DIY : How to repair a telescoping luggage handle — the post I could never find

I want to write the how-to I couldn’t find, in video or otherwise. All of this was much easier than I thought, and I was bummed to have put it off for so long.

I only needed the phillips (+) screwdriver for this Hays luggage.

I will start with the first stage of disassembly: removal of the handle from the telescoping arms. There are two screws on the side. The handle comes off, and the underside will have a few other screws. This allows the handle to come into two pieces.

After removing the handle, the telescoping arms were easy enough to debug. The arms contain a long rod that triggers the arm to collapse or expand.

If this rod mechanism doesn’t work this way for you, then you can probably stop reading here. My problem was in the handle, and the way it depresses the rods.

No handle — each arm correctly reaches midpoint, and full-height extension.

The Broken Piece

This little chunk of unobtanium is why we’re here. It’s what pays for the whole party.

Inside the handle was this piece. One of the ‘arms’ of this piece, on the left in this photo, has a break in it. (You can see the glob there) This piece was just made with weak structural problems, that prevent it from lasting a long time.

The first solution was to place a small metal splint inside the handle. I used a piece of a box cutter blade. Then I liberally added epoxy. I use Brownell’s Acraglas expoxy, because it’s for making gun stock repairs, and that means it is super strong. It is also quite easy to work with. You cannot use white paper glue, wood glue, or similar crafty stuff. You need a real two-part epoxy that comes with safety warnings.

24 hrs later the epoxy was strong, but after reassembling it broke again after a Few uses. So this next set of photos shows a splint that I made and epoxied on. This is the same concept as when you break a bone and get a cast, or rod screwed in.

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How to makeshift a split (a reinforcement)

Not being in a place that I have a workshop, I made do with a plastic spoon from a local dessertery. It wasn’t flat so I started by using matches to heat it to the pre-melt point, and then bend it. This takes some dexterity and experimentation, but anyone can do it if they’re patient. Some plastics will melt quickly; be careful.

Tools used to shape the splint. I used the wood drill-bit by hand to bore the hole out. It may seem like an arduous task, but it really just took a couple minutes while talking with friends. Whittling with an industrial knife requires low pressure, patience, and a box lid to catch the chips. Always cut away from you, and push the back of the blade with the thumb of your other hand. Never muscle with the arm that holds the blade.

(Not pictured) I would stick the end of the plastic in a crack and then try to bend it with one hand, while the other would guide the flame. Be in a well ventilated space.

The aim of the whittling is to get it roughly After whittling, I took the wood drill and made small rotations by-hand, to use the guide-tip to drill a hole. It was slow, but made a precise hole.

Clamping for the Epoxy job

Here is the handle disassembled, and two tools used to shape the now-straight piece of plastic. I whittled the plastic down with the utility knife. I don’t think it’s good to explain here how to safely whittle. But, it’s easy and I’m sure YouTube has someone’s videos that tell the story. Those with medically-weak hands should probably buy a friend a coffee or a drink.

On the paper towel I laid out the tools I used to clamp and hold the splint while the expect was drying. If you don’t have these tools you can use copious rubber bands, giant binder clips, or some string/ribbon. It just has to hold tightly, because this kind of epoxy gluing needs it.

I pre-clamped the pieces to make sure it looked like it was going to work, and didn’t need more heat-bending (it did). I used three clamps because each part needs to be held tightly.

Here is a closeup of the clamped, epoxied splint. You can see the wet epoxy glisten. It’s kind of beaded-up, filling in the corner. This is how much you need all the way around.

The little paper cup holds some matches and a paperclip that I used to mix epoxy and spread it in tiny areas.

After the epoxy was completely dry / cured, I then needed to drill the other holes. I did this after the epoxying, because if I did it before then I would have struggled to get the holes lined up when using the clamps/rubber bands to hold it tightly. Making the holes required I ‘reem’ then out, which means slowly making the hole wider. This means they aren’t perfectly round, but that’s not important in this case.

I just kept putting the fixed part back into the handle, and seeing if it got ‘stuck’ or jammed when moving it. It did, and I had to keep reeming the holes more each time. I also had to whittle down the sides, more. I even had to whittle the underside of the splint. These iterations of whittling and reeming included after I had fit both halves of the handle back together.

This took many iterations, but it made the handle work like new.

If there’s a better guide out there, please comment. Help make everyone’s google-fu better.

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