How do you choose a durable, repairable suitcase ?

Packing a new suitcase before each departure? No, thank you! To avoid this, follow the guide to durable and reliable luggage and find a range of robust, reliable and repairable luggage with the LONGTIME® label.

Globe Trotter, adventurer or occasional traveller, the departure is approaching and your old suitcase is giving out on you or you need to get equipped. But with so much on offer, rigged comparisons and huge price differences, it's hard to find your way around. Don't panic, we'll help you decipher this product category!

As you will have noticed, the range of luggage on offer is vast in terms of diversity, brands and price ranges. And that goes for hard-shell suitcases too! With so many products to choose from, it's hard to know which are the best suitcases on the market.

The rest of this article focuses on hard-shell luggage. However, many of the same points apply to soft suitcases and travel bags.

Because we think that knowledge is power, we get a little technical. If the rest of this article seems a little complex, simply put your trust in the LONGTIME® label. A range of reliable, sturdy cases that can be repaired for life has been awarded the LONGTIME® label after being independently assessed against our 41 sustainability criteria.

How to check the reliability and sturdiness of a hard-shell suitcase?

If you want to make the most of your trip, without worrying about luggage problems, it's important to understand the factors that will influence the lifespan of your suitcases. That way, you can choose products that suit you perfectly.

Let's face it, suitcases are products destined to suffer, and not just a little!
Air travel is particularly trying, and some suitcases are even out of use on the first trip. These products will also be exposed to the elements, including rain.

Here is a small list of points to which you should pay attention:

  • Examine hull quality
  • Checking the reliability of the telescopic handle
  • Zipper evaluation (capital)
  • Check wheels, castors, wheel supports and wheel forks
  • Testing carrying handles

When we talk about hard-shell suitcases, which products are we talking about?

There are various models of hard-shell suitcases, including :

  • cabin luggage (under 55 cm)
  • medium-size rigid cases (60 to 69 cm)
  • large rigid suitcase (70 to 79 cm)
  • xl or xxl suitcase (80 cm and over)

If you have to travel by plane, check the conditions imposed by your airline for transporting your baggage. In particular, look at the size, height and weight of baggage allowed.

Have you chosen the right size and format? Perfect;

Let's take a look at some of the technical points and features of our hard-shell suitcases, to make sure you're making a safe and reliable purchase.

The best hulls for rigid cases in terms of reliability and sturdiness.

In terms of design, a rigid suitcase is a relatively simple product at first glance. Nevertheless, we recommend that you take the time to take a good look at the shell and check a few things. If necessary, don't hesitate to ask the seller any questions.

The shells of rigid cases can be made from a variety of materials. As is often the case, the price of the suitcase will be directly related to the quality of the materials used. We'll take a closer look at the different materials available on the luggage market below;

Ideally, the shell of the case should be slightly flexible so that it doesn't break under heavy strain. The hinges should also inspire confidence. Although a suitcase is not a product that can be opened and closed like a door, the hinges will also be subject to a great deal of stress;

Another point to bear in mind is that some suitcases are equipped with corner protectors. These 'bumpers' are useful for preserving the integrity of the case or bag;

How do you check the sturdiness and repairability of wheels on hard-shell suitcases?

Rigid-shell cases are always fitted with multi-directional wheels. Wheels or castors are very important points of fragility on suitcases. Don't compromise on quality.

Suitcases generally have 4 wheels or 4 pairs of wheels. The rolling part is generally made up of:

  • a mounting plate with pivot pin
  • a fork (wheel support)
  • rotational or rolling bearings
  • wheels

Each of these four elements can be broken down qualitatively, and our study has highlighted several recurring shortcomings:

  • Pulling out the board

A critical failure is when the mounting plate tears away from the hull. If the hull is damaged, there's not much you can do about it. In a less serious case, the axle pivot may have broken or bent.

Tip: Before buying a case, take a close look at the design and check whether the turntable can be accessed from inside the case using zips on the lining, for example. Ideally, the turntable is attached to the shell by easily removable screws;

  • Breakage of wheel support fork

Common on poor quality wheel supports. This problem does not necessarily mean the end of your luggage's life if the manufacturer has spare parts available;

Tip: Check the thickness and perceived quality of the wheel fork.

  • Degraded tread

Suitcase wheels are almost always designed to run on very smooth surfaces. If you are a frequent traveller, or if you cover a lot of distance on station platforms, the surface is likely to deteriorate very quickly. The reduction in the thickness of the rubberised tread is a phenomenon that is increasingly present on the market, so don't hesitate to compare.

  • Worn or damaged bearings

Necessary for the rotation of your wheels or castors, bearings invariably deteriorate. Wear is increased by water, dust, fibres, vibrations and shocks.

Tip: The size of the wheels is another small indicator that can tell you a lot about the quality of the products you're looking at. If the XXL suitcase is equipped with the same small wheels as the XXL suitcase, you can be sure that the wheels are of the highest quality; It's not a good sign that your hand luggage has more wheels than your cabin bag. Using wheels that are really sized for the weight the suitcase will carry is a sign of quality;

How to check the reliability and repairability of a telescopic handle?

