Category Archives: Gear Care

More Zipper Problems: 2-way zippers

Common Zipper Problems Part 1, continued

Two-way zippers are very problematic and malfunction a lot.  From a repair perspective, they are a big pain. The main reason they malfunction is people do not take the time to thread them properly. The sliders get misaligned and then  forced  which breaks the zipper.

Examples:

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This zipper was aligned properly. The male pins are evenly inserted at the bottom. One should be able to feel a discernible “click” when this is done right.

 

 

 

 

 

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See how nicely it zipped up?

 

 

 

 

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Same zipper, misaligned. Customer kept trying to zip it up like this, causing all sorts of problems. It doesn’t take much.

 

 

 

 

 

These problems are the same whether you have a tooth or coil zipper. Take the time to zip it correctly!

A Few Laundry Tips

The Special Stinky Bike Gear Recipe:
Soak in “Biz” overnight, at least 12 hours. this is an enzyme
based presoak that goes after organic matter, not your regular presoak.
Then, rinse that out and then run through the wash with a laundry product
called Oxyclean, which is not an detergent it’s an additive. You should be
able to get that at any supermarket.
This is courtesy Judith from www.fabrics.net ~ thanks!!

Getting Hardshells CLEAN:
Have you ever noticed that doing the two step washing process (as per label instructions) for hardshell garments doens’t really get the items “clean”?
Try this method, courtesy Mr. Mender in Sechelt, BC, Canada.
Wash your hardshell item in regular launder detergent. Treat grimy areas with your favorite treatment such as Shout. Then, rinse your item 3 times in clear water. Now, do the two step process, wash and DWR renew. It was explained to me that the wash-in cleaner is a vehicle to prepare the garment for the DWR renewal, and not a cleaner pe se. I have had good success with this method.

Hand Wash:
Did you know that baby shampoo is an excellent substitute for special products such as Woolite? It’s much cheaper, too. If you have a front load washer, you can do hand wash in the wash -yay!!

Sports Detergent:
Save your money and use regular laundry soap with an oxygenator add in.

Bike Grease:
Use Dawn and/or Simple Green.

Dryers:
Heat is the enemy. Line dry things as much as possible. The exception is when doing a DWR treatment. This requires a LOW temperature dryer to be effective.

Down Items:
Down items can be washed at home. Do not use a washer with an agitator. The keys to washing down is a mild soap like Down Wash by Nikwax, and prolonged very low temperature drying in a dryer. You will have to tennis balls to help break up clumps, and break up clumps manually too. It takes HOURS but can be done sucessfully. You can’t rush this process.

Common Zipper Problems

With most zipper repairs, it comes down to being able to diagnose the repair and having the correct part, if it can be fixed. Today we are going to look at some common zipper problems.

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Here, the plastic around the male pin at the bottom of the zipper has completely worn away. The zipper pin will thread into the slider for a while, but it will become more and more difficult as time goes on. This cannot be fixed. The zipper must be replaced.

 

 

 

 

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This zipper slider is bent. Even a very slight amount of bending will affect the meshing of the zipper when you zip it. If the zipper itself is not damaged, a new slider of the correct type can replace the bent one. {sidenote – squeezing the zipper with pliers to “fix” it is a stopgap measure only}

 

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The grab tab on the zipper pull has broken off. This also can be fixed by replacing the slider with an intact slider of the correct type.

 

 

 

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Here, the male pin has popped off the tape of a waterproof zipper. This cannot be repaired and requires a zipper replacement.

 

 

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This zipper slider shows classic signs of wear. Notice the very slight bending and the worn outer “corners”. It is very likely that the zipper was not zipping; not staying together when zipped.  This is an easy fix with a new zipper slider of the correct type.

 

 

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Here, the box has broken off the bottom of a separating jacket zipper.

 

 

 

 

It is supposed to look like this.

This is not repairable. The whole zipper must be replaced.

 

 

 

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Missing tooth on a vislon (tooth) zipper.

This is not repairable and requires a whole new zipper.

 

 

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Missing tooth on a waterproof vislon zipper.

This is not repairable and requires a whole new zipper.

 

 

That’s all for today. I will keep taking photos of zipper problems and post Part 2 later.

Tent Tips: Care and Selection

I repair dozens of tent zippers every season. Many people seem surprised when their tent zipper fails. Zipper slider failure is extremely common, and it is caused mostly through normal wear and damage.

