How to Deal With Broken Luggage

May 28, 2018
Katie Uniacke

An image of a girl next to a suitcase

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, and sometimes luggage can get damaged during a flight. If that’s the case, you can claim compensation from your airline or your insurer.

Before you throw the whole suitcase away in anger and head out and buy a new one, with negative connotations for both your bank balance and the environment, you may well be able to salvage the situation.

Whether you can fix the problem will depend on what’s gone wrong.

Some of these fixes can be semi-permanent. Some will just tide you over for long enough to get you home, so you can 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.


The Zip

A suitcase is pretty much useless if the zip gives up, but thankfully there are plenty of little hacks you can use to fix it, whether the zip is stuck, the teeth won’t close, or the pull has broken 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, such as using a graphite pencil as a lubricant for the zip, or replacing a pull with a paper clip.

If the two sides won’t knit together, you’ll probably find that just one is bent, which can be put back in its 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, but if the situation calls for that then I’d recommended botching it up, for example using straps to close your bag, until you can get home and get the help of a professional.


The Handle

Telescoping handles are great but they often give up the ghost, getting stuck or bent. If your handle is stuck, try a lubricant like an oil to give it a helping hand.

The fact that these handles usually bend easily often means that they can be hammered back into place easily. You don’t need a hammer, any hard object will do.

A picture of a luggage's handles

If the release mechanism stops working, make sure you give it a good clean before admitting that a new handle is necessary.

If you need a whole new handle, you can try purchasing a new one and attaching it yourself, but they will probably be hard to find and can be tricky to assemble, so that might be another job best left to those who really know what they’re doing.


The Fabric

If you have a fabric suitcase, you’ll probably end up with a rip, or just a seam that’s coming apart, at some point. Try to avoid overstuffing to prevent this. If you can get your hands on duct tape, that’s a good way of patching up holes temporarily.

Everyone should travel with a sewing kit, but in this case, a normal thread might not cut the mustard. Dental floss is good for more than just keeping your teeth clean, doubling as an extra-strong thread. Safety pins are also worth trying, too.


The Hard Case

If your suitcase is plastic, not material, then dents can be an issue. Some people claim that a hot hairdryer can make it malleable enough to push back into place, but exercise caution with this and be careful of those fumes.

If your hard case is cracked, not just dented, then people have had success with carbon fibre repair kits and glues similar to Sugru glue.

If there’s nothing you can do about the holes in your suitcase, covering it up with something as simple as a bin bag is a way to get you from A to B.


The Wheels

A picture of a luggage's wheel

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 any reputable manufacturer and relatively simple to attach. You can always find videos on YouTube that will help you do so.

There are plenty of replacement parts for different dual & single wheel types on Amazon. This is something you should consider even before you decide to buy a new luggage or upgrade.

The good thing about something going wrong with the wheels is you can, as long as your suitcase isn’t too heavy, just carry it, and use trolleys when maneuvering around the airport.


The Inside

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 your suitcase, invest in some packing cubes to solve the problem.


Once You’re Home…

Although these quick fixes can be great to keep you going when you’re actually away, when you’re home, always try and get your luggage fixed professionally before throwing it away.

The materials that luggage is made of often isn’t great for the environment, and it will only sit in a landfill if thrown away, so make do and mend is always the best approach.

There are shoe repair shops that do luggage repair, and the company you bought your bag will often offer a repair service. Check to see if it’s covered under your warranty.



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