Toys get broken. Many can be repaired. This Fix-It Guide on toy repair tells how a toy works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a toy problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to bond a broken plastic toy, how to re-power a battery-operated toy, how to repair a split wood wheel on a toy, how to replace a broken axle on a toy, how to repair a leak in a sport ball, and how to stop a leaking valve in a ball.
How Does a Toy Work?
A toy, of course, is an object for a child (or some adults) to play with. A visit to any toy store demonstrates the enormous variety of toys available for children. However, many of those toys have common elements and many can be repaired following a few simple principles. They roll, move, make noises, or include numerous parts.
What Can Go Wrong with a Toy?
Plastic toys and plastic parts of toys break. Battery-powered toys lose their power. The most common problem with rolling toys is losing their wheels, axles, or handles. All kinds of inflated balls deflate over time and occasionally leak. Another Fix-It Guide discusses stuffed toy repair.
How Can I Identify a Toy Problem?
- If a battery-powered toy won’t run, the problem is often with a battery or the battery charger (see below).
By far the biggest problem with battery-powered toys is that the batteries run down because a switch was left on. Check underneath these toys to see if there are on-off switches that should be off, and remind the child to turn off the toy when he or she is done playing with it.
- If a plastic toy or a plastic part of a toy breaks, you can bond it with adhesive (see below).
- If a plastic toy part comes loose from a piece of wood or metal, drill holes through both surfaces and fasten them with bolts or rivets.
- If a wheeled toy loses a wood or metal wheel, you can repair or replace it (see below).
- If a toy’s axle is broken, you can replace it (see below).
- If a ball deflates, re-inflate it with a hand pump. If the ball doesn’t retain air, you can repair and re-inflate it (see below).
- If a stuffed or other fabric toy is torn or has a seam come undone, see the Stuffed Toy Repair, Doll Fix-It Guide and the sewing section of the Tools Fix-It Guide.
What Do I Need for Toy Repair?
Replacement parts are available from the manufacturer and aftermarket suppliers as well as from local hardware stores and craft shops. The tools you will need to fix various toys include these:
- Electric drill
- Pump with inflating needle
- Bolts and other fasteners
- Elastic band, string, or tape
- Masking tape
- Steel rods
Keep a wide selection of glues and adhesives in your fix-it toolbox for emergency repairs. If the containers are small, also keep the packaging because it will have instructions in a larger typeface than that appearing on the adhesive container.
What Are the Steps to Toy Repair?
Bond a broken plastic toy:
- Lightly roughen both edges of the break with sandpaper and wipe off any dust.
- Apply adhesive (see the Adhesives section of the Stationary Things Fix-It Guide to determine the best type of adhesive for the item) to both surfaces to be joined.
- Clamp the pieces securely with an elastic band, string, or tape.
- Let the repair dry thoroughly before releasing the clamp.
Re-power a battery-operated toy:
- Test the batteries and replace as needed.
- Verify that the batteries are inserted all the way, touching the contacts. If the battery does not touch the contacts, use a screwdriver to gently pry up the contacts just enough to make good contact.
- Check for corrosion on the terminals and clean them if needed.
- If the toy uses a rechargeable battery, examine the charger as well as the battery.
Repair a split wood wheel on a toy:
- Drill holes in each piece of the broken wheel for the dowels.
- Add wood glue to the dowels (for more on glue, see the Adhesives section of the Stationary Things Fix-It Guide).
- Clamp the wheel together with masking tape.
Replace a broken axle on a toy:
- With pliers, pry off the push nuts and unscrew the lock washers. Remove the wheels and flat washers, then slide out the axle.
- Cut a new axle from a round steel rod. Install the axle, then slide flat washers and wheels on the ends of the axle. Place lock washers over the wheels.
- Install a push nut over the ends of the axle and tap them into place with a hammer.
Repair a leak in a sport ball:
- Submerge the ball in a tub of water and rotate it slowly, looking for escaping air bubbles that identify a hole. Dry the area, then mark the leak with a piece of masking tape.
- Heat the blade of an old knife or screwdriver by moving it back and forth over a flame. Rub the hot blade over the leaky area until the vinyl melts. Let the vinyl harden for at least 5 minutes.
- Re-inflate the ball by pushing the inflator needle into the ball’s valve hole. Use a hand pump to inflate the ball to the recommended pressure. Don’t over-inflate. You also can use a bicycle tire tube patch kit to repair leaking sports balls. Get one at a bicycle shop, sporting good store, or large discount store and follow the instructions provided.
Stop a leaking valve in a ball:
- Clean the valve with a wet inflating needle inserted a few times to wash away dirt and debris.
- If the problem persists, plug the valve by breaking off a toothpick in the hole.
Can’t fix that toy? Don’t throw it away! You may be able to use wheels, motors, axles, and other parts to fix future toy breaks.