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Portugal, we loved you, but my suitcase wheels didn't

I would have liked to simply add a comment to a post from November that had luggage reviews from the New York Times. But, the topic has been closed.

After almost 4 weeks of cobblestones in Portugal, I have a wonky wheel on my Travelpro, 2 wheeled suitcase. Will it last another almost 4 week trip? Not sure I want to take that risk. I think my suitcase is within the 5 year warranty, but I don't see the wheels on the online parts list. To be fair, hours of cobblestones is a lot to ask of suitcase wheels, but I will see if I can reach Travelpro tomorrow. I believe I bought the suitcase for about $80, maybe even less. It was halfprice at Macy's, and many would say I got my money's worth. I just ordered another Travelpro from Macy's for $115, more than half off, if their pricing means anything. My problem is that the rest of the damaged suitcase honestly looks brand new. I also have another suitcase, same size, looks brand new with a broken wheel. It just feels so wasteful. I do use them for domestic road trips, but it would take a lot of those to wear out these suitcases.

Meanwhile, my husband has a junky Nautica suitcase I bought at least 15 years ago for about $35 at TJMaxx for one of my kids to abuse. Husband keeps using it hoping it will die a natural death. It looks awful, but the wheels are in great shape. He claims he looks like a veteran traveler.

Also, not that interested in starting another 4 wheel vs. 2 wheel debate, but I am interested in people's experience with 4 wheeled suitcases on brick/cobblestone/uneven pavement, for say longer stretches of time. Like 3/4 mile back and forth to a train station, several times, over the course of a trip.

Posted by
27338 posts

I've had wheels fail even on two-wheel bags after an airline bent the frame of the bag just enough that the wheels couldn't roll properly, so they wore out quickly. That aside, my worst experience was with a spinner bag, one of whose wheels failed on Day 90 of use, and a second of which (after I rotated them) failed on Day 120. The bag got through the previous, 88-day trip fine. Perhaps the airline did something to the frame of that bag on the Trip 1 return or the Trip 2 outbound leg. I loved that bag; it weighed about 3-1/2 pounds at about 24".

I've always lifted my wheeled bags up and down stairs and curbs, but now I also lift them over short patches of cobblestones and go more slowly if there's a longer stretch of cobbles than I can manage without using the wheels. I have no idea whether any of those techniques will really matter, but I think they'll probably extend the life of my cheap bags. Still, I think there's luck involved, as well as quality of the hardware.

My last bag failure was due to a handle that stopped extending and retracting--I suspect due to airline mishandling.

Posted by
3930 posts

What I like about the four wheeled suitcase is that you can roll it right next to you or pull on its two wheels. Best of both worlds.

Posted by
15525 posts

There are pros and cons to all types of bags. It's really personal preference.

Posted by
5901 posts

@Frank, I agree. However, before I consider a 4 wheel again (which my elbows and shoulders loved) I'd like to get feedback from people that use their luggage like we do. Which would be lots of walking over less than perfect pavement vs. walking thru an airport. @Barbara, I can't dispute the ease of the 4 wheel suitcases, but I'm not sure they are up to the use they'd get from me. I had one, it was a respected brand and it barely made it thru a 4 week trip. Obviously, we are talking a sample size of 1, but for me, it seems risky. The two wheeled Travelpro did make it thru at least 24 weeks of travel.@Ann, I babied this last suitcase carrying up curbs and stairs and sometimes over cobblestones. I am glad that it did make it thru the trip.

Also--super interested in any uses folks have found for broken wheeled, otherwise in great shape luggage. I don't consider myself that old, but I do remember a time when suitcases did not have wheels. Can you imagine?!

Posted by
15974 posts

Jules, contact Luggage World to see they can repair your wheel. There's one in St Louis Park.

https://www.luggageworldmn.com/luggage-repair

Fortunately, our 2-wheeled TravelPro bags have held up well over 16 years of abuse but if they develop an issue, this is where we'd take them. :O)

Posted by
177 posts

We've broken wheels before and have called the manufacturer (in this case, Heys) directly. They were happy to sell us wheels that we easily replaced ourselves.

Posted by
5901 posts

@Kathy, I'll give Luggage World a try. I believe I called them when the first suitcase's wheel broke and replacing it didn't make any sense. When I looked at Travelpro's website today, my model, 3 series, wasn't even in the list for replacement parks. I'm pretty sure that I have had the suitcase just over 4 years, so, in theory, parts should be available. I'll called Travelpro and Luggage World tomorrow.
@Abby, I explored the idea of replacing the wheels ourselves when the last suitcase needed a new wheel. The problem was, at least for that suitcase, the wheels were attached with grommets as opposed to screws.

