More power please

Does your toy have enough energy?

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, March’20, testing a battery (featuring my retro BT multimeter).

I’m not a fan of batteries. They run out and always when you least expect it.

You know that anything with a battery, will need attention at some point.

Batteries either need to be replaced or better, recharged.

But often, replacement batteries are the only option for toys, which can mean high running costs. Especially when the toy is played with continually by an enthusiastic child owner!

Trouble is, a mixture of built-in obsolescence and poor design means that it’s just not obvious how one replaces duff batteries meaning that, I suspect, lots of toys get thrown away needlessly, but it’s not the owners fault necessarily.

Sadly, some replacement batteries cost more than the toy itself, which is just mad.

Make and model: toy radio control car (no brand or model)

Fault reported: Not working

Cost of replacement: £10ish

Manufacturer support:  0/10

Cost of parts: £5 (batteries)

Hours spent on repair: 30 minutes

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, test meter etc

Sundry items: None

Repair difficulty: 0/10

Cups of tea: 1/2 cup

Biscuits: None

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The owner of this toy had played with it non-stop wearing the batteries out.  Mum and dad had replaced some of the batteries in the car part of this toy, but still the toy didn’t work.  It wasn’t clear to the parents, which batteries in what part of the toy needed to be replaced, which meant that an email asking for help, popped in to my inbox.

At first glance, the car part of the toy had no battery cover or compartment, but on closer inspection, the car separated in to two halves, allowing access to the 4 X AA (1.5V) batteries.  Not a straightforward task for everyone.  Testing each battery revealed that they were all worn with an average of 1.3 volts (much lower under load) each.  I replaced these with fresh ones and put the car back together.  The car’s casing was simply held together with a clip and a couple of small screws.

However, the toy still wasn’t working, time to test the radio controller.  Again, a screwdriver was needed to open the battery compartment to access the battery.  Not all households have screwdrivers (even though I believe they should!).

Testing the 9V PP3/ 6LR61 battery revealed around 3 volts, 6 volts too low.  Again, a new battery got the radio controller working once more.

Doing this ‘repair’ got me thinking.  Batteries can be tricky things to manage.  New ones can go flat when not in use and old ones that have been kicking around in a drawer for a while can be fine to use.  One can replace batteries with ‘new’ ones which are no better than the ones fitted, leading a user to believe that the ‘thing’ must be faulty.  A false positive.

With a little basic training on multimeter use, hours and cash can be saved by testing pesky batteries.  At under £5 for a basic multimeter, it could be money well saved for any household.  Just a thought.

With both car and radio controller switched on, the toy sprung to life.  Of course, I had to test the car thoroughly before handing it back(!).

 

Micro Mini Scooter tune up

A Micro Mini Scooter gets a little TLC

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, March’20, Micro Mini Scooter.

I like Micro scooters and I would have loved one when I ‘were a boy’.  My daughters have them and they love zipping along the pavement on them to school.  The scooters handle well and are well screwed together.  They are also well supported from a spares point of view, so I like them even more.

Make and model: Micro Mini Scooter

Fault reported: Back wheel stuck

Cost of replacement: £55

Manufacturer support:  7/10

Cost of parts: £2.00

Hours spent on repair: 30 minutes

Tools needed: Cleaning tools/ cross-head screwdriver/ Allen keys

Sundry items: Silicone spray/ cleaning rags/ PTFE spray for steering

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: 1

Biscuits: 1 custard cream

The scooter in the picture belonged to my friend’s son who’d taken it through one too many puddles I think, as the rain water had taken its toll on some of the scooter’s moving parts.  Over time, the rear wheel’s bearing had suffered excess water ingress, had rusted and had seized.  I’m always amazed at how ‘stuck’ things can get with only a small amount of rust.

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In their wisdom, Micro have decided to fit their products with generic bearings commonly fitted to skateboards, roller boots, bikes, cars, photocopiers etc, which means that replacement bearings are a doddle to obtain.  I bought some upgraded bearings with better water seals for under £10, so I know that the repair will last longer than the original equipment fitted from the factory.

