My 29 year old son, Will, just bought a new Jeep Wrangler. This is his first brand new car and he ordered it exactly as he wanted (and could afford!). It is a hardtop model, but the hardtop does not come with a headliner. He considered ordering one with the vehicle, but was looking to save some money.
He also heard about an aftermarket headliner that was superior to the Mopar version, so he decided to skip the factory headliner and try one from Hothead Headliners. The Jeep forums were complimentary of this product, so he ordered a kit for home installation. It is also now available for the Ford Bronco for those of you with that vehicle.
Why Buy A Headliner?
In the case of the Wrangler, the hardtop is a molded fiberglass shell that is bolted to the body. It is made to be removed for fun outings, but the lightweight nature of the top results in undesirable noise and temperature feel.
Adding the right material to the interior of the roof can help reduce road noise and block heat. Even though the 2024 Wrangler is much improved over past model years, it can still use some help in that area.
The Hothead Headliner is well regarded, so he chose their kit to install.
I had a chance to watch the unboxing of the headliner kit and was very impressed. The kit included a roll of “Sound Assassin” sound deadening tape (with installation roller), preformed headliner panels and sandpaper. All he needed was Acetone to clean the Jeep roof, which he stole/borrowed from my shop.
The picture above shows the front row roof panel laying on a worktable. The left picture shows where the Sound Assassin tape is attached to the recessed areas of the roof panel, and the right picture shows the headliner panel covering the tape and roof panel.
For the installation, all he needed to do was rough up the roof panel with the sandpaper and clean it with Acetone. Those steps prepared the surface for optimal adhesion of the tape and headliner.
Will repeated the steps with the other roof panels on the Jeep. He did not need to remove the panels for this project, but did remove the front ones so that he could get the process down before tackling the bigger sections. He also obliged me so that I could get a couple of good pictures.
Even though the key advantage of the Hothead Headliner is to reduce the transmission of heat into the vehicle interior, it does offer some sound deadening. If you have ever driven a cargo van, you can understand what an uninsulated roof does to the sound quality.
The Jeep Wrangler is about as aerodynamic as a brick, so wind and road noise are a given. Jeep has done some good work to control that, but it can be better.
Using a Reed R8060 Sound Level Meter, we were able to measure the interior noise levels in decibels. I’m not going to get into the science of decibel levels, but know that the sound of a vacuum cleaner is around 70 dB, while a normal conversation is around 60 dB. A small numerical change in decibel level can make a big difference!
Before the headliner kit was installed, Will took me for a ride on the freeway. Using the Reed meter, I measured the sound level in the front row of the Jeep (near the driver’s ear), in the 2nd row at ear level and in the cargo area behind the 2nd row of seats. We repeated the same test after the kit was installed.
In the graphic above, you can see the sound levels from different parts of the Jeep at 70 mph and 75 mph. Compare that to the sound level after the kit was installed and you can see the difference. Not unexpected, the rear cargo area was noisier than the rest of the Jeep, but also saw the greatest improvement.
Beyond the measurable improvement, the perceived change in sound quality was obvious. I was able to carry a conversation with Will from the rear seat as he drove–something that was more difficult before this modification.
In addition, the Jeep sound system seemed better and the vehicle cabin felt more comfortable on a very cold day. The doors closed with an improved sound as well.
Final Thoughts & Questions
Even though the Hothead Headliner’s primary benefit is the reduction of heat transmission (due to the radiant barrier on the back side of the headliner), the immediate improvement in sound quality is reason alone to use this product. I know Will is very happy with this purchase, which is all that matters.
Want to learn more about me? Go to this article: Who’s Your Nanny?