How To Replace a Zipper in a Jacket or Coat

Update: October 19, 2020

If you read my last post on How Much To Charge To Replace a Zipper, I promised I’d be back to show you how to put in a new zipper.

Here’s the jacket with the broken zipper:

My black jacket-how to replace a zipper in a jacket or coat

On this jacket, the zipper teeth didn’t hold together when the jacket was zipped. Your jacket or coat zipper may have other problems. So, let’s replace the zipper.

broken zipper on jacket, 1393

Before you begin, be sure and choose a zipper that is long enough for the jacket opening.

Try to buy a zipper that is the same length as the current zipper.

If that is not possible, get one that is longer.

You can always shorten the top of the zipper, if you need to and I’ll talk about how to do that later in this post.

Here are two different types of jacket zippers:

2 zippers for jacket, 1410

The zipper on the left is a heavy duty silver metal zipper.

The one on the right is made of durable nylon.

For this jacket, the metal zipper was chosen.

Before you buy the zipper, zip it up and down several times to make sure it doesn’t stick and that it actually works.

You’d hate to sew it in and find out it was defective!

If your zipper tape is wrinkled, you could iron it, but be careful that you don’t hit the teeth on the nylon zippers with the hot iron.

I don’t usually have a wrinkle problem with jacket zippers.

But occasionally, a dress or pant zipper is wrinkled.

Let’s begin.

I start by grabbing my seam ripper and beginning just below the zipper, start taking out the stitches:

ripping out stitches near jacket zipper, 1403

Pull out all of the stitches on both sides of the jacket.

As you can see, in this jacket, there is another row of stitching right next to the zipper tape.

It needs to come out too:

ripping out right next to jacket zipper teeth, 1405

Here is what this jacket looks like as the zipper is being taken out.

I think it’s funny that the manufacturer used pink thread:

zipper almost out of jacket, 1408

Here’s another look… near a snap:

close up of snap on jacket, 1409

I’ll show you how to deal with the snap in a moment.

Before I take the zipper out of the top edge of the jacket, I pay attention to any detail I need to, so that I can put the new zipper back in the same way, if possible.

The zipper tape at the top is usually folded back inside the jacket so it doesn’t show from the outside. (So, if your new zipper is too long, just fold it back and tuck it inside the jacket top before sewing it in. Don’t cut off the bottom of the zipper!)

You can’t see it very well on this jacket, but just take mental notes of your jacket as you disassemble the area:

top of zipper area, 1397

Once you take out the entire zipper, be sure to take out all the loose little threads.

Sometimes, a lint roller is very helpful with this:

lint brush for jacket zipper, 1413

I insert the new zipper making sure the correct side of the zipper is on the corresponding correct side of the jacket and pin it every couple of inches:

lots of pins holding in new jacket zipper, 1414

I like to pin because it anchors the zipper down enough so it doesn’t move as I sew.

If you are uncomfortable doing this, you can always hand baste the zipper in place.

Be sure to pin or baste the zipper so that the zipper slide won’t get caught in the fabric edge when you zip it.

I don’t measure this. I just eyeball it and give it about an eighth of an inch clearance.

Make sure that the lining of the jacket is lined up correctly to before you pin or baste.

You don’t want that bunched up on the back side at all.

Now, let’s talk about the snaps, if you have them.

When you come to a snap, you may notice that the zipper tape doesn’t fit down into the opening too well.

The snap is in the way.

Do you see how the zipper rises too high because of the snap?

zipper teeth above snap on jacket, 1419

I place a pin right next to the snap on the zipper tape (see photo below).

It doesn’t have to be perfect placement as you’ll see in a moment.

You just want a visual marker:

pin marking area near snap on jacket, 1420

Next, with a pair of scissors, notch out a little semi circle on the zipper tape just below your pin, like this:

close up of the curved trimmed out spot on the zipper tape of the black jacket, sewing blog 1421

That semi circle is going to fit around the snap.

Now, remove that “marker” pin.

It has done its job.

Place the zipper tape back in the “hole” and continue pinning:

See how great that looks?

close up of how nice the zipper looks now that i trimmed around the zipper tape and stitched the new zipper in, sewing blog 1422

Your zipper will not pull out because you have that notch. Your stitches will hold it in place.

Once the entire zipper is pinned in, put your zipper foot onto your sewing machine.

I also use a denim weight needle.

They are better suited for a jacket, than an all purpose needle.

Begin stitching and be sure to back stitch so your stitches don’t come out later.

Stitch on the stitching line where the original zipper was, being careful not to run over your pins.

Take them out just before you get to them:

close up showing how I sew the zipper in using the original stitching line, black jacket, sewing blog 1415

When you get to a snap, just stay on course.

You shouldn’t have any trouble staying on the original stitching line.

close up showing how I sew the zipper in using the original stitching line, black jacket, sewing blog 1415

You might think from the photo above that there would be a small pucker.

To avoid that, I just make sure to hold the jacket tightly in front of and behind the zipper foot as I sew.

Let’s look at how that stitching line looks near the snap:

stitching near the snap

When you reach the bottom of the zipper, you’ll notice that the zipper tape has a thick, stiff area about one inch long.

I go slowly over this area.

close up of showing where to stitch slowly over lower zipper tab, sewing blog 1416

Sometimes, I may even “walk” my needle over the stiff area so that I don’t break my needle. To “walk” your needle, use your hand wheel (and keep your foot off of the foot pedal) and turn it towards yourself several times as your needle “walks” over the thick area and then continue stitching as usual.

You may have noticed that the original zipper ended a few inches above the bottom edge of the jacket:

showing the lower end of the zipper and black jacket after the new zipper is sewn in, sewing blog 1412

The new zipper was longer and it fit perfectly into the bottom of the jacket:

view of the very bottom of the zipper tab in my black jacket after the new zipper is in, sewing blog 1417

Remember that second line of stitching that was next to the zipper tape? You don’t need to worry about that.

This one row will hold your zipper in tightly.

Here is the finished zipper:

view of the entire black jacket after the new zipper is in, sewing blog 1427

It’s easy to replace a zipper. It just takes a little time to learn how, but the effort is so worth it!

In addition, if you own your own sewing business and you’d like to know how much to charge for your work, I’ve written a comprehensive E-Book on Pricing that will answer all those pricing questions for you!