Quartette Gottlieb EM (1952) Repair

By Jim4R

June 30, 2020

1 year ago

This is my first pinball and my first repair attempt.   I have relieved heavily on the Pinball Ninja’s posts for guidance and this document is in appreciation for his work.  I have performed many of the standard repairs, with a couple of twists, that hopefully are interesting/useful.  As a newbie to this subject, some of the detail may be elementary to professionals, but still useful to other newbies.  This post has been my relief valve when the frustrations of repair get the better of me.  Before retirement, I documented computer processes, so I’m much more comfortable here than finding “machine bugs.”  Here’s hoping that my experience as a handyman for years will translate to this environment.  Please enjoy.

 Table of Contents

Game Description



Back board

Power Cord

On/Off Switch

Machine inspection



Flipper button and switch

Door lock

Power tests

Replacing bulbs



List of figures

Game Description

I got the game about 10 years ago when a friend was moving and when I expressed how much I liked pinball; he said “it’s yours.”  [Whether he was in a hurry to move out, did not want to carry the machine up the basement stairs, or was happy not dealing with where to put it in his new home, I did not care.  Unfortunately, my wife did, so it got relegated to the garage.]  The power cord had snapped off sometime before I got it so it sat unused and untouched until the quarantine at home requirements with covid-19.  With time on my hands, it’s time to look at this wood rail game with 4 flippers and 4 capture holes. Considering I’m the same age as the machine, the playing field is in excellent shape or at least better than me.

{Figure references to photographs in this document are all included and labled in the accociated pictures section.}   

 Figure 1 Where the Quartette game sat for 10 years.

Figure 2 Bottom half of playing field with 4 flippers

Figure 3 Top half of playing field with 4 capture holes. Notice the metal gates that have to be removed to install new rubbers pointed to by the numbers 1 and 2.

Figure 4 Back Glass

There is a very small section of peeling just below the game counter window that the previous owner tried to stabilize with scotch tape.  Originally, I left it alone as removing the glass on this machine is a nightmare compared to newer machines.  The entire back board must be removed so that the glass can bypass the wooden blocks holding it in at the top. 

The quality of Roy Parker’s art work is well demonstrated with the ladies on the playing field. 

Figure 5 Playing field art work


Before looking at any of the mechanics, I worked on the game’s appearance.  Having cleaned my car and kitchen cabinets for years, I opted for the products used on those rather than investing in pinball specific Novus products.   I cleaned and waxed the playing surface many times using Murphy's Oil Soap for cleaning and Turtle Hard Shell wax afterwards. I also used Mother’s 100 percent carnauba wax. Heads up, rubbing too hard can loosened plastic inserts.  Luckily, they are easily reinstalled with clear silicone construction caulk.  If they are not loose, then they should be reinstalled at the proper level.    [The Pinball Ninja uses super glue.] I liked the clear caulk as it was easy to manipulate the plastic until it was even with the playing surface and then the insert stayed put when let go.  The oil soap worked especially well removing dirt from the outside cabinet.

The ball swirls in the shooting lane and at the top of the playing field needed extra effort that required using Naphtha and a Magic Eraser pad.  Scrub only enough to remove the dark spots.   

I finally got around to installing the replacement rubbers my daughter had purchased as a Christmas gift 10 years ago.  They went on easily with the exception of those around the plastic next to the #1 and #2 on the top of the playing field.  [see Figure 3] A post had to be removed so that the rubber could be installed under a metal gate.  Installing a stretched rubber and post is difficult by yourself.  I finally crafted a hook out of 12-gauge wire to stretch the rubber while reattaching the post and gate.  

Since I did not have extra rubbers to use the ninja’s recommended fix of putting a red rubber over the rebound rubber, I decided to use the new rebound rubber included in the kit.  No problem, just drill out the existing pin and replace with a bolt and nut. Too late did I realize that there is no room for a nut on the underside.   Now what?   The thought of holding a nut and grinding off one side to fit under the bracket seemed a good exercise in frustration or nicked fingers.  However, I found a workable solution—a wing nut.  The wings enabled me to safely and tightly hold the nut with slip-joint pliers while easily grinding off one side. [Finally, a use for an old bolt and nut saved in glass jars.]

Figure 6 Wing nut with one side ground off for rebound rubber

The leveling pads were rusted solid, to the point that trying to loosen them tore the entire mechanism from the legs. Replacement pads do not include the pronged tee nuts that hold them in the wooden legs.  So off to my local neighborhood hardware store.  Unlike big box stores, this store allowed me to easily verify the size and to buy the exact number needed.  To install, pound them in with a hammer.