Posted by
27338 posts

If you decide on a spinner, do try to test out your choice before buying it. I took one to Italy for a month earlier this year, and that thing did not roll easily through the outbound airport before the airline guys had even touched it. It rolled, but it tended to be squirrelly, so it took extra pressure from me with my hand held in a slightly odd position to keep it going straight. That was a Ricardo bag, inexpensive enough that I'm sure they cheaped out on the wheels. I'd be shocked if a new TravelPro bag or something of that ilk performed as badly.

The wheels on the aforementioned bag made it through my trip fine, other than the rolling difficulty I had from the beginning, but I only had four hotel stays. I did have to traverse some rough pavement on three of those stays, however.

I've never had a problem pulling a bag behind me, but I know some people do.

Posted by
2712 posts

All TravelPro bags are not the same. Like many companies they have various levels of quality and that is reflected n the price. We have the Crew line and have beaten them badly in Europe without a hitch. But they are 3 times as costly as yours. Another brand we favor is Briggs & Riley. Those too have served us well. We only take spinners now as my shoulders and back can’t tolerate the two wheeled variety. But invest in a high quality bag and you should not have problems with the wheels.

Posted by
7388 posts

Hi Jules, I’ve always used a 2-wheel carry on - an Eddie Bauer Expedition 21. The wheels are very sturdy. I still carry my suitcase over the worst of the cobblestones but that’s mainly to avoid the locals from having to hear that clacking noise. I rarely take a taxi, and I switch hotels often (about 12 on my last June trip), so my suitcase was really getting a good workout each year!

I did see a small broken wheel from a 4-wheel spinner at the curb of the Milan Central train station. I hoped it was at their end of the trip, not the beginning!

I actually have switched to a backpack for my next trip - the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L. The main reason is because the last two times I flew out of the Spokane airport- small planes, someone tried to jam their suitcase into the small overhead tiny bins with mine, and they were pushing against the side of my wheel bracket which would have bent it if I hadn’t stopped them. I’m not going to chance having that happen a third time! Plus I pack really light, so the Cotopaxi will be fine.

Posted by
5634 posts

Jules, Please post back if you are able to get the wheels from travelpro and how much they cost.

I have a 2-wheeled travelpro maxlite (version 1) which is 12 years old. It is still in great shape and I’ve had no problem the wheels (and they survived Portugal last year). I originally bought the Travelpro because the wheels could be replaced, but I haven’t needed to replace them.

The newer Travelpro Maxlites are more than a 1.5 lbs lighter than mine and I am wondering what they changed to make the bags lighter, I’ve always thought that if my bag ever breaks, I’d probably get a newer one to take advantage of the lighter weight.

Posted by
784 posts

I given old suitcases to my neighbor, who travels frequently to El Salvador & needs the extra space! No idea where they go from there.... Yes, I agree about the waste. I've had a wheel for my 2-wheeled Swiss Gear repaired at a cobbler, BUT it cost $80 & lasted only 3 RT to Sweden without any cobblestones. (Swiss Gear had great warranties, no longer that I can find.) Now ordered same wheels from Amazon for $20, will try a local Swedish cobbler who says he can repair it easily IF the wheels fit.... Sigh.

Will it last another almost 4 week trip? Not sure I want to take that risk.

Nope, I wouldn't risk it.

Meanwhile, my husband has a junky Nautica suitcase I bought at least 15 years ago for about $35 at TJMaxx for one of my kids to abuse. Husband keeps using it hoping it will die a natural death. It looks awful, but the wheels are in great shape. He claims he looks like a veteran traveler.

Hilarious! Unlikely to ever have anything stolen....

Posted by
15974 posts

Jules, is your case any of the models listed for these replacement parts?

https://www.flightattendantshop.com/76mm-in-line-skate-wheels-black/

They have other parts as well:
https://www.flightattendantshop.com/replacement-wheels/

I'd heard about people replacing their suitcase wheels with inline skate wheels - even taking the case to an inline shop for the replacement work - but don't know anyone personally who has done it. Just as a followup, yes, we've dragged our Travelpro 2-wheelers over all sorts of ugly, sometimes pretty long distances of nasty. I'm surprised they've held up as well as they have (knock on wood!)

Like Frank said, 2 wheels or 4, there's no wrong answer as long as it works for you personally.
Yep, give a shout back how it all shakes out for you? 🤞

Posted by
5901 posts

We got home from Portugal last week ,and I'm leaving again next week for my son's in Seattle. Thus, I've had the opportunity to access our collection of suitcases and the wheels. Looking thru our "stash", the older the suitcase, the better condition of the wheels. We have the very first set of wheeled suitcases we purchased, a large bag that can be checked and a smaller roll aboard. Unfortunately, the roll aboard is too small for my use. The wheels on this old set look great just like the wheels on my husband's hideous suitcase.

