Gear Repair Zippers
- Plastic zippers are less likely to break, than metal zippers.
- Plastic zippers are easier to zip up and require less maintenance.
- Coil zips are stronger than solid plastic tooth zips.
- Larger zips are not necessary stronger.
- Dirt in a coil zipper or zipper slider will quickly damage
it, keeping a zipper clean will extend its life.
Almost all zippers use sliders made of an aluminium alloy
that are prone to corrosion, particularly in sea air or salt water.
Always rinse any equipment that has been exposed to sea air or salt
water with fresh water as soon as you able, and dry thoroughly.
Spaying the zippers with silicon waterproofing spray, Teflon spray,
or rubbing with candle wax on the odd occasion will protect the
zip and will also reduce friction, force, wear and tear and enhance
the life of the zippers. Remember, proper care of your zippers will
give you many years of loyal service and the zippers could even
outlast your backpack.
Zippers are an excellent innovation, but the problem is zippers
are prone to failure, particularly due to misuse or abuse. All of
the zippers on the White Mountain Backpacks™ products are
plastic zippers, small, interlocking coils woven into the zipper
webbing with an alloy slider. One of the best features of coil zips
is the self-mending property. When a zipper jam occurs, all you
need to do is pass the zipper slider back and forth and the coils
will straighten out without any further problems.
Sometimes the zipper coils flattened beyond the point of self-mending
if this should happen, you can try to reshape the damaged coils.
Do this by inserting a sewing needle, safety pin or similar object
underneath each coil one coil at a time and gently coerce each coil
back into shape.
You may ask how does a zipper slider can wear out. Proper use
usually is not enough to damage a good zipper slider. However, if
dirt or grit finds a way inside and along the coils, the damage
can be quick and fatal. A more common cause is general abuse, forcing
the zipper open by pulling on the fabric places excess stress on
the zipper slider and can cause it to fail. In addition, yanking
on the zipper slider when a bit of fabric is jammed can also damage
the zipper slider and/or the coils. Regular maintenance, proper
care and a little respect will keep you zippers in top condition
and prevent zipper failure.
Worn Slider Repairs
The zipper is working fine, then all of a sudden the zipper parts,
opening up behind the zipper slider. This is one of the most common
zipper ailments. This is typically a sign of a worn zipper slider.
However, it may simply mean the zipper slider has parted slightly
and is unable to fully mesh the coils. This can happen if the flap
is pulled to open the zipper(s) instead of using the zip pull tags.
We have termed this the 'schoolbag syndrome' for obvious reasons,
and it is also a common problem in tents. If the latter is
the case, you can repair the zipper slider in one of two ways.
This is a personally preferred method of encouraging a worn zipper
slider into action, photo provided. You can repair zipper sliders
that are not meshing correctly using a small set of pliers, the
type found on many pocket tools. Move the zipper slider all the
way to the beginning, this may mean some gentle coercion, and I
cannot repeat strongly enough, gentle coercion. Next, use your pliers
to gently pinch the rear corner, at the trailing end of the zipper
slider. Then pinch the opposite side rear corner at the trailing
end of the zipper slider, using equal pressure. Try the zipper,
and then repeat this gradual pinching process until the slider functions
Move the zipper slider all the way to the beginning; this may
mean some gentle coercion, and I cannot repeat strongly enough,
gentle coercion. Next, Tap the entire trailing end of the zipper
slider closed, using a small block of wood with a slot cut in it.
Place the block of wood over the top of the slider and tap lightly
with a light hammer. Try the zipper, and then repeat this gradual
tapping process until the slider functions normally.
If either of these two options fails, then you will need to obtain
a replacement slider from the product supplier. Take your replacement
slider to any Boot/Shoe repair shop, and have the new slider installed.
Replacing the slider requires removing the stitching at the base
of the zip without cutting the item itself, removing and replacing
the slider and restitching. Replacing the slider is sometimes harder
than you can imagine, feeding both ends into the slider can sometimes
be difficult and you need to make sure the slider is put on the
correct way. With items such a backpack you will need an industrial
sewing machine to sew across the zipper and through the heavier
material. I would suggest leaving this type of repair to the professional.
Material Caught in the Zipper
In the case of the fabric caught in the zipper, use your hands
to gently, and I cannot stress this too much, gently pull it out.
Use caution when applying a tool to assist in pulling the material
free, the use of pliers or other implements can lead to tears in
Lost or Broken Pull Tabs
It often happens that the Pull Tab is lost, or is so small you
need a magnifying glass to find it. If this is the case, simply
remove the old Pull Tab, or replace the lost Pull Tab with a new
and improved Pull Tab. You can use your creative skills and imagination
in devising a replacement Pull Tab. Use a ribbon, cord, or whistle
to name a few suitable replacements. Preferably, the bigger the
Pull Tab the better, especially if it is a Pull Tab you intend to
use while wearing gloves or mittens.
To remove an old Pull Tab, gently lever up the back end of the
metal arch that holds the Pull Tab. Levering up the back end of
the metal arch allows you remove a broken Pull Tab or install a
new one, but a word of caution, die cast aluminium will only take
a small bend so be careful. Only bend the arch up enough, so that
you are able to gently force a new Pull Tab underneath and into
position, or pry an old Pull Tag out. Use a set of pliers to bend
the arch back down and retain the Pull Tab. Remember, proceed with
caution, If you break the Pull Tab metal arch, you will need to
replace the entire zipper slider.
Replacing the Zipper
If the zipper is torn or damaged beyond simply replacing the
slider, then the entire zipper will need replacing. This is a job
best left to a professional repair shop. In some products replacing
a zipper is not always an easy task, and you will need to decide
on replacing the item or having it repaired. In the case of removable
daypacks on travel packs, these generally wear out long before your
travel pack and replacements should be available from any reputable
supplier. As I stated at the beginning of this article, proper care
of your zippers will give you many years of loyal service and the
zippers could even outlast the item itself.
It is always a little difficult when it comes to a zip that is already
heavily corroded. It depends on whether the zipper is a nylon coil
zipper or a metal tooth zipper. A metal tooth zipper can be more
of a problem, particularly if the slider is stuck in position and
refuses to move, even with mildly aggressive coaxing. Usually the
problem with corrosion only arises when the slider has cemented
itself in place, so we will assume that this is the case and the
reason you are reading this response. It is Important we be careful
not to tear the thread that the zipper is held together with, nor
tear the zipper from the item itself. The zipper slider must be
made to move, or subsequently replaced without causing damage to
If the following procedure fails after your best efforts, and
the zipper slider is heavily corroded, then the only thing to do
is to remove the zipper slider. To remove the zipper slider, gently
prise the zipper slider apart, break it in half, remove the zipper
slider altogether, and have it replaced. Removing the zipper slider
and having it replaced will be a much cheaper alternative to damaging
the zipper, in an attempt to force a zipper slider that will not
move despite your best efforts.
To coax the zipper slider from a fixed position, I would recommend
using a mild detergent, water, and perhaps a soft toothbrush to
clean the zipper and zipper slider as much as is possible. Remove
as much of the corroded material as possible, and then liberally
apply a silicon zipper spray or other suitable lubricant for zippers
on the corroded area. Next, place a cord through the zipper slider
pull tab, and then gently pull the zipper slider in the direction
of closing the zip while holding the back of the zipper. This procedure
may take some time, and patience is important if you wish to prevent
permanently damaging the zipper.