuck the pad and material into the seam on the luggage tray, clean up the edges, and we're done with the headliner installation. Well, almost.
We'll install the assist straps by marking the holes on the b-pillar.
Then, we insert the screws through the mounting bracket and through the strap. We screw the bracket to the b-pillar, and then we slide the coat hook cover over the back of the bracket. Note that the back lip needs to be in place behind the top of the bracket before it's clipped in place to the bottom of the bracket. We'll also temporarily install our dome light. So we cut a hole across the center of the opening, we make sure that our wires are still in place, and if you were hooking them up, the red wire goes to the single side terminal and the brown wires go to the terminals at the switch side. We test fit the light and cut the material as needed so we can snap the light in place. With that, we're done with the headliner installation.
We'll go back and clean up the overspray on the body with some adhesive remover
and we'll go back and clean up the glue spots on the interior material after the glue has cured for a few days. Make sure to spot check your material, and your paint, to make sure that the remover won't damage them. We hope you've enjoyed this video, installing a headliner isn't an easy job but it is something that just about anyone that's handy, and has some patients, can manage.
Thanks for watching!
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