Zipper Slider Repairs

zipper slider repairs

Introduction

Here are two zipper slider repairs that can be done when the pull tab has come off and either:

  1. you still have the crown (or lug), or
  2. the crown (or lug) is lost.

This post is an edited compilation of two posts I wrote on this blog in the past describing the repair of Zipper Sliders. I have updated the references and deployed WordPress SEO (Search Engine Optimization) by Yoast to improve visibility on the internet.

Naming Zipper Parts

Before I describe the way in which I fixed these broken Zipper Sliders, let me refer you to some websites which clearly name and describe all the parts of a zipper just so you know what I’m talking about:

  1. YKK — The Fastening Products Group, (a global company),
  2. Bag’n Telle — Handbag Zippers & Their Applications, (blog by Don Morin — designer),
  3. Outdoor Fabrics Zipper Tips — Quest Outfitters, Sarasota, Florida, USA,
  4. Zipper Source — Bespoke Zipper Manufacturer, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Description of Normal Zipper Slider Assembly

zipper slider repairs
Slider Body Showing Hook & Hole

The crown runs through the loop at the end of the Pull Tab and  is fixed in place by hooking one end over a hook at one end of the slider body, and then two dimples pressed into the sides of the crown at the other end force the crown metal into the sides of the hole running through an upright post. These dimples prevent the crown lifting off the post.

Right – you can see the body with the hook at one end and the upright post with the hole in it at the other:

The History of My Broken Zippers

The two repair methods shown below were applied to separate zippers. The first was on a waterproof outer coat and the second was on a fleece.

Reported here in my previous blog post of 12 Jan 2012

zipper slider repairs
Slider With Detached Toggle

I walked out of the house the other day and zipped up my coat and then the toggle came away in my hand. Was this a good coat ruined? Nah, today I fixed it.” — HC

See the picture on the right. That’s what it looked like broken and I lost the crown at the time.

This was fixed by using Method 1 below.

Reported here in my previous blog post of 20 May 2013

zipper slider repairs
Repaired Pull Tab

This is a similar problem to the one I had before but it has a different solution because I didn’t lose any parts.

In the past the Pull Tab of this broken zipper’s slider broke where it fits under the Crown. I fixed that by soldering a copper wire loop to it. I then had to remove the crown from the Slider Body and squeeze it back on after fitting the Pull Tab in place. It may have been the removal and refitting of the crown that damaged it so that it later dropped off the Slider Body. Fortunately I caught all the parts when It happened. See the repaired Pull Tab right.

This was fixed by using Method 2 below.

Zipper Slider Repairs – Method 1 – Without A Crown

zipper slider repairs
Slider with hooks to left & post with hole to right

If you look closely at the broken fastener on the right you will see it has two little hooks to the left end and a small hole in a post to the right end. These are normally used for holding the crown on.

The hole was a little more than a millimetre in diameter so I found a short length (10cm) of 1mm diameter copper wire from house wiring cable and threaded it through the hole until it was midway along its length. Then I made a tight 180° bend in the wire making it look like a hairpin. I then threaded the loose toggle over both ends of the wire bringing it right down to the piece on the fastener with the hole. I then rotated the wire in the hole until the hook on the fastener lay between the two open ends of the wire. Then using pointed wiring pliers I held one end of the wire tight and threaded it under the hook, forcing it to bend as I went so it was firmly hooked to the left end of the fastener. See next image below:

zipper slider repairs
Wrapping the wire around the hook

This was going better than expected so I snipped off the excess wire with these small wire cutters:

zipper slider repairs
Small Wire Cutters
zipper slider repairs
After wire cut and pinched tight

This is the result after I pinched the wire tight against the hook with the pointed pliers.

At this stage the zip worked again but it would have come apart on its own because the soft copper wire would bend out-of-place. So I soldered the wire ends together where they overlapped.

zipper slider repairs
After application of flux

Before soldering it I applied flux paste to the copper wire using a penknife. I rubbed it in the area where I wanted the solder to bond as you can see on the right.

zipper slider repairs
After soldering

I applied solder with a small temperature controlled iron set to 400°C. I had to be careful to apply the heat quickly but precisely so I could solder the wire but not melt the plastic teeth of the zipper. I chose to use a high temperature to make the solder melt and flow quickly. As soon as I took the soldering iron away I blew ferociously onto the parts. Looking back I should have dunked them in water to cool them quickly so the heat didn’t spread to the plastic. Afterwards I cleaned the flux off with a dry cloth.

zipper slider repairs
Repair completed

Here you can see the finished result after painting with some paint suitable for plastic models. I managed to get an exact colour match but the shop only had it in matt finish.

