Oct 14, 2016

The DIY Tailor: Three Common Broken Zipper Problems and How to Fix Them

How to fix a zipper. An expert tailor guides us through this relatively simple repair. May your crotch never be uncovered again ... 

How to fix a zipper

There are two basic principles to the ManMade approach to style and dress: fit is everything, and buy high-quality, universal items that will last. In order to help you hold on to those investment items, and make sure they suit you as best they can, ManMade is happy to present our latest series: The DIY Tailor. This summer and fall, professional tailor and alteration specialist Danni Trester will teach us some basic sewing principles and easy DIY repairs that every guy should know. 

Zippers are awesome inventions that make getting in and out of clothing easy and fast.  However, when they break they often render the garment useless. But have no fear!  Not all is lost when sliders or teeth go missing.  A lot of times you can repair the zipper with a few simple replacement parts.  Here are some of the most common instances where you can fix a zipper. 

First you'll want to get some supplies.  You'll need a pliers, a zipper repair kit/replacement parts, a small flathead screw driver with a fine/narrow tip, a seam ripper, and a sewing machine or needle and thread. 

How to fix a zipper - tools you will need

How to Fix a Zipper with a Missing or Broken Tooth

1) One of the most common things to happen to jean zippers is teeth get pulled off the zipper tape.  This usually happens at the bottom of a short zipper in lower rise jeans.  There's not much room to get the garment on and off, so it puts pressure on the zipper and eventually pops the teeth.  But if the teeth come off the very bottom, or very top of the zipper, it can be repaired.  If teeth are missing in the middle of the zipper, it will need to be replaced.  It should also be said though this is a temporary fix.  The zipper broke because of improper fit or a cheap zipper.  It's likely it could break again, so if you're intent on making it last, try to keep as much pressure off the zipper when you're putting the garment on/off.

broken zipper

2) Move the slider to the bottom of the zipper.


3) Angle the slider and insert the opposite side of the zipper into the bottom of the slider.created at: 10/01/2013


4) Sometimes the edge of the zipper is a little thick to easily slide into the side of the slider.  You can use a narrow screwdriver to push the edge in.

use a screwdriver to push the edge in


5) Once both sides of the zipper are in the slider, pull the tab to start the zipper.  Sometimes it's a little tricky to get it started, so wiggle the slider back and forth to get the teeth interlocking. Zip up the zipper further and push the tab down.  This will lock the zipper and keep it from coming undone while closing the bottom.

jeans with zipper


7) Now we need to free up the backside of the zipper so we can close the bottom.  On the inside of the garment, use a seam ripper or razor to cut the tack the holds together the placket layers.

free up the back of the zipper


8) To close the bottom, you'll need a zipper bottom stop.  If you get the zipper repair kit listed at the beginning, you should have a few of these in there.  Most jeans use #5 zippers.  (The number of the zipper refers to the width of the zipper teeth in millimeters.  So a #5 zipper is 5mm across the teeth.) If you're not sure what number you have, just measure across the teeth when the zipper is zipped and match that to the bottom stop.

zipper bottom stop


9) Insert the prongs of the stop in the space at the bottom of the zipper between the teeth and the old zipper stop (aka the spot on the zipper that's empty.)

  insert the prongs


10) Flip the garment over and make sure the prongs are entered correctly.  The stop should be perpendicular to the zipper at a 90° angle.

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11) Crimp the prongs with a pliers to secure it.

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12) Using either a sewing machine or by handsewing, re-tack the stitching you took out in step 7.created at: 10/01/2013


13) You did it!

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How to Fix a Zipper with a Broken Pull

 Another common thing to happen is the stops at the top of the zipper fall or get pulled off, and then the slider comes free.  In order to put the slider back on, you'll have to open the bottom of the zipper.  It's not possible to put the zipper back on from the top.  If you did, you would reverse the direction of the zipper and then it would be useless.

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2) Cut the thread tack on the inside like in step 7 of the first demo.

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3) Using a pliers, pull off the the stop at the bottom of the zipper. 

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4) Slide one side of the zipper into each side of the slider.  The slider should be upside down as you're looking at it.  If you do it with the zipper tab facing you, the zipper will function inside out. 

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5) Keeping even tension on both sides of the bottom of the zipper, gently pull the slider to start the zipper.  Be careful not to pull too hard so that you don't pull the slider off the top again.

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6) Zip up the zipper most of the way and push the tab down to lock the zipper while you're closing things up.created at: 10/01/2013


7) Like in the previous demo, close the bottom of the zipper using a prong stop.  Butt the stop against the last tooth leaving no gap.

