(Topic ID: 240697)

Best way to Clean entire EM Cabinet mechanics?


By tscottn

72 days ago



Topic Stats

  • 19 posts
  • 11 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 70 days ago by EMsInKC
  • Topic is favorited by 6 Pinsiders

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Clean Screws (resized).png
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#1 72 days ago

Hey guys, Im sure there is a topic posted about this somewhere and I am actively scouring the forums. I just thought I would ask what is everyone's favorite method for cleaning all the relays, wiring, score motors etc mounted to the board inside the cab? Mine are pretty dirty. 40 years of grime really looks bad.. probably looks worse than it is since the machine plays well.. but as I am finishing up the cab paint job I have time now to work on the guts, which are already out of the cab. .,. I am thinking of cutting a new board to mount inside the cab and moving all the parts over and cleaning them by hand as I do.. however this seems pretty tedious. Especially since you just dont want to start spraying cleaner everywhere. so what say you? I would love to hear everyone's opinion before I start this tedious work.. thanks

#2 72 days ago

Your favourite degreaser (I prefer Mean Green) and an ultrasonic cleaner for frames. Then tumbler for a few days. Q-tips and isopropyl alcohol for switch stacks. Yes it is tedious and no one else will know but YOU know it’s clean in there! Put on some tunes and work away at it.

#3 72 days ago

I recently acquired a Shangri-La that I need to do this to. I was planning on just firing it up and cleaning all the switches and steppers that are gummed up to verify everything actually works, then I’m gonna break it down and get OCD with every single piece and part. I’ll be following this thread for others’ suggestions.

http://pinwiki.com/wiki/index.php?title=EM_Repair

#4 72 days ago
Quoted from mrm_4:

I recently acquired a Shangri-La that I need to do this to. I was planning on just firing it up and cleaning all the switches and steppers that are gummed up to verify everything actually works, then I’m gonna break it down and get OCD with every single piece and part. I’ll be following this thread to others’ suggestions.
http://pinwiki.com/wiki/index.php?title=EM_Repair

My issue is that there is no easy way to " break it down" unless I want to start desoldering ( which I dont and wont) so its all really one big assembly on the board.. sure I can desolder a few pieces, but relays and such, no way.. I wish I could just dump a f-ton of degreaser on it all, scrub it down and hose it all off..... )0

#5 72 days ago

I've posted about this before, but when I remove the bottom-board from a Gottlieb EM for a restoration, I carefully spray off the bottom-board with a hose and get all that dirt off. I immediately dry in the sun and with fans. Never had an issue and it gets a ton of dirt off. I can then do the small/manual cleaning of each relay, stepper, etc. as described above, but without all the dirt on the board and cloth wires.

#6 72 days ago
Quoted from goldenboy232:

I've posted about this before, but when I remove the bottom-board from a Gottlieb EM for a restoration, I carefully spray off the bottom-board with a hose and get all that dirt off. I immediately dry in the sun and with fans. Never had an issue and it gets a ton of dirt off. I can then do the small/manual cleaning of each relay, stepper, etc. as described above, but without all the dirt on the board and cloth wires.

So your saying you just hose the entire thing down? wires, relays and all that is mounted to the board? man if thats the case , I think I would be too scared to do that..

#7 72 days ago
Quoted from tscottn:

So your saying you just hose the entire thing down? wires, relays and all that is mounted to the board? man if thats the case , I think I would be too scared to do that..

There’s a pretty sweet video on youtube somewhere of someone doing this to a bingo back box.

I think I would drench the bottom board in mean green let it do it’s thing for about 10 mins then rinse it.

