Repost of an article with the original document compiled by Russ Jensen and David Gersic in October 1996 written by Tim Arnold, the creator, proprieter, operator, and primary custodian of the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, Nevada. Words of pinball wisdom, that continue to echo through the generations, regardless whether a game is early basic electric woodrail, electromechanical, early solid state, late solid state, or a modern machine. Many of the following comments address solutions for issues that have been discussed both recently on modern manufacturers, or machine titles from the past. Pinball knowledge does not change, it grows and adapts to support the continuing developments of technology.
THINGS 'NOT TO DO' TO A PINBALL MACHINE
by Tim Arnold
1 - DON'T USE METAL TOOLS ON SOLID STATE GAMES WITH THE POWER ON!
If you learn nothing else from this seminar, this is the most important! 75% of the boards I repair have been blown up this way! The coils run at nominal voltages as high as 70 VDC!!! One careless slip of a screw driver sends this voltage up a switch or lamp line right to the control board! I've seen the tops blown right off chips! It takes only seconds to flip the ON-OFF switch, saving hours of needless board repairs!
2 - DON'T IGNORE YOUR BALL!
A missing shooter tip will ruin a ball! ALWAYS replace!
1 1/16" grade 25 steel ball bearing. Any big city searing supply - under a buck!
The ball is HALF THE GAME! A smooth waxed playfield with a pitted gray ball is much slower! An unpolished ball will also cause playfield "pits"! Look at your balls often! Fondle them! If they are rusted or pitted just throw them out! If they are just "gray" POLISH them! Get a high speed bench grinder! A gem shop will have cloth wheels! I like 1" surface, 6" diameter, with 1/2" hole for my 9600 RPM 1/2 horse Milwaukee! Gem stores also have stainless steel or chrome jeweler's rouge! It's the green stuff! Avoid the big brick, get the handy tube! Dope up your cloth wheel often, don't press into the wheel, let the rouge do the work! A better than new mirror surface takes only a couple minutes! CAUTION! Don't be a blind schmuck with burned lungs and fingers! Wear safety glasses and a dust mask cloth or welder's gloves.
3 - SPRAY CONTACT CLEANER IS EVIL!
I don't care what your uncle told you! I don't care that the label says "Safe - Leaves No Residue"! They are false! This is a lazy fools fix! It's a chemical solution to a mechanical problem! 95% of the dirt can be removed by wiping with a soft cloth! This is all you should do to a digital game's gold plated heads! Electro-mechanical games and all flipper switches are made of silver or a hard alloy. These should be filed flat and smooth! While filing, if the head is loose, replace the whole blade! After both contacts are cleaned and/or filed, adjust for self cleaning by having the two overwipe on contact! This lack of overwiping is why the contacts got dirty in the first place! A properly adjusted contact should NEVER get dirty! Also, bakelite spacers dry out, leaving loose switch stacks! Tighten both screws before adjusting.
4 - DO NOT USE TAPE TO BUNDLE LEGS TOGETHER
It pulls the paint or chrome off! Old rubber rings are OK for short term storage! I use scrap wire from old harnesses! Gottlieb legs look like new with "No. 7" brand chrome polish from any auto store! Rinse well, towel dry! New footies are a must! All the parts houses have 'em! Dab grease into the threads to prevent rust before you screw 'em in! I also polish the front leg bolts (see Item #2) to a mirror finish! Slick! Check the leg bolt mounting plates on the inside of the cabinet! They are held in place only with nails! If they are loose, replace with screws!
5 - DO NOT SHIP YOUR GAME WITH THE BALLS IN IT!
It will break drop targets, bumper caps, and wear a deep groove in the top arch! Be a high-class hauler! Pop the ball into a bag with the leg bolts and stash securely in the cash box!
6 - DON'T USE WATER-BASED OR ABRASIVE PLAYFIELD CLEANER!
There are some pinheads that advocate a one time cleaning with an abrasive cleaner! I DO NOT and will not agree! Abrasives make the paint look newer by stripping away the protective hard-coat! It's like pissing your pants in the winter to keep warm. Short term everything is great, but long term, you lose! At NO TIME should any water-based cleaner be used! It seeps into the wood and causes it to swell, pulling the paint apart (cracks)! It also weakens the adhering of the paint to the wood! All I have ever used, for 15 years, is creamy car wax! I like Pink Excalibur or Kit- Sprint! Handy squeeze bottles, cheap, available everywhere! Avoid runny wax like Turtle Wax, to easy to get it in where it doesn't belong! Paste wax is more work! Any car wax is OK, as long as it's not "Car Wash"! Carnuba is a plus!
