(Topic ID: 133768)

EM Restoration for a Beginner

By Ramtuathal

8 years ago


Topic Heartbeat

Topic Stats

  • 43 posts
  • 17 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 8 years ago by jasonp
  • Topic is favorited by 3 Pinsiders

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#1 8 years ago

I'd like to learn how to restore and repair EMs. I've already been advised to stay away from 4 player games because of the complexity they present. I don't have any experience working with pinball machines, and very limited experience working with electrical and mechanical things in general. However, I'm a fast learner, and I don't mind extended projects. Any advice on years / mfgs / games in general? I've been offered a Honey, and there are some other project EMs for sale in my area. Not sure how to pick.

#2 8 years ago

Learning to fix games....number 1 and 2 criteria is cheap and close. Fix it, play it and move it on when you are done. Use it as a learning experience. At this point you will be finding out what you like so title of game is less important. If in doubt there are EM rankings on this site, but take them with a grain of salt. In general Gottlieb Wedgeheads are considered desirable, but so are other makes like Bally, Williams etc depending on title. Visit pinrepair.com for info on how to fix and post in the EM Hangout when you get a game you need help with.

#3 8 years ago

Thanks, smailskid.

#4 8 years ago

Since the Williams Honey I've been offered for dirt cheap (missing backglass though) is a 4-player, I'm trying to decide if the added complexity of a 4-palyer is something I should avoid for my first repair. Or should I just go for the trial by fire method?

#5 8 years ago

Single player would be more ideal but four player could still be doable. There is just more to potentially troubleshoot and definitely more to clean. No back glass concerns me as you might not be able to easily find one and if you do it may cost you half or more of what the game is worth. Personally I would pass on this pin because of this more than the four player issue unless it was close to free, but that's me. You mentioned other EM projects are around. What else do you have to choose from?

#6 8 years ago

There's a Williams Solids N Stripes (71) on CL for $350, post says it needs a new transformer. I've read that transformers are rarely the actual problem (???), but I haven't looked at this one yet.

The person selling Honey has other games that he would let me look at, but I didn't ask which titles because I was going for the Honey. Maybe not now.

And again, another guy I've talked to said he had 4-5 project games he'd sell, but he went on about how the titles were good so he'd want $400 - $500 for non-working EMs.

I know that isn't very informative, I was posting here to help me decide what was worth my time to look at and what wasn't. However, I'll get some more specifics and follow up.

#7 8 years ago

How long has the Solids and Stripes been on craigslist? The longer the better for you as the seller may become motivated.

This may not be the greatest game out there but it could be a decent starter machine if you can get it cheap.

Transformers are rarely the problem. If you look at the game, unless the transformer is flat out burnt up (you will be able to tell by looking at it) or it is altogether missing, assume that it in fact works and the seller has misdiagnosed the problem. Of course you don't have to tell them that. It is a non working game that could have any number of other unknown issues and the price should reflect that. I don't believe this is a highly sought after title so that would help you bargaining position as well.

The guy with the $500 non working EMs may be accurate (say if it a title like Jacks Open or Nip IT) or may be dreaming, but these things depend on title and condition, condition, condition is everything. That is playfield and back glass condition. These are often difficult/impossible to replace. Cabinet condition is generally not as important as it can usually be repaired if need be. This may not be the best place for you to buy as you don't want to have to be making those decisions without a bit more experience. But if you do visit this guy get photos of the playfield with the glass off, and photos of the back glass and post them here, for any advice you want.

#8 8 years ago

I'd buy that Solar City for $350 before I'd even walk across the street to look at the Stripes and Solids for the same price.

#9 8 years ago

You may want to consider having a knowledgeable friend come and help you with your first repairs. Just put aside an afternoon on a Saturday. I learned more from one person in 2 hours while he fixed my first pin than I could have on the internet. Even if you don't get it running 100%, you can at least learn how to read the schematic and source the issues yourself. You'd be amazed what you can learn over a few beers.

In terms of the game, I'd steer clear of a $500+ non-working EM games. Depending on how far you're going to take the "restoration," there's a good chance you won't recoup any money if you try to turn around a sell it. If you're trying to revitalize a bunch of games down the road, it'd be nice to maybe make $100 or so on each one so you can fund more parts and projects.

#10 8 years ago

First thing you need to do is read the EM Bible, http://www.pinrepair.com/em/index.htm

Then you can take a game, even a 4 player, and follow the instructions found on PinRepair.

I recommend taking pictures if you decide to take something apart. This way, you can remember how to put it back together.
If you decide to take something apart, use a zip lock bag to collect all the parts, including hardware like screws.

Be fearless, and be ready to get your hands dirty and be prepared to take an electrical shock or ten.

Marcus

#11 8 years ago

Also, bookmark the Pinball Resource Website, www.pbresource.com for parts.

There are other part stores, but for my money, PBR has the part 99% of the time.

And if you make your order by phone call, do not take the gruff nature of Steve (the owner) personal.
He's gruff and sometimes "dickish", but he is a no-nonsense guy and he has an incredible mind for EM parts.

