Title Image


Zipper Diagnostics 101: What’s Wrong with your Zipper?

  |   Blog, Outdoor Gear Repair

One of the most useful and most frustrating features in outdoor gear. They’re an essential part of the use of packs, tents and our gear layers. Yes, we are talking about zippers. This is all you need to know about zipper diagnostics for when things go awry.

70% of the repairs we see at BMR are zipper related. That is a lot of zippers. Each zipper situation is unique, sometimes swapping out your slider is enough to do the trick but other times it is necessary to replace the whole zipper to get it back into working order.

Zipper Repair vs Replacement

When your zipper is malfunctioning it is important to diagnose if the zipper is able to be repaired or if it will require a replacement. A zipper repair is more of a cosmetic procedure, whereas a zipper replacement is more of an invasive surgery. Here at BMR we are experts in zipper diagnostics and we want to help you become an expert too. With this lesson and a little close inspection of your zipper, you’ll be able to understand what will fix your zipper.

Zipper Anatomy

First things first, it is important to understand the basic zipper anatomy. There are three main parts of the zipper: the slider, the coil or teeth and the zipper tape. On zippers that separate (like jackets) there is also a bottom zipper box.

Running Zipper Diagnostics

Now that you’re familiar with the different parts of the zipper you can ask yourself these questions to diagnose your zipper.

  1. Is your zipper separating behind the slider when it is supposed to be closed?
  2. Are there any missing teeth? (vislon tooth zippers only)
  3. Is there any part of the coil that is starting to separate from the zipper tape? (coil zippers only)
  4. Is the plastic on the bottom of the zipper tape starting to crack or fall off?

If you answered yes to only question 1, good news! You only need a new slider on your zipper.

If you answered yes to question 1 AND another question your zipper is suffering from more detrimental damage and you will need a full zipper replacement.

If you answered no to question 1 but yes to any other question you are going to need a full zipper replacement to get your zipper going again.

When to repair and when to replace

A good rule of thumb is that if there is any visible damage to the zipper you will need a full zipper replacement. On this zipper, the coil is separating from the zipper tape and will require a full replacement. If your zipper isn’t working and the cause is mysterious since there is no visible damage, it is likely you just need a new slider.

If the cause of your zipper malfunction is more mysterious it is likely you just need a new slider. An indicator that you need a new slider is when the zipper separates behind the slider as you’re trying to close the zipper. On this pack, the zipper coil and zipper tape appear to be free of damage. But the coil is still separating behind the slider which indicates a slider replacement will fix this zipper.

Zipper sliders are prone to wearing out after extended use, especially on dirty gear. If you look closely at a malfunctioning zipper slider you might find a dent or bend on the ears (side flaps) of the slider, or notice the inner surface of your slider has been worn down. On this slider you can see a dent in the ears which caused the slider to malfunction.

BMR can help

Whether you need a new slider or a whole new zipper we will be able to help you. At BMR we have all types of zippers for jackets, tents, sleeping bags and backpacks. We use YKK zippers and sliders for their proven durability. For more information about our zipper services and pricing, contact us. If you are curious about how to do your own zipper repairs and replacements, check out our Outdoor Gear Maintenance Course.