Worn Out Radio Flyer Tricycle Gets an Adorable Custom Makeover

Last summer, my mother-in-law came across a Radio Flyer tricycle at a garage sale. It was in the "Free" section and she nabbed it, thinking that if it were cleaned up a bit, our daughter Ayla might like to give it a pedal. It sat in her garage for a year until we came upon it a few weeks ago.

Ayla's radio flyer tricycle makeover: before we started the project.
A Radio Flyer tricycle makeover in the making.

This radio flyer tricycle needed some lovin'

It was in a sorry state; discolored, wonky steering, rusty spots, old tires and old cheese (thanks, Ayla!). However, despite its problems, it did the job, and Ayla loved riding it.

A reminder to keep track of your kids' string cheese.

After thinking long and hard about whether we should upgrade to a new one, we decided a few bottles of Kylon spray paint might transform the little trike from frayed to fabulous. And it did!

Our first step involved taking apart the Radio Flyer tricycle to get a better idea of what we were dealing with; this process exposed more rusty spots and a few loose screws (hence, the wonky steering). After cleaning up the old parts, and treating a few of them for rust (a vinegar soak + WD-40 did wonders), we set out to choose our paint.

Bugs in the steering mechanism. A sure sign of neglect.

Our disemboweled tricycle

Ayla's current favorite color-combo is pink and purple, so we settled on 'Purple' and 'Watermelon'. Both are vibrant, saturated colors that really popped. We chose Krylon Dual in a glossy finish for our paints because it's an all-in-one paint and primer that is designed to work well on metal. It also restores and protects against rust, which was an issue we needed to address as we painted the trike.

We chose watermelon pink Krylon spray paint.

As we started the painting process, we felt a little like we were in an episode of Pimp My Ride (remember? On MTV?).  My husband, Bruno, acted as Xzibit and documented most of the process, adding his two cents every so often, and I became the paint and body expert, using a two-color process. We decided if we were going to go to the trouble of painting the trike, we might as well throw in a few extras. So, in true PMR fashion, we customized it.

spray painting radio flyer tricycle parts

Bruno got busy designing a custom decal that would be just the ticket. He scoured the internet for 'scripty baseball logo fonts', and finally came across Kewl Script, by the Sudtipos type foundry. After a little tweaking, he came up with a logo, and sent it off to Chris, who cut it out using his Silhouette digital cutting tool (thanks, Chris). Of course, you could still make a cool decal using lower-tech methods: a sheet of sticky paper and a sharp craft knife would do the trick.

Krylon DUAL spray paint

While we waited for the decals to print and ship, I set up my "garage" (two tarps) in the backyard. Bruno attached all of the screws and miscellaneous tiny parts to a sheet of paper (labeling each so we'd know how to put humpty-dumpty back together again). 

With my well-ventilated area outdoor area all set, I got busy painting. In order to make the decals pop, I coated the trike's bucket and main body with a fresh coat of Krylon Dual spray paint in white, with a glossy finish.

primed tricycle part

The first few coats of white went on easily, and only took about 30 minutes to dry. While the white dried, I painted the other parts using the other colors. The whole process worked very efficiently, and the weather conditions were perfect, dappled sunshine, a gentle breeze, and no rain in sight. However, I should have checked the forecast, because as the afternoon went on, the winds picked up and with that came the threat of rain. Fortunately, I was able to finish all the painting before the rain came, but the wind worked against me, blowing all manner of cottonwood seeds, small insects, and the like into my drying paint.

Unsure of the best way to address this new problem, I packed everything away into the garage to fully dry overnight. The next morning, I cleaned up the trike's bucket and body with a damp cloth. A lot of the debris came off cleanly with the process and only a few spots ended up requiring a little sanding and re-spraying.

Day two involved more spraying, and things were looking pretty great. It was at this point that I decided that this newly painted trike would need a new set of wheels to match it's decked-out exterior. So, between coats I ordered a new set of front and rear tires and hub caps through the Radio Flyer tricycle web site. I loved the fact that simply looking up the trike's model led me to a page that offered every single piece I might need. The total cost for the wheels was $39.56, and I found a 15% off coupon on-line. With shipping, my total came to $50.07, which beat the $79.99 a new trike would cost. Plus, now we have a spare set of old wheels! Yay.

On day three the decals arrived and we very carefully set them in place and began the purple painting process on the bucket and trike body. At this point, all of the other painting was done and we could barely wait for the paint to dry so we could remove the decals and see how dazzling everything looked.

Applying the 'Ayla' decal

removing vinyl stencil

After a few hours of drying time (it was a hot day, so we wanted to give the paint a little extra curing time), we removed the decals and were, frankly, wowed. The "Ayla Rose" emblem and the vibrant colors turned the garage sale freebie into a one-of-a-kind gem. And our extra little tongue-in-cheek addition to the logo was really the cherry on top:

use a craft knife to remove vinyl decal

Using three cans of Krylon Dual spray paint (in white, purple, and watermelon), some custom decals we created using a Silhouette cutting machine, and a new set of wheels, we made a one-of-a-kind tricycle that our daughter adores. Check out the transformation (and scroll down for the video reveal!):

Ayla's pimped-out tricycle - after its makeover

Alicia carefully peeling up the decal to reveal Ayla's logotype

Here's Ayla riding her new trike in our neighborhood Fourth of July Parade. It was a real hit, and we were stopped by numerous fans who inquired about where to find a trike like it. 


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Anonymous on Aug 28, 2013:

It would be nice to see a picture of the finished trike.

alicia on Sep 09, 2012:

Hi Kristin! We ran into the same problems with the handlebars. We couldn't find any great replacements, and we had a VERY hard time trying to pry them off, so we left them on and painted them. If they are in bad shape, could you try wrapping them with tape specifically for bike handlebars?

As far as the wheels go, ours came off pretty easily. We ordered a new set to replace the old ones, which made a big difference in the finished product. Our daughter still rides her trike to this day, and the new wheels have held up well. 

Good luck on this project!

Kristin on Sep 09, 2012:

I am attempting to do this project as well, but am having too much trouble taking the wheels and te handle bars off! If you have any advice please let me know!

alicia on Jul 13, 2011:

Thanks for the kind words! Krylon does make a special spray paint for plastics; it's called Krylon Fusion (http://krylon.com/products/fusion_for_plastic/). However, we took a chance and stuck with the Krylon Dual paint. Happily, the entire trike continues to look brand new. There hasn't been any chipping or peeling on the plastic pieces.

Anonymous on Jul 12, 2011:

This is awesome!  Does the Krylon Dual in a glossy finish work on plastic trikes and plastic outdoor toys as well?  Or does Krylon recommend a different type of their spray paint for that material?

Van on Jul 08, 2011:

This is already a stunning makeover! Truly a Pimp my Trike accomplishment, down to the sweet retro letters! I love Krylon paint, turns dumpster and thrifted finds into polished works of art. :)!

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