Solar LED Tonka Truck Path Light




Introduction: Solar LED Tonka Truck Path Light

New life for old toys!
Bring your old toy trucks back to life with LED path lights.
I have never wanted to part with my beloved Tonka dump tuck but as an adult it became harder and harder to justify keeping...until now.

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Step 1: Shopping List and Tools

What you will need for supplies:
An old toy truck
2 or 3 solar path lights
2 10mm LEDsblueish white or tungstonish white
1 yellow flashing LED
1 2 aa battery box/ holder
Speaker Wire
Spray Paint
Tools you will need:
A Drill
A 10 mm or 3/8(tight) 7/16 (loose) drill bit
Wire cutters
Soldering Iron
Wire brush

Step 2: Assess Your Truck and Rejuivinate!

Assess your Truck.
Is it rusted to the point of no return? Is it mildly rusting? Is it just rusty enough to make Martha Stewart squeal with delight? What ever the case, Now is the time to get at it with the wire brush and make it pretty with a fresh coat of Caterpillar Yellow or maybe John Deere Yellow What ever you like.
I managed to remove the wheels with a pair of vice grips and a bit of twisting. I will assume you can get replacement hubcaps? at a good hardware store if you mangle yours to death. This made painting the frame much easier but wheel removal is of course optional.
But I have no Truck!
Did someone throw yours away when you moved out?
Well Yard sales are a good place to look as well as Goodwill or
You Can Still Buy One NEW!
Hasbro still makes a few steel trucks including the Dump Truck model featured in this instructable!

Step 3: Tear Down Your Solar Lights

Tear Down Your Solar Lights
Remove the battery and set it aside.
With a screwdriver pry the insides out of the cap of the light. On the Malibu light I am using it just snaps together but other brands may be glued and or screwed.
With the parts exposed identify your wires,
Cut the wires to the solar cell.
Set the solar cell aside.
Cut your battery wires,
Examine the "brain " of the gizmo and marvel at this stunning accomplishment of mankind..
Ok now precede to step 4

Step 4: Vehicle Modification

Vehicle Modification
Look at your truck and figure where you would like to place your lights. I am using a 80's Tonka truck which has a plastic grill. I would not do this to a vintage truck...I am going to stick with this 80's model mainly because the dump bed is flat which makes for good drainage when you place a nice potted plant in it. The 70's/60s' variant has an angled lip which is not condusive to drainage of this type.
Drill your holes for the 10 mm white LED headlights. Make sure they fit but do not glue them in yet.
(Optional)Drill a hole for your flashing yellow light or if you prefer you can use a smaller white LED in the cab as a Dome Light.

Step 5: Component Placement

Component Placement
Start with
The Battery Box.
Look for a good place to mount it out of sight and out of the way of moving parts.

The Control Unit.
Again, out of sight and out of the way of moving parts.
I have removed it from the black plastic housing and will be re using the battery holder part of the solar light to house The Control Unit. Wow I am recycling already!

"Solar Cells"
Solar cells will vary in size from manufacturer to manufacturer so keep an eye out for compact /small cells. They are way easier to place than large ones. The ones that come with the Malibu lights I am using are rather large but the price was right so I'm just gonna to suck it up. I will take advantage of the 2 holes on the dump bed brow for the wires of the solar cells. When placing the cells you want them to have total exposure to sun so think about mounting them on any horizontal surface. I have cut my cells down a bit so they fit nicely. The cells I am using can be seen through the clear epoxy coating and so I can also see where I can trim excess material. It is epoxy and hard plastic so if you are going to cut it plan on using a saw.

I would wait until the wiring is done so you do not have to solder in tight places.

Step 6: Wire and Solder

Wire It
Have a look at the diagram and start soldering wires.
-REMEMBER some wires will need to go through holes so plan ahead! Also Polarity is very important so check and double check.
Speaker wire of the type I am using looks like it has a clear jacket but if you look carefully you will notice one wire jacket has white printed on it. This is to help you identify the 2 wires at both ends. If you want red and white wires you can get some door bell wire from your local hardware store.
Duct Tape
Ok I left it off the materials list but let's face it we're working on a truck here. Do you need to be told to bring your gun to a gun fight? If you didn't expect to have to use Duct Tape at some point I really can't help you.
I put some Duct Tape on the bottom sides of the Solar Cells to insulate them form any potential contact with the metal of the dump bed. I know it is painted but you have to think about the long haul. This truck is "Guaranteed Tonka Tough for LIFE" so I feel obliged to go the extra yardage on this one.

Step 7: GOOP IT!

As far as I can tell Goop Is Duct Tape's really cool and hot cousin. Goop answers questions that you never knew existed. It's like the power of 2 part epoxy and the flexibility of RTV all in a convenient squeeze tube. It is so good I fear it to be considered contraband in some states. That being said lets crack open a fresh tube and get to work.
If you have not used Goop before know that until it is dried, pieces should be taped in place or you should be sure they are not going to move once you let go and walk away. Consider this glue to be like thick honey, you may think your piece is "stuck" but it will creep when you let go and dry in some position you do not want.
Glue your Battery Box and Brain.
Let it dry or tape them in place before you flip it over to
Glue your Solar Cells.
Lastly I would
Wait until after dark to be sure your headlights are aimed to your liking before gluing them.

Step 8: Take Your Toy Out Side and PLAY!

Play With Your New Toy!
Do you really need to be told to do this?...Well If you are the one who didn't have the Duct Tape, I am telling you now.
If it is daylight put your truck in direct sunlight so it can charge. Now get in your car and go to a garden center and pick out a nice potted plant that will fit in the dump bed.
Put it all together and find a nice spot on your walkway or even in your garden. Make sure your going to get enough sun to charge your batteries and nourish your plant.
It may take you some time to find the right spot but hey,this is serious work that must be done with care. Just try not to make engine noises when moving it around. Beeping for backing up is OK.

If you have trouble getting anything to work check your polarity.
- LEDs will only work in one (polarity) way.That is what they do even the type that do not emit light.
-Solar Cells have polarity and if you are lost put one to a multi meeter.
-Power can be tested at all connections with your multi meeter.
In this model of solar light the Solar Cell acts as the electric eye light sensor so when the sun goes down it will switch from charge to discharge. Other models may have a separate light sensor.
Please take and post some photos of your completed projects!
I am already working on other models and after discovering the NEW trucks I may just have to pick up a Firetruck and plumb it for the bird bath. The Crane is mighty tempting as well.

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    10 Discussions


    5 years ago

    I been looking for a beginner toy to put LEDs in. this is perfect bc there is plenty of room for the parts. now I just need to get everything together. thanks for the idea and inspiration.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Simple, Works, Looks Good. Neat idea !! Well Done. How about a nighttime Tonka Diorama?? Lol

    Great Job, again Cool Idea!!

    Thanks for sharing.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    My son, who is 19, gets upset when we are cleaning up the backyard and I ask does he still want his old tonka trucks. Sooo this is going to be a cool project for he and I to do together!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Glad you like it...make it your own and do some toy truck mods!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    WOW now I know what to do with those 3 in the front yard...gonna chk to see if they have the plastic grills! (or maybe you already chked?) =) good stuff !


    10 years ago on Introduction

    woaaaa, realy nice!+P

    but very best if these car was rc!=P

    ¬¬ that will be awesome to play at night!=P

    ---Yelow caterpilar, five star!=D


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Glad you like it. I was real pleased to find that paint and it is industrial grade to boot! -Please vote for it by clicking the Vote button at the top of the page for the LED contest!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I like the build (used to have one of those) but the website hurts my eyes in some kind of 90's way... L