2002 Toyota Corolla Sagging Headliner Repair Tutorial

2002 Toyota Corolla Sagging Headliner Repair Tutorial

By Chongchen Saelee

It’s inevitable that your car will go through some wear and tear and one hazard is when the fabric on the car’s headliner eventually falls off and sags. If this fabric fell off during driving, it would block your vision! So you need to repair this as soon as possible.

I’ve had the headliner of my 2002 Toyota Corolla replaced by a carshop and have done so myself for the past 3 to 4 times now with reminders from YouTube videos. Works like a charm. Each repair lasts for a year or two.

You don’t have to disassemble everything like in some YouTube videos. I may have disassembled too many parts as of this tutorial’s writing, so I’ll correct or not add those steps in this tutorial. I’ll just tell you the necessary steps you need to do everything and in the least amount of time. Especially because most people won’t have all the tools and replacement parts on hand, so it will take much longer than absolutely needed to complete this repair.

Total repair time:
4 weeks max (waiting for parts you order online to arrive)
5 to 8 hours in one day

Total costs:
Approx. $84

NOTE: Do it in this order!!!

1. Remove the grips/clothes hangers above any windows with a screwdriver.

2. Remove the visors above the front window. Remove the rearview mirror if it cannot be folded down when you eventually remove the headliner board.

3. Carefully pull off the two back side panels.

4. Carefully pull off the three pins/retainers holding up the backside of the headliner board.

5. Carefully pull off the two front side panels.

6. Remove the center light housing. Carefully pull off the plastic faceplate. Then remove the two screws holding the frame up. Then carefully unplug the power cable in the back of the housing.

7. Carefully pull off the two seatbelt center panels. There should be tabs at the top which you can use a flathead screwdriver to push and pull the panel down just enough to remove the headliner board. WARNING: Do not pull the panel completely out as it’s not meant to be. Just angle it loosely enough so you can fold the edge of the headliner board out, since the headliner board itself is very soft foam with thin layer of fiberglass laminating it.

8. The headliner board should be free now. The tricky part now is how to take it out through one of the car doors. You’ll only be able to remove it from the passanger front door or the rear driver side door. But you’ll need to open all the doors to manuever the board out. You can’t avoid folding (but not completely folding/bending) the board to get it out. So be extra careful not to damage your board in the process.

9. Remove the sagging fabric from the headliner board.

10. Scrape off the old foam. Usually a good indicator that the foam is bad is that it has turned into dust and has a yellow or orange color. You’d have to remove all of the old foam anyway to appy the new fabric/foam sheet. If your board is laminated with fiberglass, make sure you’re not scraping away that thin layer of fiberglass. It should be quite obvious because of it’s fiberous pattern and shinyness. It’s the only thing holding the board’s pre-molded shape. So take extra care.

Feel the scraped surface that it’s smooth enough, not fuzzy with remaining old foam, or covered in loose dust and fuzz.

11. Roll out your replacement fabric on top of the board so that it overlaps all the edges. Try to mold the fabric into the board, get as much coverage as you can. You need to get all the sufficient cover BEFORE you apply the adhesive, which is so strong, you can’t make any major mistakes or risk tearing the fabric.

12. Once the fabric is properly distributed over the entire board, now flip over only half of the fabric and spray that half of the board and underside of the fabric with adhesive. Spray in a uniform motion, much like painting a fence, consistent long strokes with not too much or too little space between each stroke. If you’re spraying out what looks like silly string, you didn’t shake the adhesive in the can enough, or you’re spraying from too far. The adhesive needs to look like wide flat strokes. Apply approx 2 to 3 cross-hatched coats. And don’t linger too long on one spot. The can will have only just enough for the whole board if you do it all correctly.

13. Carefully pull that coated half of the fabric over the board and carefully rub the fabric over all the curves and grooves and bends of the board, making sure it is all covered, leaving no wrinkles or air bubbles. Work from the center of the board outwards. Be careful with the fabric because it might rub off easily. Let it set for about 30 minutes before you do the same thing to the other half. This ensures the first half doesn’t move.

14. Repeat the same steps for the other half. Make sure you apply adhesive in the center and edges that you might have missed. Again, be extra careful, the adhesive bonds incredibly fast and incredibly strong, so you cannot afford to make major mistakes. Let it set and cure for at least an hour. You don’t have to apply clips or weights on it. You should be able to tell by doing a simple tug to see how strong it has bonded onto the board.

15. Once it is completely bonded, make sure there aren’t any missing spots. If so, spray adhesive and bond those areas. Let it set and cure. Finally, trim the edges and cut out all the holes. Be extra careful, some holes need a lot of intricate cutting like the pin/retainer holes. You won’t be able to punch through the fabric once you’re reinstalling it, so make sure these holes are cleared.

Optional, but might be useful. For the front and back lips of the board, you can leave about a quarter to half inch of fabric that you can fold over the edges. You can tape it back, but it’s not necessary as long as it is tucked in and pinched properly by the side panels. This is useful for when the new foam eventually dries up and the new fabric sags again, in theory the fabric will be held in place at the front and back and won’t fall as likely obstructing your view if you’re driving.

16. Now that the new fabric is securely installed onto the headliner board, just repeat all the steps backwards to reinstall it back into the car.

It still requires care though. Make sure you align the board by the holes so that you know it’s in proper position before you snap the panels back and screw in all the attachments.

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