The front wheels were seemingly fine, so I left them alone. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

On this model, the rear wheel comes off with one Allen key bolt holding a retaining a stub axel, which slides out with a little persuasion.  The bearings just pop out of the wheel using a small screwdriver as a lever and before fitting new equipment, I always clean the area first to ensure that no dirt is trapped, which could cause premature bearing failure in future.

With the new bearings in, stub axel refitted, a quick wipe down with a strong cleaning wipe, a little PTFE lube applied to the scooter’s steering mechanism and it was ready to see another day.

Bonza.

Janod Toy Phone repair/ Une réparation de Janod jouet téléphone

A Janod Toy Phone gets opened up and stuck back together.

There’s always a debate to be had on what age one should give a child a phone, but as a parent, groovy toys like this are hard to resist.  I mean, who doesn’t like a toy that makes cool noises, at the touch of a button.

I especially enjoyed the cuckoo noise (clock symbol).

Make and model: Janod toy phone

Fault reported: No sound, despite new batteries

Cost of replacement: About £10

Cost of parts: £0.00

Hours spent on repair: 0.5

Tools needed: Cutters, screwdriver and soldering iron

Sundry items: Glue

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: 1

Biscuits: 0

A friend of ours got in touch to ask if I could look at their daughter’s toy phone, which had stopped working after being dropped on a hard surface.  Despite the rubber outer cover fitted, after being dropped, the phone now rattled and made no sound.

The (adult) owners had changed the small coin cell batteries, but to no avail and were now wondering what to do, so I said I’d admit it to the workshop.

Janod.com are a French company specialising in making funky wooden toys with a retro warm vibe, while offering modern features.  I like their stuff.

However, on the repair side of things, the designer had not allowed me any service access to the rear of the phone.  It was glued.  The only way of getting in was to break the casing open to see what was going on.

Janod:  I like your products, but please consider changing your designs to allow repair.  Tamper proof screws and other child-resistant systems can be used so that only those with intent can open up the casing to perform a repair.

I used a small flat-bladed screwdriver to gently prise the casing apart and after some nail-biting moments, (I was worried I was going to snap something), the back came off.

The fault became apparent almost immediately.  The small speaker had become detached from the mounting and a wire from the circuit board to the speaker had snapped.  A little soldering and a bit of hot melt glue and the speaker was installed back where it was meant to go, ready to sound off again.

The last job was to repair the now broken case.  Since it was wooden, I used PVA wood glue on the mating surfaces and held the phone for 48 hours gently in my bench vice and now, no one would never know the repair ever happened.

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The toy was returned to its owner ready to bring child happiness and parent irritation, once more.  I had to press the cuckoo noise button a few times before I gave it back.

 

 

Jonathan Deer the III

A Christmas novelty toy gets a new lease of life…

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, Jonathan Deer III.

I meet some really interesting people with this hobby of mine with some quirky things to fix, often with personal and meaningful backstories.  This repair is one such item.

Make and model: Jonathan Deer III rubber deer thingy

Fault reported: Not running

Cost of replacement: About £0

Cost of parts: £0.00

Hours spent on repair: 2

Tools needed: Cutters, screwdriver and soldering iron

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: 2

Biscuits: 0

Someone got in touch to see if I could repair a festive family favourite Christmas novelty, which was a big hit with the children, back in the day.  Jonathan Deer III has become a family legend and Christmas simply wouldn’t be complete without him.  Intrigued, I agreed to see the injured deer.

A few days later, a parcel arrived and upon opening, I was greeted with a deer’s head made of rubber.  Not one’s average delivery.

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‘Jonathan Deer’ was available about 20 years ago in the UK and I suspect the US as a novelty singing Christmas toy, designed to hang on the wall, to bring festive joy when anyone walks past the deer’s motion sensor.

Sadly, or maybe fortuitously, depending on your perspective, Jonathan was now silent and despite new batteries, it was dead.

The thing about Christmas decorations is that they get used for about 4 weeks a year and then packed away, usually in a loft or alike where it’s not necessarily that warm or dry for the remaining 48 weeks.  Cold, damp and draughty conditions are not good for small electrical items.  Batteries left leak and metallic contacts corrode and these ailments had affected poor old Jonathan.

