How to Fix a Jacket Zipper

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A jacket with a broken zipper

Ever zip up your jacket, only to discover that the zipper seems to have immediately unzipped itself? That annoying development is a sign that the zipper’s slider has worn out. 

The quick fix is to crimp the zipper slider so it is tighter and grabs the zipper teeth once again. The better fix is to replace the slider on your jacket zipper. Here’s how:

  1. Get a pair of end nippers and a pair of needle nose pliers.
  2. Buy a new zipper stopper and a new zipper slider.
  3. Remove the old stopper and slider.
  4. Slip on the new slider.
  5. Attach the new stopper.

According to Lindsey Stone, operations manager for Rainy Pass Repair, a Seattle-based company that specializes in sewing repairs on outdoor gear, replacing the slider fixes the vast majority of zipper problems. If your zipper’s teeth are damaged, or you have a different type of problem with your zipper, you may want to contact Rainy Pass (most of their business is done by mail order).


Video: How to Fix a Zipper


 Tightening a Zipper Slider

Crimping an old zipper slider back to its original size with a pair of needle nose pliers

It’s possible to use a pair of needle nose pliers to crimp your old slider back to its original size. Sometimes this will get it working correctly again, though the fix should be considered temporary.

You can do this without removing the old slider. Give a few gentle squeezes to each side of the slider and then check to be sure that both sides are even. Be careful not to apply too much pressure as you crimp or you can break or jam the old slider (a common occurrence).


Replacing a Zipper Slider

Tools and supplies needed to replace a zipper slider

Before you get started on your project, make sure you have all the tools and parts you need.

  1. An end nipper tool to remove the old zipper stop
  2. Needle-nose pliers to crimp the new zipper stop into place
  3. Zipper slider: Most jackets have a single-slider zipper; if yours has a double slider, then you’ll need two replacement sliders. (Note: It’s important to find the right replacement slider, and it’s not always easy to do. Look at the back of your zipper slider to get the model number, then look online to find the correct slider. If you can’t find the right one, it’s time to take the jacket to a repair service.)
  4. Zipper stop: You should only need one, though they're typically sold in packages that include two or more stops.

Removing the Old Zipper Slider

A zipper slider on a jacket

1. Move the old slider all the way to the bottom of the zipper to get it out of the way.


Using an end nipper tool to remove the zipper stopper from a jacket zipper

2. Use your end nippers to gently pinch the stopper at the top of the zipper: You’re aiming to grab the stopper securely, not cut it. (Note: You only need to remove the stopper on the side the slider is on.)


Detail image of a zipper stopper that has been removed from a jacket zipper

3. Carefully pull the stopper away from the fabric. 


Removing a zipper slider from a jacket zipper

4. Pull the old slider off, making a mental note of its orientation so that you can match that when you put on the new slider.



 Installing the New Zipper Slider

Installing a new zipper slider on a jacket zipper

1. Work the new slider onto the zipper, making sure it’s on the same side and in the same orientation as the old slider.


Placing a new zipper stopper on a jacket zipper

2. Now place the new zipper stopper onto the top end of the zipper.


Crimping a new zipper stopper on a jacket zipper with a pair of needle nose pliers

3. Use your needle nose pliers to pinch it into place, but be careful not to pinch so hard that you damage it.

Check your work by zipping your jacket open and closed a few times. Everything should work like it did when you first bought your jacket.


Other Common Zipper Problems

If you have a slider that won’t move up and down properly, you may be tempted to try some home remedies to lubricate the zipper. According to Stone of Rainy Pass, things like Vaseline, oil or soap aren’t great lubricants for technical outdoor gear and they can attract dirt, leading to more zipper issues down the line.

“In my experience, sliders very rarely just ‘get stuck.’ There is usually something caught in the teeth (like dirt, grit, sticky stuff, etc.) or the storm flap behind the zipper is getting stuck,” says Stone.

Inspect your zipper teeth closely and if anything’s in there, do your best to take it out. Try using a toothbrush to remove any small particles of dirt or grime. If this doesn’t work, you may need to have the zipper replaced.


Zipper Problems to Take to a Repair Service

Pocket zippers where the two sides have detached: This requires a sewing repair or a complete zipper replacement (also a sewing repair). Take this fix to a professional sewing technician at a repair service.

Zipper sliders that will no longer slide onto the bottom of the zipper (to start the zipping process): This is typically caused by a problem with the bottom zipper slider: When that malfunctions, a full zipper replacement is in order. This is another time to contact a professional repair service.

For either of these fixes, you can print out a repair form and mail your jacket to Rainy Pass Repair.


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