Replacing Headlining

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Installing a new headliner into your E30 is a fairly easy do it yourself job for any confident person. Although time involving, it is not a difficult procedure. This manual will serve as a guide to aide you in installing your own headliner. If at any time you do not feel fully confident you can handle the install on your own, you should seek professional installation. Please make sure to thoroughly read over this guide prior to starting the job.

Touring fitted with a black headlining
Touring fitted with a black headlining

Tools

A list of tools that will be required to properly carry out the job.

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Needle nose pliers
  • 8mm ¼ in. deep well socket
  • 17mm ¾ in. socket
  • 3in ¼ in. extension
  • Ratchet, ¼ in.
  • Ratchet, ¾ in.
  • T-25 male Torx bit
  • Soapy water, in a spray bottle
  • Window locking strip install tool

Preparation

Remove Glass

The glass does not need to be removed to take out the current headliner, but you may find it significantly easier to do the job if it's out. Since it only takes 5 minutes to whip the front windscreen out, it's worth considering. If you want to strip your car to a shell, follow the next steps. If not, skip to the next chapter.

Windshields

The front glass should be removed first. Take your flat head screwdriver and gently insert it between the outer windshield gasket, and the locking strip. Carefully pry up the locking strip, and pull it off the car to remove it. If you plan to reuse it set it aside where it will not be damaged.

The gasket must now be freed from the window. Run your fingers under the portion of the gasket that the window slides under, lift up the gasket to make sure any bond it had with the glass is defeated. Once the gasket is loose spray soapy water between it, and the window. Now from inside the car gently push out on a corner. Do not push too hard in any given spot, or you run the risk of damaging the glass. The windshield should push out of the gasket very easily with the use of the soap water.

Once the windshield is removed, pull the gasket off the car, and place them in an area where they will not be damaged.

Rear windshield is next. Remove the 2 defroster wires on the lower inside of the window. Be careful as you remove them. Do not pull the connector off the window. Removal of the locking strip and windshield are the same as the front windshield.

Side Windows

Removing the rear side windows is last in this step, and the easiest. Start by removing the upper seat belt pivot point on the b-pillar. The cap should be removed to expose the 17mm bolt. Remove the bolt, and the pivot. Let it hang to the floor. At the top of the b-pillar is a small coat hook. Remove the Phillips screw holding it in place, and remove the hook. This part can sometimes be stubborn, and may require more then your hands to remove. Remove the small lower plastic plug in the b-pillar. Through both the holes you have exposed you should see nuts on threaded studs. Use your 8mm deep well socket to remove them. Take care to remove the nut in your socket, and to not drop it in the b-pillar. Repeat process for opposite side of car.

Pop-Out Side Windows

Once all 4 8mm nuts are removed you may detach the latch mechanism. Remove the cover on the c-pillar, which will expose 2 Phillips screws. Remove the screws and gently remove the window from the car. You may want an assistant to hold the window from the outside to ensure it does not fall. Repeat process for opposite side of car.

Fixed Side Windows

The only thing left holding the window in is the gasket itself. Push the inside portion of it slowly over the seam it seats on, and the window will be free to remove.

Remove Accessories

Sunroof Panel

Start by opening your sunroof about 3 inches, slid back into the roof. Grasp the forward edge of the sunroof headliner, and pull down carefully. There are about 6 or so pop snaps that hold it on here. Once the sunroof headliner is unsnapped slide it back into the roof, and close the sunroof fully. The sunroof panel is held on with 3 Torx head screws on each side, 6 in total. Remove them, and the sunroof panel comes out.

From outside the car slide the sunroof headliner forward again, and observe the arms that move the bar it’s attached to. Pry the arms off the bar, and remove the sunroof headliner.

Get in your car, and position yourself standing out of the sunroof. Take note of the front wind deflector flap. It is held in place by several Phillips screws, and 2 arms. Pry the arms up and off with the flathead...

...and then remove all the Phillips screws. Remove the wind deflector.

On either side of the sunroof there are chrome plates that the sunroof slides on. They are held in with similar Phillips screws. Remove the screws as to loosen these plates, but do not remove the plates yet.

At the back of the sunroof opening will be a flat plate with several Phillips screws in it. This plate helps fasten the main headliner. Remove the screws and the plate.

Peel the black vinyl of the overhead panel back from where it was under the wind deflector. Once free move back into the car. Using the flathead remove the overhead check panel, and disconnect it from its wire harness connector. Each visor is held on with 4 Phillips screws, 2 on each side of the visor. Remove all the screws, followed by the visors.

Trim

The overhead panel, visors, rear view mirror, door gaskets, grab handles, and sunroof/sunroof headliner must now come out.

Remove the overhead interior lights. There should be two, one on each side of the car. Use your flathead to pry on the exposed metal latch and let it down. Unplug the light, and tuck the wires back up, but don't allow them to touch each other or metal.

