This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's book, 101 Projects for Your Porsche 911. The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any Porsche 911 owner's collection. See The Official Book Website for more details.
Replacement of the 911 headliner is one of the most difficult and complex projects in this book. However, if you work slowly and carefully, you should be able to perform the job within a weekend or two with minimal damage and downtime to your car.
What makes the process so difficult is the fact that you need to remove a large portion of the interior, the front and rear windshields, and both side windows. You also need to remove the rear back panel that fits behind the rear seats. To make the job easier, it's also recommended that you remove the seats and the sunroof. While you have all of these parts taken out, it's also a wise idea to fix and repair some other items that need attention, like the sunroof (Pelican Technical Article: Sunroof Repair) or a cracked dash pad (Pelican Technical Article: Installing a New Dash Pad). Needless to say, replacement of the headliner can incorporate quite a few more projects that will slow down the process of getting your car on the road again.
The first step is the removal of the window glass from the front, rear and sides of the car. For more information on the procedure for this, see Pelican Technical Article: Glass Removal. The glass removal is a tricky process, that requires plenty of patience.
II also recommend that you remove the seats so that you can move around inside the car. The seats are simply bolted down to the chassis of the car with four bolts. You can access the bolts in the front by moving the seat back all the way. The bolts in the rear are removed by moving the seat all the way to the front. Once the bolts are removed, the seat can simply be lifted out. While you have both seats out, you might want to recondition them with some leather dye (see Pelican Technical Article: Re-dyeing Interior Leather and Vinyl).
With the glass out of the car, it's time to remove the old headliner. Start with the front of the car, and remove the tensioning clips that hold the headliner to the car. Then carefully remove the old headliner by tearing it off of the points where it is glued onto the car. Pull out the interior lamps, and remove the sunvisor brackets and interior coat hooks. Make sure you keep the old headliner, as it makes a useful guide for installing the new one. As you remove the old headliner, make a note of where the lights, coat hooks, and other fixtures were located so that you can reinstall them later. Where the headliner disappears under the vinyl trim on the roof pillars, peel back the trim until you can remove the old headliner.
If you are going to be replacing the door seals, then remove them from the edge of the car. They should simply be glued in place. If you are planning on reusing them, then you only need to pull out the top portion of the seal. Door seal replacement is covered in Pelican Technical Article: Replacing Weatherstripping.
After you have the old headliner removed, it's time to prepare the new one for installation. On dark colored cars, I prefer to install a black headliner. The black headliner holds up better against dirt and grime. The black headliner, however, makes it a bit darker inside the car at night because the white has a tendency to reflect light. You also may need to dye your sunvisors to match the headliner when you are finished.
Cars without sunroofs have tensioning wires that keep the headliner intact and straight as it traverses the car. This headliner is a different kit than the one for cars equipped with sunroofs, so make sure that you purchase the correct kit. Prior to the installation, make sure that these stays are inserted into the loops in the headliner. If the tensioning stays are looking a bit ragged, make sure that you replace them with new ones.
The headliner itself comes folded in a package when delivered. This will make for some nice wrinkles in the fabric. I recommend that you let the headliner hang for a couple of days on a wall, as this will help some of the wrinkles. Don't iron the fabric: it's vinyl, and can easily melt or become distorted. If too much heat is applied to one section, then that section will expand or contract and create a permanent wrinkle that will not be able to be tensioned out.
Start the installation by clipping the headliner to the door openings on each side. For setting up the headliner, I recommend using office supply binder clips. They are very strong, and they will help hold the headliner in place while you wait for the glue to hold. Stretch the headliner back to the rear of the car and clip it to the top of the rear window. Do not cut or glue any of the headliner just yet. Make sure that you have the zipper lined up with the sunroof motor in the rear.
Once you have the headliner in place, remove each side individually and tension out each side until you are happy with the results. The headliner shouldn't have any wrinkles in it at this point. If it does, then retention the headliner until all the wrinkles are gone. At this point, you can make some broad general cuts to fit the headliner so that you can tension it. These cuts will need to be made near the door pillars and windows.
If your car has a sunroof model, only make the cutout for the sunroof after the headliner has been completely placed and tensioned. Make sure that you don't cut too much material out for the sunroof: start with plenty of extra as you can always trim more later on. The procedure is largely the same as with the regular roofs, except that there are no traverse stays to tension the roof.
