Intro: Fix a Broken Suitcase Strap Bracket
I bought a brand new suitcase to take a family vacation this summer, it two flights for one of the straps designed to hold the contents in place broke. I'm not sure how important those straps are, but it sure seemed a waste for my brand new suitcase to be less than 100% intact, so I reviewed the situation, made a plan to fix it, and got it done. It is a very simple fix, but I was pleased with how well it went, and I was glad to be able to reuse an altoids tin in the process. This basic concept should apply for fixing most plastic bracket that has pulled free of a rivet, particularly on a suitcase. I hope it can help someone else, and it gives me a good excuse to make my first Instructables post.
Step 1: Assess the Damage
Have a look at your broken strap and see what's gone wrong. In my case the plastic bracket holding the strap end had pulled off of the rivet on the suitcase frame. That is a much better situation than if the rivet had pulled through the suitcase frame. Everything is structurally sound, the rivet just doesn't really have a big enough head to allow the plastic bracket to bear much weight. I had a hard time getting a picture of the rivet by itself, but I did my best. Looking at the outside of the suitcase where the other side of the rivet should be coming through I discovered that there was a rubberized strip running all around the outside of the suitcase. Prying up the strap showed the other end of the rivet firmly in place, and measuring it showed me that it was about 1cm wide would be the maximum width for the head of the replacement rivet. Here we have a picture of the bracket with an aching hole where its heart used to be, an out of focus but clearly lonely rivet attached solidly to the suitcase frame, a shot of another bracket still firmly attached to the frame and looking a bit smug, a look at the rubberized strap, and the outside end of the rivet.
What I needed was a replacement for the rivet, and a nice big washer or metal brace to keep the new rivet from pulling through the plastic bracket.
Step 2: Gather Your Materials
After a search through my nuts, bolts, screws and nails collection turned up nothing appropriate, I ran down to the hardware store and picked up some bolts that screw into a sleeve on the other end. Both ends have a head and the inside surface of each head has ridges to help the assembly lock onto what it is being attached to. I don't know what these things are called, and I forgot to get a picture of both sides of one. I decided to forgo the washers in favor of recycling an altoids tin to make a nice wide surface to keep the bolt from pulling through the bracket. I decided on this approach because I've been making an effort to avoid wastefulness whenever possible and because I didn't see anything in the store I really liked. An altoid tin can be cut to fit so it was a good choice. The picture for this step is a horrible shot of the bolt side of the bolt/sleeve assembly described at the top of this step.
Step 3: Prep Your Materials
The bolt/sleeve combo was good to go, so my only prep involved cutting up an altoids tin and drilling holes in things. My original plan was to stick one piece of altoids tin on the outside of the suitcase and one on the inside of the plastic bracket. The groove for the rubberized strip was 1 cm wide and the bracket was 3 cm wide so I cut out two pieces of altoid lid 1 cm x 3 cm. I grabbed the sleeve side of the bolt/sleeve assembly and determined that it fit nicest into a 3/16" hole, grabbed an appropriate drillbit and drilled holes through the center of the two altoid lid pieces. Then I went an drilled a hole in the suitcase next to the old rivet. I placed it close enough that the plastic bracket would cover the old rivet.
Step 4: Assemble
At this stage I decided that the plastic bracket was the weak link, and with the altoids strips being thin and pliable I decided to stick both pieces inside the bracket to strengthen things. I stuck the two altoids strips on the bracket, shoved the sleeve through the holes, and stuck that assembly into the hole I had drilled in the suitcase. I then stuck the bolt through the other side of the hole and screwed them together. I poked the rubber strip back into the groove and it was all done.
Step 5: Review
I haven't has this suitcase on a flight since the repair, and don't have any near term plans to fly, but I'm fairly confident that the other brackets are much more likely to break out than the one I repaired now. I like the way the altoids tin looks inside the suitcase, but it has sharp edges and could snag things and cause damage to the contents of the suitcase so I'll probably end up covering it up with some black duct tape in the end. I hope you'll find this useful in repairing your own damaged suitcase, and please leave feedback to let me know how I could have improved this Instructable, I hope to be able to do some more interesting ones soon.