As my own children have begun to get a little older and have become more interested in, quite frankly more interesting toys, I’ve occasionally had to repair them as they’ve suffered the odd mishap.
I enjoy repairing toys and sharing the repair experience with the owner. Looking after things and learning how stuff works from a young age will help nurture the beginnings of the engineers and scientists of tomorrow, so it’s vital that children start wielding screwdrivers as soon as they show an interest.
Through a local Worthing-based dads and children’s play group called Dad La Soul/ Don’t Believe The Hype, I’ve recently begun offering a broken toy repair surgery. Children can bring in broken toys and together we can work out what the problems are and how to fix them.
This 4×4 push-along toy had suffered a road traffic incident which had left it missing one of its front wheels. With only three wheels, it wasn’t going far.
Luckily, the axel and wheel stub were only push fitted on, so after taking the axel off, it was just a matter of applying some strong glue to the broken parts and leaving the wheel somewhere still and safe, while the glue set.
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, toy 4×4, wheel glueing.
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, toy 4×4, base.
For light ABS plastic like this, I like using Gorilla glue, which seems to work well. It won’t work for all plastic types, but it’s non-toxic and will be safe and strong for this application.
After the glue was set and dry, the wheel just simply pushed back on, ready for more ‘ragging’ around the floor.
Cost of replacement: £any. Cost of repair: 1 x dab of glue.
Time taken to repair: 20 minutes (plus glueing time).
A friend mentioned that their son’s Lumie Bedbug lamp was intermittently working and that it was shortly going to be visiting the bin if it didn’t buck its ideas up.
Er, no I said.
The bug night light was meant to glow orange, once switched on, but it only lit up when the cable was wobbled about.
The power connection on this model is a standard USB (B) connector, the ones commonly used to charge Android phones. If the power lead was faulty, it would be easy to find a suitable replacement.
The bug comes apart by removing the silicone outer layer and releasing the tangs holding the two halves of the bug together. One screw holds the PCB in place and once removed, the whole thing comes to pieces.
The USB socket was a little out of shape, presumably from some rough handling. A quick nip with a pair of pliers and it was back as it should be.
The plug was also a little out of shape, but with a bit of careful re-shaping, it fitted the socket perfectly.
Once reassembled, reconnected and powered up, the bug glowed without flickering. Result.
Cost of replacement: £50. Cost of repair: One tea and one custard cream, that I made myself.
A bit of TLC to bring a scooter back from the brink.
We were very lucky to be given a ‘micro style’ JD Bug scooter for one of the kids, by a kind neighbour. It features mini wheels, a solid metal foldable frame, which makes for easy portability and height adjustable handles. It’s easy to see why loads of kids have these scooters as they’re easy to ride and very manoeuvrable.
This one had been well used, but had been kept clean and tidy. However, before issuing it to the child concerned, it needed a few ‘bugs’ addressing.
First and foremost was the wheels. Both wheels are fitted with standard skateboard bearings (a total of four). Both wheels were noisy and tight when spun, which would affect speed and handling of the scooter. Now, I might eventually change the bearings as they’re pretty cheap and easy to obtain, but for now, I just removed the wheels, popped out the bearings and regreased them, once I’d removed the dust cover. Refitted, they sounded much better.
Next was the frame and the locking mechanism. It was rattly and weighward which again would have affected handling. After a light application of spray white grease and a small adjustment to the lock, the frame was much more rigid.
The last thing was the headstock, which is similar to those found on a bicycle. This one sounded hideous and clearly had no lubrication whatsoever. Again, access was straightforward and just involved basic tools, although I did have to dig out my 36mm spanner- serious stuff. Just a couple of pinch clamps and two locking nuts held the headstock together and after a clean up with penetrating oil, an oily rag and some new grease, it was as good as new.
So after some light TLC, this scooter was ready for another child to enjoy, for little cash.
Cost of replacement: £40.00 Cost of repair: Some oil, grease and a bit of fettling, one cuppa.
Who doesn’t like a toy robot? I mean, everyone loves a toy robot, especially one with pop up eyes and one that eats coins. No? Well, you’re wrong if you don’t agree!
