Suitcases have it pretty rough. I make mine carry quite a bit of weight and expect it to perform under the most grueling conditions. I know I’ll have to replace it eventually, but in the meantime, I’m learning how to repair my suitcase and you can too!
Here are some ways your suitcase might break, and some resources on how to fix them.
How to fix a suitcase zipper
Oh zippers. They break, split, pinch, and rip. At best, they’re a little sticky, and at worst, burst open while you catch a connecting flight in Heathrow Terminal 3 on the first leg of a six-week trip (not a true story).
If you think you can fix it, check out this article from Life Hacker with detailed directions for most zipper troubles. Lots of gems, such as how to fix a sticky zipper:
“Windex is good because it’s not oil-based, but you can also use bar soap, or lip balm. Start with the zipper all the way up, and slowly apply lubricant to the teeth. Then inch the zipper down some more, reapply, and continue doing that until the zipper comes all the way down.”
How to fix a stuck zipper:
“First, double-check to make sure a piece of cloth or thread isn’t stuck in the zipper. Next, look at the individual teeth. If any of them are sticking out, grab a pair of pliers and move them back into place so they’re all straight.”
And if your zipper slider calls it quits:
“If the slider comes off completely, or if you need to replace the slider because it’s not closing the teeth right, then you need to replace the slider. To get the slider off, use some pliers to cut it off. Once that’s done, attach the new zipper slider by sliding it back onto the teeth.”
If you need to replace your zipper altogether, bravo, you’re more ambitious than most. Personally, I would look into a repair shop first, and weigh the cost before going the DIY route, but it’s doable.
This article walks you through how to do it, what equipment you’ll need, and how to take care of your zippers (they suggest having a zipper fixer kit with you at all times…that’s what I call being prepared!). They also suggest keeping your zippers “happy” with regular lubrication between trips. If you’re struggling to see the zipper teeth and where they’re not working, get a magnifying glass to do repairs.
How to fix a suitcase handle
If your handle breaks off, now is the time to contact your luggage manufacturer for a replacement part. Release the broken handle, affix the replacement, and tighten the screws. If your release mechanism stops working, and a good cleaning didn’t help, replacing a handle would also fix that right up.
If your telescoping handles break off, you’ll need to open the suitcase up, including removing the lining, and expose the bolts that fasten the telescoping handles in place. Replace them in the same way as regular handles by contacting your manufacturer for new parts.
If your handle has a hard time retracting out or in, it might have a bent casing or have debris inside the shaft. Loosen the screws and release the handles to inspect. Sometimes the fix is as simple as a good cleaning and lubricant. If your handles are bent, try straightening them out. This post does a really great job of walking you through how to completely fix or replace a bent handle tube.
To avoid this problem in the future, don’t overload your suitcase and resting heavy bags on the telescoping handles while you pull your suitcase.
How to fix suitcase wheels
When wheels stop working properly, it gets very annoying, very fast. Luckily, if the body is unscathed, you can carry your suitcase. Besides, wheels are pretty easy to fix or replace. If your wheels are squeaky, try to inspect the wheel caster. Clean it of any debris and lubricate it. My instinct was to reach for the WD-40, but the travel forums say otherwise.
“Try any type of silicone lube (which is basically what teflon lube is). I have a can of pyroil silicone lube at home, which I bought at a local auto parts store, and it comes with a straw. It’s a dry lube, meaning it won’t stay wet or leave a greasy residue like WD40 (hence dust magnet). You will have to spray it on occasion, but a lot of other household uses for it, so worth it.”
If you need to replace a wheel, order your new part from the manufacturer (get a few while you’re at it). Open your suitcase and unzip the liner to get to the nut bolts holding the wheel screws in place. Remove the damaged wheel. Pay attention to how the wheel is positioned and try to imitate where it’s placed with the new wheel before screwing it in. Test it out to make sure it’s not wobbly or unbalanced. Or, watch a YouTube video about it.
How to repair your suitcase shell or outer fabric
If you have a fabric suitcase, you might eventually find a tear. What a shame to throw out a suitcase just for that! With a combination of duct tape, sewing, and iron-on patches, you can extend the life of your suitcase. This forum walks you through how to perform a fabric repair on any type of bag.
