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tip for removing old headliner material


KDirk
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Hit on a trick to make removal of old foam backing from the headliner form much easier. I had a blue headliner out of the parts car I'm dismantling presently and wanted to strip it to re-cover in burgundy for one of my other cars. Did some thinking and decided to hookup the paint gun to the compressor and fill it with Methyl Ethel Ketone. Sprayed out a small section of the foam and let it sit for a couple of minutes to soak in and help release the adhesive. Repeated this by sections about 18" square at a time until done.

 

I ended up pulling off huge pieces of the foam backing easily without damage to the fiberglass form. I was quite pleased with this as my previous experience doing a headliner was a very nasty mess trying to strip the old material in small (nickel to quarter sized) pieces and ended up using a torch to burn off some stubborn foam. I would let the form sit outside for a day to ensure all the MEK has evaporated and won't smell up the cars interior before recovering with new material. Just thought I'd pas this along.

 

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Ronnie, that's fine. For clarity you might add that I removed the fabric (color) portion before doing this. Also, this would be most effective when the foam hasn't yet broken down into the partially liquefied, tar like state that occurs with advanced degradation of the material. I'm guessing this happens most frequently in cars that spent their whole lives in very hot climates and/or were infrequently or never garaged. I do wonder if cigarette smoke also contributes to the deterioration of the foam.

Seems to be a connection there by my observations from parting out cars.

 

Barney, I was reluctant to use anything abrasive as I expected it would chew into the fiberglass form resulting in the need for more repairs before recovering. These forms are so fragile and difficult to find in good shape now that I theorized using a solvent to release the glue would be a better solution. Since MEK is specified for thinning and cleaning up contact cement, it seemed like a good choice. Acetone would also work I suspect, but has a faster evaporation rate and may dry out before it fully softens the adhesive.

 

 

 

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   Years ago I worked at a can plant that made cans with a soldered side seam as opposed to the current method of welding the seam. In this method, the cans would run over a solder pot in which the solder was kept molten by a natural gas burner.

An employee was walking past the solder pot with an open container of MEK that he was using to clean parts with. The fumes from the MEK ignited and flashed over to the container Walt was holding and caught fire. Dropping the container caused a fireball which burned Walt badly. I don't recall the % of burn coverage but he carries the scars on his chest, neck and arms to this very day.

 

   I'm not saying do not use MEK. I'm just saying be very aware of it's extremely low flash point (16*F). Make sure there is plenty of ventilation available. Now, with the weather turning cooler, one may be tempted to do this inside. Just make sure there are no ignition sources available. Certainly no smoking in the area. Be aware of pilot lights (water heater or washer and gas dryer in the garage?) and any relays on things such as space heaters, air compressors etc. that may kick on creating a spark at the relay which may ignite the vapor.

 

   MEK is good stuff and can be used safely, just consider all possible sources if ignition prior to use and all should be well.

Also... avoid inhalation of the vapors. Not good for your brain and other internal organs. Use of protective gloves kinda goes without saying. Neoprene is best suited. MEK will melt most other types of gloves.

An Internet search of MEK will provide you with more info about proper handling and safety concerns of this solvent.

Be Safe!

 

John F.

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You are right john about the flammable hazard of MEK. That is a reason I added a warning in the tutorial on ROJ about it. I have a friend who builds Allison high performance boats here in Tennessee. His insurance company requires him to store MEK and Acetone in an explosion proof rooms that has  1 foot thick concrete wall and a heavy steel door that gravity automatically closes due to the explosive/flammable properties of those chemicals.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Ronnie (see edit history)
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Good points of course. I probably should have pointed that out but then the can does (at least the one I have) have these safety and usewarnings printed on it. I likely assume too much in thinking anyone who uses such solvents will read the small print. 

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I've done just that on a previous headliner replacement.

 

the foam burns off pretty quickly but leaves behind little tar balls that are difficult to clean off. Also tends to smell a bit, and the odor gets into the fiberglass. So, less than ideal but it does work.

 

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