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Old 01-21-2009, 07:15 AM
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80's GM Sun Visors and Headliner Repair

Things always seem to come in bunches. I got an '84 Buick LeSabre and an '85 Cadillac ElDorado within two days of one another. Both needed exactly the same thing........the sun visors and headliner replaced.

Here's the process for the sun visors: After you unscrew the sun visors from the roof, you need to loosen the screw to remove the hardware from the visor. Both the left and right visors are made exactly the same way, so there's one screw that shows and one that doesn't after they are re-mounted to the roof. Take a utility knife and cut the thread holding the fabric to the visor frame and they will open up. You can see how crappy and lumpy the foam under the fabric had become. The Caddy's weren't that bad, but the Buick's had completely turned to dust. The Buick visors did not have any chipboard inside of them, so I had to use the visor frame to fabricate new cardboard for them. The Caddy's visors did, but this chipboard was very brittle, so I replaced it with new. All I did was copy the old stuff. The holes are for an opening to mount a mirror which snaps onto the visor. The Caddy had a mirror on the passenger visor, but the Buick didn't have one.
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Old 01-21-2009, 07:25 AM
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After copying the chipboard, it was time to cover the cardboard with the fabric. I used headliner material with 1/4" foam bonded to it. The process for covering the cardboard is in this link: CLICK HERE Here are the two finished Buick visors. You'll see the finished Caddy visors in the next part of this thread.
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Old 01-21-2009, 11:56 AM
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Now that the sunvisors are done, we can start on the headliner. Obviously, the first step is to take down anything else that goes on over the top of the headliner board like coat hooks, dome lights, etc. Then all the trim moldings around the outside perimeter have to come down, along with any metal or plastic moldings covering the windshield pillars or other pillars. These pillar covers only need to be loosened so that the trim moldings come off easier, they don't need to come out completely. To get the windshield, side window and rear window moldings off, you need to pull them straight back from the windows until the back edges release from the clips holding them and then lower the back edge down until the whole piece comes off. The windshield clips are the hardest to get loose, so don't be surprised if you break one or more of the clips. Try to save at least one clip. If you use that clip in the center you can then drill holes on either end and put in stainless screws to hold up the molding. It will look like it was done that way to begin with if you space the screws the same amount from each edge. I lucked out and didn't break any of the clips. The Caddy had upholstered sail panels that had courtesy lights installed in them. This was a pain in the butt because I had to figure out a way to put the wiring harness back up after the board came out. I ended up removing the connections from the light fixtures and gluing the wires to the top of the headliner board. The other pain in the butt was the Caddy had shoulder belt retractors in the roof on both sides. I had to be extra careful when I cut out headliner fabric to go around them.
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Old 01-21-2009, 12:29 PM
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Now comes the easy part. The headliner board gets lifted up and over the clips that hold it up and hold the trim moldings in place, and the board comes out easily by turning it and angling it out the door. It's not quite as easy with a four door car with pillars between the doors, but it comes out of a two door car very easily. This only takes about 5 minutes to do. The next thing to do is to get the old foam and fabric off the board. The fabric on both of these two boards had a layer bonded to the foam that peels off the headliner board pretty easily once you loosen it up from the perimeter of the board. Once that layer is off, you end up with a very clean substrate to work with. Unfortunately, these old headliner boards are quite brittle, and it is easy to break pieces off where things like the sun visors, dome lights, and coat hooks were attached. Fortunately, broken pieces are easy to fix as long as you keep the broken pieces and mark where they go. The Buick's board was already taken out of the car before I got it, and had a couple of good sized pieces missing, and needed a lot of repairs. To fill in the missing parts, I got a styrofoam container from a local restaurant and cut a piece out of it to fill in the voids. One layer was not thick enough, so I glued two layers together with foam to foam glue which was the perfect thickness. Then I glued the piece to the board with the same foam to foam glue. The foam glue dries quicker than contact adhesive and doesn't melt the styrofoam board as much. It's still not as strong as it needs to be, so after gluing the pieces in, I cover them top and bottom with Versare fabric glued down with foam to foam glue. Versare is very strong, very thin, pliable, non woven synthetic fabric made of spun polypropylene that comes in rolls 40" wide and 50 or 100 yards long. I use it for dozens of things around my shop, and it was perfect for these repairs. The last pic is the finished repairs on the board. The small patches on the middle of the board are where the owner stapled the fabric up to keep the fabric from drooping on his head while he drove. I was afraid they would show through the finished headliner if I didn't cover them up. This makes incredibly strong repairs, and I let the board sit for three days to let the repairs completely dry before gluing the new fabric on.
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Last edited by DanTwoLakes; 01-21-2009 at 12:59 PM.
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Old 01-21-2009, 12:36 PM
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Here's some more pictures of the repair process. The first pic is of one of the staple holes.
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Old 01-21-2009, 12:50 PM
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Now that the board is repaired, it's time to glue on the new fabric. Cut a piece 2" bigger than the board all the way around. Draw a center line on the board and on the fabric. Roll back the fabric about 6" and glue the fabric (nylon headliner fabric with 1/4" foam bonded to it) just in the center to hold it in place for the rest of the gluing. Spray the glue all over the board and rolled back fabric. Don't soak it, but spray from a distance and make sure you have complete coverage on both parts. Then, after the glue is dry to the touch on both pieces, just unroll the rest of the fabric and smooth it out with your hand. Don't press down very hard, just smooth it out with even pressure. Do the same thing with the other half, and you're done. Leave the headliner board to dry completely with the fabric facing up for a few days before you put it back in the car. The gluing was all done with DAP Weldwood HHR spray grade top and trim adhesive. After you let it dry, put the board back in the car. Lift the board up and in and over the top of the clips that support it and hold the moldings in place. Replace the moldings, put the dome light, coat hooks, and sun visors back in and replace the perimeter moldings and you're done. Here's what the finished Caddy looks like.
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Last edited by DanTwoLakes; 05-06-2011 at 07:14 AM.
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