What is a Headliner in a Car?

If the answer to the above question is not: A ticket to the next big concert resting on your dashboard, then ‘what is a headliner in a car?’

In this context, a car headliner is a collective term for the layers covering the ceiling of your vehicle. The layer closest to the car's fiberglass roof is made up of a melted foam-like polymeric compound called polyurethane. This foam-like material adheres to the internal roof of the car by means of cross-linked resins like isocyanates and polyols. Strongly attached to this layer is a napped-knit fabric that acts as its covering. This layer is napped majorly to give a soft feel and a good aesthetic presentation. This contraption (as it may seem), is one of the automobile fittings that makes our vehicles cozy and comfortable. The temperature of the exterior of a vehicle increases on a hot, sunny day. This seemingly unknown fitting that begs the question ‘what is a headliner in a car?', is the simple reason you do not get roasted by the laws of heat transfer- conduction and radiation.

The car headliner also has other functions such as dampening of sound waves leading to favorable acoustic conditions and reduction of sound in the interior of the vehicle.

In more contemporary vehicles, alterations have been made to modify the above characteristics and adapt it to present-day life. For example, the DaimlerChrysler Corporation's headliner which was invented by Susan Heholt is also a multi-layer composite vehicle headliner. Unlike the conventional one, this comprises a HIC (Head Impact Countermeasure) layer of coextruded polypropylene. Contiguously placed with the HIC, is the foam-like layer of either polypropylene or polyester. This foam-like layer is molded with the HIC. Also made of either polypropylene or polyester, one acoustical scrim layer, and one light blocking layer is also present. For the roof of a vehicle possessing parallel beams at the outer edges, the HIC will be formed to provide a crush space between at least one of the beams. The HIC is then fused to the rigid foam layer of either polypropylene or polyester to form the light blocking layer. The headliner then has woven polymeric fabric as an external covering.

Furthermore, in recent times, conscious efforts are being made to save our environment, and therefore measures such as recyclability, are factored into modern day invention. Car headliners are in no way exempted. The cross-linked resins used as adhesives make recycling of conventional car headliners, less desirable. This is because, if these adhesives are left in, they reduce the usefulness of the recycling product. On the other hand, they are also almost impossible to remove. This means that these resins, hamper the recycling viability of vehicle headliners. This why in more recent manufacturing processes, the layers of the vehicle headliners are simply molded. Now that we have answered the question ‘what is a car headliner?', and understood the importance of headliners in vehicles, It is proper for us to know how to ensure or headliners keep on being useful in our respective cars.

Maintaining Your Car Headliner

Comparing the weight of the headliner with other interior parts of the vehicle, the car headliner has a very high probability of being the first to deviate from its original state. The headliner often starts to sag after a period of bad handling or lack of care. If allowed to delaminate, often due to wetness, the auto liner may eventually fall. This would lead to a decline and then subsequently, a complete drop in the aesthetic value of your automobile.

Cleaning is an integral part of the maintenance of headliners this is to prevent the dirt from further aggregation which could lead to the formation of chemical compounds that can in turn amount to the destruction of the polymeric material of the headliner composite. The process should be done in stages so that you do not clean more than what is required for a particular stain type.

For minor stains, you would need a microfiber piece of cloth and a safe upholstery cleaner.

  • First, gently wipe the dirt spot with the microfiber cloth.
  • If the stain persists, you would need an upholstery-safe cleaner. Spray a little quantity of the upholstery cleaner enough to saturate a little corner of the microfiber cloth, and gently work the cleaner into the spot on the headliner with the wet corner of the cloth.
  • Now, use the clean, dry end of the fiber cloth to remove excess moisture.
  • When the wet area dries you would need to check if the dirt has been removed. If it is a minor stain, it would have gone.
  • However, if you discover the ‘dirt- going' gets tough, the tough cleaning equipment will then have to get going. It will at this point, be wise to perform a wholesome headliner surface cleaning.
  • For this, you would require adding a soft-bristled brush such as a horsehair or natural latex brush, to the mix. These can be used to ensure that dirt trapped in your headliner is loosened.
  • To begin, spray the entire headliner surface evenly with the upholstery cleaner. As you come in contact with the compartments of the electrical fittings on the headliner, ensure you spray the joints and crevices around them well.
  • Check the upholstery container for its action time and allow the spray to rest on the headliner for that time. This will allow the cleaner to permeate into the headliner and dirt to be effused by the chemical reaction between the cleaner and the headliner fabric.
  • Now, use your brush to agitate the surface of the headliner gently. Make sure you take a small portion at a time as you slowly work your brush in a circular motion.
  • Be sure to let your brush reach every part of the headliner.
  • Allow the headliner to dry wholesomely.
  • Your stains should be gone completely.

A perfect headliner is very essential to getting the best out of your automobile. Hence, it is important period maintenance is carried out on the headliner of the automobile, either using a guide like this or by a trained technician to avoid its gradual or outright destruction.

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