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As yet another head turning motor died on a Gemmy Life-size of mine, I continued to search for answers on to why DC toy motors quit working or lose power after a while. I found out some really interesting facts, and what you can do to remedy the problem:

  • DC toy motors never really "die" or "expire" (to a degree). Bearings go bad, but other than that, the most likely cause of failure is the buildup of debris and dirt on the rotors.
  • Electronic contact cleaner, one that is safe for use on DC motors and plastics and dries very quickly, can be used to fix motors that have "died".

The motor in my Jason Voorhees eye movement also died, so I used this as a test subject due to how these types of motors are very easy to find, in contrast to head turn/body turn motors, which are impossible to come across. To renew your motor, take the contact cleaner and go outside to a well ventilated area. Be very liberal when spraying the motor down, making sure to get inside the motor as much as possible. Rotate the shaft with your fingers, and you will feel the motion start to ease up a bit. Keep going until you feel that the contact cleaner has fully worked itself through the motor, and then start to dry the motor off, still working the rotation of the shaft. Let the motor dry for at least 12 hours, to prevent any shorting from occurring when you hook it back up.

I can verify that this has been a permanent solution for my Jason Voorhees' eye movement. I can also verify that It worked for a brief period on my Dead Eye Drake before the bearing seized up again, but I didn't really try very hard on that motor. Gemmy Head turn/Body turn motors from 2004-2007 seem to have bearing problems, most likely because of uneven stress being put on the bearing. I don't know how/if you can replace bearings in motors like that, but if you know of someone who is capable of that, it is worth doing. Of the three I have been able to clean with the contact cleaner, 2 out of the 3 are now much easier to spin with my hand. I don't know what this means long-term, but I believe that it is most likely a longer-term fix.

I am NOT responsible if you happen to break or fry your item. These results worked for me and these findings are what I have noticed. However, there is an overwhelmingly positive chance that doing this will at least free up the motor temporarily. Good luck!!! Share your results if you end up trying this, and hopefully it works for you!
 

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When I used to be a broadcast engineer for CBS radio, we used CAIG Deoxit or some other contact cleaner that was plastic safe. The big thing is that many contact cleaners can actually attract more dust from residue left behind. So that’s why I would suggest the CAIG. It’s not cheap, but works for mission critical components.


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Very good to know, thank you! I will have to check that stuff out.
I can attest to this stuff. I use it to clean light contact surfaces. I'll use it in conjunction with a stiff bristled brush (rifle cleaning brush) if I have any corrosion.
 
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