Luggage Repair Guide
A good quality set of luggage is an investment that lasts for years. Still, even the best suitcases occasionally fall prey to wear and tear. Sometimes luggage damage requires you to fix things on the fly.
While serious damage might require a luggage repair service, you can fix the most common suitcase issues yourself. With that in mind, here's a DIY luggage repair guide covering suitcase wheel replacement, faulty zippers, broken handles, etc.
How to Fix Luggage Wheels
A bag’s wheels are susceptible to damage, as they’re the point of contact between your luggage and the ground. If a wheel isn’t spinning properly, your first step should be to clean it carefully with a damp cloth, looking for any debris lodged in the wheel that might restrict the wheel’s movement. If the wheel is loose, use a screwdriver to tighten the screw: most luggage wheels have screws that fit a Philips or hex screwdriver. Don’t fasten the screw too tightly, which can cause the wheel to seize up. Instead, turn the screw a few turns and test the wheel’s motion.
How you install replacement luggage wheels depends on the type of wheels used. When possible, ordering replacement luggage wheels from the manufacturer is recommended to ensure a proper fit. Learn how to replace a wheel on rollaboard luggage.
Replacing Screwed-on Luggage Wheels
Wheels that are screwed directly into the suitcase can be replaced as follows:
- Purchase replacement luggage wheels directly from the suitcase manufacturer.
- Lie your suitcase flat and unzip the lining, exposing the nut bolts that lock the wheel screws into place.
- Grip the nut bolts tightly with an appropriately sized wrench while using a screwdriver to remove the wheel well screws.
- To remove the bolts and wheel from the wheel well, push a small clip within the wheel.
- Remove the damaged wheel.
- Place a new wheel in the wheel well, positioning washers on either side of the wheel and securing it. There should be a clip through the axle slot to guide you.
- Screw the wheel well and bolt into place using the nuts, wrench, and screwdriver. Roll the suitcase around to ensure the wheels are tight, then re-zip the bag lining.
Exact methods of replacing screwed-in luggage wheels vary depending on the brand, so be sure to check with the manufacturer prior to attempting repairs. Here’s a helpful video if you need to replace a wheel on a Travelpro Spinner bag.
Emergency Silicone Wheel Repair
If your bag is damaged while traveling, short-term luggage repairs can keep a suitcase usable until you get home. If your bag has in-line skate wheels made of silicone, parts of the wheel may break off over time. Some duct tape is all you need to keep your bag rolling until you can fix the problem with replacement luggage wheels:
- Remove the remainder of the damaged wheel down to the metal wheelbase.
- Split duct tape, so the tape is not wider than the wheelbase.
- Wrap tape around the wheelbase until it matches the thickness of the other wheels.
- Roll the bag around to see if you need more tape.
- Curve the edges of the duct tape wheel with some sandpaper, so the tape does not rub on the frame of your bag.
Need to fix your luggage while you’re traveling? Check out our Short-Term Luggage Repair Guide.
Fixing Luggage Handles
Telescoping luggage handles have multiple parts, increasing the risk of damage due to wear and tear. Fortunately, the luggage repair techniques for most bag handles are easy to follow.
Repairing a Broken Push Button
Push buttons control the extension and refraction of telescoping luggage handles, so it’s inconvenient when they get stuck in place. To fix a broken push button, take the following steps:
- Identify the type of screwdriver that matches the handle screws.
- Unscrew the handle screws. The stuck push button may make it difficult to access screws, so you may need to apply careful force to pull out enough of the handle to reach them.
- Remove the screws if possible. Some bag handle screws won’t come out completely. That’s fine; you just need them loose enough to disassemble the handle. Often at that point, you can just push the stuck button back into position.
- If the button is broken in pieces, glue together with superglue and let dry for at least thirty minutes. Do not reassemble until the glue is completely dry to avoid gluing the button to the handle.
- Reassemble handle and test button.
Fixing Stuck Handle Tubes
If one of the telescoping tubes attached to a bag handle will not stay extended, check that all screws are in place. A loose or missing screw can prevent the tube from locking in place. Tighten or replace the screw.
If extension tubes won’t expand or retract try these repair suggestions:
- Detach the handle from the tubes by removing all screws.
- Inside the handle is a slender metal rod that attaches to the holes in the handle. See if repositioning the rods in the handle resolves the issue. If so, great. If not, more investigation is needed.
- Push down on the rod and try to extend the tube. If this doesn’t work, check if any debris is stuck in the tube. Remove obstructions with a thick stick or wire.
- If the tubes are clear, apply some WD-40 or other grease-based lubricant to the rods. In a pinch, travelers have used soap.
- Let rest for fifteen minutes, and try to extend the tube by pushing down on the rods and pulling the tube up. If the tube only needed lubricating, it should extend now. If this doesn’t work, an entire luggage handle replacement may be necessary.
- Reattach the handle.
Luggage Handle Replacement
If the luggage repair tricks above don’t fix a bag handle, you may need an entire luggage handle replacement. to prevent damage to your suitcase and ensure proper installation, this task is best left to a luggage repair service.
Fixing Your Suitcase Zippers
A stuck luggage zipper is an annoyance, but one that can often be quickly fixed. Your first option is to rub the tip of a graphite pencil on the zipper’s teeth. The graphite acts as a lubricant. If this trick doesn't work, try using bar soap or lip balm as lubrication. Avoid oil-based lubricants, as they stain fabrics.
If the zipper is caught in the surrounding fabric, pull the zip up slightly, and move as much of the fabric as possible out of the way. Slowly work the zipper down, holding the fabric with one hand to see if it works its way loose.
A broken zipper puller can make it difficult to open luggage and almost impossible to close a bag. A key ring can be attached as a substitute pull (even a paperclip works). Once you’re home, buy a replacement zipper puller for more permanent luggage repair.
If the zipper teeth don't mesh properly, it may be because the slider is too loose. Using a pair of pliers, grip the slide's base and gently squeeze. Don’t apply too much force, or the slider may break.
Getting Scratches Out Of A Hardside Suitcase
Scratches on a hardside suitcase can ruin your bag’s appearance. Here’s how to remove shallow scratches.
- Clean the scratch with water and let it dry.
- Rub an eraser lightly along the length of the scratch a few times (be gentle: hard rubbing could remove the color from the suitcase shell).
- Wipe away eraser residue with a cloth.
- Apply a small dab of toothpaste to the scratch. Work the toothpaste into the scratch with a toothbrush, using a circular motion.
- Wipe away with a wet cloth.
Looking for attractive, durable hardside suitcases? Shop our Hard-Sided Luggage Options.
Removing Deep Scratches
Removing deep scratches requires the shell of the suitcase to be sanded and repainted and is a job best left for a luggage repair service.
Replacing TSA Locks
Built-in TSA locks allow agents to inspect bag contents using a master key that opens all TSA-approved locks. If the lock on your suitcase needs replacing, here’s what to do:
- Find a replacement TSA-approved lock that matches the lock you need to replace exactly.
- Unzip your suitcase lining to expose the lock screws.
- Remove the old lock, put the new lock in its place, and make sure you set a new combination.
If the lining of your bag does not unzip, you may need to peel it away from the body of the suitcase to reach the lock. After replacing the lock, you can glue the lining back into place.
Luggage repair can often be avoided by investing in durable bags. At Travelpro, we back up our range of stylish, high-quality luggage with a limited lifetime warranty against some of the most common types of luggage wear and tear.