Angie's LIST Guide to
Which types of toys can be repaired?
Toys that commonly need repair include train sets, vintage toy guns, vintage dolls, toy-grade radio-controlled vehicles and arcade games.
Arcade games include video games, pinball machines and Skee-Ball machines. Dolls range from porcelain figures to plastic talking dolls. There are also robots and space toys.
While some toys wind up, others operate using batteries.
Some items, such as toy trains, can be electrical or wound up. Repairs fix moving and missing parts.
Power-operated toys lose power; plastic items may break and parts for rolling toys go missing.
Pinball machine repair involves attention to many small details. (Photo by Jay Madden)
Should I repair or replace my toy?
Toys worth repairing often have sentimental value, monetary value or both.
Heirlooms and toys that have passed through generations of your family may be especially valuable to you. You repair the item to keep it from disintegrating and to pass it on to future generations.
Another reason to fix a toy is if it will enhance the value of the toy. You then have financial gain. This is especially true for vintage toys. It's also a good idea to repair the item if doing so is cheaper than buying a replacement toy.
On the other hand, you should replace the toy when it has damage beyond repair. Besides, you may not always be able to find parts necessary to fix the toy. This problem exists for many toys that are no longer in production.
Replacement is also favorable over repair when you are able to buy a new toy for substantially less than the cost to fix the item.
Pros and cons of DIY toy repair
There are pros and cons of starting a do-it-yourself (DIY) project instead of hiring a professional to do the repairs. The DIY work may save you money. You likely have to pay an hourly fee or labor costs to someone you hire.
If the work is minor, you may be better off completing the work yourself. You can easily apply adhesive to a plastic doll to repair it. When you do the work yourself, you also have full control over the process and keep the toy in your possession.
When the work is more intricate, hiring someone is likely a better choice. You risk damaging the toy further if you work on it yourself and don't understand what you're doing. A specialist has experience replacing a broken axle or repairing a leaky valve. The toy repair person likely already has an inventory of spare parts, which you may not have access to otherwise.
Repair professionals often give useful warranties too. The project cost may include a guarantee and coverage for any future work on the toy.
Finding a toy repair service
There are repair specialists licensed for the toy trade who have extensive knowledge about toys. You can also hire a handyman who has related repair experience. Some handyman service companies include toy repair within the list of services.
If the toy has a defect, contact the manufacturer to ask if the company will repair or replace the toy for you. Some companies will repair the item free of charge as part of the return policy.
For damaged dolls, you can enlist the services of a doll hospital — a professional repair and restoration facility. The dolls are patients at the hospital and the repair professionals are doctors. When you take a doll to the facility, the toy recovers from injuries such as broken limbs and physical disfigurement.
Pinball machine repair involves paint and detail work as well as electronic repair. (Photo by Jay Madden)
How much does toy repair cost?
Repairs of dolls and other toys generally begins with an appraisal. Some companies charge for appraisals while other businesses offer the service free of charge.
During the appraisal, specialists check what work is necessary based on flaws and current condition of the toy.
Some companies have a minimum fee per doll, with prices increasing for repairs such as green ear removal and vinyl repairs. The cost for a toy specialty company to repair the wheel rotation of a model train is about $100.
The time for repairs is about two days for this type of task.
The time frame of a specialist is longer if the company needs to order parts, which can take days or even weeks to arrive in the shop.
If you need work completed in less than a few days, ask the specialist before hiring to see if the time frame is possible. Costs increase at some companies for the special request.