What to do if Your Zipper Breaks
Zipper damage is the most common wetsuit “ailment”. When putting on a back-zip suit, hold the bottom of the zipper down with one hand while pulling straight up on the pull cord with the other hand. If your suit has a thumb loop at the bottom of the zipper, use it! Pulling at the zipper on an angle or excessively hard and fast can cause the slider to pull off the track and/or break a zipper tooth.
If your zipper breaks during a dive trip, you can try to reinsert the slider at the bottom and stitch together the two sides to create a thread “stop”.
If that doesn’t work, try adding another layer of neoprene, such as a vest or wetsuit shorty to cover your back and hold the two sides of the suit together so you can make a few more dives.
A broken zipper doesn’t have to be a fatal injury to your wetsuit. I usually can repair broken zippers, but it depends on the type and location of the damage. Here are several conditions that can be repaired and their cost:
- a) Zipper slider came off one or both sides and (miraculously) all the teeth are intact: repairable at ½ hr labor ($27*)
b) Zipper slider came off completely and is lost, but all the teeth are intact: repairable at $31.50* (includes new slider and pull cord)
2 Zipper slider came off one side or both sides, like a) or b) above, but one or two teeth are broken at the very bottom of the zipper: repairable at same costs as 1a) or 1b) but the zipper will be shortened at the bottom by ¼”.
3. Zipper slider came off one or both sides, like a) or b) above, but one or both top stops are broken or gone at the very top of the zipper: repairable at same costs as above, but the zipper will be shortened at the top by ¼” (I will fuse together the remaining top two teeth to make a new stop on both sides.
4. Zipper slider came off one or both sides and teeth in the middle of the zipper have broken or come off. This zipper is not repairable. The old zipper must be removed and a new one put in it’s place. Cost is $86 if I can reuse the pull cord and $88 if I need to add a new one.
I replace missing zipper sliders with YKK Vislon sliders (the same nylon/plastic polymer that the zipper teeth are made of), not metal sliders. Metal sliders are less likely to break apart than Vislon ones, so that means that if the diver jerks or snags the slider half-way up his back, the Vislon zipper teeth will break instead of the Metal slider. That’s more fatal to the suit. Also, the gap in the slider that lets the teeth ride through it is larger on the metal slider than on the Vislon ones, so it can pull off one side more readily. Sometimes the metal slider gap is too large to keep it from happening again. I test the sliders to see if they will pull off easily before I reinstall them. In that case, I will also replace the metal slider with a Vislon one with tighter gap tolerance. Or if you just want to avoid the metal one coming off in the future, I recommend replacing the slider while I have your suit here. The cost of the slider is $2.50*.
I also recommend adding a thumb loop to the outside of the suit at the base of the zipper. This gives you a way to hold down the base of the zipper while pulling in the opposite direction with the pull cord. The slider will function more smoothly and preserve the life of the zipper by using a thumb loop. Cost is $3.00*
* prices as of 9/15/14, and are subject to change with our posted hourly rates