  Figure 7 Pronged Wing Nut

Upon closer inspection, the back glass delamination is more extensive and must be addressed.  The glass is restrained by wood blocks at the top that cannot be removed.

Figure 8 Wood block preventing glass removal from top

Thus, the back board must be removed via 12 screws holding the hinge and two Jones plugs. 

Figure 9 Location of removed items needed for back board removal

With the glass flat on a work bench, I cleaned the back side by gently rubbing it with a rag damp with Windex and avoiding the area with loose chips. [Always spay cleaner onto a rag, never directly onto the ink.]  Prior to spraying two coats of Krylon Triple Thick, I covered the game counter with painter’s tape.  I left the old tape fix as it would have removed more ink if removed. The glass dried 2 hours between coats and 24 hours after the last one to avoid adding fingerprints.  Most of the missing paint is white lettering in the Translucent areas which I’ll have to live with as repair would be extremely noticeable.  All lights behind the glass will be replaced with less hot #47 bulbs.

Figure 10 Old tape left on and new tape over clear glass


Back board

Before fixing the power cord, I went straight to the back board.

Figure 11 Quartette Backboard.  

Both reset steppers needed cleaning and lubing with Teflon grease.  The top one was so frozen, I could not turn it by hand.  After initially using brake cleaner to loosen the movement and marking the arm’s home position, I removed the center bolt holding the arm.  It did not release from the shaft. Afraid that it might break if forced, I removed the Allen set screws on the shaft on the back side so that the shaft and the arm could be removed in one piece.   This is not the Ninja’s recommended process, but I made it work. Admittedly, repositioning the arm on one side while tightening set screws on the other was difficult.

The game counter also needed cleaning at one of the shoulder bolts. [Remember to always remove the nut from the backside first, to avoid snapping the bolt.]  As a newbie, I was convinced that I reinstalled the number wheel backwards as the counter decreased every time I put in a coin. After realizing that it was installed correctly, my newbie mind was wondering if some wiring “was messed up?”  Fortunately, no. The game was performing as designed. On early single user Gottlieb games, if the counter already has games available and you put in a coin, the coin slot acts as the start button. The machine is saying, “You dummy, you already have games available so you will lose the nickel. “

On all the steppers, the heads were sanded with 600 grit sand paper and then lightly coated with super lube to keep them shiny. Another appreciation for my local neighborhood hardware store that sells single sheets of the 600 grit paper, unlike the big box hardware stores that don’t carry that grit in any form.

While looking at the glass from the backboard, I noticed that there was no bulb for the 4 million score.  

Figure 12 Missing the 4 million light bulb

Grabbing a bulb, I was surprised when it went straight through the hole. Looking on the back side, there was no socket. It seems silly that the back glass artist drew the 4 million option; should it be called a Bridge Too Far?

Figure 13 No socket by design for the 4 million light

Power Cord

The power cord was snapped off just inside the case.  What was left was hard and easily cracked when bent, necessitating a mandatory replacement. 

The original design had two similar cords, one from the plug to the transformer, the other from the transformer to a single plug outlet.  Both were tied together with the wire bundle leading to the bottom board.  By working carefully, both cords were removed from the bundle without cutting any of the strings holding them together.  I found that cutting the cords at each string circling the bundle, then pulling the short end through with needle nose pliers worked well.

Although having soldered many a copper pipe, I was not thrilled about working with small wires. As such, only one cord now goes to the transformer.  It defiantly was easier fishing one cord where two had been in the wire bundle.  To eliminate the second cord, the power cord now goes directly to a modern screw-on outlet with two plugs. [See figure 14 below.] Since the power cord is no longer tied into the wire bundle, it must be attached to the back wall with a restrainer to protect the outlet’s connections in case anyone pulls that cord from the outside.    With 4 screws on the outlet, I ran the new power cord to the outlet’s top screws and used the bottom screws to run the hot wire to a new on/off switch and the neutral to the fuse holder next to the transformer.  [remember to use a keyed plug so that the hot wire constantly remains the smooth cord side and attaches to the dark screws.] A separate wire runs from the on/off switch to the transformer.

With this design, 1) the outlet is always hot, 2) the game is energized only via the new switch, and 3) the power cord can be replaced without soldering.

