Refinish a Vintage Stroller




About: I enjoy taking a pile of junk and making something unusual out of it. I like wheeled vehicles, and currently own two motorcycles, two electric bikes that I've built, and an electric scooter pushed by a soc...

My wife and I picked up an old metal stroller at a flea market recently, and decided it needed to come home with us in preparation for an upcoming grandchild!  These old metal strollers were popular in the early '50"s,  and were built like tanks.  Unfortunately, however, even tanks start rusting after they're abandoned.  Most of these old strollers eventually found their way into backyards, barns, and junk piles after they were no longer needed.

This stroller had begun rusting, but other than a very small bit of pitting, most of the rust was just on the surface.  The seat and grab bar were made of wood, and it appeared that somewhere along the line someone had "slapped" (literally) a bit of paint on it (and dribbled it everywhere), and this paint had begun checking and flaking off.

The front and rear bumpers were made of 3/16ths steel rod, and the rubber covering was rock hard and had started breaking off in chunks.

The stroller's handle was missing, the body was beginning to rust, the wheels squeaked, and.....well, you get the picture. The thing totally needed refinishing, but the good news was that the only thing missing was the handle -- all the other parts were there.

Step 1: Tools & Supplies Used

Tools used:

- wrenches
- screwdrivers
- pliers (to break off the old hardened rubber off the bumpers)
- hacksaw (to cut the tubing for the handle)

Supplies used:

- Krylon primer
- Krylon spray paint (blue and ivory)
- painters tape
- mineral spirits
- oil
- epoxy
- oak dowel
- washing machine inlet hoses
- 8' length of 1/2 inch metal conduit
- two 1/2 inch metal conduit elbows
- 2 metal conduit couplers
- miscellaneous nuts, bolts, screws
- WD-40

Step 2: Make the Missing Parts

Before dissembling the stroller, I decided to start this project by making a new handle.  This turned out to be pretty simple.  I took two lengths of 1/2 inch metal electrical conduit and flattened 4 inches at one end of each piece using a vice.  These  pieces became the two sides of the handle assembly.

Since I don't have a conduit bender, I bought two 1/2 inch metal elbows and two couplers.  I spliced the metal elbows together using an oak dowel and epoxy adhesive to make a new handle, which was attached to the side pieces with the couplers.  This made for a simple, but sturdy handle.

To attach the handle to the stroller, I drilled holes in the flattened sections of the side pieces to match the holes that were on the stroller body.  I didn't attempt to build a folding handle (since we'll only use this when our new grandchild comes to visit), but if we did want to transport the stroller in the car, it would be a simple matter to remove two of the four bolts that attach it to the stroller and fold the handle forward.

With the handle issue solved, it was now time to start taking things apart.

Step 3: Before You Disassemble

Before I disassemble something that I'm not familiar with (like an old metal stroller), I take a lot of photos.  These photos can  really help when it comes time to put the thing back together.  So, I began with taking photos of how everything went together, knowing this would prevent a lot of frustration when it came time to reassemble.  In essence, this became my "assembly manual."

Step 4: Take It Apart

Next, I took everything apart that would come apart.  I tried to follow a logical progression -- removing major components such as the front and rear wheel assemblies, then taking apart those assemblies.  I was fortunate that none of the bolts were rusted together, and none of the screws snapped in two.

Taking things apart is reasonably easy -- it's the putting them back together that usually the challenge!  That's why I took the photos before i began.

Step 5: Replace Parts That Need Replacing

My next step was to identify any parts that I needed to replace.  The squeaking wheels were fixed by using a little oil, but unfortunately the rubber covering over the bumpers was beyond saving. 

The rubber on the bumpers was extremely brittle, and had to be replaced.  I thought, "Where oh where can I get rubber bumpers for a 60 year old stroller?"

Of course, the answer was simple -- in the plumbing department of my local home improvement store!  Quite often when I'm faced with needing a part that can't be found anywhere, I've found that more often than not I can find something that works in the plumbing section!

