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Headliner Installation

Headliner Installation


How to Install a Headliner in a BMW 2002

*All the typical warnings apply. Be careful. Don't cut your fingers off. Read the labels on all tools and chemicals and try not to maim yourself.

If your 2002 is in need of a headliner, a professional shop can do the job for $500-1000. I've heard of people bringing their stripped car in with the parts in hand and only paying $100, but I haven't yet found that shop. So, the following is a guide to install a headliner in your 2002 in your garage. It's entirely within the ability of a moderately capable mechanic. What I'm getting at is: If I can do it, so can you. I suggest that you read through this entire guide before getting started on this XX-day job.. Gauge for yourself if you want to take it on.

To begin, there is only one variation in the headliner: sunroof or no sunroof.

Tools, Materials and Parts Needed

1X Headliner
-Sunroof p/n 51441804085
-No Sunroof p/n 51447480140
10X Headliner Bow Grommets p/n 51447780135

Contact Cement
2X Small Cheap Paint Brushes
5X Cable Ties
1X Pack of Stick-on Cable Mounting Tabs (next to the cable ties in Home Depot or Lowes)
Epoxy or JB Weld
183X 1" Binder Clips - Yes, 183 of them. I suggest buying in bulk from an office supply website
A few 1/2" binder clips - Not entirely necessary, but you'll see how and where they can be helpful

http://i119.photobucket.com/albums/o143/clayweiland/1967 1600/100_1428.jpg

Wire Cutters
A Good Pair of Scissors
Latex or Nitrile Gloves
Exacto or Small Utility Knife
Relative Sobriety

Day One:

1. Remove the front and rear windshield - Remove the lockstrips and gently push the windshields out. this might be a good time to consider new seals and lockstrips, if they're old.


***EDIT: Once you remove pull handles, visors, etc. put their mounting screws back in and install the headliner over them. This will make locating them MUCH easier later.

2. Remove the rear side windows.

3. Pull the window and door seals out of their tracks. You can leave the bottom half in. You'll notice that the door seals are glued in below the beltline. As far as I can tell, BMW designed them this way so that you can replace the headliner without having to buy new door seals.

4. Remove the handles, sun visors, dome light and the rearview mirror. Take note of their positions for installation later.

5. Remove the existing headliner. It's held up with glue along the edges and five bows that span the underside of the roof. Be careful not to bend the bows too much. For the non-sunroof models, there is a cardboard piece along the top of the rear window. The headliner attaches to this ans the gap between it and the roof creates a vent for positive air pressure in the cabin to escape; in the sunroof models, it attaches to the window edge. If your cardboard is damaged, find or make a replacement.

6. Install whatever soundproofing you may have had in mind. You don't really need it; BMW didn't use any. But hey, who doesn't like upgrade overkill?

Optional but recommended step: Bow Retainers

The headliner bows have the ability to swing down and sag the headliner if everything isn't perfectly installed. Mounting tabs to the roof allows the securing of the bows. This makes pulling the headliner tight a lot easier and ensures that the bows won't sag. In short, do it.

7. Peel the sticky backing off five of the plastic mounting tabs. You'll be using a better glue than the weak adhesive backing.



8. Install the grommets and the bows without the headliner.

9. Mix up the epoxy and glue a single mounting tab directly above the middle of each bow.

10. Remove the bows and leave the tabs to cure overnight.

Day 2: The Quickening

1. Put on the gloves. Keep changing them if they get dirty. The headliner is off-white cloth, so it will pick up dirt with ease. Unlike the rest of your 2002, the headliner is not easily cleaned.

2. Lay out the headliner and slip the bows into the loops.



3. Measure the bows and the headliner to center them in the loops. Cut the loops to expose the ends of the bows. You'll see later how you'll need to cut the the loops further, but just cut enough to expose the ends for now.



4. Insert the middlemost bow, with the headliner hanging from it, into the grommets and mounting holes.


5. Make a tiny slit with the utility knife just below the mounting tab.


6. Slip a cable tie through the slit and through the mounting tab. Tighten the tie to a loose loop. This is not a mounting point. This tie is meant only to limit the rotation of the bow.


7. Repeat steps 4-6 for the rest of the bows.



**You are now going to stretch the headliner into place. DO NOT USE GLUE DURING THIS STEP.**

8. Get out your stash of binder clips and start clipping the headliner WITHOUT GLUE along the top of the rear window cardboard piece. Start at the center and place a clip every six inches or so. Make your way along each side, moving from the center, down each of the C-pillars (the rear roof supports).



9. Next, move to the front. Stretch the headliner forward and clip every six inches or so, starting from the center. Don't pull everything too tight; incremental progression is the key.

10. Clip the door and window edges along each side.

11. Where you are clipping to curves, you'll need to cut slits perpendicular to the mounting edge. Start the cuts one per curve, understanding that minor adjustments will be made. Be careful not to cut too far. Cut short if need be; you can always cut more later.

12. Continue adding more clips; go for one every 3 inches, all the way around, making minor stretching adjustments to take the wrinkles out.

13. When it comes to the places just below where the headliner bows meet the edges, the loops will create undesirable "tents".


You need to further cut the loops some more from above the headliner. You can carefully use the knife or carefully pull the headliner to tear the existing cuts. Either way, go incrementally so that you can work out the wrinkles.


14. For the non-sunroof models, at the top corners where the cardboard ends, carefully cut the headliner to transfer from the cardboard to the C-pillar edge.