Zipper Slider Repairs – Method 2 – Using The Original Crown

zipper slider repairs
Repaired Zipper Slider

I decided I could re-attach the crown to the slider with a pin threaded through holes in both. The crown has no holes in it just two dimples which originally wedged in the holes of the post on the slider body to hold it in place. I drilled holes in those dimples the same diameter as a dressmakers pin. Then I re-assembled the crown and tab on the slider and held them in place with a pin threaded through the holes of the crown and the slider. I bent the pin over where it exited the hole in the crown and cut it off. See the picture of the ‘Repaired Zipper Slider’.

The pin measured 0.6mm dia. so I drilled a hole 0.65mm dia. to allow some slack.

Determining What Size Hole To Drill

Before drilling the holes through the dimples of the crown I measured the diameter of the pin I was going to use with external calipers thus:

zipper slider repairs
Measuring the diameter of a pin with a dia. = 0.6mm.

These calipers were given to me by my son who received them whilst on a works visit from school at age 15 years. They have a Vernier scale allowing measurements down to an accuracy of 0.05mm. They have been incredibly useful to me over many years and saved me from spending on an expensive steel version.

The large calipers, at the bottom left, measure the external size of things and the small ones, at the top left, measure the internal size of things. There is a pin on the far right (not seen in this view) which is used as a depth gauge.

The zero on the part which moves right is the pointer which points to the mm scale on the part which moves left to give the measurement.

Using The Vernier Scale

The widely spaced marks and numbers on the part which moves right constitutes the Vernier scale.

When using a Vernier scale you have to look carefully and decide which graduation on the it aligns with a mark on the normal measuring scale (the one marked in millimetres). In this case the 6 mark best aligns with a graduation. All the other graduations are not quite inline. This represents 0.6mm above the main scale graduation to the left of the zero point on the Vernier scale. The previous graduation on the main scale to the left of zero on the Vernier was, in this case, zero mm. So in this case 0.0mm + 0.6mm = 0.6mm the diameter of the pin.

Drilling The Holes In The Crown

On the strength of this measurement I decided to drill a hole 0.65mm in diameter using a 12 volt model maker’s drill as shown below:

zipper slider repairs
Drilling a 0.65mm hole.

The crown was clamped in a small vise fixed to my desk. I drilled by resting the drill conveniently in the dimple on each side to drill two holes, one from each side. A clearer picture of the drill and bit is shown below:

zipper slider repairs
Drill and 0.65mm bit used.

The silhouette below shows the drilled hole in the crown where the dimples were originally:

zipper slider repairs
Silhouette of drilled hole.

Here it is with the pin threaded through it:

zipper slider repairs
Crown with pin threaded through its holes.

HSS Twist Drills Size 0.3 To 1.6 mm

Although I’ve had the drilling equipment for some time this is the smallest hole I have drilled to date. The drill bit was taken from the following selection available from Micro Mart:

zipper slider repairs
Miniature Drill Bits in their container. The exit hole is aligned with the 0.65mm bit.

These fine drill bits are hard to grasp and when loose on a smooth surface roll about all over the place. So, they need to be contained in this special box or they would soon be on the floor and get lost.

The container has a moulded black plastic back with a groove for each drill bit. This is covered by a transparent sliding plastic cover through which the bits can be seen. On the top edge of the cover there is a protrusion with a hole in it. The cover can then be slid along until the hole aligns with a particular bit. Then, when so aligned the container can be tipped upside down to release the selected bit which drops out through the hole. All the other bits remain contained. I do find it a bit stiff to operate because the container is not such a good quality but I approve of the principal which works well.

Author: Helpful Colin

I have a background in telecommunications and a fascination with all things scientific and technical - from physics to electronics, and computing to DIY.

8 thoughts on “Zipper Slider Repairs”

  1. I found your article through google search and could use some help with soldering. The zipper pull tab (the rectangular bit you grab on to open and close the zipper) on my zipper broke at the top end where the tab makes contact to the crown (the usually thin part that “closes” the zipper tab at the top). I brought it to a jeweler to have him try to repair it. He told me that he attempted to solder with stainless steel, silver, lead, and gold, but nothing would stick. Is there anything else I could try to repair the tab? I am unsure of its metal composition, but I would very much so like to keep this tab if possible as it is a very unique aged copper/brass tab that I cannot find anywhere else.

    1. Hi zippertabguy,

      If it was actually copper, brass, bronze or tin then normal electrical solder made of 60% tin and 40% lead would easily have done the job. If it was zinc (like the outside of an old style zinc/carbon battery) or mild steel then that sort of solder would probably stick if it were very well cleaned and the iron was hot and a good cleaning flux was used. If the color is copper, bronze or gold (or any other color like blue or green) and it can’t be soldered then it is probably anodized aluminium. Anodized aluminium is aluminium with a hard oxide coating which is really sapphire (one of the hardest materials). I don’t think anyone can solder to that material. You can’t solder to metal oxides. Aluminium is hard to solder to at the best of times because an oxide forms on it’s surface very quickly when exposed to air.

