Waders zips are strong. Treated well they easily withstand more water pressure than some wader material. But they often leak, and I find some anglers have problems with them and some never have an issue.
The sealing surface of the zip is tiny, it is the very thin black strip between the teeth. However it is worth remembering that this thin strip is considerably thicker than the wader material. If a piece of line, grass or your jumper gets stuck in the teeth it will leak. If this happens just open the zip and remove whatever it is. If you leave it in one of two things will happen, either the zip will open in the middle, or it will mark or cut into the thin sealing surface, and either way you wil get wet. It can be fixed, but it is one of the ways to wreck your zip.
Zips are safest when they are closed, it stops any crud getting into your zip, and the zip is supported on each side. Now this is important, keep the zip closed. The only time the zip should be opened is to get into and out of your waders, or taking a pee – and that is it, keep your zip closed.
If you have a minor zip leak, often noticed after deep wading as a crotch leak, firstly fully open the zip and give it a gentle scrub with a tooth brush with a tiny bit of detergent on it, clean the inside, outside and middle of the zip. Then wash it down and it will be just fine.
If you wonder about with the zip open the tape at the sides will fold and have to support the weight of the zip and wader material. This is a really common leak point, normally found 5 – 15 cm from the bottom of the zip and often on one side only.
Grit or other debris on the slider will abrade the very thin black waterproofing layer, normally on one side of the wader only. As soon as you see the white fabric weave underneath the black layer you have a leak. This one is difficult to fix, though I have managed to develop a technique that will normally do it.
If the zip pops open in the middle, it can be fixed, but only by meshing each tooth back one by one. To be honest it does not work every time. The worst thing to do is use silicone spray or WD40. Although this may help lubricate the zip, once this is “in “ the material it impregnates it, and nothing can be glued to it. A wee bit, just a dab of washing up liquid will help, but that is it.
Worst case scenario, knackered zip. Well I can change them. Replacing them can be a tricky job, firstly until recently getting a zip was impossible. Putting them in is not too difficult with the correct tools, glues and tape. Two different solvents are required to clean the old glue off and then to tidy up any mess, but once done a really quite satisfactory job can be made. Compared to a large heavy dive suit zip they are fiddly to fit, but using dive suit techniques and materials the replacement zip may just be the strongest part of the wader!