*Note that I glued some green foam to the C-pillar to go under the headliner. This isn't necessary, but I thought it created a nice, smooth detail.

15. Continue clipping and incrementally stretching until the clips are side-by side, leaving no gaps. This is where you may use a few,smaller clips in tight edges. Be sure to have all of the wrinkles worked out before moving forward. TAKE YOUR TIME. You want the headliner to be properly tight by the time you finish.




**For sunroof models, you will need to cut out the sunroof section and clip throughout this section as well. I have never done one of these, but I suggest completely stretching and clipping the entire headliner before cutting the sunroof hole. When you have the entire headliner stretched and clipped, cut from the top and start at the corners, creating an “X” in the sunroof section of the headliner. Making this hole will likely create a few wrinkles; restretch and clip from the sunroof section only until everything is as smooth as it was before you cut the “X”. I would guess that this would require an extra 90-100 clips.

Now to start the gluing.

1. With the contact cement and a brush ready, remove only five clips at a time. Brush the glue on both side of the edge, as well as the cloth. This is very important; gluing should be on both surfaces before re-clipping.

**IMPORTANT!** The glue tends to make the headliner "swell" a little, so be prepared to make small adjustments to remove new wrinkles. Be patient and take your time.

2. Move along the windows, doing only five clips at a time. Do the rear windshield first, then the sides, and finish with the front. TAKE YOUR TIME.


*For non-sunroof cars with the cardboard edge, glue the entire excess headliner onto the top of cardboard. You might need to use a screw driver to shove it in there; just make sure that you don't glue the headliner to the roof.


*I used a method of flipping one arm of the binder clips up once they had been re-clipped onto a glued section. This was, I could keep track of how far I had gone.


3. Once you finish, marvel at your accomplishment and reward yourself with a beer.


A and B Pillar Sections:


The factory way to mate the white headliner to the pillar was to glue the headliner in first, then glue the black pillar sections over them. In the case that you a either reusing your black sections, or just don’t want to pull them up, you can carefully tuck and glue the headliner under itself. Be careful and use gloves.

I folded the black part over to make a nice edge, then glued and clipped them.



The B Pillar transition will be covered by the C-shaped molding, so pull it tight to get rid of the wrinkles, trim it and cover it with the moulding. You might put a little glue in there, just for good measure.


Days 3&4: Wait.

Resist the urge to move forward until the glue has dried. Really, don't touch it. If you remove the clips too soon, you run the risk of having the edges come undone. If that happens, you'll never get all the wrinkles back out. Be patient and find something else to do.

Day 5: Unclipping Time!

1. Now that the glue has dried for a few days, remove a few of the clips and test the dryness of the glue. Due to varying temperatures and humidity levels, the glue may be completely dry or it could still be wet. Be your own judge of just how dry it needs to be.

2. Remove all of the clips.

3. Using a good pair of scissors or a utility/Exacto knife, carefully trim the excess headliner just beyond the glued-down part.


4. Reinstall the rear side windows and their seals. *Install the seal first, then the window.*

5. Push the door seals back into their slots.


6. Reinstall the black C-shaped moulding that presses over the headliner edges.

7. With clean hands or gloves, find the places for the handles, sun visors, dome light and rearview mirror. use the knife to cut a small “X” where each screw will go. For the rearview mirror, cut an “X” across the small, rectangular hole; the mirror pops in with little carefully articulated pressure. I you have a 1966-67 1600 (like mine in the pictures), you’ll have pulled the headliner over the plastic mirror receiver. You’ll need to cut a slit through which the blade of the mirror will slide.

For 1966-67 1600’s only






The late-1600 and all 2002 mirrors mount with a press-in style mount. Just cut an “X” over the rectangular hole and press the mirror in.

8. You may have some wrinkles left in the headliner from the material being folded up in the packaging. To get rid of this, you can use a hair dryer. I suspect that steam would work even better, but I had no steam-gun, so I used a hair dryer.




This takes a little time, so be patient.

9. Reinstall the windshields, being careful not to pull your new headliner out while pulling the seals over the edges.



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Well done.


I can add:

Heater.  1500 watt.  Once the initial stretch is done, heat the interior of the car nice and toasty (remember, it gets to 150f on a really hot summer day) and then gently

re- stretch.


Sunroof cars- be VERY careful of the interior radius corners.  You want to work the material over onto itself WITHOUT CUTTING IT.  It can be done,

but it's hard, and it's easy to cut too close to the radius, and have it tear back to the inside corner. 

This sucks.


Again, very well done.  I only used 78 binder clips, and I should have used more.




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Great article! I followed these instructions to install my headliner (a non-oem, black fabric). It was much easier than I had anticipated, it is time consuming but not difficult. I'll have some photos up of the job in my blog shortly.


Thanks Clay!

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I appreciate the write-up and I am sure it works for someone who is detail oriented. Unfortunately that is not me. I can do an engine swap but my son and I spent four days on this for our 1973 and our results are disappointing. I wish I had paid to get it done. 

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Hi Clay, 

Great write up on the headliner installation.  I’ve done all the preparation to start the installation.  I have a question regarding the bow grommets.  Can you advise where the grommet metal washers go? I have 4 washers, 5 bows and 10 roof holes. I think the washers fit on just the front four bows on one side of the roof?  Is this correct ?
Grateful for your insight

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