Figure 14 Old plug                                                                  Figure 15 New plug with 2 outlets and 4 wires

Figure 16 New wiring. Note the on/off designations added for the new switch.

The switch’s hot wire originates in the outlet and goes to the transformer. A single neutral wire was added from the outlet to a fuse holder.

On/Off Switch

For the on/off switch, there are a lot of options.  According to Amazon, this on/off switch, a Gardner Bender GSW-45 Heavy-Duty Electrical Rocker Switch, was for appliances with metal housings, but with 20-amp capacity and self-locking sides, it worked well here.  [self-locking, low profile and less than $2.]

The only installation concern was how to cut a rectangle hole the proper size—large enough for the tabs to engage, yet still engage the top flange.  Using a scrap piece of wood, I made a template of the correct size and then transferred the outline to the bottom of the game.  {Be careful not to engage the tabs in your scrap, otherwise it can be hard to get out.}  Then with an Oscillating Multi-Tool and a wood blade, cutting the hole was a breeze. It also minimized any splintering on the reverse side of the cut.

Figure 17 Oscillating Blade used to cut on/off switch hole

Machine inspection

Although temped to flip the switch, it still was not ready for power—Time to inspect the bottom board.  one of the flipper coils was missing and looking at the burn marks on the bottom of the cabinet, it looks like it literally melted.  Upon closer examination, I’m not surprised, one fuse was missing but had been hard wired across, definitely a no-no.  Finding where a single switch blade laying on the cabinet came from was not as hard as it could have been [flipper switch].    A paper wedge was stuffed into the reset coil that tested bad.

Figure 18 Burn marks

Time for a parts order.  Using the number printed on the coils and verifying in the schematics I ordered:

  • 3 coils, both flippers and one reset
  • New fuses
  • Flipper switch
  • Flipper button
  • Door lock
  • Misc tools and light bulbs
  • Microsoft Pinball Arcade game for the computer to pacify my need to play until I get this machine working

The Pinball Ninja makes a big deal of using a temperature controllable soldering iron.  This is a requirement for working on computer board connections.  He also talked extensively of desoldering devices.  However, this machine only has wire to metal tabs connections, so I skipped both options. My brute force methods:  Desolder:  hold the iron to the connection until the lead melts and pull the wire off.  Solder: have both ends tinted and then melt the solder together. 


When installing the new coils in a machine with copper sleeves, clean the plunger as they never need grease in the plastic sleeves used in the new coils.  When soldering, ensure the wires are reattached in the correct order on the flipper coils. 

Figure 19 Missing and original flipper coils

Figure 20 New flipper coils


Some of the fuses looked good and showed continuity when tested with a volt meter, but to ensure they were not a problem, I swapped out all existing fuses with new ones of the proper size and speed. 

Flipper button and switch

One of my flipper buttons only had a center shaft, it still functioned, but I was missing a finger pad.

Figure 21 Bad flipper button

Replacement buttons are metal rather than the original plastic.  Be careful when ordering parts for older machines as the buttons typically sold for Gottlieb machines did not work here. If you have an older machine, be sure to verify with the vender before ordering.

Being that the new button is metal, the switch it controls must be isolated to prevent the user from receiving a shock.  The flipper switch below does not isolate users from electrical shock.

Figure 22 Metal flipper button [red end with cotter pin] pushes a metal rod that contacts the flipper switch.

Figure 23 Original flipper switch.  Note the simplicity, a metal tab protecting two contact leafs.

Figure 24 New flipper switch

Note the improvements in design.  I’m holding up the metal tab that contacts the flipper rod so you can see the fish paper that isolates it from the energized switch leaves.  The unit has two contact points and a sturdy back bar that limits movement.

Door lock

I needed a new lock because the front door key was missing and a friend’s effort to pick the lock failed. [Another reason why the game remained untouched.]  Drilling out the lock where the key is inserted destroyed it.  Luckily, the key for the back box was inside.  Although I measured and asked for one 5/8 inches deep, the expert said that I needed the 7/8-inch model and then to slightly bend the locking tab for a proper fit.  Bending that tab looked like way too much work, so I simply glued a small wedge onto the door.  Being a wedge, I was able to adjust a tight fit before clamping the piece for gluing.

Figure 25 Wedge added for door lock

After installing the shiny new lock, the contrast with the other door hardware needed to be addressed.  Remember to photograph the internal workings before disassembly. After removing all the parts, I used a buffing wheel and compound to polish them.

Figure 26 Before and after polishing

Although polishing did not remove deep nicks, the parts were much brighter.  To prolong the shine, they were then waxed. 