With the headliner appropriately tensioned, begin by gluing the front edge of the headliner. Glue the headliner over the edge of the pinch-weld that grips the window seals. Make sure that you don't use too much glue and place the glue evenly around the edge so that no sections of the headliner are left unglued. A small disposable paintbrush can help you to spread the glue without making a mess. Be careful not to get any glue on the outer surface of the headliner.
Unglued sections will make the installation of the window seals difficult. I prefer to use the 3M Super Weatherstrip 08001 discussed in Pelican Technical Article: Engine Sound Pad Installation, however, some installers use a general purpose spray-in adhesive instead. Although this adhesive is very quick to dry, make sure that it is completely dry before moving on to another section. Use the small tensioner clips to hold the headliner to the front windshield recess once the glue is set. Again, make sure that the glue is dry and the headliner is tight before moving on.
Working towards the rear of the car, keep tensioning and gluing small sections at a time. Don't worry about the sunvisor and interior lamps at this time: they will be cut out later on. Make sure that you work slowly and glue and tension each small section at a time. Perform the gluing process in a well-ventilated area, as the glue can be quite noxious over time.
When encountering round corners, as on the sunroof and rear window, carefully cut the headliner into small strips that you can place around the radius of the window. When you reach the rear window, make sure that you use the rear tensioning clips to secure the headliner to the edge. This is so the headliner will not be pushed off of the recess by the installation of the window seal.
On some headliners, there may be a small metal tensioning stay at the very rear of the headliner. Insert the tensioning stay into the loop at the end of the headliner and tuck it into the metal hooks located on the rear shelf. This will help to tension the rear of the headliner.
Once you have the headliner installed around all the edges, trim the edges around the door and front pillars. Make sure that you leave enough material to cover the pillar to the point where the leather/vinyl trim is located. Use a small pair of scissors, or a sharp hobby knife to carefully trim the edges.
Once the headliner is installed and clipped, use your knife to cut out the small openings for the interior lamp, the clothes hook, and the sunvisor mounts. Use the old headliner as a guide for the locations that you need to cut out. Pull the electrical leads through the interior lamp hole, and reattach the lamp. Insert the lamp into its clip, making sure that the lamp is appropriately grounded to the chassis, and not accidentally insulated by a flap of the headliner.
Final tensioning can be done by pulling out the fabric and reapplying glue in small increments. Additionally, a hair dryer or heat gun can be used to tension the headliner a bit further, but be careful as a large amount of heat can destroy the fabric. Also, don't expect the hair dryer to perform miracles: only small folds will be reduced by its use.
Once you have completed the installation of the headliner, reinstall the door seals, and the window glass. Be careful when installing the seals for the glass: they can accidentally pull off poorly glued sections of the headliner. The seals are designed to help keep the headliner in place, so make sure that they don't get caught on any folds of extra fabric when you are installing them.
The rear section of the headliner is by far the trickiest. Make sure when you reinstall the window seals, that they don't dislodge the headliner from it's position. When reinstalling fixtures like the rear pop-out window latch, make sure that you carefully mark the holes with a permanent marker before you cut them with a knife. It's very easy to make a major mistake at this point in the game. Make sure that you don't cut too much area out of the fabric.
The alignment and location of the zipper is important so that you can gain access to the sunroof motor. Make a note of the location of the zipper before you remove your old headliner. Don't forget to install your coat hooks, and the interior lamps, as they actually help to keep the headliner tight. When installing the headliner, unplug and remove the interior lamp, then thread the wires through the headliner soon after you install it. Don't forget, or you will have to fish around for the wires, and you could end up damaging your headliner.
When you are removing the old headliner, take careful note of how it was originally installed on your car. You will want to mimic and imitate the cuts and curves that were part of the original headliner. Take a few pictures to remind yourself later on. On curves and tight edges, cut the headliner and feather it as shown on this original headliner. This will allow the headliner to reach around corners, and maintain a tightness that avoids wrinkles. Use glue on each feathered finger, because the installation of the new glass seal will have a tendency to pull them off.
There is perhaps nothing that can spruce up your interior better than a new headliner. Old, water stained headliners show the age of the car all too well. It also helps to clean your sunvisors with a bit of bleach or grease remover. Just make sure that they match the headliner when you're finished.