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Heads Up! - How to replace the Ford F-Series Headliner

Breathe Life Into Your Ford F-Series Interior With a New Headliner You Can Install Yourself

Jim Smart
May 15, 2016
Photographers: Jim Smart
Headliner replacement used to be a job for the professional, because it was labor-intensive and required a lot of experience. In the ’80s, automakers transitioned to a one-piece, cloth-on-foam headliner that was easy for assembly workers to install. The one-piece design also happens to be simpler for the layman to replace.
Visit a local upholstery supply store and source the correct color foam-backed headliner material, 3M spray-on Trim Adhesive, and a can of lacquer thinner. The correct color for your application can be found via your vehicle’s trim code, which is located on the identification sticker. You’re also going to need razor blades or an X-Acto knife, a pair of sharp scissors, a wire brush, and a scrub brush to remove the old material. Handtools necessary to remove and install the headliner exist in nearly any tool arsenal. Lastly, it’s always good to have a helper for removal and installation.
Our subject vehicle is a Ford F-Series F-150, which is getting a headliner replacement at Lancaster Auto Interiors in Southern California. However, the basic fundamentals of one-piece headliner replacement apply to just about every truck or sport utility imaginable. Remove all the trim work, sunvisors, dome light, overhead controls, rearview mirror, shoulder belt anchors, and handholds, and the one-piece headliner nearly falls out on its own. Remember to disconnect the battery before getting started to prevent any shorting issues or getting burned by a hot lightbulb from the dome light or overhead controls. The toughest part of this job is removing old cloth and foam from the headliner panel. Begin by peeling off the old cloth, then removing dried-out foam and glue with a wire brush. Wear a respirator to protect your lungs and protection for your eyes.
When you’re replacing the headliner, this is the time to think about other items that can be replaced. Door seals and weatherstripping, especially in the dry Southwest, become damaged and dry-rotted from ozone. Depending on vehicle age, seals and weatherstripping are still available from the dealer or via the aftermarket. Plastic trim pieces, clips, retainers, and rivets are also available from dealers and the aftermarket. In fact, LMC Truck has a large inventory of interior trim parts for a broad range of Ford, GMC, Chevrolet, and Dodge trucks and sport utilities. Seat upholstery and foam are other items that break down from time and use.
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Remove sunvisors and their mounts. If applicable, remove rearview mirror. Fasteners range from Phillips head to Torx.
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Remove pinch-on weatherstripping, which is easy to remove and reinstall. You may have to pull kick panels depending on the installation. Nearly all trim is pop-on/pop-off.
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A closer look at weatherstripping removal demonstrates how easy this is. No special tools required.
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Handholds on the Ford F-Series have a total of four fasteners. Pop the bolt head covers carefully to avoid damage. These bolts call for a 10mm socket.
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Remove two more bolts closer to the windshield using a 10mm socket. Once these bolts are removed, the handle comes right out.
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Windshield A-pillar trim pops out and pops back in if you’re careful. Gone are the trim screws we’ve long been used to seeing. Pop-on trim pieces reduce labor time on the assembly line. They also minimize service time.
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Shoulder belts are disconnected next using a Torx wrench.
The dome light assembly and lenses are removed and disconnected next. As you can see, we didn’t disconnect the battery—but you should.
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Coat hooks are removed using a Phillips head screwdriver. Make a note of where these screw holes are for reinstallation. They become hard to find once the headliner panel is in place.
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The headliner panel nearly falls out once all trim work and accessories are removed.
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Because the glue is so badly dried out, this headliner’s cloth just peels off with ease. It was hanging in the driver’s face.
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Grunt work includes scrubbing the old foam off with a wire brush. Use lung protection for this process. This is a composite-wood-product panel—lightweight and easy to work with.
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Once the heavy foam is gone, switch over to a conventional scrub brush to catch the finer foam particles. The headlining backer’s surface must be perfectly clean, or you will have lumps in the new material.
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The new material is steamed to give it the flexibility needed to stretch and form easily.
3M Trim Adhesive is sprayed on both panel and material in half sections and allowed to tack off (become sticky) before rolling material down. You want both surfaces tacky for good adhesion. As you roll material over slowly and carefully, lay your palm across the material and smooth it down, ensuring there are no kinks or wrinkles.
The material is methodically rolled on in halves beginning at the middle, then rolled out and smoothed as shown. Take extra care to prevent wrinkles and bunching. Pull material tight as you roll it down. Use a broad palm to smooth material from the center out. Continue to smooth out material to keep wrinkles out, then allow to set and cure. If you experience any wrinkles, use a heat gun at a safe distance until wrinkles are gone.
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Leave enough excess headliner (2 inches) material so you can have good overlap around the perimeter. This prevents headliner material from falling into view when it dries out in the future.
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The dome light opening and other pass-through openings are trimmed out using a razor blade or X-Acto knife.
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You want enough excess material around the perimeter to secure the headliner. Use trim adhesive on both the panel and material, allowing it to tack-off before securing.
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The completed panel is reinstalled. This is where a helper comes in handy to keep the headliner in place as trim pieces and accessories are reinstalled. In most applications, the headliner stays put without much help.
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The trim pieces are reinstalled, which keeps the headliner in place.
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Pinch-on weatherstripping will pop into place without special tools. This may be the time to replace weatherstripping—especially if you have a lot of wind noise and leaks.
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Sunvisors, overhead controls, and other accessories are reinstalled.


LMC Truck
Lenexa, KS 66219
Lancaster Auto Interiors
Lancaster, CA



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