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I've had a few pieces break over the years, which was a real bummer as I was not expecting them to.

What are some commonly used pieces that are prone to breaking? Pieces that should be handled carefully and stored separately.

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5  
This might be better as a community wiki, as there are multiple correct answers. –  Pubby Oct 29 '11 at 14:05
    
I didn't know Lego bricks could break! I realize there is a theoretical limit but I've never seen damage. –  William Grobman Oct 29 '11 at 14:21
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A single answer might be better as CW, if we are to build the list ourselves rather than find an external resource; not the question. –  user23 Oct 29 '11 at 18:58

10 Answers 10

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Lego is generally quite robust, but there are potential weaknesses:

Material Problems

Some parts are prone to damage as a consequence of the material from which they are made:

Plastic

  • Sunlight can cause discoloration
  • Bricks can be damaged by extremes of temperature
  • Older bricks (pre ABS) are prone to warping, discoloration and may become brittle
  • Most plastic bricks are easily damaged by pressure (eg. from teeth) and abrasion

Stickers

  • Most are easily damaged by water
  • Wear easily
  • Are easily damaged when they span components

Rubber

  • Rubber bands tend to perish

Structural Problems

Damage can also be caused due to the shape and structure of some components:

Long Parts

Long thin parts are prone to bending or snapping under load, for example:

  • Long technic beams
  • Flags, signs etc. with long stems
  • Larger plates and baseboards
  • Swords

Clips and Other Joints

  • Lego clips are prone to breaking under stress, for example:
    • Minifigure hands
    • Flags that clip on to flag poles
    • Bricks with clips on
    • etc.
  • For older types of window frame, the lugs that hold the shutters can snap off quite easily:

Window frame

  • Ball sockets can break if you force the ball out by levering it against the socket instead of pulling it straight out.

enter image description here

  • The hinge holes on chests can be stripped out by pushing the lid open too far

enter image description here

Technic Parts

  • Wheels and gears can crack under stress

  • Smaller items that fit on technic (axles bushes and the smaller cogs) are easily crushed

enter image description here

Other Parts

  • It is rather easy to supply excessive force to angle brackets eg. by stepping on them or when they are at the junction long parts that can apply leverage

Electronics

Electronic items have special problems:

  • Battery boxes can be ruined by leaking batteries
  • Electrical items can be damaged by applying the wrong voltage, eg. 12v to 4.5v lamps
  • Most electrical items can be damaged by water
  • Cables break easily, and (at least in the case of the old 4.5v system) can easily be pulled from plugs
  • Some conductors are prone to corrosion

Recommendations

I recommend:

  • Sort lego before washing to remove parts that will be damaged by water
  • Don't play with lego on the floor where it can be stepped on
  • Keep bricks out of sunlight
  • Don't let bricks get too hot
  • Keeping lego away from children(!) and pets
  • Remove batteries when not in use
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22  
"Keeping lego away from children" - I think that's the most cruel thing I've ever heard. –  user23 Oct 30 '11 at 10:40
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@Joe: ...and not quite serious! (I've aready bought my 7-year old more lego than I've ever owned myself) At the same time, I don't let him play with my vintage / collectors items. He just isn't ready. –  Kramii Oct 30 '11 at 20:25
    
Not making any children is safer, IMHO –  Joubarc Dec 13 '11 at 19:03
    
"Don't play with lego on the floor where it can be stepped on". That's more for your own safety. Walking barefoot on small lego pieces hurts. A lot. –  Stephane Delcroix Dec 24 '13 at 6:58
  • Minifig Hands (and skeleton arms) - if you replace/change tools often
  • Axles - be careful where bearing loads, long axles make easy weak points.
  • Gears - I've had cracked 24t gears - old style, cracked old style crown gears, and those tiny bevel gears, the old style - I've had those broken too.
  • Pneumatic system push fittings - I've seen sheared off.
  • Electrical cables - these can get caught up and kinked which will break the signal.
  • Lego space - whip antenna - whip antenna - these can snap in the long fragile stem.
  • Longer accessories - such as Swords and Spears can be bent and broken.
  • Technic 2M Cross Axle with Groove 2M Cross Axle with Groove have been snapped under load.
  • Lego-made rubber bands exposed to oxygen degrade over time.
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The pieces that broke most frequently for me were the 2-by-2 square flags:

enter image description here

They are often used in pirate sets as cannon porthole covers (shown in red on the Black Seas Barracuda). The clips tend to break very easily.

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Wheel 30.4 x 14 VR has the tendency to crack around the axle under high stress.

Wheel 30.4 x 14 VR

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The ones that break for me are the sockets for the ball joints. See http://www.flickr.com/photos/grandpappy/3988584161/...

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I would say the most breakable piece, in my opinion, is the Plate, Modified 1 x 1 with Clip Horizontal.

Plate, Modified 1 x 1 with Clip Horizontal

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I've had quite a few of these break:

enter image description here

Peeron calls them Minifig Mechanical Arm (id 30377). Apparently Lego calls them Space Skeleon Arm (I'm guessing that should be Skeleton, but no idea)

They're used as door hinges in the City Passenger Plane:

enter image description here

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Minifigure hook hands are easily broken — especially the gold-coloured hooks from the 2010 Pirates line, as the material used for gold pieces is rather fragile.

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Bracket 2 x 2 - 2 x 2

It isn't even a fair contest. In my childhood of playing with Lego Space sets, this piece (Bracket 2 x 2 - 2 x 2) broke the most.

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What, in your experience, causes them to break most easily? –  Kramii Dec 7 '11 at 13:38
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I think there were two reasons. When used in building it was used to attach pieces which ended up being horizontal, so if there wasn't enough support underneath you could flex it at the corner of the "L" and break it. The second reason I believe is that I had all bricks in a big bucket, I think the act of sifting through the pieces may have put stress on the piece enough to bend it and it would break. If I had compartmentalized storage that may have saved some pieces. –  ghoppe Dec 7 '11 at 13:47
    
I too had a few of these pieces break, but not many other pieces. This is only wild speculation on my part, but it may be to do with a combination of two things: Design - Mine cracked horizontally between the studs across the hole, which is probably the weakest point due to the least amount of plastic. Sun exposure: My classic Space sets that used these pieces have quite a lot of fading and maybe the UV exposure made them brittle. –  mcqwerty Jul 20 '12 at 18:30

I remember that back in the day (which would be mid eighties), I had a number of 1x1 translucent plates split on me. Right through the middle – and then I had two halves. They would typically split either when trying to connect or disconnect them to/from a regular stud. No idea if it was a bad batch or what. Haven't had that happen with more recent versions.

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