#8 72 days ago
Quoted from tscottn:

My issue is that there is no easy way to " break it down" unless I want to start desoldering ( which I dont and wont) )0

“I love the smell of solder fumes in the morning
-That guy from Apocalypse Now

#9 72 days ago

There are lots of options as you'll likely find. How far you take it is a matter of personal preference. Options include:

- Just vacuum it out and enjoy it as it is.
- Unscrew a few of the relays, steppers, etc. at a time and brush/scrape/scrub the plywood underneath. Work your way across the board that way.
- Remove everything and sand or replace the bottom board completely.
- Wire bundles can often be brushed clean with brushes of various stiffnesses, even toothbrushes.
- Switch stacks can be cleaned with a rotary tool and a wire brush bit, or a toothbrush with a little mineral spirits or other cleaner sprayed into it. You can put a rag under the switch stacks to catch the dirt that gets flushed out.
- Relay frames and armatures can be removed for cleaning if the switch stacks are unscrewed and left more or less in place. Just be sure to keep the switches in the same order in the stack with rubber bands or whatever, and be sure to thread them back in to the armatures the same way.
- You can go the full hose-it-down route shown in the classic video referred to earlier:

It's all good.

/Mark

#10 71 days ago
Quoted from MarkG:

There are lots of options as you'll likely find. How far you take it is a matter of personal preference. Options include:
- Just vacuum it out and enjoy it as it is.
- Unscrew a few of the relays, steppers, etc. at a time and brush/scrape/scrub the plywood underneath. Work your way across the board that way.
- Remove everything and sand or replace the bottom board completely.
- Wire bundles can often be brushed clean with brushes of various stiffnesses, even toothbrushes.
- Switch stacks can be cleaned with a rotary tool and a wire brush bit, or a toothbrush with a little mineral spirits or other cleaner sprayed into it. You can put a rag under the switch stacks to catch the dirt that gets flushed out.
- Relay frames and armatures can be removed for cleaning if the switch stacks are unscrewed and left more or less in place. Just be sure to keep the switches in the same order in the stack with rubber bands or whatever, and be sure to thread them back in to the armatures the same way.
- You can go the full hose-it-down route shown in the classic video referred to earlier:
It's all good.
/Mark

man I would love to do what this guy did in the video.. im just so hesitant of introducing any type of liquid to the system. it goes against everything ive ever been taught about electrical components and water.. but life sure would be easier if i could bring myself to do it..

#11 71 days ago

I take all the relays apart and tumble the frames. Wire wheel on a Dremel for all switches. I generally do not take trip banks apart though. I generally take the motor apart too. I have sanded the board a few times, only if the labels are junk and I need to reproduce them.

Clean the harness with Mean Green and a brush.

#12 71 days ago

This is what I do. There are a lot of ways to restore a pinball machine. My way may or may not be best for you.

Mech Board

  • Remove all mechs from the mech board. Be extremely careful to pull the mechs up and over the labels! Put the screws, nuts and other hardware somewhere safe where it won't get lost. (Do as I say and not as I do!) I need to get one of those magnetized metal bowls! You will need to remove every relay from the mech board anyway and this method is not much more work.
  • It might be easiest for you to remove the labels on the board. I find it is too easy to damage the labels.
  • For non-painted boards, sand down the board with large grit sandpaper. Finish with a fine grit sandpaper. Sand CAREFULLY around the labels. You can clear-coat the mech board, but I found that it darkens the wood too much and I prefer the original look. For painted boards, clean with a good cleaner. Repaint if necessary. Do NOT get the mech board wet! The wood will swell and the labels will get soaked. You can, carefully clean the labels with Isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs, but be aware that this might remove some of the ink on the labels.
  • Set the mech board aside in a safe place.

Mechs Removed (resized).png

Screws and Washers

  • If you have a tumbler, you can use it to polish up the screws.
  • I don't have a tumbler, so I put Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish on an old T-shirt in one spot and some Mother's Carnauba wax in another. I manually rub the head of the screw or washer in the Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish until it is shiny. I do the same with the wax. I then do the same on a clean part of the cloth to finish.
  • As you take apart the assemblies, the score unit for example, clean the screws as you go and keep them together! They are easy to lose!
  • Shiny screws leave a professional look to your work.

Clean Screws (resized).png

I no longer use rubbing compound. I now use Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish, polishes to a bright shine and protects.

