Tone-deaf VTECH Singing Nursery Rhyme Book

VTECH kids toy gets a little help.

We love a musical singing book toy, don’t we.  They’re great for encouraging children to form words, read and follow a narrative.  We have a few of these and they’re all great fun, all the time the batteries hold up.

We’re not so fond of musical books when they seemingly start by themselves, at one o’clock in the morning, when there’s no one else in the house.  Very creepy.

Make and model:  VTECH Electronics Singing Nursery Rhyme Book

Fault reported: Poor sound quality

Cost of replacement:  N/A

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About 10 minutes

Tools needed:  Small file, cleaning cloths

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty:  1/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, July’19, VTECH Singing Nursery Rhyme Book.

This toy was a hand-me-down and had enjoyed a few years of use already, before it came in to our household, but it was in good condition and still has many more years left in it yet.

Recently though the singing emanating from the book was becoming a bit off-key and to be frank, rather than bringing joy the noise coming from the toy was enough to induce nightmares.  I keep a ready supply of rechargeable ‘AA’ batteries in this house and after popping out the old ones, the new ones fitted, I assumed all would be well, but not so.

Despite fresh power, the singing was still horrible and wobbly.  A quick test of both sets of batteries (old and new) revealed that the original batteries were fine and that something else was at play.

Time to delve a little deeper.

Galvanic corrosion can occur when two different metals in close contact with each other, chemically react.  The corrosion forms a barrier, in this case between the electrical contacts of the toy and battery to form a resistance.  This means that the toy, with the corroded contacts, wouldn’t get the full power it needed.

There was some minor corrosion on the contacts that needed a quick clean with some cloth and contact cleaner, something I keep on the shelf for such an occasion.

This did the trick and with the original batteries fitted, the toy was back on song once more, ready for another performance.

Musical keys

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.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, kids car keys.

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.

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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.