The most common symptom  of slider failure is that the zipper coil will not zip closed,  or separates at a certain point on the zipper. This is typically an indicator of a worn slider. Worn sliders can easily be replaced, provided they are not an off brand. Damaged (bent) sliders will also exhibit this behavior. Coatings on zipper sliders are not particularly durable and wear down easily.

If your tent zipper is not zipping, the slider most likely worn from dirt and grit, or it has been bent from hard use, getting stepped on, being squeezed with pliers, or similar. The whole zipper does not need to be replaced, just the sliders.

 

A good example of how dirty tent coil gets.

A good example of how dirty tent coil gets. This tent had been hosed down but they did not hose the zippers out.

Here are important tips on tent care:

KEEP YOUR ZIPPERS DIRT, SILT, AND GRIT FREE!!!! Depending on where you camp, shaking/sweeping the tent out may be sufficient. More likely, you will want to clean your tent. Set it up in the yard, and take a hose to it. Do not use any cleaners or brushes. A rag made from an old towel will pull micro dirt off the floor really well. Wipe down the seams and spray the zipper coils with the sprayer. Dry thoroughly.

dog ran through tent door

Door Damage, dog ran through tent door

TRAIN YOUR TENT PARTNERS. Do not leave the door lying in the dirt. Watch the kids and the dogs. Open doors fully, do not leave zippers part way open. Roll up the tent door and keep it out of the dirt.

 

 

 

DO NOT FORCE ZIPPERS! If there is a fold of fabric caught in the zipper, work to gently free it. You can pull hard enough on the slider to damage the slider, the coil, or tear the fabric.

CLEAN YOUR TENT: Hose tent off and let air dry, thoroughly. If tent is gritty, use a sponge or rag to wipe dirt off. Never use a scrub brush, harsh detergent, or put tent in the washer. Pay special attention to hosing off the zippers. Note: I have been hearing good reports from people who have washed tents without detergent in a front loader  (non-agitator) machine. I have not tried this myself but you are welcome to experiment. Agitators can tear doors and ties downs, and detergent will strip the waterproofing. YMMV.

NEVER PUT A TENT AWAY DAMP: This is the number one cause of mildew, which eats away at the waterproof coating on your tent. There is no fixing mildew.

Commonly asked questions about tent care, and a few comments.

Lubing zippers? If you want to use a dry lube, McNett sells a zipper lube. Do not use Vaseline or any grease product on the zipper. It’s better just to keep your tent zipper clean and grit free.

Re-waterproofing the fly? Both Nikwax and Grangers’ make excellent products to renew waterproofing and/or DWR (Durable Water Repellency). Grangers’ also makes a combination waterproof/UV protector for fabrics. Order from www.mgear.com  I have not had good success with “K-kote” but others have tried it. It might be easier to just pitch a blue tarp over the tent if the fly is leaking that bad.

Smelly tent? It’s one of two things (unless it got skunked or peed on by a dog): mildew, or hydrolyzation of the polyurethane coating. Neither is fixable. Mildew is from moisture, and hydrolyzing of the PU is due to age and exposure to environmental conditions.

Zipper separates when the tent is staked out taut? Don’t stake it so tight. If it is impossible to not stake it taut without a zipper pulling apart, that is a design flaw. A new zipper or a beefier is not going to fix this.

Floor leaks? You can try to recoat the floor with K-kote. It is a really messy project and results are iffy at best. My suggestion is to cut a piece of blue tarp the same size as the tent floor and place that down inside the tent.

Make a new fly? Absolutely not. If your friend lost the fly when they borrowed the tent, make them buy you a new tent. If  “the rest of the tent is in good shape, it’s just the fly that’s old”, the rest of the tent is NOT in good shape; it’s just as old as the fly. The body of the tent may  not show the age that the  UV-baked fly is showing, but trust me, it’s old.

I’m going to close with my soapbox: “You really do get what you pay for”. Yes, I know you’ve camped successfully for years in your $99 box-store special. I’m happy for you and glad it’s working out. However, here is why I don’t love them:

  1. Low thread count fabric. It’s not very dense which is less weather repellent
  2. Fewer stitches per inch out of really crappy thread – seams are not as strong
  3. Off brand zippers have really soft metal zipper sliders that wear out faster
  4. Blue tarp floors
  5. Minimal fly

I’ll discuss how to identify sliders for replacement later on. Until next time…