Angie's LIST Guide to
Common luggage complaints
Two of the most common problems with luggage involve transportation: Handles and wheels. Extendable handles, for example, may loosen over time and eventually break, while plastic wheels can crack or come free of the screw holding them in place. Zippers are another problem area, since they can split over time, especially if a suitcase is overly full. If it splits at the base, you'll likely need to replace it. Fabric is the last large issue you'll encounter and the one subject to the most wear and tear. Although luggage fabric is designed to take the kind of abuse that comes with traveling, continually being run over conveyor belts, tossed around by baggage handlers and stored in cargo bays eventually takes its toll.
Smaller issues include side pockets which may come loose or tear, luggage locks that no longer close (or open), or tears to the inside lining of a suitcase or bag. Best case, these issues result in damage to your clothing or other personal items; worst case, they get you stopped by airport security.
Risks of broken luggage
While smaller luggage issues won't keep you from traveling, there are several risks to leaving a problem untended for too long. First and foremost is the one noted above - airport security. More than ever, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is looking for luggage that appears suspicious in any way, and this could include the old leather piece with a broken handle and missing wheel you've been hanging on to for sentimental reasons. If anything appears out of the ordinary with your suitcase, be prepared to have it searched from top to bottom and potentially be refused permission to fly. Along with checking in early and carrying on as much as you can, making sure you pack smartly - in part by keeping your luggage in good shape - is a top travel tip.
Lost items are also a concern. The "small rip" along a seam can quickly become a big problem if your luggage gets jostled during a flight and could result in you losing any or all of your possessions. The same goes for broken zippers - if one that's been straining finally splits, the entire contents of your suitcase could end up on the tarmac. Theft, meanwhile, is a risk no matter how well maintained your luggage may be, but increases substantially if your suitcase is already damaged. Broken locks or obvious holes in your luggage make it easy for thieves to get in and get out - and you may have no idea anything's gone until you reach your destination.
Luggage repair options
Your first choice for luggage repair is to not bother - instead, you can purchase a new set. This may be cost effective if the suitcases you own aren't particularly well made or if you've had them for over a decade. You can also tackle some minor repairs on your own. Handles and wheels may be purchased from travel supply stores, found online or cannibalized from other pieces of luggage, while zippers and fabric are often sold at local craft shops. For handles and wheels you'll need a screwdriver and some patience, while for fabric rips or zippers, sewing skill (and a lot more patience) is required.
Manufacturers are another option. High-end luggage may come with a warranty for a certain period or against certain defects. Contact your manufacturer and see what kind of service they offer. They may ask you to send them the luggage for repair or may offer a refurbished piece. Others will direct you to an authorized dealer who can repair your suitcase without voiding the warranty. You can also take your luggage to a specialty repair shop; these are often found in or near airports, though some local malls may have them alongside travel stores. Other shops - for example, camping or shoe stores - may have a service to repair bags or luggage.
Luggage takes a great deal of abuse - from being overstuffed, pulled along concrete and thrown into cargo bays - and will eventually start to wear. Depending on how much you've paid and what (if any) warranty you enjoy, you maybe decide to repair, refurbish, or completely replace your luggage.