(Topic ID: 295279)

Avg cost of repairing an EM pinball

By borna

4 months ago


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  • Latest reply 3 months ago by bonzo71
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There are 74 posts in this topic. You are on page 1 of 2.
#1 4 months ago

Hi all,
I know this is a very stupid question but there is Surf champ pinball that I like however has some issues
1. the flippers are not working
2. dropdown targets all of them in down position and are not resetting
3. side bumpers next to the flippers not working.
4. Upper right pop bumper also not working.

So What I want to know the cost to fix these giving the worse case scenarios and the best case scenarios.
How much usually the technician will charge per hours to troubleshoot and fix these (again the worse case and the best case).

Thanks

#2 4 months ago

Most techs are around 100-150 an hour and any trip charge. Then an additional hourly fee after that. Could be an hour total if the score reels need attention to get the game resetting properly. If there are lots of issues/mechs to clean it could take 3-5 depending on how fast the tech is at diagnosing/fixing the issues.

17
#3 4 months ago

Free if you ask here and learn to do it yourself. A lot of us like fixing as much as playing.

If you want to be an EM pinball owner it would behove you to learn the basics. Tools to repair most problems on an EM are a switch adjuster, a little file or sandpaper, and your brain. Maybe a jumper wire.

www.pinrepair.com/em is the go to to learn about electromechanical pinball machines

#4 4 months ago

Depending on where you live, you might struggle to find anyone willing to work on an em. There are some great online resources though.

#5 4 months ago

It sounds like that game is in "as found" condition and needs a thorough refurbishment. Asking "what it will cost" is tough - I personally wouldn't touch a job like that unless the game were brought to my shop and I could work on it in my own time; this does NOT sound like a game that can be completely shopped out/fixed in one 4 hour house call. I would guess I would end up charging around $600-1000 plus transportation costs. Others may charge less and do house calls, who knows. Fact is there's not a lot of "EM Techs" out there who are willing to work on others' games.

For many EMs, this is more than the game is "worth" so it's up to the customer. When it comes to EM games - or all pinball - you are really better off learning how to do some of this stuff yourself or it can get expensive and frustrating depending upon someone else. At the least, you'd probably be better off buying a game that already works, and fixing things as they break, than getting into the hobby by buying a complete basket case like this.

#6 4 months ago

What you should be told is if the em hasn't been totally gone through recently and has been sitting unplayed for months, fixing just one or two problems may get it playing, but additional problems may well occur with additional play. Resulting in the need for additional service calls.
To totally go through a 4 player Surf Champ could easily take 4-10 hours and could easily cost $500-$700, maybe more if your repair guy charges more. But that might be the smarter move if you aren't able to tinker with the game yourself. Hourly rates can run anywhere from $50 to $150, including travel time. Parts extra! Also some techs really know em's and can track down many problems quickly. Others who work more on digital games can spend hours on the same problem. Look for someone who routinely works on ems.

#7 4 months ago
Quoted from CrazyLevi:

It sounds like that game is in "as found" condition and needs a thorough refurbishment. Asking "what it will cost" is tough - I personally wouldn't touch a job like that unless the game were brought to my shop and I could work on it in my own time; this does NOT sound like a game that can be completely shopped out/fixed in one 4 hour house call. I would guess I would end up charging around $600-1000 plus transportation costs. Others may charge less and do house calls, who knows. Fact is there's not a lot of "EM Techs" out there who are willing to work on others' games.
For many EMs, this is more than the game is "worth" so it's up to the customer. When it comes to EM games - or all pinball - you are really better off learning how to do some of this stuff yourself or it can get expensive and frustrating depending upon someone else. At the least, you'd probably be better off buying a game that already works, and fixing things as they break, than getting into the hobby by buying a complete basket case like this.

Gotta say Levi, you when you're not blasting other pinsiders, it's refreshing to see a well thought out, wholesome response. Are you ok?

#8 4 months ago

To the OP, if the game is cheap and you're up for it, (basic mechanical skills, knows how to use a screwdriver, can solder (or at least learn how to solder)), the price of parts on these games aren't that bad. Probably $200 in parts assuming you have to rebuild the major mechs (flippers, drop targets, pop bumpers and slings, etc.) plus new rubber and new random other parts. If you can put in some time everyday to learn something new everyday, in time you'll have the game cleaned, resetting properly and eventually playing properly. the process itself can be very rewarding. The playability of the game is a another kind of reward. Make sure it's not missing any parts. You'll have to acquire a schematic and learn how to read it, even if you can stumble your way through (like me).

if you buy it, and after a time, don't feel that you can get a grasp of getting an EM running, then you could just as easily sell it. I normally wouldn't recommend buying a project EM as a first pinball machine, but if it's cheap, then go for it. If you can get a working 1 player game, that is probably a bit easier to start off with, then you can ease into tweaking and repairs.

