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.
Replacing the slider on a jacket is easy to do as long as you have the correct materials and tools. The trick is identifying what slider you need because there are a variety of different sizes, styles and brands, not all of which are compatible.
What Is a Zipper Slider?
The slider is the piece that moves up and down to zip your item.
Over time, the internal mechanism wears out and stops meshing the teeth together correctly.
Diagnosing the Issue
If your zipper separates or is just very difficult to use, you need a new slider.
If there is visible damage to the teeth, starter pin, or starter box, you will need a full new zipper.
Finding the Correct Slider
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. 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.
If your zipper slider says YKK on it, you can order the same one from Wawak. Just make sure to check the size and style by looking at the numbers on the back or nose of the slider. For more detail on how to find the correct slider and where to order it, check out this blog post.
Good tools make a great repair! For a slider replacement, you’ll need:
- Light weight flush cutters (you can find these in the electrical section of hardware stores or online at Home Depot). You can also use other types of clippers but small flush cutters make the job much easier.
- Smooth needle nose pliers (you can find these at your local hardware store or on Amazon)
- Vislon top stop or lighter (vislon zippers only)
- Coil top stop (coil zippers only)
- Pull tab (optional)
- Remove top stop
Unzip the jacket fully, and remove the top stop only on the side of the zipper that has the slider on it. If you have a plastic top stop, use the flush cutters to clip off, otherwise, use the needle nose pliers to gently remove a metal top stop. Leave the teeth and surrounding fabric intact. Note that if you have a top stop like the one pictured here, you will just need to clip the little tabs on the front and back but can leave the bulk of it.
2. Remove slider
Work the slider to the top of the zipper and gently pop off the track. It should come off easily if the top stop is removed, but might take a little wiggling.
3. Put on new slider
Wiggle the new slider on at an angle to avoid the fabric lip at the top. Once on, zip it a couple times to make sure it works.
4. Install top stop
If you have a top stop like the one pictured, you have a couple options:
a) Using a lighter, slightly melt the back side of the plastic and press with the butt of the lighter to form a lip. This will prevent the slider from popping off the top.
b) Clip the very last tooth before the plastic box completely off. Then use your needle nose pliers to install a vislon top stop. Press firmly to close the small u-shaped metal piece on the edge of the zipper tape.
4. Install top stop
If you have a coil zipper, you will need to use a coil top stop. Use your needle nose pliers to insert the flat edge of the top stop along the flat edge of the zipper tape. The single prong should be on the outside of the coil, while the double prongs are closest to the rest of the jacket. Once pressed through the zipper tape and between the coil, fold each prong down and press firmly with the pliers.
5. Wear it out!
If you want, add a pull tab and your zipper is good as new! It should last for many more adventures.
If you are still having issues, check that you have the correct slider size, brand and style. Note that if the teeth have visible damage, you will likely need a full new zipper rather than just a slider.
Ready to send it to the professionals?
Check out common zipper issues and repairs we offer here at Rugged Thread.