Power tests

Finally, time to power on.

Pressing the start button did nothing.  I can manually engage the startup coil and the motor turns, but there is a loud hum and it does not end.  The on/off switch is very handy in this case.

Using 600 grit sandpaper, I clean the switches around the motor—no change.

Looking at the switches, I tested every screw holding them together and tightened any loose ones until snug.  I then looked at their position and saw that some behind the rubbers on the playing field were closed by default. After bending them to create a small gap, I try again.

The start button still does nothing, but putting a nickel in now starts the motor but the hum persists.  Looking at the back box, I see that the 10,000 continuous stepper coil is getting constant power, locking the device.  Time to look at the reset bar. 

Unlike newer old machines, this reset bar does not rotate for access; you have to remove six screws to remove the one piece from the playing field underside.  I see that one of the tabs does not stay reset when moving the reset bar.  I manually move all the reset pieces and reset bar until they seem to work properly.  I did not see any adjustments.  While off, I also used the 600 grit sandpaper on the switches. 

Figure 27  Reset bank

Time for another power on test.  Putting a coin in the slot starts the machine and motor.  The hum is gone. And I see blue sparks from the switches around the motor, which I did not remember seeing before.  The 10,000 continuous stepper is working as I see the lights move on the glass. Progress, but the reset process still does not end. 

Looked again with the see only one set regularly lighting around the motor. I manually move the 100,000 stepper and million steppers to their highest value, close the playing field and try again.  The steppers reset, but the 10,000 bulbs no longer lights. End of progress.

Time to check the reset bar again and make sure I got all the switches clean.  I’ve defined clean as not getting a black streak on the sand paper or seeing a clean spot on the switch.   This gets the 10,000 bulbs working again, but does not stop the motor from running.

Looking closer at the 10,000 stepper, I noticed that a blade was not contacting the face.  The top of the blade was bent, preventing the spring from pulling it through the arm.  Simply bending the top straight fixed the startup problem.    

Figure 28 Bent top

Figure 29 Bend end had prevented movement through arm [now straight]

Finally, the game powers on correctly and can be evaluated.  Does the scoring and lights work as designed?  Looking closer, I see

  • The wire to the original flipper switch has come loose and needs resoldering.
  • The green bumper is sluggish and is fixed by reducing the switch gap.
  • The new light bulbs do not light in the green bumper and flicker in the red one.  Both are fixed by raising the bottom of the light socket so that the bulbs have a tight fit.

Success.  Game working.  As soon as my order arrives, I’ll replace all backboard lights with #47 bulbs, reinstall the back glass.

Replacing bulbs

What I thought would be a piece of cake with the back glass off, turned out to be more difficult because some of the bulbs were in holes too large for both my fingers and the bulb.   I tried using needle nose plyers, but could not get a good grip on the bulb—even after wrapping them with tape.  Needle nose vice grips had a too strong a grip braking the bulbs. 

Figure 30 Too small for my  fingers

Finally, my own lightbulb went off for trying the DeWalt drill bit holder.  After removing the bit, the holder snugly fit over the bulbs, easily facilitating pushing and turning at the same time. 

Figure 31 Drill Bit Holder with bit removed

Figure 32 Successful bulb  inserting and twisting


There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction when playing a game you brought back to life.  Even though I spent way too much time writing this document to offset my frustrations when stumped,  in the end, it was all worth it.  Again, a big thank you to the Pinball Ninja’s online site for teaching the basics of repair.  I could not have done this without his willingness to document in detail.


  • Take lots of pictures before you start.
  • Replace the power plug with a new outlet to simplify the wiring.
  • Grinding a wing nut is much easier than a plain nut.
  • An Oscillating Multi-Tool easily cuts straight line holes.
  • Metal flipper button must be isolated to prevent user shocks.
  • Do not add coins when credits exist on early Gottlieb games. The coin acts as the start button and reduces available games.
  • Installing a wood wedge is easier than bending the lock itself.
  • A drill bit holder inserts bulbs in tight places.

List of figures

Figure 1 Where the Quartette game sat for 10 years.

Figure 2 Bottom half of playing field with 4 flippers

Figure 3 Top half of playing field with 4 capture holes. Notice the metal gates that have to be removed to install new rubbers pointed to by the numbers 1 and 2.

