Friday, February 17, 2012

Saab 9-3 Headliner Project/Failure

This material never saw the sunlight yet it has disintegrated. What the fuck is it made out of? Soybeans?
I want to punch myself in the face right now for trying to tackle this stupid project. If you own a Saab 9-3 then you are a pretentious asshole first of all and second of all you will be living in the Nineties, specifically 1995, when these crappy, over-engineered (i.e. torx screws for everything) plastic fucking cars were cool. Yeah, fast forward to 2012 and these cars aren't so cool anymore. Someone picked this up at an auction for $200 because it was a Mexican drug running car, rode hard put away wet when the cops finally caught up to them. 95K miles of awful clutch riding. So the car broker thinks he'll net a few hundred dollars pawning this off as "his grandmother's" old car. Sure. Asshole, you belong with this Saab. Then my friend crashes her car and is in a pinch to buy something that was cool in 1995 but is now a big pile of shit. It's not worth the parts because every part will snap like brittle old turkey wings when you try to dismantle it.
At this point you think you can do it.

Keep going asshole. It will never work.

The headliners for these are classic european design because they are assembled of the most delicate crap that only could be reassembled in a factory but they are also built so poorly that they will fail most certainly before 100K miles. This means high costs of repair and guaranteed problems. Way to go Saab!

This headliner was sagging like a Cleveland stripper's ego. We used staples, glue, hot glue, prayer, duct tape and nothing worked. It sagged and sagged until finally I read up on it and decided I would have to replace it myself. Big mistake.

I just found one thread and this is one asshole Saab owner's detailed advice...

"Remove all the trim pieces, take the headliner inside, pull off the old carpet, wire brush off ALL of the foam, lay out about 2 yards of a stretchable fabric, glue down with headliner adhesive (from the autoparts store) and trim excess. Pretty easy really, shouldn't take more than a few hours."

What a pretentious and trite asshole. Typical Saab owner. This is a 17 year old beater car and everything on it is brittle plastic and every brittle plastic retainer will snap in half and none of the interior trim will stay put because the brittle retainers are all broken. Even if I spent $100 and had new brittle retainers the biggest problem is that the fucking headliner backer board is not cardboard like a normal car. No. That would make too much sense to the Swedish fucks who designed this. Instead, they used some kind of polymer glue and fiber that is molded into the shape they want. Pretty clever? NO, it's stupid. The fibrous board has a rigidity factor like an old man's cock...which translates into more over engineering. Back at the factory in Stockholm the only way they could make the fibrous board stay against the roof was with 5 horizontal strips that are glued to the board and then glued to the roof. I should mention that the glue on these black strips probably failed a few weeks into 1996 but the problem gets your attention when the fabric of the headliner starts to peel away from the foam backing (which is glued to the fibrous board so well Oggy has to scrape it off with paint scraper wearing a dust mask) So, they used material that was weaker than the glue. Assholes!

Now, the fibrous board is hanging down to start with and then the material starts to hang down lower and neither one can be reattached to the roof of the car so I took the whole thing out with so much cursing and sweating and breaking every plastic retainer in the whole interior and I scrape the foam off and clean the fibrous board. Already I could tell this would never stay up and that I'm going to have to be upside down in the car trying to glue the board back to the horizontal strips that are still glued to the roof. I know that will never work.

Furthermore, the fabric is $20 and the spray headliner glue is another $20. That's $40 in materials alone for a car that I wouldn't take for free. Bullshit.

But I'm committed because I'm an asshole so I glue the new headliner to the board. Then I install it into the car and it's a train wreck from start to finish. The interior trim is what holds the board in place but the retainers all broke so nothing stays in place. I basically flood the top of the board with glue, spray glue on the strips glued to the roof, reach around to move the cable harness (it laughs at me) on top of the board and then use my back to hold the board in place by standing on the back seat doing a half squat for twenty agonizing minutes. If the board was cardboard or had any rigid qualities the ceiling mounted handles and sun visors would hold the thing in place. But no, it droops like a wet noodle because the Saab assholes decided to make it flimsy (lightweight) faux board made of glue and paper. It's lightweight but it is still affected by gravity and unless I can glue it to the ceiling then it will always fall down.