Pinside FWIW can be a very good place to learn everything you need to know about reviving and maintaining games. In that regard, you couldn't ask for a better community. We all gotta start somewhere.

#9 4 months ago
Quoted from FatPanda:

To the OP, if the game is cheap and you're up for it, (basic mechanical skills, knows how to use a screwdriver, can solder (or at least learn how to solder)), the price of parts on these games aren't that bad. Probably $200 in parts assuming you have to rebuild the major mechs (flippers, drop targets, pop bumpers and slings, etc.) plus new rubber and new random other parts. If you can put in some time everyday to learn something new everyday, in time you'll have the game cleaned, resetting properly and eventually playing properly. the process itself can be very rewarding. The playability of the game is a another kind of reward. Make sure it's not missing any parts. You'll have to acquire a schematic and learn how to read it, even if you can stumble your way through (like me).
if you buy it, and after a time, don't feel that you can get a grasp of getting an EM running, then you could just as easily sell it. I normally wouldn't recommend buying a project EM as a first pinball machine, but if it's cheap, then go for it. If you can get a working 1 player game, that is probably a bit easier to start off with, then you can ease into tweaking and repairs.
Pinside FWIW can be a very good place to learn everything you need to know about reviving and maintaining games. In that regard, you couldn't ask for a better community. We all gotta start somewhere.

So this is a 2 player game. The woods are not bad but needs new paint and stencil.
the playing field is in a good shape. So with I know so far those are the things that are wrong with it electronically and mechanically, what would be a good fair price?

#10 4 months ago

Sounds like it qualifies as a "project machine". Price may vary depending on where you live, and condition has a big impact (especially the playfield and the backglass). In the absence of photos, I'd say $400-$600 but again very dependent on the pinball market where you live.

Here's an archived ad from the marketplace for some context: https://pinside.com/pinball/market/classifieds/archive/114301

#11 4 months ago
Quoted from borna:

So this is a 2 player game. The woods are not bad but needs new paint and stencil.
the playing field is in a good shape. So with I know so far those are the things that are wrong with it electronically and mechanically, what would be a good fair price?

Without seeing it, it's impossible to place value on the game. In today's market, a nice working Surf Champ could go for 800-1.5K, I would guess (big range, i know). Good cabinet, nice backglass without flaking, and good playfield with little to no wear. Again, just would be my guess.

With several of the solenoids not working, it could be a number of things; likely a combination of things wrong with it. usually these could be fixed, so it really depends on the cosmetics.

#12 4 months ago
Quoted from borna:

So this is a 2 player game. The woods are not bad but needs new paint and stencil.
the playing field is in a good shape. So with I know so far those are the things that are wrong with it electronically and mechanically, what would be a good fair price?

Here in CA I don't have a problem finding EM projects for $300-$600, $0-$300 if I'm patient/lucky. Surfer is the 2 player version of Surf Champ, seems like a more desirable EM. Hard to judge without a picture. The average EM in good or better shape fully working/shopped seems to be worth ~$1000, add more for more desirable titles

I would say average $200 in parts to get an EM back to tip-top shape, do the work yourself if you like tinkering. It's a lot more fun that way IMO

#13 4 months ago
Quoted from borna:

there is Surf champ pinball that I like

Surf Champ

Quoted from borna:

this is a 2 player game.

Surfer
They are different games. Playfield will be the same, backglass and wiring will be different because Surfer doesn’t have wiring or components for players 3-4.

#14 4 months ago
Quoted from Knxwledge:

Here in CA I don't have a problem finding EM projects for $300-$600, $0-$300 if I'm patient/lucky. Surfer is the 2 player version of Surf Champ, seems like a more desirable EM. Hard to judge without a picture. The average EM in good or better shape fully working/shopped seems to be worth ~$1000, add more for more desirable titles
I would say average $200 in parts to get an EM back to tip-top shape, do the work yourself if you like tinkering. It's a lot more fun that way IMO

So this is te link to the machine I am interested. What do you think is a good price to pay?

https://pinside.com/pinball/market/classifieds/ad/116143

#15 4 months ago

Surf Champ / Surfer is probably the best multi-player Gottlieb EM made in the 1970s. If this specific machine is in decent cosmetic shape (backglass art and PF are still pretty good), then it is well worth fixing up.