Figure 4 Back Glass

Figure 5 Playing field art work

Figure 6 Wing nut with one side ground off for rebound rubber

Figure 7 Pronged Wing Nut

Figure 8 Wood block preventing glass removal from top

Figure 9 Location of removed items needed for back board removal

Figure 10 Old tape left on and new tape over clear glass

Figure 11 Quartette Backboard.

Figure 12 Missing the 4 million light bulb

Figure 13 No socket by design for the 4 million light

Figure 14 Old plug         Figure 15 New plug with 2 outlets and 4 wires

Figure 16 New wiring. Note the on/off designations added for the new switch.

Figure 17 Oscillating Blade used to cut on/off switch hole

Figure 18 Burn marks

Figure 19 Missing and original flipper coils

Figure 20 New flipper coils

Figure 21 Bad flipper button

Figure 22 Metal flipper button [red end with cotter pin] pushes a metal rod that contacts the flipper switch.

Figure 23 Original flipper switch.  Note the simplicity, a metal tab protecting two contact leafs.

Figure 24 New flipper switch

Figure 25 Wedge added for door lock

Figure 26 Before and after polishing

Figure 27  Reset bank

Figure 28 Bent top

Figure 29 Bend end had prevented movement through arm [now straight]

Figure 30 Too small for my  fingers

Figure 31 Drill Bit Holder with bit removed

Figure 32 Successful bulb  inserting and twisting

Story photos

Figure .1  Ten year home (resized).png
Figure .2 Bottom half (resized).png
Figure .3 Top half (resized).png
Figure .4 Back glass (resized).png
Figure .5 Art work (resized).png
Figure .6 Ground wing nut (resized).png
Figure .7 Pronged Wing Nut (resized).png
Figure .8 Wood Block (resized).png
Figure .9 Removed items (resized).png
Figure 10 Tape on glass (resized).png
Figure 11 Backboard (resized).png
Figure 12 Missing Bulb (resized).png
Figure 13 No socket (resized).png
Figure 14 Old Plug (resized).png
Figure 16.5 (resized).png
Figure 15 New Plug (resized).png
Figure 16 New Wiring (resized).png
Figure 17 Oscillating Blade (resized).png
Figure 18 Burn Marks (resized).png
Figure 19 Missing coil (resized).png
Figure 20 New coils (resized).png
Figure 21 Bad flipper button (resized).png
Figure 22 Metal Flipper (resized).png
Figure 23 Original Switch (resized).png
Figure 24 New switch (resized).png
Figure 25 Wedge added (resized).png
Figure 26 Polishing (resized).png
Figure 27 Reset bank (resized).png
Figure 28 Bent top (resized).png
Figure 29 Bent end (resized).png
Figure 30 Too Small (resized).png
Figure 31 (resized).png
Figure 32 (resized).png


1 year ago

Thanks for sharing your experience with your first machine. Have to laugh though about how you dealt with the rebound puck. I don't know if you've ever heard of Steve Young, but he's a well known figure in the pinball hobby. He owns and operates "The Pinball Resource", which is THE place for pinball machine replacement parts (www.pbresource.com). Steve is known to be a little gruff at times, but he's an absolute genius when it comes to pinball and a host of other subjects. I'll never forget a call he got once. The person on the other end was asking how to remove and replace the rebound puck with a new one he had just purchased. Steve paused for moment, and then barked out "it's rubber; it'll stretch!". There's no need to grind off the rivet holding the old puck on. Just pull it off, and push the new one on. It's that simple!
Happy Pinball!

1 year ago

Great read.. as for your bulb insertion issue I used a plunger tip to replace my bulbs. Also a good idea or practice you can consider when handling the bulbs is to keep the glass clean from your finger oils and dirt. This can lead to black Mark's on the backglass area. Caused by the oils burning away on the bulbs it also give it the chrome look on the bulb thus shortening the life. Hope this helps you in the future. Pinhead Steve

1 year ago

Clay (Pinball Ninja) is the man when it comes to EM repair. I learned so much from his tutorials.

1 year ago

I am operating pinballs from 1972 and Williams Gun Machines and Shicaco coin:
Rifle Gallery.
When the video games last for 20 years
I put them in my stores and now operate
Again and also I sell.
If anyone wants to buy some pinballs,please
Email me:[email protected]
Pinball machines will stay for ever. Regards to everyone. George Cyprus

1 year ago

Wonderful restoration! This machine is a blast to play and was also my first table. I paid to have someone else restore it, as I opened it up and immediately thought "yeah, this ain't happening." Glad to see that you documented it so well.

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