Thursday, June 9, 2011

How To Replace A Broken/Missing Jacket Zipper Pull

In my last post I let you know that I would be posting a how-to for replacing a broken or missing zipper pull.  This is the perfect time of year to do this and it will save us from the 'reward' of our procrastination in November when we pull out the winter coats.  The last thing we want to discover is that the zipper pull that fell off last winter is STILL off.  Of course, this tutorial will apply to hoodies, zip up sweaters, blazers, etc.  Any separating zipper such as this can be repaired this way.  For NON-separating zips such as used in pants, skirts, dresses, jeans etc, that is a different system which I will share with you in future lessons.  

For replacing your zipper pull you will need to have some items on hand.  As far as tools you will need a pair of scissors and a wire cutter/nipper.  You will also need a replacement pull that is the same size as the one on your jacket and in most cases, a new zipper top-stop.  Of course you are asking "Where in the world do I find all this stuff????"  Most fabric stores/sewing centers will offer a zipper repair kit that will have a few different sizes of pulls as well as an assortment of zipper top/bottom stops.  If you aren't near a fabric store you will easily be able to find something online.  Keywords that will work-  zipper repair kits, zipper pulls, zipper top/bottom stop.  

To determine the correct size of the pull look on the back side. (of the pull itself)   MOST of the time there will be a number imprinted on it.  Standard fall/winter weight jackets are typically #5 but some are bigger and some are smaller.  The bigger the number, the bigger the pull because the teeth on the zip are bigger.  Another thing to know is that there are 3 types of zipper teeth and that will come into play in regard to the pull.  Some zipper teeth are plastic, some are metal and some are a plastic 'coil'.  Coil teeth are usually on lighter weight jackets and sweaters.  

For this tutorial I am replacing a pull on my husbands work jacket.  Sorry that the photos are so light-flooded!  I wanted to get close up shots so you can see detail.

***The written directions are above the corresponding photos.  

To remove the broken pull OR to replace a missing one you must first remove the zipper top-stop at the top of the zipper tape.  (The tape is the fabric strip the teeth are attached to.)  You only need to remove the top stop from the side of the zipper that the pull is on.  Top stops are made from either plastic or metal.  In this case it is plastic and using the wire cutters, I simply pulled it off.  Plastic top stops cannot be reused as they are molded on in production.  Some metal stops can be reused if you can remove them without destroying them.  Try it and see.  For the metal ones, the stops will come off easier if you can get the edge of the wire cutter under the edge of the stop and wedge it open.  If you Can do that you will likely be able to use the stop again.  If the stop is stubborn and refuses to let loose, then get it off any way you can and use a new one.  You absolutely have to replace the top stop or you will risk the loss of your puller if you pull it up too far. 

Once you have removed the top stop, take a sharp scissors and as close to the JACKET as possible (right near where the zipper tape meets the fabric of the jacket, in this case near that wear spot above) make a small crosswise clip through the front edge, or the 'roll' of the zip tape.  You don't need to cut deeply into the tape as you just want to make it easier to feed the old zip off and the new one one.  Don't worry about destroying anything.  Once the new top stop is applied, all will be well.  

Next, pull off the old pull.  (Unless a pull is hopelessly broken, I always save them.  Through the years I have collected a large stash of pulls from jackets, tops, dresses, jeans, purses, etc.  * No, I don't collect them for fun.  I ran an alterations/custom sewing biz for lots of years.  :)

Next, apply the new pull onto the zipper tape.  *Take note; if you are replacing a MISSING pull, MAKE SURE to apply the new pull to the side of the zipper that has the 'box' at the bottom of it.  Both side of jacket zips have distinctive bottoms.  On one side is the tab.  The other side is the box.  When we zip our jackets we slip the tab side into the zipper pull which is pushed all the way down on the box side.  In order for the zip to work, the pull MUST be applied to the box side.  *How do I know to tell you these things????  Because I have done it the wrong way enough times to want to spare you my mistakes.  :)

Now that the new puller is in place you need to test it to make sure it will work.  Do not apply the zipper stop before testing the fit.  Sometimes, especially when a jacket is old and the teeth are worn down, a particular pull- even of the same size-  may not fit.  Check it NOW before you squeeze on the new top stop.  To check the fit of the new pull simply close up the zipper and run it up and down a few times.  If the fit it tight you will need a bigger puller OR if when you are zipping it closed you find one side of the teeth separating from the other, then the puller is too big.  Try different pulls til you find one that fits.  Once you know the new pull is working then you can apply the new top stop.  Here is what a large one looks like:

The metal ones come in both silver and brass as well in different sizes.  Use whichever is appropriate for the jacket.  
Next place the top stop on the zipper tape, right above the top tooth.  Using the wire cutters or a pair of pliers, squeeze the stop tightly so that it is grabbing the tape securely.  


Take note that I have replaced the bad pull with a grey one but that is just to make it easy for you to see.  As often as possible you will want to replace the bad one with the same color but for a work or play jacket even if the puller isn't exactly the same color, it is sometimes enough just to be able to have the zipper work.  I have saved a lot of money through the years for my family and my customers by replacing a zipper pull.  It is much cheaper than buying a whole new jacket.  

There ARE times though that a new puller won't help.  Here is how to determine if you zipper is beyond help.  Certain elements MUST be present and in good working order in order for a new puller to be the answer.

1.  ALL the teeth must be intact and tight fitting to the zipper tape.  Even one missing tooth will require an entire new zipper to be put in.  
2.  The box and the tab at the bottom of the two sides of the zipper must be intact and secure.  If EITHER of these is broken, missing or compromised the zipper will need to be replaced.

3.  If there is a tear/cut into the zipper tape between the teeth the zipper will have to be replaced.  

If upon inspection none of the above problems exist then a new puller will likely solve the problem.  But I have found on occasion that if the jacket has been worn a lot that the the teeth get worn down and no puller will work.  Again, that would require a complete zipper replacement.  But usually by the time that happens you will be ready for a new jacket anyway.  

Hope this helps you in your quest to restore that beloved jacket.  Zipper pull repair is an easy and inexpensive way to prolong the life of a jacket or other garment.  Let me know if you have any questions.  I will be happy to help.  :)



  1. Great post Moe! Always wanted to try this instead of ripping out a zipper to put a new one in.

  2. Thanks so much for the post! Just curious...I bought a kit to replace the zipper in my son's coat. It came with #5 in coil and teeth but 4.5 mm in only coil. The #5 keep pulling apart so I'm guessing it needs 4.5. Is there anyway to get the coil to work? It is a plastic zipper so assume it needs the 4.5 mm tooth one. But cannot find that anywhere. At least for a decent price. I already put out $10 for the first kit. I hate to drop another $10 down on a kit (or online paying for a slider plus shipping).

    Any ideas? Thanks!!

  3. Thank you! Repairing the zip on my favorite hoodie took about 10 minutes!


  4. I have a Calvin Klein coat can you tell me how to fix the zipper. Every time I zip up the coat the zipper comes undone sometimes it stays closed and sometimes it doesn't is their a fix for this problem?

  5. just replaced the zipper pull on my husband coat took less then 5 min thanks great info !!