This is my own Tomy Mr. Money, which I’ve had since about 1988 ish, so it’s getting on a bit. Like me.
Back then, I wasn’t that diligent about leaving batteries in situ for long periods and when I dusted off this piece of retro cool for my daughter to play with, we discovered that the passing of time had not been kind to the old battery or insides. Which was a bit of a shame.
However, I wanted to show everyone that old toys are way cooler than new ones, so out with the screwdrivers, cleaning stuff and hammer (well, not the hammer) to see what could be done.
Luckily for me and Mr. Money, the battery compartment hadn’t fared too badly with just light corrosion to the battery terminals, which soon cleaned off with brake cleaner and some light filing to near good as new standard.
With a new AA battery installed, Mr. Money didn’t really respond that well to having money placed on his hand. In years gone by, a coin placed on his hand would trigger his eyes to open, the hand to raise to his mouth, the coin to be eaten and lips to be licked, as well as doing a little side to side dance. Mr.Money was now looking a bit arthritic. Could it be that new money is a lot lighter than the 1980s money he was designed for or was it just that the battery corrosion had run deeper than first appeared. I suspected the latter.
I took Mr. Money apart and found that the microswitch that triggers the mechanism was corroded and needed cleaning and that some of the moving parts also needed a quick brush up, all of which had Mr.Money back to rude health.
While doing the repair, I decided that it wasn’t obvious how the toy came apart and that some owners might decide to scrap theirs due to similar problems. So, I decided to make a little slide show of the dismantling, to help others. Enjoy.
Cost of replacement: £ priceless/ eBay if you’re lucky. Cost of repair: One IPA beer.
A child’s set of keys gets repaired in the workshop
It makes a nice change to repair something like a childs’ toy. I know that if the repair works out, it’ll usually make someone very happy. However, having just said that, the repair I’m about to discuss, didn’t bring joy for all…
First off, I’ll get a moan out-of-the-way. Too many kids toys take too many batteries – it’s been like that since I was a kid. This does two things; makes the toy expensive to own and damaging for the environment when the batteries expire. Now, I know there are some very cool kids toys that rely on sophisticated electronics to make them work, but manufacturers: Please try to think harder about the toy’s overall impact on the environment and it’s in-life running costs.
OK, rant over.
On with the repair. This kids-chew-musical-keys is supposed to mimic an adults’ set of car keys. It doubles up as a teething chewy thing as well as an imitation car alarm blipper remote fob thing, that plays a tune. Delightful.
This set of keys had stopped playing a tune, when any button was pressed. To some, that might have been a good thing.
The battery compartment contained two LR44 coin batteries. These are found in many items and are readily available, if you know where to look, but are not commonly stocked in supermarkets, where I suspect most people buy batteries.
Taking the batteries out revealed some light corrosion on one cell, but no dramas. The other one was corrosion free. However, a quick test with the multimeter revealed that both batteries were kaput.
I usually keep a pack of LR44s (as one does) in case of toy key emergencies like this and luckily on this occasion, I had two shiny new ones to fit. But, upon installing them, replacing the cover and pressing one of the buttons for the first time there was still no sound. How odd. What I thought would be a quick battery change had escalated in to a full toolkit situation.
Whipping the back of the key fob apart revealed a simple integrated circuit with the battery terminals, all in good condition. The small piezo speaker was held behind the main circuit board and on closer inspection, I saw that one of the soldered connections had broken away from the speaker.
Solder repair jobs like this are difficult as excess heat can quickly transfer from the joint being operated on, to the whole component, causing damage if too much heat is conducted. I had to be careful.
After some careful soldering, the broken wire was reconnected, circuit board re-installed, casing screwed back together and batteries re-fitted. A quick tap of one of the buttons then revealed musical joy. After a couple of presses I then began to regret the repair…
Cost of replacement: Not sure, £5 ish? Cost of repair: A bit of soldering.
I really had no idea that Micro Scooters have been a ‘thing’ for the last few years and as a result, there are lots to choose from on the second-hand market. We picked up a ‘bargain’ for our oldest daughter for a princely sum of £5.00 via a local Facebook For Sale page. With hindsight, it was overpriced.
