When the Engine Lights Up But Doesn’t Run, or The Little Engine That Wouldn’t
If you have a GeoTrax train engine (or other remotely controlled vehicle) that seemingly has given up the ghost, you know how frustrating it can be both for you and your child. The toy that once chugged around the track now just sits there when you push the handle on the remote controller.
Whether the train is one you’ve had for some time or is one you recently acquired on Amazon, eBay, UniSquare, OnlineAuctions, or elsewhere, the problem and solution are the same.
There are several steps to take in trying to fix an immobile train. Let’s take a look at them in order.
Fix-It Step #1 - Better Batteries
Especially if the train won’t even light up, replace the current set of batteries both in the train itself and in the remote controller. If you put in new batteries fairly recently, you might be able to skip this step.
If, when you open the battery compartments, you see any signs of corrosion, use a little vinegar to get rid of as much of it as possible. If the points at which the batteries touch the metal contacts are clear, you’re probably okay.
When you insert the batteries, make sure you put them in the proper direction. As far as I know, the trains and remotes are all clearly marked. (That hasn’t stopped me from putting them in backwards on occasion though.)
Sometimes it looks like you’ve inserted the batteries all the way into their slots in the remote control, but upon closer inspection (especially in the older models) you really haven’t. Press the batteries firmly into place so they make proper contact with the metal parts of the remote.
Also, be sure you fill all the battery compartments. In most train engines (and similar vehicles) you need 3 AAA batteries. In all the remotes you need 3 more AAA batteries.
Fix-It Step #2 - Steady Ready Light
If the “ready” light on the vehicle won’t shine or doesn’t shine consistently, try loosening the screws just a bit. I’m not sure why, but sometimes fully tightening them causes the contacts inside to fail or to work intermittently.
Once the light is steady and the remote controller seems fine, you’re ready for the final big (and somewhat surprising) step.
Fix-It Step #3 - Wham! Bam! Slam!
What you’re about to read may at first shock you. You might think I’m joking, but I’m totally serious. I’ve tried this method several times and almost always have had success.
Get a piece of corrugated cardboard (or material of similar thickness and strength) and lay it on a flat surface. The floor, whether carpeted or not, might be best.
Grab your troublesome train (with batteries inserted) along the top, opposite the wheels and slam it down on the cardboard good and hard.
Seriously! It won’t break. These are really tough toys.
Then test the remote controller to see if the train now moves. If it doesn’t, try another slam. Be careful not to hurt your hand (as I’ve done). Often a slam on the train’s side seems to help.
If the train still won’t go after a few slams, you may have to give up on it, but this will probably be a rare case. I think this has only happened to me once in ten tries. I’ve had trains I was ready to give up on after a couple of dozen slams, and then they suddenly start to work!
Keep in mind that these trains still work fine as push vehicles, even if the remote motion fails.
As a commenter on the blog mentioned, you might try tapping with a hammer instead of actually slamming the engine. These are tough toys, but I’d be even more careful with a hammer than I am with slamming. A decent arm and hammer have more power behind them than you might think.
For yet another option that uses compressed air, see Marisa's comment on January 16, 2021, down below. You might not need to slam at all!
Now that you most likely have your train working again...
Why Does Step #3 Work?
This is only a guess, but I think this fix-it method works because the moving parts inside a train just get stuck and need to be loosened. A good, solid slam apparently does the trick almost all the time.
I have never tried to open up an engine to look for the problem inside. I’m no mechanic or electrician, so what I might find in there probably wouldn’t tell me anything anyway.
What If the Remote Controller Doesn’t Work?
If your remote controller won’t make any sounds, either on its own or when inserted into the Tracktown Railway Depot (for earlier remotes), you probably have a dead remote.
Sadly, for this I have no fix. I have encountered this situation and have decided just to throw out the remote controller and keep the train for pushing by hand.
If you know of a fix for this, please let us know. See the tip in the comments below by “Gary (not the owner)” about checking the infrared output from the controller. If you’re not seeing any output, it’s time to toss it out.