As others have noted, for a project machine like this, a full mechanical rebuild is the best way to get the machine back to factory-spec playing condition, and to keep it working trouble-free. That is a good choice for someone who wants a great-playing vintage machine, but who has no interest in working on pinball machines. As others have noted, you should expect to be charged $800 or more for a full rebuild by a competent professional EM tech. You have every right to expect an excellent result for that kind of money, and you should get back a machine that looks good and plays great for years to come.

If you want to learn how to fix the machine yourself, then you are highly encouraged to do that, and yes the EM Pinside folks will totally support you as you learn. You should not expect your game to play great or to be free from frequent breakdowns if you go this route, at least not for a while. That may not sound so great, but if you have any interest in working on vintage mechanical machines, it's actually a pretty fantastic hobby to get into. There is a lot of satisfaction in bringing a vintage machine back to life.

- TimMe

#16 4 months ago
Quoted from borna:

So this is te link to the machine I am interested. What do you think is a good price to pay?

That backglass looks pretty rough to me. I don't get involved in game pricing between other people, but I can say that if I were looking for this game, I would be hoping to find one with a better backglass.

On the other hand, Surfer doesn't come up for sale too often, and it is a desirable title to collectors.

Ultimately, "good price to pay" is between you and the seller. Some people have money to spare on their hobby, so they don't care if they spend an extra few hundred dollars to acquire a game that they really want right now. Other people are more price sensitive, for a variety of reasons. Only you know if this game is reasonably priced for you.

- TimMe

#17 4 months ago
Quoted from borna:

So this is te link to the machine I am interested. What do you think is a good price to pay?
https://pinside.com/pinball/market/classifieds/ad/116143

The ad says:
"this vintage machine is in full working order. There is some noticeable fading of paint on the wooden frame of the scoreboard that could be easily sanded and repainted. It has been garage kept and was serviced in 2020."

But you say:

Quoted from borna:

1. the flippers are not working
2. dropdown targets all of them in down position and are not resetting
3. side bumpers next to the flippers not working.
4. Upper right pop bumper also not working.

So the game is not full working order, not even in the slightest bit. Does it need going through or doesn't it? Was service was done in 2020?

If it were me, I would ask for more pics of the cabinet, head, coin door, and under the playfield, and ask what he meant by "service," and if it's in full working order, why there are so many things that don't work.

#18 4 months ago

One other comment. Machines that are kept in garages and storage units are usually not in as good condition as machines kept in houses. That's because houses are heated in the winter and (maybe) cooled in the summer, and garages and storage units usually aren't. EM pinball mechanisms and cosmetics tend to degrade faster when they are subjected to significant seasonal weather changes year after year.

If the garage in question is heated, or is located where the weather is pleasant and consistent all year around, that would generally be better.

Please note that none of this information is intended to discourage you from getting this machine if you really want it. It's just so you can have realistic expectations about the condtion of the machine when you get it.

Most vintage EM machines are well worth saving and fixing up, and most vintage Gottlieb EMs are excellent candidates to be brought back to life so that they play great. They are extremely well-built, commercial grade machines.

- TimMe

#19 4 months ago

Also worth noting that Gottlieb EMs have excellent availability of parts.

#20 4 months ago
Quoted from TimMe:

That backglass looks pretty rough to me. I don't get involved in game pricing between other people, but I can say that if I were looking for this game, I would be hoping to find one with a better backglass.
On the other hand, Surfer doesn't come up for sale too often, and it is a desirable title to collectors.
Ultimately, "good price to pay" is between you and the seller. Some people have money to spare on their hobby, so they don't care if they spend an extra few hundred dollars to acquire a game that they really want right now. Other people are more price sensitive, for a variety of reasons. Only you know if this game is reasonably priced for you.
- TimMe

You mentioned backglass looks pretty rough? Atleast I didn't noticed anything wrong with it. But would you please point out the issues you see with the backglass. Compared with other I see "SURFER" needs fixing?

Also I agree with you on the price. But just like anything there is a assess value for the current condition, then is up to the buyer to pay double of that if he or she is interested. so based on that, what would be fair assess value for it with what we know so far?

Quoted from dr_nybble:

Also worth noting that Gottlieb EMs have excellent availability of parts.

#21 4 months ago
Quoted from dr_nybble:

Also worth noting that Gottlieb EMs have excellent availability of parts.

