Zippers are on just about everything and over time they wear out. At Rugged Thread, we repair about 200 zippers a year on jackets, tents, sleeping bags, pants, motorcycle gear and even things like Jeep Soft Top covers and camper trailers. Often, you just need a new slider, which is an easy DIY fix, rather than a full zipper replacement. Below, we diagnose common zipper issues, help you identify zipper and slider type, and where to purchase parts.

Check out our other blog post How to Fix Your Zipper at Home for the step-by-step guide on replacing your slider.

Common Zipper Issues

There are three main issues that we see on jacket zippers. Below is a quick guide to understand the problem and how to fix it.

1. Zipper Separates

Does your zipper separate when you zip it up? Get stuck or is hard to start?

Good news: you just need a new slider! The slider is the piece that moves up and down and meshes the teeth together. Over time, especially in dusty conditions, the mechanism wears out and needs to be replaced.

Skip down to the section on zipper types to identify the slider type you will need for your jacket.

Ready to replace your slider? Check out this tutorial to learn how:

2. Damaged Teeth

New puppy that likes to chew things? If your zipper is visibly damaged and missing teeth, it’s time for a full new zipper.

This is a more in depth repair, and we recommend sending it in. Check out our different types of zipper replacements here.

3. Broken Starter Pin or Box

The starter pin and starter box are critical for a well-functioning zipper. If these areas have cracked, fallen off, or are visibly damaged, it’s time for a new zipper.

This is a more in depth repair, and we recommend sending it in. Check out our different types of zipper replacements here.

Zipper & Slider Types

In order to identify the correct slider, you first need to know what kind of zipper you’re working with. The three main types are Nylon Coil, Vislon (also known as Molded Tooth) and Metal zippers. On the back of each slider, there should be a couple letters and numbers. For example, if your zipper says YKK 5CN, you have a YKK brand zipper in size 5 coil.

We like to purchase sliders from Wawak Sewing Supplies because they offer a variety of parts and always ship out next day. Note that if your slider does not say YKK, it may not be compatible and you’ll have to search around to find that specific brand of slider.

Forward Coil Zippers

Coil zippers are named so because they are made from one long plastic coil, wound tightly from top to bottom.

This is a forward facing zipper (standard) because you can visibly see the coil. Sizes come in #3, #4.5, #5, #8, and #10.

The code on the back should indicate the size and type. So if it is a size 3, it will say 3C. However, it will not indicate if it is a reverse or forward coil, which is important. Note that many size 5 zippers have extra denotations on the back such as 5CNu, but all you need is the 5C part (ignore the Nu).

To purchase, we recommend Wawak.

Reverse Coil Zippers

This is a reverse zipper, meaning that the coil is set facing inside the jacket. These can be regular zippers or waterproof coated. Sizes also come in #3, #4.5, #5, #8, and #10.

The code on the back of your slider will indicate the size and type, such as 8C. However, it will not indicate if it is a reverse or forward coil, which is important.

To purchase, we recommend Wawak.

Vislon (Molded Tooth)

Vislon zippers are made from individually molded plastic teeth. These come in size #3, #4, #5, #8 and #10.

Again, the code on the back should tell you the brand and size. So if it says YKK 5VSu, your jacket as a size 5 zipper (don’t worry about the Su tacked on the end).

However, these zippers got redesigned around 2000 and older jackets will have “old style” while newer jackets use “new style”.

To purchase Vislon sliders in any size, check out Wawak. Note that they list them as Molded Plastic zipper sliders and they come in new and old style.

New Style:
three ridges on the nose
Old style:
rounded nose

Metal Zippers

Regardless of the finish on your zipper, aluminum, brass or nickle zippers all require the same type of sliders. These come in sizes #3, #5, #7, #8 and #10.

Again, the back of the slider should indicate the size of slider you will need to purchase such as YKK 5.

Wawak also stocks metal zipper sliders.

Need to Replace the Slider?

Replacing the slider on a jacket is easy to do as long as you have the correct materials and tools. Check out our guide to replace your own slider in about ten minutes.

Still Have Questions?

We replace hundreds of zippers a year and can help you diagnose what’s going on.