How to fix a broken zipper on a backpack

Here's how to fix your backpack zipper

Every few years one of our backpack zippers stops working and needs to be replaced.  I think I’ve fixed 3 backpacks so far. 


I wish zippers lasted forever but luckily it’s a pretty straightforward process to replace a zipper.  You just need a few tools and some patience.  

I would recommend using a sewing machine for this repair so that your new zipper is super secure.  

**If you find that this process is too overwhelming, I have a tutorial for how to install snaps or buttons on your backpack instead.  I’m linking to that tutorial below.**


This step-by-step guide will help you replace your backpack zipper and get your backpack back in action (back on your back!).


Here’s what you need to replace a broken zipper on your backpack:


  1. New zipper.  Ideally, find one that’s the same length of your original zipper.  Try to get the same size teeth, more or less, as well.  Larger teeth are a bit more durable than smaller teeth. 
  2. Seam ripper or small scissors
  3. Pins Needle and thread
  4. Sewing machine (with zipper foot or narrow foot).

Here’s how to fix your zipper:


  1. Track down a new, similar zipper 

Choose a zipper that’s the same type and size as the original one on your backpack. Measure the length of the existing zipper from end to end to make sure you get the correct size.  


**If you can’t find the exact size, it’s easier to work with a longer zipper than a shorter zipper.**


Check your local craft or fabric store for a replacement zipper.  You can also order zippers online. 


**Try to find a separating zipper where the two sides of the zipper come apart completely.  This will make sewing MUCH EASIER!**


  1. Prepare the Backpack:

Empty your backpack and turn it inside out. You’ll probably want to lay it flat on a work surface to make things easier.


  1. Remove the Old Zipper:

Use a seam ripper or small scissors to carefully cut the stitches holding the old zipper in place.  Take your time.  Put on a good podcast or show and get to work!  You’ll want to remove all of the zipper fabric from your backpack, but try not to tear your actual backpack material.


Your zipper might be sewn into a couple of folds of fabric near the beginning and end.  Seam rip the entire zipper out of the bag.  

  1. Prep the New Zipper:

If the new zipper is longer than needed, measure and mark the correct length. Trim the excess zipper tape, ensuring you leave a bit of extra at both ends.  If your zipper teeth are metal, don’t cut the actual teeth with scissors – this will damage your scissors.  Instead, carefully cut the fabric that’s in between the zipper teeth.  Then you might need to wiggle the teeth apart to shorten the zipper. 


  1. Pin one side of the New Zipper in Place:


Line up one end of the zipper with one end of the backpack opening.  Pin one side of the zipper along the backpack opening from end to end.  Follow the same line that the broken zipper was on.  Often you’ll be able to still see marks from where you took out the old stitches.  


Make sure to pin your zipper right side up!  You want the pull of the zipper on the outside of your bag so you can easily grab it to open and close your bag.  


  1. Baste the New Zipper in place:


Using a needle and thread, hand-sew the new zipper into place with large stitches. Start at one end and stitch along the entire length of the zipper.

  1. Sew the new zipper in place at the sewing machine:


You’ll want to use a zipper foot or narrow foot to sew close to the zipper teeth without sewing on them. Following right on top of your hand stitches, sew one side of the zipper in place at the sewing machine.  Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam.  


Take your time and sew carefully.  You’ll need to move the bag around as you follow the curve of your backpack.

  1. Repeat steps 6 through 8 with the other side of the zipper:


Take the other side of your zipper and pin it in place, then baste, then machine sew.  


Make sure to test that the position of the other side lines up well with the first side so that your zipper will close properly.

10. Test the Zipper:


Once the new zipper is securely attached on both sides, test it to make sure it moves smoothly without any snags.

11. Reinforce the Stitching:


Zippers are usually sewn in place with 2 rows of stitches per side.  Do a second line of stitches on each side of the zipper so that it’s secure. 

Scroll down for more or….

Watch the full video tutorial here:

12.  Resew the zipper into any other folds of fabric at the beginning and end.

If you had to seam rip your zipper out of some fabric near the top or bottom, do your best to refold the fabric as it was and sew them back onto the zipper. 

Test your zipper once more, trim loose threads, and then you’re done!

If you use this tutorial to fix your zipper, I’d love to see the finished project!  Tag me on Instagram @no_trace_shop .

Thanks for reading and for all that you do to fight waste!


Looking for a faster fix? Here's my tutorial for adding snap buttons to your backpack:

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