Repairs completed:

  • Battery terminals were corroded from battery leakage and therefore cleaned with a small toothbrush and protected with contact cleaner
  • Opening up the casing (several small screws) revealed a broken negative lead.  A Small re-soldering job fixed that

Still no action.

  • Lastly, the on/off switch didn’t seem to be working.  I was able to separate the small tangs holding the switch together and gently clean the switch wiper/ contacts with cleaning agent.  I didn’t replace the switch as it’s a bespoke item and getting a replacement would be difficult.  The repair I made seemed to work OK.

Once the switch was cleaned, Jonathan burst into life.  Upon switching him on in demo mode, he woke up by blaring out James Brown – I Feel Good.  Moving the switch to on mode, he worked as he should via the motion sensor.  Wonderful.

I was then able to return the deer to its owner to enjoy over the festive season.  Result.

Imaginext Super Hero Flight Gotham City

Good thinking Batman, but I have a safety dilemma with a repair.

During a recent Toy Doctor surgery at a Dad La Soul/ Tot Rockin’ Beats event http://www.totrockinbeats.com/dad-la-soul I attempted a repair on a kids toy that I couldn’t get working in the two hours we had, so I asked if I could take it home to the workshop where I have more tools at my disposal.  Good thinking Batman.

The Imaginext Super Hero Flight Gotham City (catchy title for a toy) was much loved, but the flying bit (circled in red below) had stopped working and no longer did anything when switched on.  No fun without the flight bit.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, August 2019, Imaginext Super Hero Flight Gotham City. Image: Google/Amazon.

 

Make and model:  Imaginext Super Hero Flight Gotham City

Fault reported: Not working

Cost of replacement:  £45.00 approx.

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About two hours- although to be honest, I lost count with this one

Tools needed:  Cleaning cloths, small fine file, soldering iron

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty:  6/10

Cups of tea:  4

Biscuits:  10, maybe the whole pack, I lost count (Custard Creams)

The battery-powered flying thing on a weighted boom should fly about in a circular fashion and be controlled by the city platform, presumably by remote control from the main city bit.

Upon opening up the battery compartment, the problem revealed itself.  The previous batteries had leaked and the spillage has corroded the battery terminals.  No bother I thought, just a matter of cleaning-up the metal surfaces and we’d be back in business.  How wrong I was.  Even with new batteries installed, nothing happened, how very dissapointing.

No, it wasn’t going to be that easy and that was the theme for the rest of the repair.  Everywhere I turned, whether it was trying to open up the casings, inspect wiring or generally take something apart, I was going to be met with glued shut fixings and more problems.

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Construction on this toy was very strange.  Surfaces on the casing were sometimes glued and screwed together, very odd, and I guess that method must have been used due to production time and cost saving.

The wiring between the flying bit and base checked out OK and the motor spun when I applied some charge briefly to the terminals, so that all seemed fine.

Upon opening up the gubbins where the switch was, the problem with the toy presented itself.  The mini printed circuit board had suffered from battery leakage corrosion and was shot.  Whatever it was meant to do was in the distant past.  So, this toy was for the WEEE skip, as there was no chance of getting a replacement.

Well, hang on a minute, we don’t give up like that do we.

I decided that I could make the toy work albeit without the printed circuit board by re-wiring the motor, using the existing loom and switch, so that the motor and therefore helicopter bit worked as it should.  This would mean that once the switch on the base of the unit was turned on, the helicopter would start and it would not be possible to turn it off without grabbing the moving base weight first.  It clearly wasn’t designed like that, but I had at least got it working again.

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So, here was my dilemma:  Give up with something I couldn’t get a part for or get it working again, albeit with a removed (percived) safety feature, so that the toy could still be enjoyed.  I went with the latter as I thought that the danger was negligable.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Aug’19, flying high, once again.  Always read the safety label.

Was I right?

 

 

That thing just eats money!

Tomy (UK) /Robie (US) Mr. Money repaired in the Workshop

I have a real soft spot for novelty toy robots that actually do something.  I think I’ll make a point of collecting more.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, August’19, Tomy/ Robie Mr. Money.

