(Topic ID: 100917)

EM guys - how hard/easy are SS games to fix compared to EM?


By Polonius

5 years ago



Topic Stats

  • 18 posts
  • 14 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 4 years ago by DaveH
  • Topic is favorited by 1 Pinsider

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    #1 5 years ago

    Pretty much what the title says, I've got two EM games and enjoy using logic, following the schematic, jumping connections, and adjusting switches while keeping them running at 100%. I would love to get at least one SS game with some depth eventually, but am scared of the circuit boards. I've done some electronics work in the past modding an old gameboy, but have no real idea of how to find problems on a circuit board. I'm sure the mechanical bits of the play field are fairly similar to EM in principle, but it's the computer underneath that worries me. Opinions?

    #2 5 years ago

    To me, EMs are easier to troubleshoot because it is all in front of you. Quirky problems aside, most trouble can be traced to loose wires and bad components (fuses, switches, coils, etc.). As long as you can read a schematic, it can usually be fixed. With S/S, you add ICs, lots more plugs and another 5 miles of wire. (Not to mention all the other electrical components that make up the various cards.) That being said, I really enjoy the T/S inherent with early S/S games. The Ballys in particular can be broken down and troubleshot systematically, board by board. It takes more knowledge and a little more equipment but it is fun to learn. (At least to me it is.) The trouble came when I got into a System 11 game where the fix was just completely over my head. Very frustrating. But it shows me I have more to learn.

    Transistors, resistors and ICs oh my. I can recommend a great book for learning that stuff more in depth if need be.

    #3 5 years ago

    They make other Pinballs besides Em`s?

    #4 5 years ago

    My fix for most Solid State games is limited to changing fuses, or reseating connectors or chips or swapping boards.
    On rare occasion might need to get out the soldering iron.
    Course changing flipper coils and other solenoids is basically the same on either S/S or E/M pins.
    My confidence is much higher with being able to get an E/M up in running eventually, though in fact it may take longer to go thru all the components to make them work proper, especially multi-player score reels and stepper units etc., but in the end more satisfying.

    #5 5 years ago
    Quoted from Pin-it:

    They make other Pinballs besides Em`s?

    Exactly. I dunno, for me its two different beasts. For ss I feel like a computer tech. For em machines I feel like a em tech but all in all I feel like im working on a pinball machine.
    For me I think working on ems are more enjoyable so its easier but with a lot more steps.

    #6 4 years ago

    I have bought and sold a few ss's that have come up for sale locally. The one thing I would recommend you do is inspect the boards closely before you buy. There will be back-up batteries residing on the mpu or cpu from the factory. If they have never been changed you may have leakage in that board and boards below it/next to it. Also, look closely for burn marks on any boards and any hacks in the area of the boards while you're in there. A visual inspection could save you some grief. If you have an experienced tech. to work with over the phone concerning boards, he can guide you through a test procedure to help identify a bad board. You can either send it in for repair, buy a replacement board if available, or convert to a new board set depending on era. That's just a matter of swapping a board(s) out which is easy - just make sure you ground yourself and use anti-static (esd) bags/box to ship.

    #7 4 years ago

    Be prepared to replace the .100 & .156 molex connectors on early SS games. Easy to do, but time consuming.
    Almost always a problem on old Bally's. Don't scrimp on the crimper, step up & get a good one to start with. Makes the job that much easier. Also you will want to get a temperature controlled soldering station & perhaps a good solder sucker like a Hakko 808. Get the board too hot & you start lifting traces.. not good, but usually repairable with a jumper wire. --- been there, done that.

    #8 4 years ago

    It's like fixing a 1957 T Bird or a 2014 Ford Mustang.

    Both cars, but totally different worlds. There are some similarities, but lots of differences.

    #9 4 years ago

    I would say short term, SS games are easier, and long-term, EMs are easier. You can replace boards wholesale on digital games, and just throw money at them and get them fixed quickly.

    EM games you actually have to learn how they work. But once you understand EM logic,they are far easier and usually can be fixed virtually for free (as long as you aren't billing yourself for labor).

    #10 4 years ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    I would say short term, SS games are easier, and long-term, EMs are easier. You can replace boards wholesale on digital games, and just throw money at them and get them fixed quickly.
    EM games you actually have to learn how they work. But once you understand EM logic,they are far easier and usually can be fixed virtually for free (as long as you aren't billing yourself for labor).

    Well said! For the most part, on a SS game, you could pull all or most of the boards and send them off to someone for testing and repair. This encompasses at least 75% of what makes a SS game function. You can't do that with an EM. For SS troubleshooting, it is always nice to have a second working game of the same system so you can isolate the problem.

    However, there is a lot of information available online to help you troubleshoot a SS down to component level. So, if you are comfortable with soldering/desoldering, you can probably effect your own repairs on site.

    Some people can understand the logic of electronic circuits and driver circuits which makes up most of what goes on in a SS pinball which by most electronic standards, is extremely primative. But not every body can understand the theory of Relay and stepper logic. And, if they don't, it can take a lot longer to figure out where the problem lies.

    #11 4 years ago

    Most of the knowledge to fix an S/S after having worked on EMs can be found here -

    http://www.pinwiki.com/wiki/

    and here -

    http://www.makershed.com/products/make-electronics-book

    #12 4 years ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    I would say short term, SS games are easier, and long-term, EMs are easier. You can replace boards wholesale on digital games, and just throw money at them and get them fixed quickly.
    EM games you actually have to learn how they work. But once you understand EM logic,they are far easier and usually can be fixed virtually for free (as long as you aren't billing yourself for labor).