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View from the inside:

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After the crimp:

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8) Because the top stops were originally missing, you'll need to put some on to keep the slider from coming off again. 

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9) Place the stop over the edge of the zipper tape directly on top of the first tooth.  created at: 10/01/2013


10) Crimp the stop with a pliers.  Make sure you get a good clamp on it, and crimp it a couple times if you have to.

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Do the same to the other side.

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11) Re-tack the inside as in step 12 of the first example.

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You did it! 

How to Fix a Split Zipper

You're in a hurry to get to work and OH NO!, you've suddenly slammed the zipper of your favorite hoodie in your car door!  Now the zipper splits when you zip it and you're sad.  Perk up!  As long as the teeth or the tabs at the bottom aren't damaged on the zipper, you can fix it no problem.  This process can also be used if the slider pulls off the top of zipper, the pull tab falls off the slider, or teeth pull off near the top of the zipper. 

***If either of the little tabs at the bottom of the zipper come off the zipper tape, there is no way to repair this.  They are put on the tape as part of the manufacturing process.  If the tabs on the bottom of the zipper or teeth in the middle/bottom of the zipper come off, you will have to replace the zipper.*** 

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1) Pull off the stops at the top of the zipper.  Generally you replace both so that the stops match one another.  But if you only have one stop/don't care about it matching, you only need to remove the stop on the side of the zipper that has the square tab at the bottom.

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Square tab at the bottom:

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2) Once the stop is off the top, take off the slider.  If you look at it sideways, you'll notice the gap in between the slider isn't totally straight.  This is why the zipper is separating when you zip it.  It's not properly engaging the teeth.  It's best to replace this slider as a new one will last longer.  But if you're in a bind and don't have another slider (if you have a weird size zipper and can't find a replacement), you can bend it back and see if it works.  This would be a temporary solution as now that it's been bent, it can bend back easily.  It's best to replace the slider if you can.

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3) Generally most zippers have a number on the back that tell you what size it is.  Sometimes there are numbers but they're not the usual zipper sizes (width in mm) but an arbitrary number the manufacturer made up.  In this case, the zipper says 5, which is correct.  Most jacket zippers are #5. Heavyweight zippers like in motorcycle jackets and leather coats can be #7, #8, or #10.  Most jackets either have metal or molded plastic zippers, but some can also have coil zippers.  So it can be tricky to get the right one.  You may need to try out of a few different sizes if the original slider doesn't have any markings on the back.  You could also take it to the fabric store and match it up to the zippers they have.  If there's a match, just take the slider off the new zipper and use it for your garment (after you've purchased it!)

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3) On the side of the zipper with the square tab at the bottom, angle the slider so the edge of the zipper tape goes in the slot at the side of the slider.  Again, sometimes the edge of the tape is thick, so if you need to push the tape with a screwdriver feel free.  Wiggling also helps.

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4) Once the edge is all the way through the slider, it should slide freely up and down.  Try to zip it up as you normally would and check that the teeth are interlocking and it's not splitting.  If the zipper still splits, you need a different size slider.  Or if you tried to re-bend the slider, it may still be slightly bent, and it needs to be bent more, or it is bent too far.

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5) Once you're sure the zipper is working properly, put stops on the top.  Both sides should have a stop, but especially the side with the square tab at the bottom.  This is the side that the slider is always on, so if you don't have it zipped and there's not stop at the top, the slider will come off easily, like in the laundry.

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6) You did it!

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How to Repair a Split Zipper (share on Pinterest!):

How to repair a split zipper



Danni Trester is a tailor with over 11 years experience.  She is currently located in Rochester, MN.  In addition to alterations, she is a designer and shoemaker. 


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SUSAN WENDLAND on Nov 08, 2019:

Thank you so much for posting this!!! I just fixed a big zipper on one of my husbands favorite winter jackets- This saved me having to rip the zipper out and putting a new one in. (not fun for me being 69 years old)

janel robertson on Jan 03, 2019:

Can you buy the piece that helps you put the zipper in and to be able to zip the zipper? My zipper is good but the piece that you insert the zipper with got pulled off. Other than that the zipper is good. It is on a coat.

Joyce on Apr 18, 2018:

Good day, the issue that I have is the initial slip that goes into the slider, it has come loose. The cloth is not damaqed the little slip has come off the cloth. any suggestions? thank you.

Shaisa on Mar 07, 2018:

My zipper is good but the piece at the bottom of the coat that you insert the zipper fell off because that section has frayed. Thankfully i have the piece, how do you repair the frayed material. Other than that the zipper is good. It is on a coat. Thanks

Judy on Jan 26, 2018:

Can you buy the piece that helps you put the zipper in the to be able to zip the zipper? My zipper is good but the piece that you insert the zipper with got pulled off. Other than that the zipper is good. It is on a coat.

