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How to Replace the XJ S3 Headliner

How to Replace the XJ S3 Headliner

Ralph Allen

Summary: This a 14 step guide for removing the XJ S3 headliner, replacing it, and reinstalling a fresh new one. This technique eliminates removing the rear windscreen. Steps include removing and reinstalling both sun roof panels.

Background: The XJ S3 headliner is 1/8 inch foam backed material glued onto a molded fiber board. The foam gives it a soft, supple feel. Over time this foam breaks down, causing the material to droop, and a dust bag condition to exist behind the headliner. Information below is based on my recent experience replacing my headliner,learning as I went, info from Haynes, earlier posts and kind help from others. Corrections, additions welcome.

Tools needed: screwdrivers, pliers, brush, some wrenches. Average stuff; nothing exotic

Hours: About 18-20, start to finish, learning as I went

My Cost:

  • $146: headliner material, including labor to glue it on
  • $17: new welting around sun roof opening

(I have been told Jaguar sells new headliner and board for around $1200, not counting labor to install and windscreen removal. You can also buy a kit for $285, to install yourself)

Difficulty: Nothing at all hard about this, even for the most inexperienced. Burns up the hours in a weekend, though. Looks professional and absolutely great when done!



  1. Loosen the fascia crash roll. This is the big black vynl-covered shelf which runs across the dash from door to door. You do not need to actually remove this piece. But you do want be able to move it enough to give you clearance so you can remove the cant rails. Start by:

    • a. Remove the two vent grilles (demister duct outlets) on the top of the fascia crash roll by carefully prying them up with a screwdriver. The little plastic nipples (or penises) in each corner tend to break easily so be careful.
    • b. Remove four screws under the front lip of the fascia crash roll.
    • c. Open the driver and passenger doors and remove two screws on each side of the crash roll. Pull away the small black plastic trim piece from each side.
    • d. Pull the crash roll toward you about 4 inches and balance it so it remains stationary. Look under where the map light is. You'll see a few wires hanging underneath. These connect the map light and the air conditioner sensor. Easy to disconnect, but only if you want to remove the crash roll from the car for maximum work room. If so, you also need to disconnect a rubber tube under there; just twist and pull it off. Note the connections as they are for reattachment. It all goes back easily.

  2. Now you can begin to remove the trim pieces (cant rails) running up the front door pillars and over the door tops.

    • a.Easiest way to start is: remove the two hand grabs over the rear passenger doors. Two releasing screws are under each chrome cap. These caps pop up if you wedge and work a screwdriver under their long sides.(Be careful you don't puncture the vynl trim.)
    • b.After you pull away the hand grab, you see a metal plate underneath. This holds the abutting edges of the front and rear sections of the rail together. Remove this plate.
    • c.Next remove the black welting material around from the top and sides of the front and doors. The vertical welting bordering the center posts do not need to be removed.
    • d.The front rail section is next removed. Pry off the 7 spring clips running along its length every 7-10 inches down to the dash. I used a long stem screwdriver and popped each one loose, starting from the hand grab location and working toward the dash. Once you get one clip popped off, you'll see the technique needed to pop the others. The rail is flexible and will bend quite a bit.
    • e. You do not need to entirely remove the rear section of the rail back by the rear windscreen. But you do need to remove two of its clips. Leave the rear rail section flopping loose over the seat belt mechanism.
    • f. With rails on both sides of the car removed, next remove the rear trim rail running along the top of the rear windscreen. Four clips, like the ones you've been popping so far, hold this piece. Two of these clips, one on each side, are located behind the rear cant rail section, which is now flopping loose.
    • g. Unscrew and remove the sun visors and their catch clips.
    • h. Remove the rear view mirror(See Haynes)
    • i. Around three sides of the headliner edge, you'll see six one-inch plates (one over each door). Remove these. NOTE: two over the rear windscreen are different than the ones over the doors. Note the position of the little ridges, up or down, on these plates for reattachment.

  3. Remove the welting material which borders the sunroof opening. This just pulls away with some strong finger action. Opening the sunroof gives you good access. Start at the seam.

  4. Underneath the welting on the sun roof frame you'll see small metal clips, which hold the headliner material on the metal frame. There are ten; note their approximate position. Save them (they're easy to lose as you're pulling away, and not easy to replace exactly) for reattachment. Pulling off the welting sometimes pulls these off, too.