Make and model:  Tomy (Robie in U.S.) Mr. Money  children’s money box

Fault reported: Not eating money

Cost of replacement:  N/A

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About an hour

Tools needed:  Cleaning cloths

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty:  3/10

A lady got in touch with me on the back of an article I wrote a while ago about a faulty Mr. Money toy robot money box.  My Mr. Money had gone wrong as I’d left an old battery inside which had then leaked.  A major clean-up and tinker was then required to get it working again.

This particular Mr Money belonged to the lady’s husband and was to be ‘given to him again’ as a 40th birthday present.  What a nice thought.  The only problem was that Mr. Money had stopped working long ago; put away and forgotten about.  He needed bringing back to life.  Perhaps there was a hidden message to the husband to save for something?  Who knows.

Mr_Money_Quick_Strip

Mr. Money arrived well packed at the workshop and I wasted no time in taking him apart.  There was no evidence of battery leakage or accidental Cadbury Button ingestion and he was generally in good condition with no bits broken off.  A good start.

Mr. Money is getting on a bit and when taking apart any toy, let alone one that’s over 30 years old, one must be careful not to accidently snap-off any lugs or tangs that hold things like casing and levers together.  Very tricky.  It’s not something I usually attempt after a day at work, when I’m shattered.

After some rooting around in the depths of the mechanism, I noticed that the ‘limit switch’ was a little dirty and that some of the contacts needed a little clean.  Using some fine cloth and switch cleaner, all metallic switch surfaces and battery connections were cleaned up and with a new AA battery installed, Mr. Money worked again.

Being 30 years old, there’s no silly use of electronics or other USB excesses which are, I think, ‘over used’ on modern toys.  It all adds up to something which can be repaired with basic tools and parts.

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I carefully reassembled the workings, casing, switches, arms, head, eyes and lid.

Mr. Money was ready to feast.

After testing a couple of quid through the Mr.Money’s eating cycle, I was happy for him to start his journey home.  I hope he gets used regularly and never put away in a box again.

 

 

 

Small home improvements…

A loved children’s toy house with the longest house number ever, gets glued back together.

On the last weekend in June 2019, I decided to do some home improvements, on a small scale.

My kids are lucky; they have their own stash of toys to play with, at members of our family’s homes.  This means that we travel a little lighter when visiting.

My mum had reported that the toy house (pictured below) had developed a case of plastic wall subsidence and had started to literally, fall apart.  Time for site clearance or wall ties?  Nah, just a few drops of glue and a dose of patience.

Make and model:  Generic toy (there’s no maker’s mark on it, it’s that good)

Fault reported: Broken hinge

Cost of replacement:  £haven’t a clue

Cost of parts:  £0.00

Hours spent on repair:  About 10 minutes

Tools needed:  3 X clamps

Sundry items: Some Gorilla glue

Repair difficulty:  1/10

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’19, Toy House

Kids toys usually lead a hard life and many, sadly, have short lives.  I see loads of dumped toys at our municipal tip which could, with a little love, be fixed-up to be enjoyed once again.

With so much in the media about our collective love affair with plastics and how long the material stays in our environment and food-chain, I think it’s important to preserve what has already been made for as long as possible, for its original purpose or to be re-purposed.  That way, plastic things will avoid being sent to landfill, for longer.

The toy house in question is not a high-end product and the materials and finish used are not the finest available, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to enjoy.  I mean, most of the windows open, the front door has working lights and the whole thing opens up to reveal a two-floor mini wonderland.  I mean, what’s not to like?

The opening up bit was the problem.  The main hinge that holds both halves of the house together had become semi-detached.

It would have been easy to call it a day with this one, but as my youngest daughter had recently taken a shine to it, I decided that all the broken hinge needed was; glue, some clamps and patience.  Gluing plastic is tricky as some glues react badly, depending on the type of plastic, which unless you’re someone who has Masters in Plasticology, is hard to work out for most diy’ers.  It’s a bit of trial and error and with this repair I decided to use Gorilla glue, rather than a 2-part epoxy resin as I had a bottle of that open already.  I’m afraid, it wasn’t very scientific with this fix

With the two halves of the hinge lined up, a dab of glue in the right places, I used three clamps, spaced along the hinge to hold it in place while it glued.

Now, this toy will always be delicate and will never be quite as strong as it once was, but at least it can now be enjoyed once again and more importantly, it won’t be going in the bin.