I know they have stenciles for the box, but do they sell the same for back glass and the playing field?

#22 4 months ago

Avg cost to repair an EM: 2 bucks.

#23 4 months ago
Quoted from Tomass:

Avg cost to repair an EM: 2 bucks.

If you do it yourself

#24 4 months ago
Quoted from Tomass:

Avg cost to repair an EM: 2 bucks.

On paper yes, when it's almost all down to cleaning/adjusting contacts, but I always find that pieces parts are missing/broken, flippers need to be rebuilt, rubbers need to be installed, etc etc. You *could* probably fix an EM for $2 but to do it right you gotta spend the money on parts.

#25 4 months ago
Quoted from Knxwledge:

On paper yes, when it's almost all down to cleaning/adjusting contacts, but I always find that pieces parts are missing/broken, flippers need to be rebuilt, rubbers need to be installed, etc etc. You *could* probably fix an EM for $2 but to do it right you gotta spend the money on parts.

I have fixed several and to get them running it really doesn't take much money at all. Just need to put in the work. Switch tool and contact cleaning will get 90% of games up and running.

#26 4 months ago
Quoted from Tomass:

Avg cost to repair an EM: 2 bucks.

Make you own coils?

#27 4 months ago
Quoted from DNO:

Make you own coils?

The question is about average to fix. This does not mean shop out. Out of 10 EMs maybe 1 bad coil. Besides it is just a statement emphasizing that EMs do not cost much to fix especially compared to other games.

#28 4 months ago

I really like to buy that machine and learn how to fix it.
I know I can paint the cabin and put new stencils
Not sure what I can do with the backglass? How bad is it?
What do you guys think about the condition of the playing field?
Since I am not local I have to pay $shipping charge, so with the condition it is
1. both Flippers not working
2. Both side bumpers not working
3. dropdown targets stuck at down position
4. Upper right pop bumper not working
5. Cabin needs paint and new stencils

What would be the assess value of such a machine?
Then based on that I can decide what it worth to me. Just like a house. bank will assess for for $500K but maybe you are willing to pay $700K

https://pinside.com/pinball/market/classifieds/ad/116143

#29 4 months ago

Personally I think it is overpriced as it stands, and I would not pay to ship an EM. I'd hold out for something local.

#30 4 months ago

$0. Never came across an EM I couldn't fix.

#31 4 months ago
Quoted from borna:

I really like to buy that machine and learn how to fix it.
I know I can paint the cabin and put new stencils
Not sure what I can do with the backglass? How bad is it?
What do you guys think about the condition of the playing field?
Since I am not local I have to pay $shipping charge, so with the condition it is
1. both Flippers not working
2. Both side bumpers not working
3. dropdown targets stuck at down position
4. Upper right pop bumper not working
5. Cabin needs paint and new stencils
What would be the assess value of such a machine?
Then based on that I can decide what it worth to me. Just like a house. bank will assess for for $500K but maybe you are willing to pay $700K
https://pinside.com/pinball/market/classifieds/ad/116143

I wouldnt pay more than $600 for it considering the condition/what it needs to get it 100% working. If you're not attached to that particular machine I would wait until a better deal on a project pops up on CL, Offerup or FB Marketplace.

#32 4 months ago
Quoted from Sam1976surf:

Ad listing: For sale: Surfer (2 player)

Quoted from borna:

Since I am not local I have to pay $shipping charge, so with the condition it is
1. both Flippers not working
2. Both side bumpers not working
3. dropdown targets stuck at down position
4. Upper right pop bumper not working
5. Cabin needs paint and new stencils

The ad and your description are two different machines. The 100% working machine in the ad is worth about $500. The broken machine you describe is maybe $200 and will take another $1200 or so to get it to you and fixed.

#33 4 months ago
Quoted from dr_nybble:

Personally I think it is overpriced as it stands, and I would not pay to ship an EM. I'd hold out for something local.

in Florida, impossible to find anything local less than $5K lol

#34 4 months ago
Quoted from YeOldPinPlayer:

The ad and your description are two different machines. The 100% working machine in the ad is worth about $500. The broken machine you describe is maybe $200 and will take another $1200 or so to get it to you and fixed.

Yes, the add saying 100% working, but later on it was found that is not really 100% working because the seller had no idea was under impression that is 100% working.

#35 4 months ago

Suggest you find local collectors…have you tried http://www.arcadeflorida.com/index.php ?

