If the zipper on your jacket, sleeping bag, tent, or other gear isn’t working correctly, it doesn’t necessarily need to be replaced. If the zipper comes open as soon as it is zipped, this is the classic sign of a worn out zipper slider. If the slider is jammed or missing – that doesn’t mean zipper replacement either.
What’s the difference between a slider replacement and a zipper replacement – about $85.
So how does one determine if it just needs a new slider or new zipper?
1) Are all the zipper teeth present?
If any zipper teeth are missing, this is fatal and must be replaced. If all the teeth are present, the zipper may just need a new slider.
2) For a jacket, is the box at the bottom of the zipper present?
If the box is missing or just barely hanging on, this is fatal. If the box is present, this is a good sign. It may be repairable.
3) Is the pin(s) present at the bottom of the jacket zipper?
If the pin is missing, this is fatal. If the pin is just barely hanging on this is also fatal. If the pin is solidly attached, it may be repairable.
If all three of the above items are present, congratulations, your zipper is repairable. It doesn’t matter if the slider is missing or broken. It was going to get deep-sixed anyway. The slider innards were toast.
To repair the zipper one needs to have a replacement slider that is the correct size and design. Sliders come a range of sizes, molded tooth or coil, locking or non-locking, and new style and old style sliders. There are even specialty sliders such as double pull sliders for tents or water resistant sliders.
In addition, one needs a specialty tool to clip the current top stop off and have new top stops in stock. These items are typically not available at your nearest Jo Ann’s or Hobby Lobby. They must be ordered from a zipper wholesaler that usually have a minimum order of $50 or more.
The industry standard for replacing a slider is $15. The standard charge for replacing a zipper starts at $100. Considerable labor time is involved with removing the old zipper. Think of it like automobile repair. The labor is always more than the cost of parts.
If you have a jacket zipper that needs a new slider, it can be replaced in about 10 minutes in the hands of a competent person.
One another note, when was the last time you lubricated that zipper. Yeah, you need to do that. It will extend the life of the zipper. Do it every time you wash that jacket, tent, or sleeping bag. I recommend Gear Aid Zip Care Cleaner & Lubricant. A 2 oz. bottle costs $5 and can be purchased at JAX Outdoor Gear or at Cabela’s. It can also be ordered online.
Sleeping bag zippers, tent zippers, and backpack zippers may be repairable too. It’s really a case by case basis. Cost is going to be determined by the amount of time needed to do the repair. Tents built like tanks can require time to get the seams opened carefully with a seam ripper.
In general, most zippers can be repaired or replaced. It’s up to you to decide which option.
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