This is a horrible job and it would cost hundreds for a shop to do it. ($380 is a loose estimate) And only a shop could do it because they have all the retainers ready for when they break. Saab was really using their heads for that. In fact, some of the retainers are a one time use item that is designed to break when you remove the trim. You push the broken tab into the metal and then insert a new one. They can't be removed without breaking them. And the contact cement they must use on the ceiling is the only thing that will work. It's one thing to glue the headliner to the board but you must also glue the board to the ceiling and that is not the case with most headliners since most headliners are rigid and hold their shape and will stay up when the sun visors are installed.
Speaking of sun visors, these are so brittle on your 1995 Saab 9-3 that they will literally break in half when you remove them. The brackets will also break. And the interior ceiling lights will only fit inside these fragile aluminum frames that can never be installed correctly without a machine press because the fibrous board will tear when they are taken off. Another award for the Saab assholes.
broken sun visor on shitty saab 9-3

From what I have read there are vehicles that this job will go off without too much problems. It will be difficult but the interior was made to disassemble. Saabs are not one of those vehicles. 1995 Saabs are definitely not. These are shitty cars with bad designs from overpaid engineers. They are not practical. This Saab I'm working on runs worse than my 1969 Econoline. Because Saab engineers never heard of snow and ice this thing has rusted out, the shock mounts are gone and I actually used one of the struts to hammer the interior trim back in place since the strut pushed through into the trunk and I took it off. The brakes suck. The engine components are plastic crap and nothing can be replaced. The parts that fail the most often will be the hardest to reach and the easy to reach parts will all break when you move them to get to the hard to reach parts. The rotor was baked onto the distributor shaft when I replaced it last year. It shattered. And every screw will cost $29 to replace.
new headliner with broken trim
If you need to ask how to repair the Saab headliner then you should not replace the Saab headliner. I say that because it's designed badly and your attempt to fix it will definitely lead to more repairs and probably won't fix the sagging headliner. Furthermore, the cheapest fix is too much money for this piece of shit car and the most expensive fix would buy you another piece of shit Saab without a sagging headliner.
This is as good as it gets.

There are two alternatives I want to talk about. Upholstery screws are these corkscrew type things for couches and if your headliner is sagging because the fabric is falling away from the foam then these screws will be a good temporary fix for $5. They will lift the fabric off your head and back onto the foam and outlast your shitty engine with ridiculous Air mass meters that are heat sensitive so the engineers placed them next to the exhaust and the engine will randomly cut off dead with no warning.
Bullshit interior. Headliner is attached to fiber board but fiber board isn't glued to roof.
However, if you own a shitty Saab and the whole fibrous backing board has come loose from the roof then you are in trouble. There is no way to get up there to glue it back up without taking it down. You could cut a window open in the middle of the fabric and board and then spray and push the board up and then glue the window closed. Who cares what it looks like? Your Saab is a piece of shit beater car. It would be better off recycled into a Kia or Ford Focus. Believe me, any vehicle with a throttle body as fuel delivery system is not worth fixing. Take it to the scrap yard where it belongs.

Another solution I just thought of and should patent is a miniature cup that you push through a hole in the backer board and fabric. You glue the cup directly to the roof using contact cement and then you have this fixture that you can use to either affix some kind of cheap Chinese star shape that snaps into the fitting and holds the headliner board against the roof or else you could have long slats that connect to another glued on fixture and the horizontal slat would hold the headliner up. You only need a few months until the transmission fails on your shitty Saab 9-3. Or buy some wood trim and cut it into strips and wedge it into the side trim and then the other side trim so the torsion will push up. I'll try that tomorrow because I know it won't stay up long. And then a trip to the junk yard for a sun visor.

Under no circumstances should you attempt to replace the headliner itself. The last option would be to simply tear the headliner and board off, glue the lights to the roof and drive around with no headliner. Who cares what it looks like? You will be the last owner before it is scraped and made into new Volvos so ignore it.

Note: About 5 months after this project the headliner collapsed again. About 1 year after this headliner project this Saab clutch failed. The car couldn't move...the shocks were ruined, whole rear end was rusted out. the foolish waste of money and time all came to a head and it was sold for scrap. My feeling was confirmed that this headliner was pointless....pearls on a pig. My advice is to tear the headliner out and throw it away. Your Saab will soon be scrap.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.