Destinations Magazine

Fixing a Stuck Handle in Our Backpack - A Lesson in Broken Luggage

By Livingthedreamrtw @livingdreamrtw
How to fix a stuck luggage handle. One month into our year and a half long trip I discovered that my bag had a rather sizable hole where the seams had come undone in the side.  In our last post on this topic we featured the procedure for how we fixed our bag in a rather robust repair that shouldn't fail for the rest of the trip.
Today we're here to say that this particular fix is holding up quite well, but that the rest of my five-year-old backpack is now thoroughly falling apart.  Now we need to decide whether to buy a new bag on the road, order a new piece of luggage online with Argos and get it delivered to us by mail, or try and fix it one more time.
But before we do that, let's see how bad it truly is as you may wind up in a similar situation to us on your next trip abroad.
The New Issues - Holes and a Broken Handle
Dental floss to fix hole in bag
Since we repaired one hole that we found in the bag, another relatively smaller hole has popped up along a new seam.  It is still holding together by a few remaining threads, but will likely become an issue between now and the next plane flight.
As this particular spot is on the top of the bag and not the bottom, we're not going to do the reinforcement route that we detailed in the first post.  Instead, it was just be a quick sew and duct tape job, with using dental floss as our reinforced thread of choice.
The second issue we've had come up is one that required a bit more skill to fix. The handle to the bag has become stuck when in the extended position and will not push back into the body of the bag.
After a quick search, this is an incredibly common issue and is likely due to 1 of 2 reasons:
  1. The shaft on the inside is bent and the retractable rod is having a hard time going back down.
  2. The button on the handle is no longer connecting with the trigger mechanism to lower the rods.
Since fixing #1 is far more difficult, we started our troubleshooting with the second one.
A Broken Trigger Mechanism
How to fix a stuck luggage handle.
To figure out if the triggering mechanism on your bag is broken, it is first necessary to remove the handle.  Often the handle will have a set of screws that need to be removed.  Set the screws aside in a safe place and remove the handle.
If your bag is like ours (High Sierra AT Gear Access Duffel), you may find two internal tubes with a small plastic piece on the end near the handle.  In many cases this plastic piece is the only part of your bag that touches the mechanism controlled by your handle's button.
How to fix a stuck luggage handle.
Push this piece down yourself and see if the handle will move freely.  If this is the case, you probably have a failed triggering mechanism.  Often only one side will be broken and you'll know which if only one side sticks when using it.
If the handle will not go down, well, you've likely got a broken tube and may need to try greasing the pole to see if it'll slide easier (or remove the lining to see if you can find a bent spot).
As our bag had a failed triggering mechanism as discovered in the test we outlined above, we put our duct tape to good use in our fix we're affectionately calling: Plug the hole with duct tape.
How to fix a stuck luggage handle.
The cause of this issue with your bag is likely due to the fact that a piece of the internal tube is no longer coming in contact with the button.  A few layers of duct tape shoved inside your handle will provide that extra contact that you need and will get you through a while longer.

But It Isn't a Permanent Fix

We actually had to go through this method several times as our handle would continue to fail over the period of a few weeks, so it is not the best fix out there.  The problem we came into was that the tape would get compacted or dislodged within the handle and would eventually stop making contact again.

Cue fix number two.
Our second fix for this was not to cram the tape up in the handle itself but rather wrap it around the plastic piece on the long tube located within the support bar.  It'll likely get dislodged a bit, but not nearly as much as loose tape that is piled within the handle. 
How to fix a stuck luggage handle.
But why are we mentioning the first fix if the second one is a better choice?  You'll probably need both to ensure constant contact can be made.
As the room is limited inside the handle space, you only have so many options for where the filler can go.  By filling the void near the button and securing tape onto the handle, the chances of the tape getting out of place should be minimized.  After about 3 weeks, this fix has been holding strong.
The best part about this one in our mind is that the tape can be easily removed, so no permanent changes are done to your bag in case you want to do a more robust fix later on.
Overall, We Have a Failing Bag and That Needs Addressed
The signs are there, and we (and if you're reading this from a search on this topic, likely you too) have a failing bag. 
You're coming to the point where only one thing can help you get over the issues, and that is buy a new bag.
As much as I'm not wanting to spend another $150 to $300 for a durable bag on this trip, that day is approaching fast.  We do not advocate buying cheap knock offs at the central market in your city, as those will fail within just a few weeks; something my parents found out twice on their month-long trip to Europe this year.
So if you tried out this fix, or have another issue you just cannot repair, you may be finding yourselves in a situation where the best outcome is to stop stressing out and start looking into that new bag you've been dreaming of over the past few weeks.
We may be doing that soon as well.
Fixing a Stuck Handle in Our Backpack - A Lesson in Broken Luggage Fixing a Stuck Handle in Our Backpack - A Lesson in Broken Luggage Fixing a Stuck Handle in Our Backpack - A Lesson in Broken Luggage Fixing a Stuck Handle in Our Backpack - A Lesson in Broken Luggage

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