Stepper Units

  • Take a lot of pictures of stepper unit from every angle!
  • Take all stepper units apart, clean all loose parts in the sink with Bon Ami and Gain dishwashing soap, using a toothbrush.
  • Sand any surface rust down with 500 grit sandpaper and blue glass cleaner.
  • Optional: Polish copper gears and parts with Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish. Just buy it. Great stuff!
  • Remove any remaining dried grease and oil with Isopropyl alcohol, especially on the gear teeth.
  • Remove the cotton from a cotton swab and using Isopropyl, clean out the shaft holes in all nylon pieces.
  • Using a cotton pad and Iso, thoroughly clean the shafts on the stepper unit base. Continue until cotton pad is clean.
  • You can polish up the stepper metal base with Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish, but I usually just clean it off with iso.
  • I used to put some SuperLube on the parts with metal to metal contact, but not so much anymore. Put some on the teeth of the gear though - only the teeth that interact with other stepper unit parts.
  • I used to use fine sandpaper to clean the stepper unit contacts/rivets and spider contacts. I now use Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish, I shines up beautifully and the contacts are as smooth as a baby's bottom!
  • Put the stepper unit back together again!
  • Check for loose or missing wires. I had an Aztec that had a lot of bare wires on a stepper unit. This can wreak havoc when the game is turned on. Remove any bare wires, use shrink tubing to cover the bare spots and solder back on. Do this one wire at a time!

For more detail about disassembling and cleaning a stepper unit, read this post:

https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/bally-1970-double-up-minimalist-restoration#post-2949171

Relays

  • Clean all contacts and switches with cotton swabs and Iso.
  • Using a Dremel with a #443 wire brush, polish the contacts until they are bright and shiny. I used to use burnishing tools and 500 grit sandpaper but this method is far superior.
  • Clean all contacts, again, with cotton swabs and Iso
  • Look for missing springs, loose wires, missing wires, anything that is 'wrong.' Lightly pull and move each wire. Sometimes the wires appear to be soldered on properly but may actually be loose. This is rare but cause intermittent problems that are hard to track down. The wires tend to get bent down and flattened over time. I like to restore them to 'loops' when testing the wires - just that extra little touch that looks nice when done.
  • Optional. Clean the metal relay base and the edges of the spacers with a cotton swab and Iso. It's amazing how much dirt and grease will come off!
  • Tighten all switch screws with the proper-sized screwdriver.
  • Using a switch adjustment tool or small regular screwdriver, adjust all switches so the switches are open when they should be and closed when they should be. The gap should be about 1/16 of an inch. Manually move the armature to mimic when the relay is energized. Normally open switches should now be closed and normally closed switches should now be open. The key word here is deflection. Does the switch move just a tiny bit when the switches are opened and closed? If not, you may not be getting good contact and, over time, the switch will come out of adjustment more quickly.
  • Check each switch by manually moving the relay armature to confirm the proper gaps, closed switches that open and open switches that close. Then, go back and double-check your work. Later, when the mech board is put back into the cabinet, repeat the process for each relay and switch. Switches can come out of alignment when bumped during work on other parts on the mech board.

For more information about cleaning and adjusting relays, read this post. Please note that this post was made before I used the Dremel #443 brush to clean contacts:

https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/bally-1970-double-up-minimalist-restoration#post-2958141

Jones Plugs

  • Clean all male plugs with iso and Dremel #443 brush
  • I move the male Jones plugs up and down in the female Jones Plug to, at least, try to remove some of the dirt and to make better contact. Sorry about how that sounds! I still haven't found a good way to clean the female contacts. Anyone?
  • Look for loose or missing wires on the Jones Plug! These problems are very hard to track down, so make sure now that all is good.
  • You can clean up the rest of the Jones Plug with Iso and cotton swabs if you like. I always clean the area where the screws are since these areas collect dust.

Tools

  • Cotton swabs - I like the paper swabs. The cotton comes off too easily on the plastic swabs. I like Q-Tips. They cost more but hold up better in use.
  • Cotton pads - I was getting the expensive pads at Walmart and found that the cheap 100 for a buck pads at the local 99¢ store were good enough.