    (This following step, and steps 6 and 7 are needed to give you room to get the headliner out of the car without removing the rear windscreen.)

  5. Remove the back seat, the part you sit on, from the car. There are two screws in the lower front of this seat section. The seat section pulls forward, up and out of your car.

  6. Remove the arm rest/speaker trim unit from one of the rear passenger doors. Two releasing screws at the bottom hold this section to the door. Now grip the unit, and push up to release and away. Disconnect the speaker wires.

  7. Adjust the front seats so that their backs are reclined as horizontally as possible.

  8. Mark a line along the top of the rear windscreen roof to indicate factory position of headliner board.

  9. Drop the headliner board (your headliner material is glued onto a fiberglass board). Move it to the right or left and pulling it down into your car's cabin by the free end so that it rests finally onto your seats.

  10. Now here is what appears to be the scary part: That board looks awfully big and your rear door opening looks awfully small. It is obvious that your headliner board must bend dramatically to exit from that rear door. You need to bend the board's front end under toward its rear end, like the letter "U" upside down. The bend/crease will occur about 25 inches from the board's front (or about 5 inches from the rear of the sun roof opening). The board is made of fiber and thankfully doesn't seem to be inclined to break or snap suddenly like a cracker. It will bend more like soft corrigated cardboard. CAUTION: IT CAN TEAR! So avoid aggressive twisting/yanking at the points where it creases as you withdraw it through the rear door. Be gentle! PLEASE.

  11. Now remove the sun roof. It consists of two panels, one upper, one lower. Start with the upper, the exterior roof section:

    • a. Open the sun roof by six to nine inches
    • b. Remove the four screws from the front flange of the panel
    • c. Lift this upper panel clear of your car by pulling forward. You are releasing this panel from two spring clips at the rear; don't worry, nothing will go flying around back there and there's no problem in putting this panel back together.
    • d. You now see before you the lower panel. There are six arms, three on each side, holding this panel in place. The rearward arms are hidden under the deck of the panel and are what the spring clips are attached to. First, unscrew the two nuts on the forward set of arms. Then twist the arms out off the track and free of your car.
    • e. Next, unscrew the nuts on the midway arms. These arms have lock tabs (bend them flat) on nuts which hold a greased sandwich of plates, wedges and collars. (TAKE NOTE of the hierarchy of these small pieces for accurate reattachment!) Now lift the unbolted arms upward to about a 45 degree angle. This action may cause the connecting collar esconcing the cable to pop off, but don't worry; it easily snaps right back on again with your thumb when reattaching.
    • f. MARK the position of the plate holding the spring clips. Then remove the bolts on the spring clips, which hold the rearward arms. TAKE NOTE of the configuration of the spring clip and how it fits on its holding plate.
    • g. Slide the rear arms off the track. Insert a pencil or similiarly shaped tool into the bolt holes of the arm and slide toward you (in the direction of the door.)
    • h. Lift the underpanel out of the opening. Voila!
    • i. Remove two screws in the rear of the sun roof which help hold the headliner material on.

  12. Renewing the headliner.

    • a. Once out of the car, pull the headliner material away from the fiberboard.
    • b. With a soft brush, scrape away all the old orange foam backing. CAUTION: the surface of the board is easily damaged; go easy. I wiped it down with a damp cloth afterwards.
    • c. Take the clean board and the sun roof to an auto upholstery shop. Have them glue new headliner material on the fiberboard and sunroof. My understanding is, this glueing is something you have should done professionally; they use an adhesive that withstands high temperatures better than the 3M spray glue you can buy at Pep Boys, and they (may) do a better job than you affixing the material. Tip: Take a piece of excess vynl from the cant rail to the shop with you; the headliner material you select should match as closely as possible this color. The corresponding trim colors on Vanden Plas models, I think, are black; so in this case you may have use something else as a color guide. Headliner material comes in 1/4 inch and 1/8 inch thicknesses. Your car was originally outfitted with 1/8 inch stuff, but I used 1/4 inch (because of availability and color) with no problem so far. In fact, the 1/4 inch is softer and feels, to me, more luxurious. Headliner material appears to come in 54 inch widths on a roll; YOU NEED THREE YARDS on this roll. This quantity includes more than enough for the sun roof and rear trim rail. I was quoted $16 a yard.
    • d. Jaguar uses plastic strips sewn onto the headliner material to hold the sun roof headliner in place. I didn't re-use these strips, just had the shop glue the material over the sun roof edges, again with no problem to date.(The strips were too dried and cracked, anyway)
    • e. Make sure the headliner is glued over the front lip of the big fiber board about 3 inches, like the way the dingy old stuff was.
    • f. Ask the shop to trim the perimeter of the board for you, but don't have them trim out the sun roof opening; you should get the big board back with no sun roof opening in the material.

