How do I fix a nylon backpack zipper?
February 16, 2007 7:50 AM   Subscribe

How do I fix a nylon backpack zipper? The zipper parts seem fine -- the zipper "pull" has just popped out of one side. This isn't like a jacket, where there is a way to completely separate the two sides, with a metal tab to aid in joining them.

Daughter #1 tends to overstuff her school backpack.

Aside from the upper body strength she seems to be amassing (I think she could bench the front end of a school bus), one compartment of the backpack literally burst open, with no visible way to re-join a (nylon) zippered compartment.

The two zippered sides seem undamaged.
The pull-tab seems fine too -- it's still joined on one side of the zipper.

Both sides are sewn in with no easily removable seams -- the ends of the zipper are well-protected (probably to keep out the elements).

Is there a way to re-join it, or is the backpack trashed? I can't believe this is the only time this has happened to a schoogirl's backpack...
posted by catkins to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You need to replace the zipper.
posted by kika at 8:02 AM on February 16, 2007

If it is a Jansport (or possibly other well known backpack brands) they will fix the zipper for free. You just send it is and they'll send it back. I used to always have two packs, one of which was often mailed off getting a new zipper. Jansport will do this as many times as you send it in. Or so they used to...haven't been using backpacks for a while. I would call the manufacturer and see what they say.
posted by sulaine at 8:25 AM on February 16, 2007

I agree that the zipper needs to be replaced, or that you need a new backpack.

Additionally, however, I would point out that most doctors and physical therapists recommend that children's backpacks weigh no more than 10-15% of their body weight. If your daughter is regularly carrying a backpack that weighs more than that, she may be at risk for muscle and joint damage. If she needs more stuff than she can safely carry, I'd suggest replacing her current pack with a wheeled backpack.
posted by decathecting at 8:38 AM on February 16, 2007

If the sliding part is metal, try this:

Take something thin and strong (like a butter knife) and insert it in the groove on the side of the pull that's come off. Use the blade to pry the spacing open -big enough to get the zipper back in. Insert the zipper and then push the opening you made back to like it was (small enough to contain the zipper, but big enough to slide up and down). I 've done this many times on zippers. Good luck.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:39 AM on February 16, 2007

BTW, the reason people are saying to replace the zipper is that it failed because there is some weak point that it popped out of. At some point in the future, usually when full of books, it will find the weak spot again and the same thing will happen. The weak spot gets even weaker, and eventually it's useless.
posted by smackfu at 8:52 AM on February 16, 2007

Great suggestions!

Agreed -- the zipper may have a weak spot, but if it's not cumbersome, maybe we can get another few months out of the pack before having to get another one. I don't see a way to replace the zipper, and I hate to trash an otherwise servicable pack.

I hadn't thought about warranties! I'll check into who the manufacturer is and how long it's covered.

I agree with the weight recommendation -- her pack isn't that heavy (stuffed with bulky, but lightweight clothing, most days), but I'll check to be sure. She's a lightweight, so it might actually exceed 10-15% of her weight.

The knife blade suggestion sounds promising -- I'll report back on whether it works, too.

Thanks, all!
posted by catkins at 1:05 PM on February 16, 2007

Benny's method usually works, if it doesn't break the pull. Use pliers to squeeze the pull back into shape after you get it back onto the zipper.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:00 PM on February 16, 2007

The zips I have broken recently could all be coaxed or bullied into accepting the disconnected side again. Soap is a possible lubricant.

In the old days of heavily engineered zips we would remove a couple of teeth at the bottom of the disconnected side, thread the slider back on and slide it up, than make a new bottom stop by stitching across the zip above the break.
posted by Idcoytco at 5:22 PM on February 16, 2007

Second Idcoytco. Remove a few teeth at the bottom, reinsert and sew at the bottom.

It doesn't have to be a heavy duty zipper. I've done this lots of times with different types of zippers. I don't think I've ever have a zipper break twice because of a weak spot (but it is definitely possible). Not much to lose in trying.
posted by kch at 8:31 PM on February 16, 2007

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