How To Fix A Tent Zipper – Step By Step

Tent zippers are prone to breaking, leaving you in an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation. When camping, carrying a pair of adjustable pliers and a quality tent repair kit is always wise. Inevitably, you will need it at some stage!

A tent zipper can be fixed by following these simple steps:

  1. Figure out the nature of the problem with the tent zipper.
  2. Get out your tent repair kit.
  3. Remove fabric stuck in the zipper slider.
  4. Clean and lubricate the tent zip.
  5. Straighten the zipper teeth with pliers.
  6. Replace the zipper slider.

Knowing how to fix your tent zipper is essential if you spend lots of time camping in remote places. The key is to be prepared. Nothing is more annoying than struggling with a broken tent zip without the right tools and equipment! Here, we discuss how to fix a tent zipper.

1. Figure Out What Is Wrong With Your Tent Zipper

Before you start trying to repair the tent zipper, first take a moment to determine what exactly is wrong with the zip carefully:

  • Is the zipper getting stuck along the track when you try to open or close it?
  • Are the zipper teeth coming apart after the zip it shut?
  • Are the zipper teeth intact? Are some missing?

In the first case, the issue with your tent zipper is likely due to the track. The track may be bent, or a piece of fabric or dirt may be stuck in the zipper. This type of problem cannot be solved by replacing the zipper slider.

In the second case, your tent zipper is probably acting up due to a problem with the zipper slider. You can easily replace the zipper slider using a tent repair kit or a product designed to fix separated zippers (more on this later).

In the third case, unfortunately, even the best tent repair kit will not help. In this case, the whole zipper track must be replaced. Unless you have excellent sewing skills, you will need to take your tent to a tailor to have it professionally repaired.

2. Get Out The Tent Repair Kit And Pliers

A tent repair kit is essential to have if you go camping. They are affordable and do not take up much space in a backpack. A good tent repair kit will give you peace of mind.

Buy a tent repair kit that is suitable for your tent. Zipper Rescue is perfect for fixing a variety of tents. A good tent repair kit should contain all the things you need to deal with a broken tent zip:

  • A variety of zipper sliders in different sizes
  • Replacement stops for the top and bottom of the zipper track
  • A sewing needle and sturdy thread
  • Lubricant (Vaseline works, but WD-40 Silicone Lubricant is the best)
  • Toothpicks
  • Q-tips

Tent repair kits generally do not include a pair of pliers. Pliers are handy for fixing a tent zipper, and they should also be an essential item on your camping checklist. This pair of pliers is specifically for fixing zips.

3. Remove Fabric Stuck In The Zipper Slider

Zippers often become stuck along their track because a piece of tent fabric gets stuck in the slider. Carefully pull the tent fabric out of the zipper slider, wiggling it around. Use your pliers if you need them! Be gentle – you do not want to rip the tent fabric or break the zip!

4. Clean And Lubricate The Tent Zip

If the zipper track has some sand or mud on it, it can become stuck. To get the zipper unstuck, do the following:

  1. Get a Q-tip or toothpick and some lubricant out from your tent repair kit.
  2. Apply the lubricant along the zipper track and use the Q-tip or toothpick to get it inside the zipper slider. This should help to get it moving along the track!
  3. Clean the zipper track with a damp cloth so that it does not get stuck again.

5. Straighten The Zipper Teeth With Pliers

A tent zip may get stuck if one or more of the zipper teeth are bent. To fix this problem, follow these steps:

  1. Open the zip fully.
  2. Inspect the zipper teeth – look for bent ones.
  3. Use your pliers to straighten the bent teeth gently. Be careful not to be too forceful!
  4. Then try to close the zip to see if the problem is fixed.

6. Replace The Zipper Slider

With a good tent repair kit, replacing the zipper slider on your tent is a piece of cake (a slightly fiddly one, perhaps). Get your pliers out and use a head torch to see what exactly you are doing.

Follow these steps to replace the zipper slider:

  1. At the ends of zipper tracks are little rectangular bits of plastic called stoppers. They prevent the zipper slider from coming off the ends of the track. First, you must remove the stopper.
  2. In tents (especially good quality ones), the stoppers are usually sewn in. Use your pliers to pry the seam apart, exposing the zipper stopper carefully. Then slide the stopper off the track.
  3. With the stopper gone, getting the zipper slider off the track is easy. Slide the zipper off the end of the track if possible.
  4. If the slider is stuck, use pliers to pull the slider along gently. If the tent fabric is stuck in the slider, you may need to use the pliers to bend it open.
  5. Get a new zipper from the tent repair kit. It should be a similar size and type to the original one. Generally, tents have a medium-sized zipper. If unsure, slide a few onto the zipper track to see which one fits the best. There should not be too much friction between the slider and the teeth of the track.
  6. With the zipper fob facing the inside of your tent, slide it onto the track, pointy side first (if you slide it on the other way around, it won’t work). If necessary, use a pin to push the hemmed fabric through the slider until it gets to the teeth of the track.
  7. Replace the zipper stopper on the end of the track. With the new slider fully on the track, give it a test run. Pull the slider along the track until the zip closes 2 or 3 inches.
  8. If it works, use a needle and thread to sew the stopper back in.
  9. If you were unsuccessful, try using a different size slider. Hopefully, this will work!

Get A Pro To Fix A Tent Zipper With Missing Or Broken Teeth

Sadly, there is no quick or easy fix for a zipper with missing or broken teeth. To fix this issue, you must replace the entire zip, track, and all.

If you are confident in your sewing skills, get a new zip from a haberdashery and replace it yourself. Be aware that sewing tent fabric is very different from sewing other fabric. Because it is so light, it isn’t easy to work with.

The best thing to do is to take your tent to a tailor and have the zip professionally replaced. The cost of having the zipper replaced is a lot less than a new tent!

Use A Product Designed To Fix A Separated Tent Zipper

Because broken tent zippers are such a prevalent issue, products have been designed specifically for the purpose of fixing tent zippers! FixnZip® is an award-winning product that is affordable and easy to use.

FixnZip is a zipper replacement that requires no sewing or tools to install. Whether the zipper slider needs replacing or the zipper teeth are coming undone, this product will fix the problem. In fact, if it does not work, you can send it back, and the company will give you a full refund.

FixnZip is easier to install before the tent has been set up because there is less tension. The product will start anywhere along a zipper track, so you do not have to worry about getting the old zipper slider unstuck.

Look at the zipper from the inside and the outside of the tent to see which side the zipper teeth are visible on. Start by loosening the thumbscrew, and slide both sides of the zipper track into the FixnZip. The thumbscrew must be on the same side as the zipper teeth.

When both sides of the track are in the device, tighten the thumbscrew all the way and then loosen it about a quarter of a turn. Then slide the FixnZip down the zipper track. The zip should close as you slide it down the track.

If the zipper teeth come undone behind the FixnZip, slide it back to where the opening starts, tighten the thumbscrew slightly and try again. Pinch the FixnZip between your thumb and index finger, slightly squeezing as you pull the slider along.

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Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website

James has been escaping to the outdoors for as long as he can remember. This first started in family camping trips but soon turned into adventure camps and hiking through the Scottish Hebrides. Now he has turned towards trying to make camping more comfortable and accessible.