How To Replace a Worn-Out Snap In 3 Simple Steps

Having trouble with a snap that won’t stay closed? Snap fasteners are widely used on marine applications like boat covers, dodgers and tarps because they are strong and easy to use. However, these high traffic snaps can lose their tenacity over time. It’s a common problem and one that you can easily and affordably fix yourself.

What causes snaps to stop holding? Here’s a little snap anatomy. The stud (bottom) of a snap is often secured into a hard surface, like the side of a boat. It holds the socket (top), which is riveted to the underside of the button cap. Inside the socket is a tight wire spring that expands and contracts around the stud as it is pressed on and pulled off. Eventually, the spring looses its strength, causing the fastener to fail.

Snap Replacement in 3 Simple Steps

1. Determine the size and type of the existing snaps.

There are two main types of sockets: Dot® Durable normal and hard action sockets and Pull-the-Dot® (one way) sockets. The Dot Durable fasteners come in two materials, either nickel-plated brass or stainless steel.

Nickel-plated brass and stainless steel will look alike at first glance. The best way to tell the difference is to remove the socket and cut in half with tin snips. Nickel-plated brass fasteners are visibly brass in color on the inside. Do not mix nickel-plated brass and stainless steel fastener parts.

If using a nickel-plated socket, select between a hard action and normal action snap strength. Hard action sockets require extra force to pull apart, while normal action sockets need only a regular amount of force. Use hard action sockets for applications that need an extra strong hold.

Pull-the-Dot fasteners only open from one direction. You can tell if you have a Pull-the-Dot by looking at the socket for a ramped inside edge (looks like a protrusion). If you are still unsure, look on the embossed cap for the Pull-the-Dot name.

If you are unsure what size cap you need, take a measurement. Dot Durable snap fasteners are the standard size for marine applications with a 5/8-inch diameter cap.

2. Remove the old socket.

Remove the old socket by drilling off the rivet. Use a 3/16-inch drill bit (or another size, as long as it is bigger than the rivet) and drill from the rolled side of the rivet. It doesn’t take much drilling for the button and socket to separate.


3. Install the new socket.

Use a snap fastener installation tool to install the new socket. All you need is a basic installation tool  to do a few snaps. If replacing a large number of sockets or fasteners, you might want to invest in the Pres-N-Snap Installation Tool, which is a professional installation tool that punches the hole and installs the fastener in one step.

Want more how-to advice? See snap fastener installation and other how-to videos at

  1. A great post it is really helpful to be able to not only read how to do something, but to see a video of the actual process. It’s a great idea.
    Sincerely Michae

  2. Nikki said:

    Thanks for reading (and watching)!

  3. George Mac said:

    Good stuff. I learned how to do that as a kid repairing harness straps. Just some better snaps now.

  4. Jeffrey DeLotto said:

    Handy, handy–you guys give us what we need. Keep it up, though I must mention that the stainless button snaps are a beast to roll with the little hand setter.

  5. After I originally commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I get 4
    emails with the same comment. There has to be a way you
    are able to remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!

    • Nikki said:

      I’ll look into that for you!

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