    Bill yourself for labor? You'd go broke. Fortunately, I'm willing to do that for free!

    Well, it certainly seems more accessible. Even if you have to cop out and just buy a new board, sometimes I'd just rather throw some money at something to skip the stress. And I guess the immense amount of information becomes much more condensed once committed to one particular machine, which is kind of obvious, really...

    #13 4 years ago

    This thread reminds me of the story about the newspaper reporter interviewing the old locomotive mechanic during the time the railroads were switching over from steam locomotives to diesel-electrics.

    The reporter said, "Isn't it so much nicer to work on the modern diesel-electric locomotives than the dirty old steam engines?"

    The old mechanic thought a second and said, "Well, with a steam engine it takes about 2 minutes to find the problem, and then it takes 8 hours to fix it. On these new diesel-electrics it takes 8 hours to find the problem, and 2 minutes to fix it. Either way you're working all damned day on the thing, so I don't see much difference."

    #14 4 years ago

    In terms of technology advancement in pinball, my learning has gone backwards. My first pin (probably 10 years ago) was a T2. This is what I learned on. LOT's of circuit board components. Replaced bridges, caps and connectors. Learned how to carefully remove the connectors from each board, take each board off and stare at the solder joints for broken or burnt connections. The continuity meter has become my best friend. Learned how to get those stinkn' batteries away from the boards as well.

    Then I went to a System 9 Sorcerer. Still solid state, a bit simpler but the same still applies. Look for what doesn't look right on a circuit board. My Sorcerer was firing two coils at the same time due to a poor solder job on the back of one of the boards where someone overflowed solder between two traces. It was immediately obvious once you took the board off. The continuity meter is your friend.

    Then I went to a System 6 Firepower (which I still have and love). Dude, that game was playing the wrong sounds when switch hits were made!!! WTF! This was where I was introduced to bad chips. A faulty PIA chip on the sound board was the problem...but it took me hours upon hours of checking connections and transistors to figure that out. Once again the continuity meter was my friend. Also the ohm setting as well. After many hours of replacing old caps, a 5101 RAM chip (almost a necessity on early SS games) and desoldering and resoldering EVERY header pin on each of the boards, that baby is rock freakin' solid. After doing all that work I would recheck my solder connections for solidity and accidental bridging. The continuity meter is your friend.

    Then my father hooked me up with a guy that wanted his 1976 Aztec fixed. Non-working game stored in a barn for 25 years. What's he paying me in? More non-working (and filthy) pinball machines. Two EM's. I'm like "sure, I guess I guess I can give it a shot." My experience with how switches worked was applied to the max when going over this game. Since I've had nothing but dead (or almost) EM's I found that going over EVERYTHING and cleaning EVERYTHING is the best approach for when you finally flip that power switch. Afterwards, there's usually not too many issues left.

    Maybe get an early solid state game as your first. Gottlieb System 1's seem pretty simple. Also, while I use one of them cheapo 15 watt Weller for EM's, I have an analogue temperature controlled Weller with a fine tip for doing circuit board work. Much cleaner and less likely to burn something. And keep that tip clean.

    #15 4 years ago
    Quoted from cjmiller:

    This thread reminds me of the story about the newspaper reporter interviewing the old locomotive mechanic during the time the railroads were switching over from steam locomotives to diesel-electrics.
    The reporter said, "Isn't it so much nicer to work on the modern diesel-electric locomotives than the dirty old steam engines?"
    The old mechanic thought a second and said, "Well, with a steam engine it takes about 2 minutes to find the problem, and then it takes 8 hours to fix it. On these new diesel-electrics it takes 8 hours to find the problem, and 2 minutes to fix it. Either way you're working all damned day on the thing, so I don't see much difference."

    Great analogy........

    #16 4 years ago

    The difference between working on SS and EM pins is like the difference between working on the engine in a 60s car and a modern car.

    With a carbed engine, you have to do a lot of fiddling to get things just so, same as an EM pin.

    With a modern car, you hook up an OBD2 scanner, pull codes, and then you can track a problem down to one of a couple parts which you then replaced; with a modern pin, you can look online and find what parts normally cause issues and replace them.

    Just different beasts. I find SS easier to work on at this point, but that's probably just because I have more experience with it. It's definitely not as intuitive in many ways, though.

    #17 4 years ago

    Usually NOT a component though on SS pins.... more likely a bad socket or poor connection somewhere. Not to say the components do not fail..

    #18 4 years ago

    I also went backwards on this. I started with early SS, advance through all the way towards modern games, and not long ago added EM. I thought the EM would be so much more interesting because the logic is all there in the open. That took me through a bunch of stages of confusion with EMs. I was spending hours with schematics trying to figure out some issues that would have been simple for me on an SS game. And then one desperate day it clicked. X must not work because Y must not be connecting. Boom, issues were easy (well easier) to find. This isn't working? That means a bad switch in the alternating stack. All of a sudden EM games made more sense.

    That is a long winded way to say that different generations of games are different. And each one requires special logic to understand. But that shouldn't scare you. It's just something new to learn. So if you add an SS game, just give yourself time to learn the new way of how it works. Your logic of EM games will serve you well. And you will add a better understanding of electronics. The density changed, but the principals didn't.

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