Removing the ProMaster Headliner to Add Insulation

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A couple months ago, I posted a list of a few projects I wanted to tackle in Lance, our Winnebago Travato.  One of them was to insulate the area over the headliner in the cab area. But I’d been dreading it, because it seemed like a lot of work and bloody knuckles.

But since I’m stuck home and nobody is traveling, I finally ran out of excuses for not getting started, so here we go.  This video was the easier part of the project, because I just got to take things apart.  Taking things apart is easy.  Putting them back together less so…


The video is a little rough, because I hadn’t done this before, and didn’t really know what to expect when I started.  It turned out to not be as bad as I had imagined it.  In fact, if I were working with an empty cargo van (instead of a fully built-out RV), I could probably remove the headliner in well under an hour now.  The ProMaster parts weren’t that bad.  You’ll see what I mean in the video.  One thing to point out is that yes: you do need to remove the lower headliner and shelf before you can remove the upper headliner.

I won’t run through the entire process here, because it’s in the video, but I will highlight a couple of tools that I found indispensable.

Panel Clip Removal Pliers

Don’t even bother without getting these.

Oh my goodness I couldn’t have done this without this extremely specialized tool!  Fortunately, I had anticipated the need for these and had purchased them off of Amazon ahead of time.  I suppose it might have been possible to remove all the panel clips (there were maybe 13 of them) with screwdrivers and pry-bars… but I would have destroyed a lot more of them.  As these came out, I think I will be able to re-use all of them but one.  This thing was only about 15 bucks, and worth every penny.

Magnetic Parts Tray

Now taking bets on how many of these I have leftover next week.

As you’ll see in multiple places throughout the video, I have a hard time keeping track of screws and other items that I remove from the van.  Usually, they fly every which way and I’m lucky to capture 75% of them.  My problem would be a LOT worse if it weren’t for this tray.  I’ve had this thing for a while now – another Amazon find.  I’ve used it for many projects, but on this one I was really feeling the love.  Not all of the parts on this project were magnetic, but the tray gets to be pretty jammed up with screws and such, so that even the non-magnetic parts stay snagged in place.

What’s Next?

There are three things left to do here.

  1.  Add FatMat sound deadening mat to the headliner to make things even more quiet.  Why FatMat?  Because I had some left over!
  2. Add Rockwool insulation to voids and to the headliner area.
  3. Reassemble…

It’s number three that I’m worried about, so we’ll see how that goes this coming weekend.  Wish me luck!!

James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.

    28 thoughts on “Removing the ProMaster Headliner to Add Insulation

    1. Brian Prince

      Great video! I have tried previously to get at the headliner. The issue I ran into was not being able to figure out how to disconnect the headliner that comes from the rear and goes into a metal flange. I heard you say you disconnected the side molding to get some slack in the headliner. Is that the only trick?

      Also, once I remove the metal bracket that is holding the headliner, do you think I can install insulation without removing anything else? I was hoping I could just push insulation into the spaces. I am not interested in doing the fatmat material.

      1. James - Post author

        Hi Brian.
        I disconnected the side molding and a employed a lot of swearing. Those were the only two tricks. Other than that I just muscled it out.
        If that doesn’t work in your case, then I would just destroy that molding during the removal, and when it was time to reassemble, replace it with some screws through the top of a flat 1.5″ aluminum bar or something similar that’s easier to remove and install.
        The only trick to that approach would be that there are wires in that area, and you would want to mark and drill your hole locations in your new trim piece carefully to avoid hitting them.

        As to your second question – You might be able to shove insulation in the space above the headliner with a stick or something, but that would be a half-hearted attempt, in my opinion.
        There are a lot of spaces you wouldn’t get at all. The main void gets larger the further forward you go. You’d probably snag on wires as you pushed.
        It would still be 80% of the effort for 20% of the gain. I’d either do it all the way, or I wouldn’t bother.

    2. Bob

      Great job, James and Steph. I had several LOL moments. I don’t think I’ll be trying this myself, but I am curious about the handy smallish drill. Can you share the info please. I’m feeling a need to tool-up during the plague homestay.

      1. James - Post author

        That tool is one of my favorites. It’s the Milwaukee M12 Cordless 1/4 in. Hex Screwdriver!
        Several years ago, I started switching all my tools to the Milwaukee M12 line. I like the small size – wihch is completely adequate 99.992% of the time. I don’t have to deal with the bulk of the old 18 volt tools.
        Plus, the lithium batteries hold a charge well and don’t wear out as quickly (but they do eventually wear out.
        They have like a hundred tools in the M12 line, so you pretty quickly get sucked in to their ecoystem.

