Monday, April 1, 2013

New tricks 7/26: Toy mechanics

On one of our trips north, we scored quite a few hand-me-downs from my sister Z, whose children a now in school and riding motorbikes and piercing their ears. Dear Boy was dressed in their clothes and bombarded with toys. This walker was pulled out from the garage and dusted off. It was big, but I'd been looking for something similar for a little while as Dear Boy was starting to cruise the furniture, and we had just enough room in our suitcases to take it home with us. Dismantled, it packed pretty flat. But when we got it home, and unscrewed the battery housing, I discovered badly corroded terminals, where older batteries had leaked and then caused the springs and contacts to rust.

Understandably, new batteries weren't going to cut it. Lovely Husband suggested it was fit only for the tip. But I figured Google could find a way to help me fix it.

A quick search brought up a few common tips, using bits and pieces I had on hand.

1. The tools are for getting into the toy's battery housing. The cover on ours was held in with a single flat-head screw.
2. The white vinegar helps dissolve the acid and start loosening the rust. There's probably an acid/alkaline chemistry explanation in there somewhere. Some sites suggested a baking soda/water paste or even coke, but I imagine they're doing the same thing.
3. An old toothbrush works well for scrubbing the rust and corrosion from the terminals, especially around the springs. Simply dip the brush in the vinegar and scrub away (trying not to get too much liquid sloshing around in the battery housing).
4. The toothbrush worked for three of the terminals but I turned to the steel wool for the last one. It was a bit of a pain, getting tangled in the spring, but it cleared the corrosion quickly.

After they were all cleaned up, I dried the housing with paper towel , inserted new batteries and bam: lights and song.

Final word of advice: maybe check with the original owners or the manufacturer's specs before you decide to fix a noisy toy. You might find you like it just the way it is.

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