How to Deal With Broken Luggage
Luggage doesn’t last forever, but it can have the annoying habit of breaking when you’re right in the middle of a trip. It’s frustrating and normally happens at the worst possible moment.
Sometimes it’s just the suitcase giving up the ghost after a long, hard life, or sometimes it gets damaged during a flight. If that’s the case, you can claim compensation from your airline or insurer.
Before you throw the whole suitcase away in anger and head out to buy a new one—with negative implications for both your bank balance and the environment— you may want to consider ways to salvage the situation and keep your bag going for a little longer, or give it an entirely new lease of life.
Whether you can fix the problem or not will depend on what’s gone wrong with the bag.
Some of these fixes are semi-permanent and will help extend the life of your bag, but some will just tide you over for long enough to get you home so you have time to think more carefully about your replacement purchase.
Read on for my handy guide to dealing with your broken luggage, depending on the specific problem you’re experiencing.
A suitcase is pretty much useless if its zipper gives up. Thankfully, there are plenty of little hacks you can use to fix it, whether the zipper is stuck, the teeth won’t close, or the pull has broken clean off.
Check out this Life Hacker article for an easy-to-follow guide. It focuses on problems with clothes, but the DIY fixes work wonderfully for suitcase zips too. It includes handy ideas such as using a graphite pencil as a lubricant for the zip or replacing a pull with a paperclip.
If the two sides won’t knit together, you’ll probably find that one tooth is bent, which can be eased back into place with a pair of pliers.
You can always buy entirely new zips and attempt to attach them to your bag if you’re handy with a needle and thread. However, if the situation really calls for that kind of drastic measure then unless you’re very confident in your fixing abilities I’d recommended botching it up until you can get home and get the help of a professional.
To keep your bag together in the meantime you can use luggage straps pulled tightly and consider taking advantages of the baggage wrapping services that you find in most airports.
Telescoping handles are great, but they often get stuck or bent, even when your bag is still relatively new. If your handle is stuck, try using lubricant like an oil to give it a helping hand.
The fact that these handles bend easily often means that they can be hammered back into place easily, too. You don’t need a hammer, any hard object will do.
If the release mechanism stops working, make sure you give it a good clean before deciding that a new handle is necessary.
If you need an entirely new handle, you can try purchasing and attaching it yourself, but they will probably be hard to find and tricky to assemble. That might be another job best left to those who really know what they’re doing.
A tip for preventing anything going wrong with your suitcase’s handle is never to use the telescoping handle to carry the bag. It can be very tempting to pick your bag up by that handle when going up and down stairs or getting on and off buses, but it won’t stand up to that kind of treatment for very long. Your bag should always be carried by the fabric carrying handle directly attached to it.
If you have a fabric or soft-sided suitcase, you’ll probably end up with a rip or a seam that’s coming apart at some point. Try to avoid overstuffing in order to prevent these holes appearing for as long as you can. If you can get your hands on duct tape, that’s a good way of temporarily patching up any holes you find.
Everyone should travel with a sewing kit, but in this case, a normal thread might not cut it. Dental floss can actually double as an extra-strong thread— it’s good for more than just keeping your teeth clean! Safety pins are also worth trying as a temporary measures to keep everything together.
The Hard Case
If your suitcase is plastic, not fabric, then dents can be an issue. Some people claim that a hot hairdryer can make a hard case malleable enough to push a dent back into place, but exercise caution with this as you could burn yourself or ruin the bag, and make sure to be careful of those fumes.
If your hard case is cracked, not just dented, you might consider using a carbon fiber repair kit or a glue like Sugru glue, which people have had success with in the past.
If none of these options work for you, covering the hole up with something as simple as a trash bag is a way to get you from point A to point B without things spilling out of your suitcase.
If your wheels are getting sticky or squeaky, the first thing you need to do is give them a good clean.
Luckily, replacement wheels are generally easy to find from a reputable manufacturer and relatively simple to attach. You can always find videos on YouTube to help you change the wheels on your specific bag.
There are plenty of replacement parts for dual and single wheel types on Amazon. This is something you should consider before you decide to go out and buy a new suitcase; it’ll cost you a lot less to just replace the wheels on the bag you already have.
The good thing about an issue with the wheels compared to other suitcase problems is that, as long as your suitcase isn’t too heavy, you can just carry it and use trolleys when maneuvering it around the airport.
If the lining has given up or any pockets have ripped, a needle and thread is the best option to try first.
If that won’t work and you don’t want to be fishing around inside the lining of your suitcase for that elusive pair of socks, invest in some packing cubes to solve the problem.
Once You’re Home…
Although these quick fixes are great to keep you going when you’re traveling, when you get home, always try and get your luggage fixed professionally before throwing it away.
The materials that luggage is made of often aren’t great for the environment; it will only sit in a landfill if thrown away, so repairing it is always the best, most sustainable approach. This is another reason why buying cheap luggage sets isn’t always the best solution, and they could end up costing both you and the earth dearly.
There are shoe repair shops out there that also do luggage repair, and the company that made your bag will often offer a repair service. Check to see if it’s covered under your warranty.
Here are some of the brands that are known for making suitcases that last…