James Gorman on Jan 02, 2018:

Thanks. Used this article to fix a zipper on a leather duffel. Great info!

Robyn Hannah on Oct 19, 2017:

Yesss! Thank you so much! You saved me! I am at work and have a meeting this morning, my zipper on my jacket broke and I used my letter opener and your instructions to fix it! Thank you so much! I thought it was broken for good! Popped my zipper back together and I am good to go to my meeting! THANK YOU!

David Williamson on Dec 31, 2016:

Michael Fore. I build up the missing pin in layers with superglue drops, applied with a cocktail stick, spread to the approximate shape of the pin and baking powder sprinkled on, then another drop and more baking powder and so-on until bigger than the original missing pin. Then I grind/file the new hard block to the correct size/profile to fit the box.

Janine on Dec 05, 2016:

Great tips for zipper repair on clothing but what about for boots

Michael Fore on Nov 30, 2016:

I have a nice nylon jacket/wind-breaker and have lost the "pin" that inserts into the "box" (at the bottom of the zipper) . IS THERE A WAY TO REPAIR THIS AT HOME? P.S. PLS USE SMALL CAPS FOR MY EMAIL ADDRESS

Dorothy Kretzschmar on Nov 30, 2016:

How do you replace the bottom stop from the jacket zipper when it is broken or missing? I have a jacket that doesn't have a bottom stop and the zipper is just fine.

HazyAK on Nov 09, 2016:

Thanks for your practical advice! I salvaged a leather coat my father gave me before he dies at zero cost this morning. Thank You . Keep up the good work!

Connie on Oct 09, 2016:

Thank you!! Last minute prep for a camping trip, and one old sleeping bag had a zipper issue. We are all set :-)

Anonymous on Aug 21, 2016:

I have just finished a box chair cushion. Zipping it closed after inserting the foam form for the FINAL time the zipper would not close. There is a loose tooth on one side of the zipper. Is there any possible way to fix. If not I will just have to sew it closed by hand. No way am I going to replace it

Anonymous on Aug 21, 2016:

I have just finished a box chair cushion. Zipping it closed after inserting the foam form for the FINAL time the zipper would not close. There is a loose tooth on one side of the zipper. Is there any possible way to fix. If not I will just have to sew it closed by hand. No way am I going to replace it

Thambi Joseph on May 05, 2016:

Hi, thankyou very much , I was also facing problem on split zipper , now by reading this article I have repaired it successfully, once again thank you very much, it's very usefull

Anonymous on Jan 28, 2016:

AWESOME!!!! I fixed my snow boot zipper. Ive had these boots for 6 years, and they are such GREAT quaility!!!! So glad I didnt have to replace them, or pay someone 20+ to fix it. THANKS DANNI!!!!! 


-Post blizzard New Yorker 

Deb on Nov 29, 2015:

I have a coat that is very hard to zip as the plastic that stabilized the bottom, keeps it flat so that you can put the bottom of the zipper in the bottom of other side is gone. Is there any thing to add stability to the bottom. It looks like it was plastic and has dissapeared over time.

WI Mary on Oct 12, 2015:

I am repairing coats for a charity. One problem has me stumped. We get heavy coats/parkas with both the two way sliders gone. I have cannibalized sliders form other coats so have the parts, and have a supply of top stops on hand. Can't figure oout how to get the bottom of the pair of sliders onto the teeth. Please help. Every coat I can't fix is one that won't keep a kid warm this winter.

dee on Aug 13, 2015:

I am trapped in a gown and the zipper will not move up or down.

Please help me! I am trapped in a BIG GOWN AND THE ZIPPER WILL NOT WORK, THANKS TO OVERLY-AGGRESSIVE FRIENDS. oNE FRIEND MAULED THE ZIPPER WITH PLIERS. ANOTHER PULLED SO HARD THAT THE ZIPPER PULL GOT PULLED OFF.someone else pulled the fabric on each side of the zipper and tore about 1 inch.the zipper is completely off track in the bottom of the underside of the zipper, but tbe front of the zipper is clenched on. cAN I REMOVE THE ZIPPER-SLIDE WILL THE TEETH FROM THE ZIPPER SEPARATE AND WILL I BE ABLE TO \GET OUT OF THIS GOWN? i AM SO HOT AND THE SEmstress left early yesterday, and did not come in today.what can I do? I have tried candles, windex pencil graphite and nothing works, at first this was a minor issue. but the pliers and aggressivre actions made this impossible! I like the beautiful gown-how can I remove it without hurting it too much?