If your hard-shell suitcase has a crack, you better believe the auto body repair blogs have found the solution. They suggest you pick up a carbon fibre repair kit online. Blogs have also touted Sugru glue (that becomes like rubber putty) as a great product for all sorts of plastic casing cracks and holes. Here is a tutorial, and here is Sugru.
How to repair a suitcase liner
If your suitcase lining or inside pockets have ripped, it might be annoying to constantly be fishing for your items inside the lining. The no-fix way of dealing with this is to use packing cubes instead of relying on your built-in pockets and organizers.
A no-sew option is to buy some fabric iron-on patches or interfacing and to follow this tutorial on how to properly use them.
“Cut a square of sticky interfacing large enough to cover the rip and place this behind it, inside the lining. Pull the fabric together so that it meets all the way along the tear – this ensures a near-invisible repair and covers the interfacing. Set an iron to medium and carefully apply it to the front of the fabric: the heat will make the interfacing bond with the material.”
You can also pick up a needle and thread and secure your new patch in place.
Maintaining your suitcase
The best way to avoid an unfortunate accident while traveling is to inspect and maintain your luggage before every trip. Clean and lubricate your luggage and double-check anything that looks wobbly or weak before you get on the plane.
Before you start repairing anything, check your warranty: you may be entitled to a brand new replacement and not have to use any of these tips?
13 Replies to “All the Ways Your Suitcase Can Break (and How to Fix Them)”
The Capsule Suitcase — The Best Suitcases for 2017
[…] If you don’t want to buy a new suitcase yet, consider fixing your current one with the help of my guide to fixing suitcases. […]
How do I repair my suitcase if it’s wire structure gets deformed
Great question! That’s a tough one but metal frames can be straightened with a C clamp and some brute force. Be careful not to snap it though.
What is the name of the corner piece that is located in the interior of softcase suitcases? It is an insert that acts like a reinforcement. I need to replace mine, but don’t know where to find them.
One foot broke off, leaving the screws sticking out the bottom of the suitcase in one corner. I located the lining zipper, and can get to the screws if I remove the rubber strip covering the screw heads. Where can I locate a replacement foot to screw on.
Andrea[ Post Author ]
Hello Clark! I would ask the suitcase brand about specific replacement parts, otherwise you could fashion your own to match the size of the other foot out of sugru linked in the article. Good luck!
I have yet to find a “fix the zipper on your luggage” that actually tells me how to fix the zipper on my luggage!! Actually, it’s a case cover (for a musical instrument) and the zipper on one side came out of the track. There is no bottom to the zipper–this is not a coat; this is a piece of luggage. The bottom of the zipper is inside the sewn seam. If I go pulling out the seam, I might as well buy a new case cover because I’ll never get it sewn back together as well as it is currently. So, how do I get one side of the zipper back in the zipper pull track??? It will cost me $180 plus shipping to replace this case cover, so I would love to be able to fix it. I have read several articles on fixing luggage zippers and they say, “put it back on its track.” HOW???? Thank you, if you can help me.
What if the wheel body IS broken?
Andrea[ Post Author ]
I recommend ordering a new one from the suitcase brand.
Someone asked about the suitcase wire framing getting deformed, but what if it snapped apart? It still basically holds together, but the metal piece sticks out and it’s not supportive anymore. How can I fix that?
Andrea[ Post Author ]
Oof, that sounds like quite a fix. Depending on how valuable the suitcase is, it might not be salvageable.
Do you have any suggestion for the wheel partially deattached from the metal frame. Both the wheel and the frame are still in good condition. The issue is the attachment part between the wheel and and the frame. The wheel is partially deattached from the frame. I have used the supper glues. However, since the frame is quie skinny, there is not much surface between the frame and the wheel part for the glue to stick.
Andrea[ Post Author ]
Hi Isabel, that’s a tough one. Have you contacted the manufacturer for suggestions? They may be able to replace some of the parts. Is this plastic or metal? You could opt for epoxy glue reinforced with a plastic-friendly screw or if it’s metal, find a shop that would weld something for you. Good luck!