    3. Garrett H

      Wow what a project. I live in the Hot desert also and have cooked many pizzas in the hot oven myself. I saw you starting the oven project; since being quarantined, I got motivated and started it myself.

      You were right about the headliner and transition bar. That took me hours getting it back in but success followed and it looks like I never touched it.

      James where you able to get some Temperature readings before and after?

      Also and sound readings?

      Great project, Thanks for the challenge. Buy the way, how many pieces did you have left over?

      1. James - Post author

        I had only two pieces left over. You can see them in the follow-up video: Insulation and Reassembly

        As to temperature and sound readings, that would be difficult. I’d need to have planned that out back during the summer so I had external temperature data, cloud cover data, vechicle positioning data, etc. Honestly, I didn’t plan that out last July.
        Any evidence will be anecdotal (“My resistance bands didn’t melt this year!”). Or it might be something I can gather with another Travato side-by-side (but the exterior color will be different).
        Sound, as I mention in the second video, didn’t seem to change much… subjectively. Lance is exceptionally quiet anyway.

    4. Rose and Gary The PedalingDuo

      James and Stef,

      Thanks for giving me something to watch wile we are stuck in the house. I always like the quality of your work and video productions.

    5. SkipL


      Well that was easy…. NOT !

      Good to see I am not the only one that struggles with figuring out how things come apart when doing my van conversion – including removing the headliner and adding insulation, and custom over-cab storage shelf. But we love our van projects…. and even though it is a struggle sometimes , it is so rewarding when your plan finally comes all together – and you get the satisfaction of over coming all the challenges along the way…

      1. James - Post author

        That’s what I keep telling myself when I’m stuck in the middle of one of these projects… It’ll be that much more satisfying when I’m done!

    6. BobB

      And no cuts! You must have be a very good sound editor – did not hear any four-letter words flying around. ;~)

      1. Stefany

        Oh trust me, James can get very creative with the language. Luckily we’ve been together long enough I can tell when it’s coming, so I could cut filming just in time. 😉

    7. Shaun Simpkins

      James, you make what is a very tedious and anxiety-producing process look easy. Mark of a great engineer. Rocket scientist. Whatever. So are you gonna do a bake-off when it’s all done? Gotta do comparative testing…

      1. James - Post author

        We’ll have to wait for hot day… and a day when we can meet up with someone else!
        But yeah – a side-by-side comparison would be cool.
        Trouble is, paint color has a big effect on internal temperatures… and Lance is the only yellow Travato!

    8. Paul Hufnagl

      this is a very helpful video. I dented my roof in the front and on a very hot day in the desert I’m going to try and push it back out. not a travato so hoping it will be easier. thanks as always for your video. great job by your camera crew.

    9. John Lockhart

      Does the Promaster have side curtain airbags? Not sure what I was seeing with the trim above the door removed? If so, what precautions are necessary?

      1. James - Post author

        Yes, those are the airbags you see curled up over the windows. As the van is turned off, and the key out of the ignition, I’ve not taken any extra precautions. I am not working on or near the airbags directly, and I’m not sticking metal probes anywhere near them. I’m comfortable with just exercising care.

        I suppose if I wanted an extra measure of security, I could disconnect the battery. I would also have to disconnect all of my solar panels, as they’re wired to both the chassis and house batteries.

      1. James - Post author

        Our antenna performs really well where it is now, and there are no leaks. No reason for us to move it and create another potential spot for a leak.

      1. James - Post author

        Classy! You could also wrap the outside of the vehicle with insulating batts and Tyvek. Think of how well the paint would hold up!

    10. Boaz

      Hi. The video is interesting, but please don’t add music next time 🙂 . It’s unnecessary, distracting, and irritating. It makes watching the video hard work. The video would be relaxing if it did not have music. James’ cussing and cries of pain are much better than music 🙂 .

      1. Stefany

        Just for you, Boaz, we left the music out of Video #2… so feel free to pat us on the back. And everyone else who LIKED the music, blame Boaz!!! 😉 xoxo

    11. Steve Cieri

      You have great patience! With your skill and enthusiasm for cabinetry am surprised that your not replacing the OEM shelf with a custom shelf/cabinet that might be easier to install and remove.

      1. James - Post author

        The shelf is molded to fit in place exactly with fasteners in spots that line up with the body of the van.
        But I have considered making a new end panel for the shelf (the thing that the light is mounted on), and also maybe reworking the sides of the storage area to create a bit more space up top. Haven’t decided if I will or not, but I’m thinking about it.


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