Generally speaking, on all manufactured products, position transformation mechanisms (folding, unfolding...) and locking mechanisms are always sensitive points in service life.

The telescopic handle is no exception to the rule, and its fragility is well known on rigid cases.

Instant de vie: It's vacation time, your suitcase is packed, but you're late as usual! You rush to catch your train, but by the time you get to the bottom of the building, there's no way to fold the telescopic handle on your suitcase! Yes, you're right, you've been there.

Two factors directly influence the quality of telescopic handles on luggage that has them:

Telescopic handle materials

Whether it's a telescopic cane (one tube) or a telescopic handle (two tubes), two materials are commonly used: plastic or aluminum.

Over time, aluminium holds up much better overall than plastic. It is better quality, more rigid and tolerates wide variations in temperature better.

Telescopic handle folding mechanism

The telescopic handle's folding mechanism consists of a knob, a return rod, an activation mechanism and a lug.

When you press the button, you activate a small device that unlocks the retaining lug by means of a return rod. The extendable handle is now unlocked and can be folded away.

This little rod of return is a small critical part at the origin of many failures. Ideally, it should be made of metal or composite materials, and plastic should be avoided;

Likewise, choose suitcases with metal lugs, which are sturdier than plastic locking lugs.

How to check the strength of the zipper?

The zips on suitcases are extremely critical. In the event of failure, they cannot be replaced and often mean the end of your product's life.

Zips are friction parts. As the zipper opens and closes, the friction of the teeth wears away the material to the point where the zipper can no longer hold;

From the outset, we recommend that you choose a steel zip rather than a plastic one. Steel zips are far more durable than plastic ones.

What materials should you choose for a hard-shell suitcase?

The durability and resistance of different types of rigid hull materials.

Having trouble understanding the price differences between certain suitcases? The composition of their shells may help. Here's a quick review of the different materials and their qualities:

  • Aluminum: At the very top of the ranking, aluminum is a must for a rigid suitcase. Although lightweight, aluminum is still heavier than composite cases. Another minor inconvenience is that aluminum is not a flexible material, and marks from knocks and bumps will quickly accumulate on your suitcase.
    Last but not least, the price of aluminum cases is clearly not for everyone!
  • Polypropylene: Another material with excellent mechanical properties, polypropylene, particularly 100% virgin polypropylene (which does not include recycled material), is a dense plastic that is not sensitive to temperature variations (in-flight aircraft holds are very cold).
    Polypropylene, on the other hand, is a technical material where it is more difficult to achieve design results. But is this the priority?
  • Polycarbonate: This plastic has the advantage of allowing more technical renderings, shapes and effects. In terms of durability, it lags behind polypropylene because it is more sensitive to temperature variations.
  • ABS: This is an older plastic whose mechanical properties are less suited to suitcases. It is sensitive to temperature variations and tends to crack or break easily.
  • Mixed: Mixed materials belong to another category of materials. There are as many compositions and recipes as there are suitcases. Beware, too, of the introduction of recycled material: while this is desirable from an environmental point of view, in terms of durability it may reduce the mechanical properties of the material in question.

To ensure the quality and durability of your case, the shaping of these materials requires considerable technical know-how and strict adherence to rigorous processes. Overheated manufacturing moulds due to an excessively high production rate will have an impact on all the mechanical characteristics of the material, no matter how good it is;

What price should I invest in a hard-shell suitcase?

How much does a quality hard-shell suitcase cost?

In the luggage market, price ranges are very wide, but so are the variations in quality. It's not an easy question to answer. Basically, the price of a hard-shell suitcase will first be influenced by its size.

Secondly, the price of your suitcase will be largely influenced by the quality of its materials (shell, telescopic handle, wheels) and by the quality of its design and production.

Last but not least, fashion and design can have a direct and important influence on the price of your suitcase. If you read the above paragraphs, you'll understand the price differentials that can exist between hard-shell cases. But don't forget that the difference in lifespan is also potentially significant.

NB: Technical support and customer service will also have an impact on the price of the product. Don't dream: on most entry-level "no name" products, you won't find any spare parts once the legal warranty period has expired. This is particularly true for a product category such as suitcases, as one independent repairer confirms:

"With each new collection, baggage handlers use a lot of new, captive parts. New wheels, new telescopic handles, new zippers. The rotation of collections leads to a rotation of the parts used and a real difficulty in sourcing spare parts."

How to extend the life of your suitcase:

To avoid finding yourself with a limp suitcase on the station platform, here is a short list of tips and basic rules to incorporate to extend the life of your suitcase:

  • Choose materials and products suited to the traveler you are.
  • Choosing the right luggage size for your travels
  • Avoid entry-level products
  • Check availability of spare parts (wheel, telescopic handle, carrying handle)
  • Comply with usage and, above all, maintenance instructions
  • Do not exceed the permissible load in kg
  • Periodically lubricate wheel bearings, telescopic handle and lock.
  • Take great care with your zippers - DO NOT FORCE THEM!
  • Always fold your telescopic handle when parked

If you observe these few basic rules and select a robust, reliable, repairable - in a word, durable - clamshell suitcase, you should be relatively safe.