But, back to the issue at hand. I know I've had the Travelpro less that 5 years. But, parts are no longer available from Travelpro. I guess that is what happens when a discontinued item is purchased. It is not possible to reach Travelpro by phone. Customer needs to fill out the online form and wait for them to call. I'm not holding my breath. Yes, my suitcase is the cheapest Travelpro line, but it does/did have a 5 year warranty.

I talked to Luggage World. Repair with them sounds promising. I got the impression that they have a whole bunch of assorted wheels and wheel units. I am now remembering I talked to them when the wheel on my spinner broke. That suitcase has grommets and they said it would likely be an expensive repair. My Travelpro wheel units have screws. I'm hopeful they can fix it. I will also bring the spinner given I'm already making the trek. I never bothered before because Luggage World is on the other side of the metro area from me, and it didn't sound like it would be an easy/inexpensive fix.

We have found some use for suitcases with broken wheels. When my daughter moved to Honolulu for grad school, she took my son's enormous spinner suitcase with a broken wheel. Three of the wheels functioned so she was able to push it through the airport. After she was moved in, she tossed it in the garbage. I will talk to the folks at church who travel to Africa and South America for mission work.

Posted by
5901 posts

UPDATE:
I took Kathy's recommendation and tried out Luggage World in St. Louis Park, MN. It's a great place for travel geeks with lots of luggage and travel "stuff". The staff is quite friendly and knowledgeable. They were able to put a new wheel on my TravelPro suitcase for $25. They were not able to fix my other suitcase. So miscellaneous comments from their staff:
1. People need to clean around their luggage wheels. They pick up hair (Bluck!!) and other stuff that impede their performance.
2. For folks that bring back fragile items including wine and olive oil (like me!) the hard cases aren't any better than the soft cases. Key is appropriately packing.
3. A GOOD quality 4 wheel suitcase isn't any more fragile in terms of the wheels than a 2 wheel. They are the experts, but still not sure I agree. Or, at least the way we use luggage which includes a lot of walking over cobblestones.
4. Luggage became less durable when manufacturers needed to reduce the weight when airlines started to charge for 50+ suitcases and for functionality of carryon luggage.

I like your husband’s attitude about “veteran traveler.” I have a couple of old beater cases. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix (or replace) it.”

Probably less likely to get stolen. Also, ease of mind - nothing to worry about. Rain, banged around, handle damage … who cares! Just use it and sling it around at will.

Posted by
5634 posts

$25 is a great price. Glad you were able to get it repaired.

Posted by
6793 posts

Jules, I will definitely check out Luggage World on my next trip down to the Cities. I'm always looking for a good place to geek out over travel stuff. :)

FWIW, I got a new TravelPro Maxlite 5 spinner carry-on last year and took it to Germany. I gave my previous Maxlite 4 to my daughter, as it was still in great shape. I just wanted something lighter. At any rate, I was in Germany for a month and traveled by public transportation the whole way. I dragged, bumped, rolled, and flung that bag through most of Germany, including over many cobblestone streets. The biggest abuse it got was at the train stations when I had to constantly walk or run up and down concrete steps with my bag to get to a different track. I did this over and over and the bag worked like a charm. I had no problems with the wheels or anything else.

I took it again this year to Scotland, although it did not get as much abuse as I had a rental car most of the time. But it's still kicking strong!

Posted by
105 posts

A little late to the party but.........

On a RS Southern Italy tour we had to walk far distances from where the bus let us off to our hotels. We were on cobblestone and uneven terrain most of the trip. There was a man on our tour whose spinner wheel could no longer take the abuse and it broke into pieces. This poor man had to roll it on the remaining two wheels worried that they too would break or had to carry the suitcase. He ditched the broken spinner for a 2-wheeled bag as soon as he could and used it for the remainder of the trip.

I love my spinners and use them domestically and on short-haul trips but when it comes to Europe--I drag out my old 2-wheeled carryon luggage!

Posted by
5901 posts

Robin, I'm so inclined to agree with you. The employee at Luggage World was stressing it was all about purchasing quality with a good guarantee. Maybe, but I'm so often burned on a guarantee. A guarantee is only as good as the company, and I've already been burned on a guarantee on my spinner, and on this Travelpro, the company should have provided the wheels, but they said the model was more than 5 years old. Yes, but I had for less than 5 years. Whatever. . . .

Posted by
15974 posts

Very good to hear that Luggage World was able to fix your Travelpro, Jules! Honestly, we love our 16 year-old 24" 2-wheel models so much that I hold my breath every time we travel that the wheels will hold 'cause they don't make that particular model anymore. We have abused the you-know-what out them (!!!) but they're still going strong. Interesting what they told you about luggage becoming less durable over time.