The grab handles are held on with 4 Phillips screws each, 2 on each side of the handle. The screws are concealed under the plastic end caps. Use your flathead to pry the caps up, and slide them up the handle while you remove the screws. Repeat for all 3 grab handles.

We now need to remove the column trims. Undo the 17mm bolts holding the seat belts to the B and C pillars. Two front and two rears. Dont lose any washers from these for obvious reasons.

The trim on the C-pillars should just pop off once the seatbelt bolt is removed:

The B-pillar is a bit more complex. Remove the two plastic screws at the bottom of the B-pillar trims, to then allow the trim to slide down - but be careful of the 'hook' as they are likely to pop off. Not the end of the world but annoying.

For the D-pillar trims at the back of a Touring, you need to gently prise it out of its metal retaining clips. It is very easy to break the plastic tabs on the trim, so be gentle.

The rear view mirror is fastened to the roof via a spring loaded clip. Rock the mirror stem left to right until it pops out.

Now undo the screws holding the sun visors in place. Don't lose the screws:

Remove the door gaskets on both sides. They easily pull off the seam they sit on. Do not remove them from the car; leave the portion of the gasket that runs under the curved threshold plate on the bottom of the door jamb in place.

At the rear, pull the headlining down and you will see 4 clips that fasten to the roof of the car, pop these out and save them, you need to reuse them. They may stay in the roof, so pop them out with a flatblade screwdriver.

Now the headliner is held in by 2 metal bows, and by the glue on the door/window seams, and also the glue around the sunroof opening. Position yourself standing out of the sunroof again and carefully peel the main headliner material away from where it is glued. Take note of how it is glued on as you will be doing this again with your replacement headliner. Once the headliner is free from this area move back inside the car.

In the front door opening, the rear side windows, and both windshields the headliner wraps over the seam, and is glued in place. Carefully peel it up and off in these places.

All that is left holding the headliner in is the 2 metal bows in the rear. Bend the bows up and down as needed to pull them out of their rubber base. Take note of which bow goes in which bow channel. They only fit one way. Remove the bows and entire headliner from the car.

Installation

Reinstallation is for the most part reverse of removal. The new headliner is the same dimensions of the OEM headliner, but is made of a more stretchy plush material. When installing the headliner take care with the material. If stretched and pulled hard over an edge it will tear.

The new headliner should be glued in place with the supplied Contact Cement. See instructions on the product bottle for proper use.

First carefully push the factory bows into the bow channels. Bend the bows up and down as needed to seat them back into their rubber perches in the car. Glue all the edges of the headliner where the OEM one was glued. There should be about ½ inch glued on the outside of the door and window seams. It is important that the new headliner be glued in the proper order:

  • Rear windshield top
  • Rear windshield c-pillar (both sides)
  • Rear side window c-pillar (both sides)
  • Rear window top
  • Front windshield top & corners
  • Sunroof opening
  • Front door top

All the gluing should be self explanatory except for the sunroof opening where some minor trimming of the headliner to fit your car, and some stretching and pushing will be required. In the sunroof opening the rear most side should be glued in place first and the plate that holds it should be screwed down.

The sides are the hard part here, they must be tucked under those chrome plates you loosened earlier. You may remove the plates if you desire, it will make this step easier, however be very careful to not disturb the sunroof cables under them. Brush some Contact Cement under the plate carefully, and push the headliner under there. Use a rounded, thin blunt object to feed the headliner under. Do not use a flathead screwdriver, or other such “sharp” instruments, you will tear through the fabric. After the sides are glued in place you may replace the chrome plates, and fasten them back down. Clean the sunroof headliner and glue your new one over it. Make sure the headliner fabric is as flat as possible on the side that is not seen. Use enough glue to saturate the fabric on the top if needed, so it can be compressed and will retain its compressed state. If the fabric is left at full thickness in this area it will get snagged on the sunroof sliders over time, and tear.

Now it is time to replace all the accessories that were removed. The overhead panel, visors, rear view mirror, interior lights, grab handles, sunroof panel, sunroof headliner etc.

All window glass is installed reverse of removal. The rear side windows should pose no problem, however the front and rear windshields are a bit more complicated. Start by replacing the gasket on the front windshield, and properly seating it onto the seam. Spray a light coat of soapy water in the channel where the windshield will be held. Insert one lower corner of a windshield into the channel, and use a thin, but flexible instrument to pull the gasket up and over the window until it sits fully in the channel. So long as you take it slow, and are gentle, the windshield should go in without a problem. Repeat this process for the rear windshield.

Replacing the locking strips is the only real challenging part of installing the windshields. Refer to the instructions that came with the locking strip tool. If you do not have the correct locking strip install tool designed for E30 locking strips you should get one to complete this job. If you have difficulty replacing the locking strips call a mobile glass service come to your house and install the windshields for you. It really isn’t that expensive at all.

And there you go!