BMW Convertible – Hardtop Headliner Replacement

Vehicle: BMW E36 (1995-2000) 318i 325i 328i M3 Convertible – Hard top Headliner

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In North Carolina, convertibles are commonplace. A bargain of a used hardtop presented itself, but when the windows were lowered its headliner would ripple like the waves on Mashpee-Wakeby Lake. There was only one solution: take it all apart, buy some glue and fabric and then put it all back together. Informed consent: I have provided this as a guide. It was performed on a 1995 BMW hardtop, and they may not all be exactly the same. Attempt this at your own risk.

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First, I found some styrofoam blocks and turned the hardtop upside-down on top of it. If your hardtop is like mine, the removal of the side panels consists of prying out and disconnecting the electrical connectors from the rear seat overhead lights, and giving a firm tug on the panels. The headliner itself comes down after removing the three handles and one set of plastic squares, as well as the circular front latch. The handles and squares are held in with screws and the latch is held in by a very small allen screw on the side of the handle base. The front of the fibrous headliner backing is secured by the hardtop’s front main seal. Carefully pry it off. The back is “tucked” into a slot on the back of the hardtop.

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When I pulled the old fabric off, I was greeted with the old sticky foam remnant material from the previous fabric backing. It’s not the glue that fails after fifteen years, it’s this stuff. I used a variety of household instruments such as putty knives, a scrub brush and razor blades to scrape the stuff off. It’s easier to do on the plastic, a bit more tricky on the fibrous mystery-material that composes the headliner backing. Don’t skimp – areas that aren’t cleared won’t stick when you put the new glue on.

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Tip: measure every piece to be covered before taking it all apart. Go overkill, buy extra material. Invest in a high quality headliner glue  such as 3M. Fabric plus glue may cost $40-60.

 

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Get your glue and headliner material out. Spray multiple layers of glue while letting each dry for a few minutes (I followed the directions on the can.) Start to roll out your headliner material and press it in. Distribute it evenly and press out the folds/bubbles

before you set it in. Trying to mold the new fabric around the front latch area was probably the most difficult part. Notice how much extra material was left to wrap around the other sides – make sure you leave enough. While the hardtop is off, it’s a good time to lubricate the rubber seals.

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