7 - DON'T PRY OPEN COIN DOORS!
If you get a game in with no keys; pick it open! Most locksmith shops sell pick sets! If not this, drill out the lock! A good bit goes right up the middle of most extruded brass (Ace) or bi-metal (Fort, Tuf-guard) and out the other end! Back doors on EM games can be popped open with a quick stoke of a large screwdriver without much damage!
8 - BRACE SCORE REELS WHEN CLEANING!
Gottlieb "decagon" units (1967-1979) have a spring-steel blade as a detent pawl (hold in on forward stroke) that will become bent back and useless if you force plastic dial backwards during routine cleaning! Clean with one hand, brace with the other! This is also a good habit to get into with Bally, Williams, etc. dials, all of which were designed not to be forced in this way! To work fast and true, these units had to be designed with tolerances of only 1-2 grams! Be gentle! I have always used creamy car wax on score dials, and never had ink come off! Water will! Chicago Coin dials with translucent plastic reels WILL be wiped off with car wax! If cleaning a Chi-Coin game, test a small spot first and work carefully! When I'm rebuilding a high mileage game, I like to rotate the highly worn parts from 1 & 10 dials to 100 & 1000 dials! On digital games, I recommend stocking up now on gas discharge tubes! They will someday stop making them! Mazzco has 6 digit tubes for $6!
9 - SOLDER LAMP SOCKETS SHUT TO STOP DIMMING
Lamp sockets are two pieces, a socket and a bracket that are press-fit together! As air works into press-fit surfaces over the years, they corrode! A drop of solder should be melted between the two! This is easy and quick if you first prep the metal with liquid solder flux or a small file! (5% Hydrochloric Acid) This fixes 90% of dim bulbs! The other 10% is dirty inner socket surface. Clean with Dremmel Tool or Steve Young's cleaning sticks! If the problem is in the bulb, clean the bulb base with a green pad and/or solder a new tit onto the bottom of the bulb! Finally, wipe the oil from your fingers off the bulb top, heat will build up there!
10 - BE CAREFUL WITH SOLDER!
Do NOT believe it is a safe proven product! Work in a well ventilated room! Do not eat while soldering! Do not smoke! Do not leave beverages near job site! Do not touch your face while soldering! Even if you are very hungry, do not pick your nose! Wash your hands as soon as you are done! Do not use a high heat (over 700 degrees) iron! Lead builds up over time in your body! BE CAREFUL! To protect your eyes, wear glasses.
11 - DON'T BUY CHEAP SOLDER
I can always recommend Kester or other American made 60-40 rosin solder! Radio Shack is another good bet! Avoid "Otey" or any solder from the Orient or in an unmarked container. Expect to pay 6-10 $ per pound! Buy 18 A.W.G. for big jobs and 22 A.W.G. for board work!
12 - STRAP A BOARD OVER BACKGLASSES WHEN SHIPPING HEAD!
Luan or cheap-o thin plywood could save your backglass! Large rubber bands or cloth straps will hold in place, don't use tape, it will take the paint off the cabinet when you pull it off! Use plastic steelband to hold head and body to shipping pallet Get to know a carpet guy! He will give you all the scraps you want! Pad everything! If you have to ship or store a playfield, go to a bicycle store and get free bicycle boxes, perfect size! When moving heads in the cold, remember the #1 killer of backglass paint, rapid temperature change! Move outside in stages, inside, porch, outside, truck! ALWAYS wait an hour before turning on a cold, from the outside, game!
13 - REPLACE THIN-FLANGE FLIPPER BUSHINGS
Steve Young has 'em, Wico, Mayfair, Mazzsco! Even if your old style bushings look OK, shitcan 'em! New style has a slight build-up which keeps flipper up away from wood! Don't screw 'em in, bolt them thru!
14 - SHITCAN SHAKY FEET! GREASE YOUR FEET!
Old feet ruin floors and carpets! Steal them off PAC-MAN machines! All parts houses have 'em! Coat the threads with a grease to prevent rust!
15 - CHEAP SUPER GLUE IS NO BARGAIN!
I use super glue a lot! The only one worth a shit is Borden's Crazy Glue in the tube! The pen is worthless. Cyanide glue will hurt your eyes! One time, two frat boys passed out on the back stairs of the arcade! We took off their shoes and super glued hands to feet! Much funny! Same goes for tape! Scotch #33 or #35 is the only kind to use.
16 - TEMPERED GLASS! LEARN IT! LOVE IT! LIVE IT!