Just about every part of the scooter was either nasty or plain broken. The handle bar grips were missing, the wheel bearings were all shot to pieces, the steering mechanism seized and the rear brake was missing. The back brake on this scooter type, I’ve since found out, have a habit of snapping off with hard use, so that should have been the clue to the low, low price. But if you read these pages, you know me, I like a challenge.
First step was to address the static wheels. An Allen key holds the wheels on to the stub-axels at the front of the scooter and there’s something similar on the trailing wheel. The bearings on our wheels were beyond a re-grease as they’d appeared to have spent their entire life at the bottom of The Channel.
Luckily, the bearings are easy to replace and good-quality generic items are available on eBay for under £5.00 for a whole set (6 bearings, 2 per wheel).
Next came the handlebar grips. Ours were missing and again, generic ‘copy’ grips are available on eBay which are perfect for the job and are half the price of the original equipment. While I was shopping on eBay, I also found an original Micro Scooter bell. Just the job.
The steering mechanism was next and all it needed was a good clean up and light lubrication with some plastic-friendly white PTFE grease, readily available from Toolstation.
The shabby foot plate area was once baby-blue but had since faded and had evidence of scrapes. It looked a bit sorry for itself. I decided to address this by giving surfaces a good clean up and then key with wire wool. A couple of coats of good quality plastic primer and then a couple of coats of vinyl black paint, which now gave the scooter quite a ‘presence’. I then decided to improve the foot plate ‘grippy-ness’ by applying a custom grip tape design.
Before re-attaching the foot plate back to the chassis, the brake needed to be replaced. As with some of the other fixings on the scooter, the brake’s fixings were so rusty, they needed to be drilled out and replaced. Luckily the new original equipment brake came with new improved fixings which fitted perfectly.
I know what you’re thinking… for £40 more, I could have bought a brand-new scooter and saved myself the bother. At times, I did question my own sanity. But what we now have is a perfectly serviceable, one-off that no one else will have. Can you put a price on that?!
Scalextric C8215 lap counter repaired in the workshop…
First off, I must confess, that this is part of my own Scalextric collection, not part of someone else’s. I’ve always enjoyed slot car racing and a lap counter is an essential addition to anyone who wants to prove that they’re the fastest around the track! Trust me, it can be very addictive, especially when racing against one’s better half.
Anyway, I wanted to share this little repair in the hope that others might benefit.
My once reliable lap counter started to miss laps on lane two at very crucial stages of a race. It started by only happening occasionally before completely missing several laps in a row, forcing a stewards’ enquiry to settle the race finish times. Lane one was fine.
Time to get out the screw driver and delve in to the workings of the timer. Once removed from the main track layout, the back of the unit has a cover which is held in place with six small self-tapping screws. These come undone easily and removing the back reveals two sets of electrical switch contacts, operated by a lever on each track, just under the slot car rails. The idea here is that the slot on the slot car operates the lever as the car passes the lap counter track piece, operating the switches contacts, completing a circuit, thus counting the laps.
FixItWorkshop, Dec’17, Scalextric Lap Counter C8215, gap to big.
FixItWorkshop, Dec’17, Scalextric Lap Counter C8215, gap closed.
FixItWorkshop, Dec’17, Scalextric Lap Counter C8215, screws on back.
Comparing the switch contact clearances, lane one’s was considerably closer than lane two’s. This means that the ‘dwell’ time on lane two’s switch would be less that the switch on lane one, which was working ok, meaning a possible cause of the problem. To anyone who’s adjusted contact breaker points on an old car, you’ll know what I mean here.
I had no idea what the correct clearance should be, so took an educated guess and closed the gap to about 0.5mm, done by eyesight alone. I made sure that both sets of switches were the same (see photos). While I had the counter in pieces, I cleaned the contact surfaces with a little electrical contact cleaner, just for good measure.
After re-assembly and re-fitting to the track, a few test laps with my fastest race Mini, proved that the counter was working as it should once again.
Cost of a replacement counter (second hand) circa £12. Cost of the repair; 10 minutes tinker-time.