This is a thorough restoration and may not be appropriate of you are doing your first electro-mechanical restoration. Only you can decide that.

More to come.

#13 71 days ago
Quoted from Pecos:

This is what I do. There are a lot of ways to restore a pinball machine. My way may or may not be best for you.
Mech Board

Remove all mechs from the mech board. Be extremely careful to pull the mechs up and over the labels! Put the screws, nuts and other hardware somewhere safe where it won't get lost. (Do as I say and not as I do!) I need to get one of those magnetized metal bowls! You will need to remove every relay from the mech board anyway and this method is not much more work.
It might be easiest for you to remove the labels on the board. I find it is too easy to damage the labels.
For non-painted boards, sand down the board with large grit sandpaper. Finish with a fine grit sandpaper. Sand CAREFULLY around the labels. You can clear-coat the mech board, but I found that it darkens the wood too much and I prefer the original look. For painted boards, clean with a good cleaner. Repaint if necessary. Do NOT get the mech board wet! The wood will swell and the labels will get soaked. You can, carefully clean the labels with Isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs, but be aware that this might remove some of the ink on the labels.
Set the mech board aside in a safe place.

Screws and Washers

If you have a tumbler, you can use it to polish up the screws.
I don't have a tumbler, so I put Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish on an old T-shirt in one spot and some Mother's Carnauba wax in another. I manually rub the head of the screw or washer in the Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish until it is shiny. I do the same with the wax. I then do the same on a clean part of the cloth to finish.
As you take apart the assemblies, the score unit for example, clean the screws as you go and keep them together! They are easy to lose!
Shiny screws leave a professional look to your work.

Stepper Units

Take a lot of pictures of stepper unit from every angle!
Take all stepper units apart, clean all loose parts in the sink with Bon Ami and Gain dishwashing soap, using a toothbrush.
Sand any surface rust down with 500 grit sandpaper and blue glass cleaner.
Optional: Polish copper gears and parts with Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish. Just buy it. Great stuff!
Remove any remaining dried grease and oil with Isopropyl alcohol, especially on the gear teeth.
Remove the cotton from a cotton swab and using Isopropyl, clean out the shaft holes in all nylon pieces.
Using a cotton pad and Iso, thoroughly clean the shafts on the stepper unit base. Continue until cotton pad is clean.
You can polish up the stepper metal base with Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish, but I usually just clean it off with iso.
I used to put some SuperLube on the parts with metal to metal contact, but not so much anymore. Put some on the teeth of the gear though - only the teeth that interact with other stepper unit parts.
Put the stepper unit back together again!
Check for loose or missing wires. I had an Aztec that had a lot of bare wires on a stepper unit. This can wreak havoc when the game is turned on. Remove any bare wires, use shrink tubing to cover the bare spots and solder back on. Do this one wire at a time!

Relays

Clean all contacts and switches with cotton swabs and Iso.
Using a Dremel with a #443 wire brush, polish the contacts until they are bright and shiny. I used to use burnishing tools and 500 grit sandpaper but this method is far superior.
Clean all contacts, again, with cotton swabs and Iso
Look for missing springs, loose wires, missing wires, anything that is 'wrong.' Lightly pull and move each wire. Sometimes the wires appear to be soldered on properly but may actually be loose. This is rare but cause intermittent problems that are hard to track down. The wires tend to get bent down and flattened over time. I like to restore them to 'loops' when testing the wires - just that extra little touch that looks nice when done.
Optional. Clean the metal relay base and the edges of the spacers with a cotton swab and Iso. It's amazing how much dirt and grease will come off!
Tighten all switch screws with the proper-sized screwdriver.
Using a switch adjustment tool or small regular screwdriver, adjust all switches so the switches are open when they should be and closed when they should be. The gap should be about 1/16 of an inch. Manually move the armature to mimic when the relay is energized. Normally open switches should now be closed and normally closed switches should now be open. The key word here is deflection. Does the switch move just a tiny bit when the switches are opened and closed? If not, you may not be getting good contact and, over time, the switch will come out of adjustment more quickly.
Check each switch by manually moving the relay armature to confirm the proper gaps, closed switches that open and open switches that close. Then, go back and double-check your work. Later, when the mech board is put back into the cabinet, repeat the process for each relay and switch. Switches can come out of alignment when bumped during work on other parts on the mech board.