Close your suitcase with the utmost care:

The zip is a very sensitive point on the case, particularly at the various corners. It is at these corners that tension and tensile forces are at their highest. Over time and with wear and tear, the teeth are likely to break and changing a zip on a rigid suitcase is currently impossible.

To avoid problems with your suitcase zipper:

  • Respect the maximum baggage weight. Anyway, we always take too much stuff with us.
  • Always take the time to open the zipper all the way, to avoid forcing the corners.
  • Periodically, apply a little Marseille soap to the zipper teeth.

Protect the telescopic handle of the suitcase:

Made from telescopic tubing, suitcase pull handles are very sensitive to falls when extended. A slight bend or warp in the handle is all it takes for it to stop working.

To avoid problems with your telescopic suitcase handle:

  • Systematically and completely fold back your handle at transition points
  • Lubricate tubes periodically and check tightness. These tend to unscrew due to vibration.

How to repair your hard-shell suitcase?

You've read our article and chosen a durable suitcase. But despite all your good intentions, your suitcase betrays you! Obviously, the best breakdown is the one that doesn't happen, but no brand is immune to failure and no product is infallible!

Why does my suitcase not roll properly? What should I do if my suitcase lock is stuck? How can I repair the telescopic handle on my suitcase?

Do any of these questions sound familiar? We're here to help!

If you have a problem with your hard-shell suitcase, check the warranties first:

  • If your suitcase is less than two years old, contact the distributor who sold you the product. He is responsible for the 24-month legal guarantee of conformity.
  • If your suitcase is more than 24 months old, check whether you have taken out additional insurance or an extended warranty. You should also check what warranties the manufacturer offers, as these may be higher than the GLC;

Don't panic, some repairs are child's play!

There are several points to check before declaring your product out of service:

  • In all cases, you should first contact the after-sales service of your product brand, either directly with the manufacturer or via your retailer or distributor.
  • Before undertaking any repairs, always check that you have a sufficient knowledge base, or that you have access to repair tutorials.
  • If you have any doubts about your skills, there are specialized repairers who can help you.

How do I change a wheel on my hard-shell suitcase?

The first step is to identify the problem and check whether a repair is indeed necessary:

  • If your wheel jams, meticulously clean the fibers, hair and other dirt that have accumulated around the bearing axle, then introduce a little wd40-type lubricant.
  • If the tread is badly degraded, it's time to change it by dismounting the wheel.
  • If the turntable rotation shaft is bent or broken. Check that it is accessible from inside the case. If so, there are two ways of replacing it. (Screwed or crimped)

How to repair your telescopic handle :

  • If your telescopic handle has difficulty unfolding and folding, lubricate all moving parts.
  • If the handle has fallen off or is bent, replace it. To do this, remove the screws from the inside of the case and replace the handle.

How to repair your hand carry handle :

More rarely, the carrying handle may break. Depending on the situation, you may be able to replace it. The operation will be much easier if you have access from the inside and if the carrying handle is fixed with screws rather than rivets.

Hard-shell suitcase repair tutorial:

If you're a bit of a handyman, you can solve a lot of problems by DIY (self-repair). The Internet is full of instructional videos and there are lots of self-help groups on forums. VoYou'll find valuable advice on how to maintain and use your garden furniture. And don't forget the help you can get from Repair Cafés for small breakdowns.

When it comes to durability, make sure that the manufacturer of your outdoor furniture has a high-quality after-sales service and/or technical support. All LONGTIME®-labeled products are repairable, so don't throw them away;

Guarantees on suitcases and luggage :

We would like to draw your attention to the notion of a guarantee on luggage. Some manufacturers guarantee their products for life. It's a convincing argument, but you have to read between the lines, because this notion has little meaning for this product family.

A manufacturer's warranty protects you against manufacturing defects, but does not protect you against damage (falls, breakage, etc.) or wear and tear (e.g. wheel). Your car may have a 3 or 5 year warranty from the manufacturer, but if you put it in a tree, the warranty won't do you any good. The same goes for luggage.

The vast majority of problems with suitcases are due to the transport conditions of airlines, which often decline all responsibility for damage caused to your suitcase. So make sure that your suitcase is robust enough to withstand the conditions in which it is transported, and that the manufacturer provides the spare parts needed to extend the life of your suitcase.

To sum up, to choose the best hard-shell suitcase :

  • Take stock of your needs and constraints (usage, size)
  • Choose companies and brands with genuine technical support and proven expertise
  • Check the long-term availability of spare parts and their prices.
  • Make sure the suitcase shell is of the highest quality
  • Check that the size of the wheels matches the size of the suitcase
  • Check the quality of the telescopic handle (aluminum), wheel forks and zipper (steel tooth).
  • Try handling the product to perceive its sound and feel the quality of its materials and assemblies.
  • Check component accessibility via internal storage covers

Would you like to buy a reliable, sturdy, durable hard-shell suitcase without a degree in materials engineering, and without reading 10 rigged comparisons?

Take a look at our product directory and you're sure to find what you're looking for!

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