FamilyFrequentLuggage & Carry BagsTravel Tips

OMG, My Zipper Broke – What Now???

Never have your zipper break on your luggage again.

A broken zipper on your luggage mid-trip can be really inconvenient. A jammed or broken wheel on your roller or spinner bag can also make your travels more difficult. Find out how you can prevent these problems.

You’re running late for a flight, still in your hotel room packing your bag, squeezing it down and trying to zip it closed – when the zipper breaks.

Your zipper pull is missing, you are going to fix it one day but instead, persist with it missing and end up hurting the top of your fingers and painfully ripping your nail.

Ever been walking with a roller or spinner bag, and one wheel is jamming? It’s so frustrating and likely to do long term damage to the wheel and maybe your shoulder or back.

Situations like this while traveling are bad enough but left unresolved, they could escalate into something worse.

Make your luggage last 3 times longer with these simple cleaning and lubricating tips.

Luggage Wheels

Luggage wheels take a beating. They are exposed to and collect dust, dirt, fluff, and hair. Some of this collects on the surface, while some collects in and around the bearing or axle of the wheel.

When averaging three flights a week I would clean and lubricate the wheels of my suitcase every 3 months. I would also clean and lubricate them just before, and immediately after, a multi-flight international vacation.

To clean the wheels, place several layers of newspaper on a table and lift the bag up onto the newspaper. Using a straightened out paper clip and tweezers carefully remove as much of the buildup from the wheels as possible. Then use a can of silicone spray and spray the wheels and bearings/axle.

Initially, use an old toothbrush and then a cotton swab (cotton bud) to remove the final dirt and grime build up the silicone spray has loosened.

To finish, spray the wheel bearings/axle and wipe the wheel clean with a cotton rag or paper towel.

On spinner wheels also spray the silicone lubricant onto the axle that allows the wheel assembly to spin and track in the direction of travel.

The silicone spray I prefer to use is by the WD40 Company and is the WD40 300012 Specialist Silicone Spray Smart Straw.

This spray bottle has a “Smart Straw Spray”. When folded down it allows a low volume, broad spray good for cleaning the wheels. When folded up it uses a plastic straw to give a direct, and narrow high volume spray good for penetrating and lubricating the bearings and axles.


Of all of the components of a roller or spinner bag, found zippers have the highest failure rate. Often the zippers are forced – especially around the corners of the bag when we try to fit too much into the bag. This combined with the dry air environment in most aircraft and walking up dusty streets wheeling the bag causes the zip to get dry, dusty and want to jam or catch on the corners. It is especially prevalent with my kids’ bags that get a pretty rough beating from my boys when traveling.

When cleaning and lubricating the wheels of my bag I usually apply a treatment to all the zippers too. This treatment uses the same silicone spray lubricant as the wheels. I use the broad low volume spray and with the zippers open to apply a light spray to either row of teeth and the zip slider.

This treatment works so well you can feel the difference when using the zippers and makes them last and last.

Even with careful maintenance zippers can sometimes break without any apparent reason. For those situations, I always carry a few safety pins of varying sizes in my carry-on luggage. These can temporarily repair a broken zipper on baggage or pants, a broken missing button on pants or a shirt, to hold down a wayward tie in the right position on a shirt or change a sim card in a cell phone.

Zipper Pull

Zipper pull broken or lost? Next time you are home or have access to a pair of pliers and a small key ring, place the keyring into the slider crown and squeeze gently closed with pliers. This will most likely last as long as the original zipper pull tab.

When a piece of luggage has really reached the end of its useful life, I strip all the zipper pull tabs from the bag before disposing of it. Then, when if loose one on my current luggage I have a spare. Carry one or two with you in your carry-on for emergencies.

Triple the Life of Your Luggage

In my experience zippers and wheels, followed closely by zipper pull tabs are the main wearing items on carry-on roller and spinner bags. These simple maintenance tips will likely triple the life of your luggage and reduce the hassle of a jamming wheel or broken zippers when you are traveling.

Safe and fun travels!

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