Jones Plugs

Clean all male plugs with iso and Dremel #443 brush
I move the male Jones plugs up and down in the female Jones Plug to, at least, try to remove some of the dirt and to make better contact. Sorry about how that sounds! I still haven't found a good way to clean the female contacts. Anyone?
Look for loose or missing wires on the Jones Plug! These problems are very hard to track down, so make sure now that all is good.
You can clean up the rest of the Jones Plug with Iso and cotton swabs if you like. I always clean the area where the screws are since these areas collect dust.

Tools

Cotton swabs - I like the paper swabs. The cotton comes off too easily on the plastic swabs. I like Q-Tips. They cost more but hold up better in use.
Cotton pads - I was getting the expensive pads at Walmart and found that the cheap 100 for a buck pads at the local 99¢ store were good enough.

This is a thorough restoration and may not be appropriate of you are doing your first electro-mechanical restoration. Only you can decide that.
More to come.

wow thats a really detailed list. Thank you for that.. really good info. im definitely gonna either replace the board itself or refinish the existing one so either way everything needs to come off..

fo.

#14 70 days ago

WARNING! This Forum is full of threads where a beginner took a machine apart, cleaned it and brought it back to 100 %. Go for it, isn't rocket science.

#15 70 days ago
Quoted from phil-lee:

WARNING! This Forum is full of threads where a beginner took a machine apart, cleaned it and brought it back to 100 %. Go for it, isn't rocket science.

I thought you were gonna say..."WARNING! This Forum is full of threads where a beginner took a machine apart, cleaned it and COULD NOT GET it back to 100 %. Go for it, isn't rocket science.

#16 70 days ago

This will raise the roof but here goes: Go to the auto parts store and get a couple of cans of spray brake cleaner. It will cut thru all the grease and grime.

Remove your relay board from the cab and set it on a table or anywhere you can spray.

The brake cleaner is flammable so let your board and relays dry for a few hours before you apply any power. The cleaner will evaporate fairly quick but your wiring will be wet. To be safe, wait 24 or 48 hours before you apply power.

You can speed up the drying by placing a fan and letting it blow on your parts.

#17 70 days ago
Quoted from cottonm4:

This will raise the roof but here goes: Go to the auto parts store and get a couple of cans of spray brake cleaner. It will cut thru all the grease and grime.
Remove your relay board from the cab and set it on a table or anywhere you can spray.
The brake cleaner is flammable so let your board and relays dry for a few hours before you apply any power. The cleaner will evaporate fairly quick but your wiring will be wet. To be safe, wait 24 or 48 hours before you apply power.
You can speed up the drying by placing a fan and letting it blow on your parts.

This is my go to method. I also remove the head board then remove the replay wheel from it and spray it with brake cleaner. Just avoid spraying anything that has ink or paint on it. Let dry completely. Never had any issues.

#18 70 days ago
Quoted from cottonm4:

This will raise the roof but here goes: Go to the auto parts store and get a couple of cans of spray brake cleaner. It will cut thru all the grease and grime.
Remove your relay board from the cab and set it on a table or anywhere you can spray.
The brake cleaner is flammable so let your board and relays dry for a few hours before you apply any power. The cleaner will evaporate fairly quick but your wiring will be wet. To be safe, wait 24 or 48 hours before you apply power.
You can speed up the drying by placing a fan and letting it blow on your parts.

Do it outside if possible, that stuff is stinky!

#19 70 days ago
Quoted from tscottn:

I thought you were gonna say..."WARNING! This Forum is full of threads where a beginner took a machine apart, cleaned it and COULD NOT GET it back to 100 %. Go for it, isn't rocket science.

Can't steal someone else's schtick...

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