Mazzco sells it for $8 a sheet (you pick up, Chicago). Plate glass is not very strong and breaks very sharp! On any glass, remember the 10" Rule! Lift to your feet, then the floor! Go to Builder's Square and get foam weather strip and beer-seal!
17 - STORE YOUR GAMES ON FREE PALLETS!
If you leave your machines sitting up on end in a basement, garage, or Store-It, you MUST put them up on pallets! Many pinheads have tales of sudden broken pipes or freak floods that left the backs of their games swelled up and useless! Go behind auto parts stores, drug stores, or supermarkets and get free pallets! Then it can flood up to 3" and your games stay dry! While out on pallet runs, also look for old store displays and shelving they are throwing out! All my parts are stored on old coppertone displays and movie store shelves!
18 - SCREW 2ND KEY INTO GAME BOTTOM
New locks come with 2 keys! Grab a #6 x 1/4 wood screw and mount the spare to the bottom of the game! I also screw into the cash box area, the spare back door key.
19 - PREPARE TO REPLACE "FISH GLUE"
Pinball cabinets are made with a low quality organic glue. After about 20 years, at random, some cabinets just come apart. I love to buy games cheap with sprung cabinets, it's such an easy fix! All the mitered joints still line up, just smear Elmer's yellow wood glue in the joint, pipe clamp together, wipe excess glue off, and wait over night! Good as new!
20 -'22' GAUGE FLIPPER JUMP WIRE HAS GOTTA GO!
The wires between flipper End-Of-Stroke Switch and coil are not big enough! 95% of Williams games from the 60's and 70's use dinky 22 A.W.G. jump wires! Remember, for each 4 wire gauges you go up or down you double or cut in half wire diameter! So if you have some old 18 gauge heavy duty zip cord around, use that! Also check the wire going from transformer lug to coil voltage fuse! Always replace it with a double strand of 18 A.W.G. (14 A.W.G.) zip cord! Also replace any Bally fuse clips they made themselves (mounted on flimsy bakelite) with nice Little-Fuse or Buss holders.
21 - TIGHTEN COIN DOOR HINGE!
Operators don't! Check both where hinge mounts into wood with #8x3/8 wood screw and where door shell mounts to hinge with machine screw! Williams games with Taiwan coin doors (TAXI and forward) are ALWAYS loose!
22 - LET YOUR GAME WARM UP!
See #12 above
23 - MODIFY GOTTLIEB SYSTEM 1 POWER SUPPLY
If -12 voltage regulator stops, all the coils in the whole game full in! BOOM! Instant fried board! The jive ass heat sink arrangement should be replaced with the +5 pass transistor being moved to a small remote heat sink! The -12 regulator lugs should be checked for insulation and ALL solder joints on headers need to be refloated! EXTRA HINT! Gottlieb system 80 bumper driver boards need new cap! 90% of "flapping" bumpers, coil burnouts, blown fuses, can be traced to this 47 MFD cap!
24 - PLAYFIELD SCREWS
OUCH! The hole is all egged out! The rubber pulls the post crooked, bending the plastic! Some advocate filling the hole with toothpicks or wood putty, but why!
When rebuilding playfields I run #6 studs thru the playfield from the bottom! Then I put the post and plastic on top of that and firmly nut each! Now I can ENDLESSLY take it apart to change rubber or bulbs and never wear out hole! Drill a #5 hole from the TOP DOWN where the original hole was! Do not use a high speed twist drill, it will burst out the bottom and chew up a wire bundle! Then use same hand held screwdriver to feed into #5 hole a 2" #6 bolt from the bottom up! Place the post on the stud, nut it with an ordinary #6 nut, put the rollover guide apron or plastic scene card on top, and elastic nut in place! If you encounter a relay or step unit in the way of your hole, just use a pan head bolt and counter sink so it lays flush with the wood! Try it on one game, you'll never go back! Buy large quantities of hardware from "fastener supplies" in Yellow Pages or from Electronic Surplus in Dayton for $1.25 a pound!
25 - A.C. PARTS - D.C. PARTS
Magnet coils on EM games contain a brass or copper cladding that retains the magnetic field thru the "0 cycle" of the A.C. wave! If it comes loose or wears out, relays will start to hum! Replace Coil! A phone call to Steve Young or myself can cross reference 95% of all coils! D.C. coils contain no such copper slug, but do have a diode across the winding! As the magnetic field collapses, a "spike" of reverse voltage comes out of the coil! The diode suppresses this! Don't ignore this! On most relays there is a brass or copper washer between the coil and the relay frame! This, along with the brass screw keep the frame isolated magnetically! IMPORTANT! As relays on Gottlieb games need ONLY to have coil removed, cleaned, de-magnetized, and strike plate wear spot covered with mylar. DO NOT attempt to take stepping part of relay apart!
