Contributed By: Costas Papayanopoulos
I recently re-upholstered the headliners of
my '87 GW (no sunroof). Since this is a common
problem and it comes up frequently as a topic
in the group, I decided to write a note on
I would appreciate any comments/corrections
and I plan to edit and re-issue this as a
possible how-to on the IFSJA site:
editor's note ' TOO LATE! (grin)
GW HEADLINING REUPHOLSTERY
GW headliners are upholstered with a foam-
backed fabric which tends to sag after a few
years. The problem is in the foam which
deteriorates and separates from the fabric.
With nothing to support it, the fabric starts
to form what looks like "bubbles" which
There is no reasonable repair for this common
problem other than to replace the fabric.
Depending on how you go about doing this,
the job may cost anywhere from about $50 to
$300 and up.
The GW headliner consists of two pieces.
If one starts sagging it's a good bet the
the other will follow shortly. So it is a
good idea to re-upholster both pieces even if
only one has a problem.
Before you start, try to determine the condition
of the headliner itself. This is the board on
which the fabric and foam are attached. It
sometimes gets badly warped because of roof
leaks and may need to be replaced. It is made
of a cardboard-and-plastic material that is
probably hard to find. This material seems to
have just the right amount of stiffness so that
it conforms to the shape of the roof without
REMOVING THE HEADLINERS
Start by removing the headliners:
- Start by removing the two small plastic trim pieces at either end of the rear metal trim strip nearest the tailgate.
- Remove the screws that hold the metal trim in place and remove the trim.
- Remove the cargo light lense by twisting it. Remove the cargo light screws. Push the light through the opening in the headliner. Remove the metal screw clips from the headliner.
- Remove and disconnect the cargo light switch.
- Remove the coat-hanger hooks.
- Carefully pry the the center plastic trim off.
- Carefully push the headliner downward and then unhook it from the side "J" moldings one sideat a time. Remove it through the tailgate opening.
- If you are repairing both headliners, remove the screws that attach the visors, unplug the electrical connector from the right visor and remove the visors.
- Remove cabin lens and screws, unplug and remove the light.
- Remove the front metal trim piece and the plastic corner trim pieces at its ends.
- Finally, remove the front headliner the same way you removed the one in the rear.
INSPECTING THE CONDITION OF THE HEADLINERS AND ROOF
You can now check several things:
DECIDING HOW TO REPAIR THE HEADLINERS
- Is there evidence of serious roof leaks? There
could be leaks through the hardware used for
attaching the roofrack. This is the time to
- Along the roof there are several cross-members
("bows"). These should be tight against the roof.
Loose bows can cause roof noise and they should
be adjusted as described below.
- You can now inspect the headliners. Are they
severely warped or otherwise damaged? If they
are, you'll need to either make replacements
or to purchase brand-new headliners (with
Depending on your budget and the type of damage,
you now have several choices:
TOOLS, MATERIALS AND COSTS
- If the headliner(s) are severely warped or
otherwise unusuable, you can either purchase
new ones from Jeep (the local dealer quoted
$240 for both pieces) or you can try to build
them from any material that has similar
properties to the original. (I do not have
recommendations here. Others have suggested
masonite, plastic or wood paneling but in my
opinion these materials would not work very
well. Keep in mind that the headliners are
subjected to humidity and temperature extremes).
- If the headliners are OK you can re-upholster
them yourself or you can have them done at an
auto re-upholstry shop.
- For a first-class job you can have the re-
upholstery shop also re-cover the visors.
A re-upholstery shop in the New York area charged
$150 for re-upholstering both headliners and the
visors. The headliners were $50 each and the
visors $25 each. The work was excellent and the
GW roof now looks like new.
Having the shop do the entire job including
removing and replacing the headliners would have
If you want to do the re-upholstering yourself
you'll need the following:
- Two pieces of foam-backed fabric. These are
$30 each from Pep Boys. This should be more
than enough for both the headliners and the
visors. There are other materials you may be
able to use but the foam-backed fabric is the
- One or more cans of high-temperature spray
adhesive. The 3M company makes a good adhesive
which is about $9 per can at Home Depot.
You'll also need:
- An assortment of screwdrivers.
- A torx tool, if the bows need adjustment.
- A 2-3 inch wide spatula for removing the
- Spray primer and topcoat for painting the metal
trim, if needed.
- If you are making new headliner boards, you can
use the old ones as patterns. Carefully trace
the outline and openings of each board. Try
these out before you apply the fabric to make
sure they fit.
- If you are re-using the old ones, you have to
first remove the old deteriorated foam backing
and adhesive. One way to do this is to use an
2-3 inch wide spatula with a stiff blade. Remove
both adhesive and foam with slow and firm strokes.
Once you get the hang of it, you should be able
to remove everything in a single pass with the
spatula. Even so, be prepared to spend quite
some time in this step.
- Follow the manufacturer's directions for gluing
the fabric to the boards.
- The visors can be covered in a similar way. If
you have access to a sewing machine that can
handle the job, you should sew the edges about
1/4 inch from the edge or you may be able to
do it by hand.
- To adjust the roof bows, loosen the torx screws,
insert a screwdriver through the hole in the
bow and push the bow up against the roof.
Re-installation is simple:
Position the front headliner and install one
side in the "J" molding.
Install the dome light.
Gently pull down at the center of the headliner
and insert the other side in the "J" molding.
Make sure the front edge of the headliner is
Install the rear headliner making sure that
its rear edge is correctly positioned.
Install the center trim and coat hooks.
Install the visors.
Install the front and rear trim pieces and end