How to Restore Tonka Trucks

You don't need to hire a professional to restore a Tonka truck. In fact, whether for nostalgic reasons, as a craft activity, or just to provide your child with the same quality of toys that you once had, restoring Tonka trucks is now a hobby. There are some simple steps to follow if you have a desire to restore a Tonka truck but are not sure of the process. It involves taking the truck apart first, but when you're done you'll have a fully restored truck that looks just like the one that parked in your toy chest years ago.

Remove the truck’s front bumper and grille by turning the truck upside down and using a high speed rotary drill to take out the two rivets securing those parts to the underside of the truck. Grind the rolled portion of the rivets with the rotary drill’s grinder attachment wheel.

Remove the rivet completely using the small screwdriver. Put the tip of the screwdriver blade against the back of the rivet and use a hammer to gently tap the screwdriver. Remove the front bumper.

Push the headlights out to release the grille if it does not automatically come off with the front bumper.

Remove the chains and tailgate by forcing open the link connected to the truck’s bed rails. Use a screwdriver to pry the link open.

Bend the tailgate ears (the piece that covers the wire frame) outward using the needle nose pliers. Bend until the tailgate can be guided off of the truck frame.

Place a hairdryer on high setting. Place it two inches from the wheel and blow the hot air onto the wheel for 30 seconds to warm the rubber and make it easier to remove the tire. Use a cotton ball or cotton swab to place a drop of liquid hand soap on the tire where it connects with the whitewall.

Insert a screwdriver with a flat blade between the tire and the lubricated whitewall. Force the whitewall up and carefully pry it out.

Grind down the smaller end of the tire axle using the rotary drill's grinder attachment. Grind until the axle can be gently pushed through the flat washer and out of the tire.

Pry up and straighten the two bent over tabs at the front of the truck where bumper was. Remove the cab wrapping from the truck chassis.

Straighten the posts at the front of the roof using the needle nose pliers. Hold the posts tightly with the pliers and push the posts and the roof up through the openings in the cab wrapping. Using the pliers, gently keep pulling the front end of the roof up and backwards towards the rear of the truck bed.

Clean all parts with mild soap and water. Use a tooth brush to gently scrub the pieces clean.

Place all of the removed parts in a re-sealable plastic bag or storage container. Take some pieces to an auto parts store to match it to an appropriate paint color.

Paint the pieces as needed and re-assemble them onto the Tonka truck in the reverse order of how they were removed.

Discard any pieces that are cracked, split, excessively worn or damaged beyond repair. Order replacement parts as needed. Websites such as Thomas Toys, Inc., Sandbox Toys and Tonka Town can provide replacement parts.


To clean the whitewalls from the tires, place them into a bleach diluted with water. Allow them to soak overnight before rinsing and cleaning with toothbrush.

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