26 - REMOVE BATTERIES!
Solid state games have batteries to hold in memory overnight! Left alone for long periods they will leak and corrode! Pop 'em out or break them off and take them to be recycled or hold them, do not throw batteries in garbage!!! I use AA Nicad to replace high priced "Data Sentry" or long duty batteries.
27 - PROP STICKS ARE BAD!
When working on playfields, don't use the prop stick! Pull the game to a solid service position! Playfield flex causes paint cracking!
28 - DON'T MAKE FUN OF WAYNE NEWTON
He is God in Vegas. If we find you doing this we will kick your ass.
29 - COIL SATIATION
Solenoid coils must have a ferrous plunger inside them or they draw 2-3 times the current! Magnetic field is produced at 20-100% of satiation! If plunger is worn, replace! Plated plungers shed less carbon! Polished plungers have less friction! New sleeves (Nylon) even less!
30 - COIL MODIFICATION
Bally-Williams and Chicago Coin coils all have the wire gauge and # of turns on the wrapper! Gottlieb coils only have drawing # but can be crossed with chart in newer parts manuals! For more power, smaller A.W.G. or less turns! Most coils are measured with Ohms, but keep in mind this is for comparison only, Inductance is NOT measured in Ohms and Ohm's Law can not be used to figure Inductive loads! The simplest thing to do is lop off 20%, no more, of the wire, bare paint off the end, and resolder to lug!
31 - REPLACE FLIPPER LINKS WITH NYLON OR STEEL
Flipper links are made of bakelite, a soft, cheap, low grad plastic! The factories claimed they used it due to it's high resistance to heat, but the real reason was it's LOW COST! I buy sheet nylon from a plastic house or use old prop sticks as steel stock! Shape on a bench grinder, coat holes with Cyanide glue, heat plunger, knock out roll pin with a punch, cradled in a vise! WARNING! steel links have a different feel that plastic! For true original use plastic!
32 - EQUALIZE GROUNDS
Digital Gottlieb games were the worst! The grounds all terminated on a strip in the bottom of the game! Clip off press lugs and solder them on! Strap the ground of Gottlieb power supplies to the metal liner of the cabinet! On all digital games, connect all grounds at all times! Screw in place all boards! Floating grounds causes many "phantom" problems that drive you crazy!
33 - TOOTHBRUSH YOUR POSTS
Williams posts from late 70's, early 80's, with deep horizontal ruts, and Gottlieb metal posts of mid-60's are a snap to clean with an old toothbrush.
34 - KEEP YOUR GAME OUT OF SUN!!!
IT FADES THE PAINT!!! (I use UV materials, and full privacy blinds combined to block out all light, cabinets and playfield stay bright without "patina")
35 - NICE KNOCKERS
As a kid I lived for the sound of the free play knocker! But now, when I get a game in, it isn't as loud as I remembered! What has happened, the knocker is no longer being held tightly to the side of the cabinet! Tighten the screws, or even better yet bolt it thru! Lop of 20% of the wire (See #24 and #30) and it sounds like Detroit on a Saturday night!
36 - RE-INK BUMPER CAPS
Use a Sharpie or Super Sharpie
37 - BEER-SEAL YOUR GLASS
Apply weatherstrip to glass or front cap to prevent liquids from flowing into front of table. Replace when cracked or dry!
38 - OIL METAL MOTOR GEARS
When you rebuild a game, check the motor! If it has no fiber gears, drop some light machine oil on all exposed gears but NOT on the armature of the motor! If at any time you have motor failure, don't waste your time trying to fix it! Take the model # stamped on the frame and call the mighty motor men at Multi-Products! In 3 days, for $28, you will have an EXACT REPLACEMENT made new! Total coolness!
39 - COIN LOCKOUT COILS
Are not needed! Remove them and all the linkage parts on the door! DO NOT open a common, and carefully tape off!
At another Expo a year or so later Tim presented a similar talk, repeating most of the items listed above. There were, however, a couple NEW items. These included:
Advising that when replacing diodes in solid-state games, you should use one with a higher "Peak Inverse Voltage" (PIV).
The other new item was a suggestion to "rotate" (turn over) parts used in electro-mechanical game chime units in order to make them last longer.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” - Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss)