At this point, you are very familiar with Little Tikes, since they have had a role in kid’s enjoyment since the 1990s. You might spend some money to get one installed in your yard, only to discover one day that the slide has some cracks – and you begin to consider the cost of replacing the slide or repairing it.
Some of the damage you will notice on playground equipment is the crawl tubes and slides cracking, as well as gaps or vandalism that might lead to entrapment or entanglement of your child’s clothes. Imagine your child having some fun, and suddenly part of their clothes tears away because of being caught up in these cracks – or even worse, your child experiencing grazes to their skin or other injuries because of playing on these things.
This brings up an important question of whether you can go ahead with replacing the slide, or you repair it instead – which we will hopefully aim to answer here.
Generally, the best way to fix a crack in a Little Tikes slide is to use a combination of an airless plastic welder, which you can find from a local hardware parts shop, and a nitrogen plastic welder. While you can still achieve the results by using the airless plastic welder, adding the nitrogen plastic welder shortens the time it takes to get the results you want. However, if the crack is in a location where your child can rub against it, it is best to replace the slide itself to reduce the risk of your child experiencing injuries.
When can I consider doing a replacement vs. doing a repair?
Most slides on the playground are made from rotomolded polyethylene, which is resistant to UV rays and is also used in some items made from plastic like water storage tanks or kayaks. Playground slides are prone to suffering damage such as cracks, but the issue with replacing the slides is the cost involved – for instance, some slides have their sections costing almost $1000 – yes, you read that right. For just a replacement.
Because replacement is a very expensive option and requires you to make a significant investment, you can opt for the repair option unless the crack in question is very serious or poses an injury risk.
What makes Little Tikes slides different from other plastics?
The thing with these plastic slides is that the material that comprises them, Plast-aid, fuses chemically to certain plastics like acrylic, ABS, and PVC, and fuses mechanically to rough surfaces such as brick, concrete, and wood. It is different from other plastics because of its curing process, which allows you to cast the mixture into a fill form, and letting it cool until it solidifies.
That makes repairing the slide seem confusing if you have never handled it before. There is no specific parts you need to tighten or replace – you are simply handling a cracked or misshapen item. However, the plastic is still easy to repair than you might think.
How to repair the slide
Note: these are materials we have used before and enjoy, although you cans get your own preferences as well.
- DentFix DF-EZN1G EZ Nitro Fuser with Nitrogen Generator and Cart (check it here). If this is not available, you can use the 6085-C hot air welder, the Mini-Weld 5700HT airless welder, or the Steinel LCD Hot air welder.
- Polyvance Polyethylene (LDPE) R04-02-03-NT ribbon, 0.0625 in. X 0.375 in. Check it here.
- Polyvance 5010-4 LDPE sheet, 10 in. X 10 in. Check it here.
- R04-02-03-NT LDPE polyethylene 30 ft. Check it here.
- Carbide burr ball. Our favorite is the 12mm Tungsten carbide burr ball, which you can check out here.
- Aluminum tape, 1.9 inches, which you can check out on Amazon.
- First, you take the 5010-4 LDPE sheet and lay it on the cracked area. For greater accuracy, you can use a marker to outline the specific area. Depending on the size of the crack, you can use the whole sheet, or you can cut the sheet to its smallest size that covers the area.
- Use a jig saw to cut the area where you will add the sheet. Make sure to do this carefully to avoid damaging more of the slide.
- In order to make the repair as strong as possible, it is a good idea to weld the rear side of the patch. Since the slide is usually hollow, you can cut the external shell to access the rear part, then you can weld this shell when you are done with the repairs.
- Start the repairs by applying some aluminum tape in the corners of the area you want to repair. The aluminum tape is strong enough to support the patch when you apply it, and prevent it from falling into the hole.
- You then place the patch into the hole, then use a heat gun to shape it as it matches the curvature of the actual part under repair.
- Use the aluminum tape to tape the edges of the patch. This is to keep the patch in place with the outer shell, and the tape will hold the patch in position when you are welding the rear side.
- The next step is to weld the patch to the backside, so you will use the R04-04-03-NT ribbon and the nitrogen welder. Aim to make the ribbon into a bridge, which will merge the parent plastic material and the patch together, on all the edges of the patch. To achieve this, go to the corners of the patch and weld the tape in, and then remove the tape and complete fixing the corners.
- Once you are done, the ribbon should look like it is completely welded in all the edges of the patch, as it will fuse the parent material and the patch together.
- Going to the outer surface, use a carbide burr to create a groove on all the outer edges of the patch, and then use the nitrogen welder to weld the R04-02-03-NT polyethylene rod into the groove. As you make your pass, fuse the two surfaces together.
- Before the weld cools, use the airless welder to smooth it out. Make sure to move it slowly through the plastic in order to improve the smoothness of the result. After the weld cools, use sandpaper to smooth it out and finish cleaning it up.
While fixing a Little Tikes slide might seem impossible, you can actually achieve it using a plastics welder and some aluminum tape – as long as the cracking is not serious. If it is, then you will need to replace the whole slide.