#36 4 months ago

If this is your first EM pin, I would wait for a working one to turn up locally. They made plenty of Surf Champs and, at least in Europe, they’re not hard to find.

When it inevitably breaks down, that’s the time to gradually acquire EM repair skills.

I personally would not want to be facing a non-working game with multiple known issues and unknown history. I believe the Surf Champ cabinet is made of MDF, so if the garage was damp, it may have become structurally unsound.

Reading about EM repairs sounds easy in theory, but when you are faced with overhauling a major mech like the score motor or player unit it quickly gets scary.

#37 4 months ago

Do yourself a huge favor. Start learning/fixing/diagnosing the in's and out's with a single player EM first, then work your way up to 2/4 player EM's after cutting your teeth on the single player.

#38 4 months ago

I fix for free. You fly me, put me up, give me a good local meal, and your flippers will be a-workin'.

#39 4 months ago
Quoted from Pinslot:

I believe the Surf Champ cabinet is made of MDF, so if the garage was damp, it may have become structurally unsound.

I'm not aware of any EMs made with MDF. Can you elaborate? Or should that question go in its own topic?

#40 4 months ago

$1,300 plus shipping approx $300? For an EM that has issues? From a seller who has been on here for a couple of weeks? This being your 1st pin? Wait for something local. Patience. Patience. Patience.

#41 4 months ago
Quoted from Catch86:

$1,300 plus shipping approx $300? For an EM that has issues? From a seller who has been on here for a couple of weeks? This being your 1st pin? Wait for something local. Patience. Patience. Patience.

I couldn't agree more. The ad says "100% working" and "in full working order" but OP borna reports a list of problems (link below). With those discrepancies, I wouldn't do business with that seller at any price.

https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/avg-cost-of-repairing-an-em-pinball#post-6340486

#42 4 months ago
Quoted from borna:

in Florida, impossible to find anything local less than $5K lol

Im in Florida and find great EM's here, just got to know where to look! They don't come up ever day but I bought a popular Gottlieb WH for $350 and another for $500.

#43 4 months ago

You can bet that if you have to pay someone to repair an EM machine, that the cost of the repair will be significantly more than the cost to purchase the machine that is not working.

#44 4 months ago
Quoted from borna:

5. Cabin needs paint and new stencils

Pinball Pimp has a stencil kit for it: http://pinballpimpstencils.com/gottlieb-stencils/

#45 4 months ago
Quoted from borna:

But would you please point out the issues you see with the backglass.

Sure. The white mask around both of the player scores looks like it has a lot of cracking. And as you already said, the SURFER name is flaking off, too.

When I see things like that, then I am concerned. It could be that the rest of the glass is in great shape, but I would want to take a closer look to see if there is more damage.

There is only one picture of the backglass, and it is not a very good one, but we can still see problems. For $1300, I don't expect to see problems like this.

- TimMe

#46 4 months ago
Quoted from MarkG:

I'm not aware of any EMs made with MDF. Can you elaborate? Or should that question go in its own topic?

Sorry, my mistake. I mean chipboard. It sucks up moisture like a sponge. I’ve had games where the cab flaked off in my hands when I lifted it.

#47 4 months ago

I bought my first non working project EM Pin a couple weeks ago a 1976 Bally Captain Fantastic. After one week of tweaking and the help of Pinside members I have it up and running. Repair cost was $0.00

After misc. rubber, hardware, cleaning supplies, manual etc. I will spent about $250 getting it cleaned up and presentable.

#48 4 months ago

Heres kind of an off topic but still related question. Why this game/why an EM? Is it really the style of game you like or is it just because its a pinball machine thats fairly affordable? I know theres a lot of EM lovers here but if you're not absolutely in love with EM's I would not suggest getting one as your first and only game.

#49 4 months ago

In general, for a first pin I'd suggest buying one that is in good to very good cosmetic
condition and fix it up from there. It can be very discouraging to put a lot of work
into (any) pin only to have it look shabby. Be patient. EM's are not that hard to work on
once you learn some of the basics.
Steve

#50 4 months ago
Quoted from Haymaker:

Heres kind of an off topic but still related question. Why this game/why an EM? Is it really the style of game you like or is it just because its a pinball machine thats fairly affordable? I know theres a lot of EM lovers here but if you're not absolutely in love with EM's I would not suggest getting one as your first and only game.

I only like EM pinballs and not interested in those digital ones at all.
Also in the EM pinballs, I only like surfer or surf champ and Wizard, because as a kid I played those and have good memory of them.

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