Difference of parts quality in 2004 sets?

This is something that has been bothering my mind for a long while. It’s finally time to write it down and ask you about it.
I’ve noticed that almost all of my Lego (not just Bionicle) sets from the year 2004 have a consistent problem where their parts are creaky and hard to (dis-)assemble. I’ll go into more detail to illustrate what I mean.

I have a total of 5 Vahki, 3 of which are currently assembled. All of their ball joints are quite hard to pop together and pull apart. When together, they are pretty stiff, a lot of them even make creaking noises when moved.
All of the Vahki were bought used, but from different sources, so it can’t be because of the way they were stored by the previous owner etc. The lots these came from also included several sets from other years, all of which are fine.

Now, here’s where it gets weird: my Lhikan is perfectly fine. Easy to put together and all the joints move smoothly. However, my Kikanalo (currently disassembled) from the same seller has the problem of creaky, stiff joints.

I mentioned that this problem is not limited to Bionicle, so let’s get to that. Pictured above is a Technic truck from 2004, a very nice model with a 3-in-1 rebuildable pneumatic crane. However, getting to rebuild the crane is actually rather though: the pins have a lot of friction and are difficult to pull apart. Axles and gears run smooth, but the pins do not. Even the frictionless pins don’t run easily, some of them are creaky!

The same applies to Nidhiki’s frame, which is primarily Technic based. Pins are hard to insert and pull out, the ones that are supposed to move are very stiff.

For direct comparison, here’s some of my Bionicle sets from 2003 and 2005. All of them are easy to put together and have smooth moving ball joints like they’re supposed to.

I don’t have any Technic sets from 2003, but several from 2005 and they’re fine as well.

I don’t have System sets from 2004, but some from 2003 and 2005, which don’t have any problems. The 2004 Vladek I pictured alongside Lhikan, whose armor is System based, doesn’t have any issues so I believe this problem was limited to Technic and Bionicle.

Now I want to know, have you ever noticed something similar? How do your 2004 sets feel? Is this a general issue, or have I just been unlucky with my sets from this year? Then again, all of the sets come from different sources/sellers, from which I also got other sets from different years which are fine. So it can’t really be a coincidence, can it?

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts and experiences on the matter.


I’ve definitely had some creaky joints on my 2004 and even 2005 sets (Whenua Hordika was so bad that his leg joint had a crack; I swapped it out and now use the piece as a Toa Metru shoulder, since it doesn’t use the socket).

It seems to be more common with the gray pieces; I don’t think I have that issue with Toa Iruini, who has green joints. That could explain why your Lhikan is fine but Kikanalo has creaks (I don’t have that particular set but I imagine Kikanalo has gray joints).


Thanks for the input, good observation that it’s mostly the dark gray sockets on the Bionicle sets (Kikanalo indeed has most sockets in dark gray). My 2005 models are fine, I also had Whenua (disassembled for a MOC) without any issues.
Lego introduced the new “dark bluish gray” color in 2004, maybe there was something slightly wrong with the plastic color formula in some production runs? That could perhaps also have carried over to 2005 in limited numbers, explaining your Whenua.


I have the same problem - my Vahki have dark bluish-grey joints that are extremely stiff, while my Toa Metru have dark bluish-grey joints that are much easier to pop in and out.

I think it may come down to storage and potentially how much play the sets got.

Last year, I purchased a sealed copy of the Scuba Slizer set, just to run into the problem you described of the joints being incredibly tight. Additionally, my Vahki sets were used, but the seller was an adult fan who displayed the Vahki for a number of years and then sealed them back in their canisters.

However, my Toa Metru, Kikanalo, and all my other 2004 Bionicle sets (I have all 2004 Bionicle sets, so my sample size is pretty large) have joints that come apart easily and are comparable to modern joints in their rigidity (not too much, but just enough to hold friction). All of these sets were sold as used and were from sellers who actively played with their sets before selling them, rather than an adult fan who displayed them or from a sealed box.

Taking all this into account, I believe that the rigidity problem comes with playwear and may be more accentuated in grey parts and those from 2004 and before. As you said, Lego changed their grey colors in 2004 and may not have perfected the process, leading to a '07 lime joint situation, explaining the stiffness of the Vahki. Technic parts in general are rather stiff and that’s probably why Nidhiki is so stiff. Sets that are taken apart more will also have more flexible joints, which is probably why my Toa Metru are flexible.

Additional theory

I know that the Vahki lower leg pieces and the neck/collar piece have a certain texture to them that make them different from limbs and connectors used on the Toa Metru. Specifically, the Vahki lower legs are rougher in texture than Metru lower legs, and the collar piece is bulkier in the socket area and has the same texture as the Vahki lower leg pieces. And, on my essentially new Vahki sets, the sockets and balls that connect to the lower legs and the collar are the stiffest of all the joints.

My theory is that the Vahki especially suffered from the rigidity thing due to their texture differences.


I too have noticed that specifically the dark bluish-gray joints are creaky on my 2004 sets. I actually had one socket snap while reassembling one of the Metru, but thankfully I had replacements.