      In your case I hope you can thread some 1mm copper wire through the hole in the crown (if it is a hole and not just a dimple on each side) and form it into a U shape. Then glue it onto the back of your tab with a 2 part epoxy resin adhesive such as Araldite. Leave the copper wire as long as possible to give the largest possible surface area for adhesion. Make sure the wire and the tab are very clean by washing/swabbing with surgical spirit (isopropyl alcohol) obtainable from drug stores. Any lumps of resin can be filed away after it hardens with a small metalwork file.

      Good luck.

      1. Thank you very much for your detailed response. I have been unable to identify what type of metal the tabs are made out of, but am meeting with a welding instructor at my university tomorrow who will hopefully be able to help me. On closer inspection, the tabs appear to be some silver color metal with a brass colored coating. The silver color underneath the coating makes me suspect they are actually zinc or steel. I’ve got my fingers crossed that they are not Anodized aluminum, and will keep in mind that metal oxides cannot be soldered.

        If all else fails, I will definitely try the second solution that you presented. Thanks again for the clever fix! I hadn’t thought of that. Luckily the crown has holes on the sides.

        I have also attached an album containing images of the tabs and the zipper itself in case that may help with identification. The zippers are a pair of Raccagni zippers from 2013. If you had any idea what they could be from visual inspection, I would greatly appreciate it.

        http://imgur.com/a/YEhMi

        1. Hi zippertabguy,

          Now I have seen them I will vote for steel. Why? I see them as the type of tab with two pips which click into the open ends of a hole or into dimples on the sides of the crown. To have the strength to not bend out of the way or wear out too quickly and possibly be electroplated and be seen by everybody as really good quality then I’m sure they must be steel. An alternative is something I have not yet mentioned – white metal. I think it is too soft and the pips might wear away too soon. However it’s usually seen as cheap and can be electroplated.

          Obviously the pips have worn away and the tabs have come off for that reason.

          If there is a hole through the crown already – good. (I think I can see there is.) Use it to thread wire through. If there is not consider boring one through. As you can see from my blog small drills are available. How do you attach the wire? As I already suggested since it involves no heat. Any soldering technique will raise the temperature to 300°C at least. Welding has to be done at the melting temperature of the metal (well above 300°C). I can’t see how anything beyond soft soldering can be done without burning the material of the zipper and the bag, boot or clothing it is attached to. Also any really high temperature will remove the plating from the tab and change its color. Welded things usually get cleaned up and plated as necessary after welding is done.

          I’m sure your welding instructor will be familiar with general metalwork and material science and on seeing the problem in front of him will be able to give you the best advice.

          Again, good luck.

  2. Hi, I was so happy to find your post! This is the second suitcase where the zipper crown has been bent by rough airport handlers and the pull tab lost. How can we repair this? Can we solder the gap closed? We were not able to bend this back down with hand pliers. Photos here: http://imgur.com/a/vjDTX Any help would be appreciated – this newer suitcase has only seen two trips thus far! Thanks

    1. Hi Kim,
      I think you will only be able to solder zipper crowns made of brass or steel.
      Bare brass naturally takes lead-tin alloy solder. Use flux. Be careful that the solder doesn’t spread to parts you don’t want to solder.
      Steel that would normally rust can be soldered if it is abraded until it is shiny and plenty of flux is used but it could be problematic.
      In either case adjacent plastic will melt while you try to get the crown hot enough.
      You may be able to attach something like a short chain to the crown with epoxy resin such as araldite. It will only stick to surfaces that are very clean. The larger the area you make for it to stick to the better. Don’t stick it to paint because the paint will become detached from the metal underneath it.
      Good luck, HC.

      1. Thanks HC,

        Araldite seems to be not easily obtained the US where I live. I did have JB weld epoxy in our junk drawer, and have filled the gap with that. It’s a nice dark grey color and blends nicely. We shall see if this works to keep the gap between crown and body closed. JB weld claims a nearly 4000 PSI tensile strength. If this works, I will epoxy all the gaps between crown & zipper body on all of our suitcase zips to attempt to prevent baggage inspectors from destroying our suitcases. Thank you again!

        1. Hi Kim,
          It’s great that you’ve found a local solution. Araldite has been a common epoxy resin brand in the UK for many years. Here the brand name has become a generic just like when we refer to vacuum cleaners as ‘Hoovers’.
          Just make sure the metal is very clean and free of grease whatever epoxy you use or that will be where you will lose strength.
          Regards, HC.

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