Radio Flyer Restoration Part I

We recently bought our grandson Jaxon a new Radio Flyer tricycle as an early Christmas gift, even though he’s probably still a good year away from being able to ride it under his own power. But for now, ringing the bell on the handlebars is satisfying enough for him. We were so impressed with the construction and durability of the tricycle, we started looking for a vintage (older) Radio Flyer wagon for him. The style we were looking for can still be bought today, brand new for around 70 dollars, but where’s the fun in that? Lenora was given an early 80’s model wagon that for the most part was in pretty good condition. The wheels were discolored, somebody had gone wild with a can of white spray paint, but it had minimal rust and still very solid. A perfect project wagon. The tear down was a bit difficult because all of the screws were totally rusted. Even soaking them in penetrating oil didn’t have much of an impact, we ended up having to drill out a couple of them. Once the 8 main screws were removed, the rest of the carriage came apart fairly easy. We want to use as many of the original parts as possible, so anything on the carriage that was covered in rust was given a coat of naval jelly which did a wonderful job of neutralizing the rust. The wheel retainers cannot be re-used, they have to be replaced. I had to take the Dremel and cut them off. Luckily, Radio Flyer has their own online store for parts. I picked up 4 new wheel retainers for about $7.42 total. The wheels were scrubbed, then scrubbed again with soap and bleach and that did little to improve their appearance. They even soaked overnight in bleach and water with minimal improvement. The bleach did a great job cleaning the black rubber tires, but the white wheels were still grungy and had a tan hue to them. Replacement wheels can be ordered from Radio Flyer for about $12.89 each, but as I mentioned before, we wanted to use as many original parts as possible. We decided to try an old method called Retrobrite. This method is used to restore old, yellow’d pc cases back to their original color by using a hydrogen peroxide solution. We used Salon Care Volume 40 which can be purchased at any big box store and beauty supply store, we bought ours at Sally’s. The process is pretty easy. Plan for a very warm or hot sunny day. Apply the Volume 40 to areas that need to be stored, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and let it sit in the bright sunlight all day. When finished, simply rinse off. You can do this as many times as needed for the desired results. We let the wheels sit out in the sun for about 6 hours and the results were better than expected. Since these wheels are almost 40 years old, they’re not perfect, but they look 100% better than they did before and they’re the original wheels. While the wheels were soaking in the sun, Lenora began removing the paint from the tub. This proved difficult because the spray paint that had been added over the years, it turned into a gummy mess. But after a few hours of sanding and a bit of paint remover, the paint began lift from the tub. All of the rusty areas were given special attention and once all of the paint is removed, everything will get a good coat of a rust neutralizing solution before the prep work begins for new paint. On the older wagons, the logo was stenciled on the side of the tub. Finding a stencil was impossible and Radio Flyer does not sell replacement decals for the older wagons. However, I did find the decals from a seller on Etsy and bought them for around 10 dollars. They’re a very good match and will serve the purpose. And even though they’re decals, we will clear coat over them after they’re applied. So for now, we’re just waiting on a day that we can dedicate to sanding the rest of the tub and carriage, then prep for the new paint. Look for an update in the near future….!

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