Toy repair brings a welcome return of family discord


January 16, 1993|By ROB KASPER

Instead of fixing the bathroom ceiling, or realigning the oven door or stopping faucets from dripping, I have been ministering to the Super Duper Double Looper, a Christmas toy gone haywire. During January many of a parent's so-called idle moments are spent tinkering with troubled toys.

The Super Duper Double Looper is an elaborate, electrically powered slot car racing game that worked, sorta, on Christmas morning.

At first, its two miniature cars, a green one and a white one, took off like teen-agers peeling out from a stoplight. The cars even performed the much-anticipated loop-the-loop maneuver in which both cars travel upside down at high speed, twice. It was thrilling.

The trouble started when the cars and the kids operating them returned to Earth. After several times around the track, it became apparent that something was wrong with two hand-held controls that were supposed to work like each car's accelerator.

The problem was that when you pushed one control, both cars moved. This malfunction not only made the cars difficult to control but also changed the nature of the amusement. Instead of a competitive, eat-my-exhaust adventure, it had become a cooperative, let's-work-together endeavor.

Like many households, ours does not take kindly to cooperation. Every endeavor, from telling a story to matching socks, becomes a contest. The Super Duper Double Looper had to be repaired or harmony might break out.

I read the trouble-shooting section of the instructions. I enjoy these sections for two reasons. First, it gives me the feeling that I am prepared for problems that life and machines may throw at me. Second, after reading about all the mechanical maladies out there, I feel grateful that only one has hit me.

Unfortunately, this trouble-shooting section made no mention of what to do when the controls of the Super Duper Double Looper mellow out.

So I did some theorizing. I thought the problem might be linked to the fact that the track was resting on a wool rug.

I figured that the electric current was OK when it first came into the copper strips on the bottom of the track. But then it hit the wool and lost control. Instead of marching over to track No. 1 or track No. 2, the current was throwing itself into the carpet, like nudists in a hot tub. All discipline was lost.

My remedy was to move the track off the carpet and onto a wooden floor. It was an interesting theory. It turned out to be wrong. Even when the track was on the wood floor, both cars still lurched around out of control. Moreover, when the cars hit the wood floor, they came apart.

After a few crashes, a wire popped up near the front wheels. The wire turned out to be part of a spring so small that I used a hat pin and tweezers to get it back in place. The spring was important because it held a piece of copper called a "pick-up shoe" onto the bottom of the car. Without the spring, the shoe fell off. And when the shoe fell off, the car wouldn't move. I got one spring back in place. But more crashes soon produced more loose springs.

I gave up and called the 800 help-line that Tyco, the maker of the Super Duper Double Looper, staffs on weekdays with people trained to deal with distressed parents.

A cheerful woman named Angela phoned me back, called me by my first name and talked me through my troubles. Angela offered a solution for my mellowed-out controls before I finished telling her the problem.

The section of track that the controls were attached to was backward, Angela said. Simply turning it around, so the controls were attached to the inside, not the outside part of the track, would restore the toy to its competitive state, she said.

When I asked Angela if this meant that Santa had screwed up when he put the track together on Christmas Eve, she said no. The instructions, not the jolly old elf, were wrong, Angela said.

As for the springs, Angela said I could just squeeze them back into place. There was no need for a tweezers or a hairpin. She also promised to send me a couple of new springs and pick-up shoes.

So the Christmas toy was made whole, and the ferocious spirit of family life returned to normal.

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