What I found in the plumbing section was a set of black inlet hoses for a washing machine.  These hoses had the same outside and inside diameters of the old bumper coverings, and were the exact same color (black)!

I cut the ends off the hoses (guess that voided their warranty) , and began pushing the hose over the steel bumper.  It turned out to be tougher than I initially thought, due to the friction between the hose and the curved areas at the ends of the steel bumper.  WD-40 to the rescue!  Squirting just a little bit of WD-40 inside the hose made a huge difference.  I slid the hoses onto both bumpers and trimmed off the excess.  Now the bumpers looked just like the originals had looked when they were new.

I also replaced the wooden beads in front of the tray with new one's, and replaced the old hardened rubber covering with a piece of hose left over from the bumpers.

Step 6: Sand & Prime

Next, I began the sanding process beginning with the wooden parts -- the seat, the grab bar, and the post the grab bar was mounted on.  After the initial sanding, I then used a wood filler on all cracks and dents, and sanded again once the filler had cured.  I began sanding with 120 grit  paper, then worked my way down to 220 grit.

The rust on the metal parts was first attacked with a wire brush to get into all the nooks and crannies.  Then I sanded each piece first with 220 grit paper, then moved to 400 grit.

Once each metal part was sanded, I cleaned it with mineral spirits and sprayed with Krylon rust resistant primer. I then set these parts aside for two days to make sure the primer was fully cured.  Before painting the wheels, I put tape over the tread.

Step 7: Paint

After the primer had cured, I sprayed the parts with Krylon paint.  A couple of the parts were two-toned, so after the initial coat dried, I taped off the area and sprayed with the other color.  After everything had dried, I removed the tape and began putting everything back together again.

Step 8: Reassembly

Reassembly was fairly easy, since I had pictures for reference.

All that's left to do now is wait for the grandchild!



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    19 Discussions


    7 months ago on Step 8


    So glad you posted this. I just bought one that needs full restoration and its always nice to see someone who has done it first.


    3 years ago

    I was just perusing Instructables and saw yours I finished mine about a year ago


    7 years ago on Step 8

    Again nice work. What would have done if you needed to replace the rubber off the tires? I have an old pedal tractor with tire issues.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Great project, beautiful job, but Dude! That's not a stroller. It was called a kiddy car. Strollers are pushed. This was a walk yourself job, but not a 'walker' because it was too cumbersome to be used indoors. I had one as a child, also blue. Loved seeing this!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Actually, it is designed as both a stroller and a kiddy car. When the handle and floor pan are attached, it's a stroller. When you remove them, it becomes a kiddy car. A lot of times you find these missing the floor pan and the handle. This one had the floor pan still on it, but the handle was missing (but all the attachments for it were still in place). I suspect most of these today are probably missing the handle and the floor pan because that was the condition they were left in when the child grew past the kiddy car phase. On some of these the handle was easily removable, and others had a folding handle. The floor pan simply "popped" on and off. Thanks for your comment.


    7 years ago on Step 8

    This turned out beautifully! You did a great job on the resto. I wish more people would bring back these oldies but goodies of everyday life. :-)

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    very pretty! :) now i want one, when we have kids! :D hey, you should make the finished product your main image! thanks for the ible!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your comment! I see these strollers occasionally at flea markets and antique stores, but they seem to be getting a bit hard to find. I suspect most of them rusted away in junk piles.

    Phil B

    7 years ago on Introduction

    I have vague memories that make one of these very familiar. I am not sure, but expect I used one of these during my early years. You did a nice job. The one I remember faintly was not nearly so nice.

    2 replies
    knife141Phil B

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, Phil. I have vague memories of these, too. Seems like they were very popular back in the 50's, but the ravages of time pretty much did away with most of them. I was lucky that this one only had surface rust.

    Phil Bknife141

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    My wife recently finished digitizing 35mm transparencies from her parents. She had one of these strollers (born 1947) and it appears in a couple of the photos with her "driving" it. I think there was one at our house. It may have been borrowed. I do not know.