  13. Homestretch! Tips for putting things back together, trouble-free.

    • a. Put the the big fiber board in before the sun roof.
    • b. Don't trim the sunroof opening until the big board is in place inside the car.
    • c. The board bends the same way going in; fabric creases immediately and completely disappear when it resumes its shape inside the cabin of the car.(double check that you have the board in the correct position before THE BENDING PROCESS to get it in; easy to get it backwards and do all that heart-stopping bending again)
    • d. Once the headliner is in position, replace all but the front small holding plates, (over the driver and passenger door) until you screw in the sun visors. You need to get your fingers under the headliner and feel for the visor screw holes. I used a straight edge razor to cut "x" where the sun visor and mirror screws are installed.
    • e. Use an awl or something similiar to make preliminary holes in the headliner for screws; the material can bunch around a screw.
    • f. Reattaching the sun roof welting: I bought fresh new welting from British Auto for $17. If you do the same and it doesn't fit, don't try to cut it; it comes the exact size, and you've probably got it in wrong. This stuff stretches and bends. I used a rubber mallet hammer(clean) to help it pound it onto the frame. Color was close to perfect, too.
    • g. Note that the rear trim rail across the rear windscreen has a top and bottom; don't force attachment in the wrong way.
    • h. Keep a bucket of sudsy water close by, with clean rags, for frequent cleanings. IT IS SO DAMN EASY TO STAIN YOUR BEAUTIFUL NEW HEADLINER WITH THOSE GRUBBY, GREASE-GOOKED FINGERS OF YOURS!

  14. Sun Roof Tips and the TRICK PART (patience).

    • a. See (h) in section 11, above.
    • b. Clean the wind deflector at the front of the sun roof opening and hold it depressed with tape to keep it out of the way before putting in the panels.
    • c. Make sure the exterior roof of your car between the windshield and the sun roof opening is clean and free of dust and grease, or your headliner will instantly soil.
    • d. Wrap the midway arms in paper towels and tape to prevent grease contagion when putting in your sun roof.
    • e. Now, getting it in: outside of car, lay the sun roof underpanel down on a CLEAN cloth, headliner facing down. Insert the two (cleaned) rearward arms in the sides, under the ears. Do not bolt.
    • f. Place sun roof into position in your car,centering it by eyeball. Don't let the arms fall out.
    • g. Using a pencil or similiar tool, align the bolt holes in the arm with the corresponding openings in the panel deck.
    • h. THIS IS THE TRICK PART. Bolt the spring and its holding plate onto the arm. Everything is loose and feels awkward at this point. Do not tighten the bolts. Through a clean towel pressed up into the rear sun roof headliner, your fingers can feel the captive nut on the underside rearward arm. At this point, you have one hand on the top of the sun roof, the other reaching into the cabin to the sun roof underside.
    • i. With one arm (not yours, the sun roof's) bolted and loosely in place, you can now shift the spring's holding plate (and thus arm) back and forth about an inch each way.
    • j. Now repeat the same step on the other rearward arm of the sun roof panel.
    • k. Think of the sun roof panel at this point, with its two arms acting like the arms of a vice, ready to close on the tracks. Maneuver one arm onto the track. You know the arm is on track when you can't push up the rear corner of the sun roof with your hand on the underside you're working on; it feels locked, with just a very little play. Tighten the bolts a bit more.
    • l. Repeat this step for the other rearward arm.
    • m. Slide the sun roof panel or the holding plate (whichever is easiest) so that the holding plate on one side more accurately assumes the original position on the deck, which you marked, remember, before disassembly. And keep those hands clean.
    • n. When in final place, tighten the bolts with your wrench.
    • o. The other arms now attach quickly and easily.
    • p. Now attach the upper panel,greasing the tabs which fit under the spring clips, and reinstalling the four screws on the flange.
    • q. If the the sun roof at this point doesn't seem to fit precisely, activate its motor and it adjusts itself.
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