BMW E36 Coupe Headliner Replacement

John Avis by | August 7, 2010 | My 1994 318is

This was my project this weekend: to replace the headliner on my E36 coupe (no sunroof).
This was my project this weekend: to replace the headliner on my E36 coupe (no sunroof).

For this project I had the book "101 Performance Projects For Your BMW 3 Series 1982-2000", a can of Permatex Headliner & Carpet Adhesive, and 2 metres of automotive headliner in a similar colour to the original although without foam backing. The material cost about A$25 from Southern Cross Textiles ( The only place I could find the adhesive was Autobarn for A$22.

The first evening I removed the headliner panel following the directions in the book... Only took about 20 minutes to get it out.

Then I had to wait for some daylight to clean the panel before I could start gluing the new material on.

Here's some pictures of the work in progress.

Headliner replacement
Headliner replacement
Headliner replacement
Headliner replacement

When pulling out the old headliner there was a wire connected to the rear window defroster at the top on the driver's side. When I pulled off the panel covering this area this wire just popped out and now I can't figure out where it goes back into, if anywhere.

It is the wire circled in red in this picture:

Mysterious wire

Well I had a look at affixing the headlining material and came to the conclusion that the material was either not suitable or it would need to be stretched so that it wouldn't need folds. I didn't want to risk gluing it on and doing a crap job, thinking that it may be near impossible to remove again. So I decide to seek professional help and ended up getting an auto upholstery place to do the job. They charged A$110 and did it for me this morning (Saturday) in 1.5 hours. More than I wanted to spend on this project but much cheaper than a new or second hand headliner. The total cost of the project was about A$150 including parts and lots of my own time (0.5 hour removal, 2 hours reinstallation).

The good news that I am very glad I got the headlining glued on by a professional. They did a great job.

Headliner replacement
Headliner replacement
Headliner replacement
Headliner replacement
Headliner replacement

I did never figure out where that wire went so it is not connected. I also had a lot of trouble getting one side of the rear window seals so it is not fitted very well at present. But overall I am very pleased with the result and would recommend anyone with a sagging headlining to give it a go, even if they get it professionally affixed and just do the remove and refit themselves.

Incidently when I was ringing around finding an auto upholstery place that could do the job on a Saturday morning I did find one place that would do the recovering job for A$80 including material, but not on a Saturday, so it can be done a lot cheaper.

I keep going out to the garage to admire it, and can't believe I waited so long to do it.

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About me

I am a bit of a 3 series fanatic, having owned a couple of E30s and a few E36s, plus a few parts cars. I like the combination of the compact size, good performance and handling, and that they are more sports sedan than an impractical and extrovert sports car. This blog is a place to share my experience and knowledge.


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