Marcus

#12 8 years ago

I was in your exact position just a few weeks ago. I had no clue, no machines, no nothing, but I wanted to try it. If you want to read about how I approached it check out my Bon Voyage thread in the restorations forum. Basically I found a nice EM for a good price that was pretty good overall, then just started gradually digging into it. It has been just as enjoyable as I imagined it would be. I still have a long way to go but I have learned an absolute ton already. This is the place you want to be, the people here are just tremendous with help and advice.

Also I give a super-plus to the above 2 posts. I have read lots and lots of stuff all over the internet, and there is great information to be found in lots of places. But pinrepair.com is simply staggering in its completeness, and very well-written. I have gone back to it again and again. You should definitely read it all. Also, I have been getting parts from pbresource or PBR as they call it, and they have been very helpful. I have worked with them all by email and they have been great.

Hope you get something soon, it is truly a great time.

1 week later
#13 8 years ago

Well, against some of the advice offered here, I picked up the Williams Honey for $50, missing backglass, missing back panel, left flipper disassembled, no key for the coin door, no fuses installed. I'm following pinball repair's steps - haven't even turned it on yet. Cleaning the steppers and the score reels. I'll get to the flipper repair once I've finished the preliminary cleaning. I've got the replacement fuses... a little concerned that the fuses were missing because they were blown (found an open / blown fuse in the cab).

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#14 8 years ago

You should buy "This Old Pinball" video #1. It's a beginners guide to EM repair and restoration.

You can buy it direct from the creator (Clay Harrell) here. http://www.pinrepair.com/top/ And yes, he's also the author of the aforementioned "EM Bible".

#15 8 years ago

Thanks, mot. I looked at those videos - I wasn't sure how similar my machine would be to the one in "This Old Pinball" (can't remember the title now). Might not make that much difference anyway.

#16 8 years ago
Quoted from Xerico:

First thing you need to do is read the EM Bible, http://www.pinrepair.com/em/index.htm

Quoted from mot:

You should buy "This Old Pinball" video #1. It's a beginners guide to EM repair and restoration.

These are both great pieces of advice, the EM guide is especially helpful.

Quoted from Ramtuathal:

Cleaning the steppers and the score reels.

This is an excellent place to start. When I was working on getting my Surf Champ running my good buddy Blownfuse was helping me. I tried to tell him what was wrong and he cut me off asking "have you cleaned the steppers and the score reels?" When I admitted I had not he said, don't even try and troubleshoot for one more minute until you do.

Quoted from Ramtuathal:

I've got the replacement fuses... a little concerned that the fuses were missing because they were blown (found an open / blown fuse in the cab).

don't worry about that yet, I find blown fuses in the bottom of cabinets all the time when no fuse issue is present. In the EM guide linked above there is a small section in the beginning on how to make a fuse tester, might be a good idea if you start it up and it starts blowing fuses again. Unless you like buying fuses.

#17 8 years ago

For $50 you did real good! You can probably get it working without spending anymore. Finding a backglass may be tricky, but you should have no problem getting at least that $50 back if you change your mind.

#18 8 years ago

For $50, even if you fail it's worth a try...or, that would make a nice soap box racer...or coffee table.

#19 8 years ago

One last piece of advice. As someone new to EM repair (I myself am very much included in that) I would not recommend going through and just cleaning and adjusting every switch in the machine. You most likely will do more harm then good. Get it to power up and see what issues it has and work from there using the schematics.

Also, after you clean the steppers and the score reels, then visually go over every wire going to a switch and make sure it soldered on good.

I had a Worlds Fair that I couldn't get one scoring feature to work on for a year. I made adjustment after adjustment, was sure it was one thing and messed with it for hours, sometimes it worked, sometimes not. Finally got sick of it and said to hell with it. A year later I was going to sell it and decided to give it one more try, thats when I saw the wire that was broken loose from the switch and just laying on the switch. soldered it in two minutes and worked perfect, then spent the rest of my night kicking myself.

#20 8 years ago
Quoted from practicalsteve:

I would not recommend going through and just cleaning and adjusting every switch in the machine.

I sort of agree with this. Messing with working score reels can certainly be a bad idea. On the other hand, the idea of touching and looking at every switch is exactly what is supposed to prevent problems like the broken wire.

#21 8 years ago
Quoted from mot:

You should buy "This Old Pinball" video #1. It's a beginners guide to EM repair and restoration.
You can buy it direct from the creator (Clay Harrell) here. http://www.pinrepair.com/top/ And yes, he's also the author of the aforementioned "EM Bible".

I just realized I've only bought two of these DVDs, just ordered the rest. Thanks for the reminder! All this wishing for a TV series about pinball and I'm missing out on 7 existing episodes. These are as entertaining as they are useful.

#22 8 years ago

Great find and looks like good condition- really! Congrats-

Dive in, go slow, take apart ONE thing at a time. Start with pieces that you have multiple examples of- like a score reel- take pics from every angle at every layer of disassembly- get brasso and a rag and polish everything up and put it back together. If you get stuck look at one of the assembled parts. Have fun! Its not rocket science and if your interested and manually play with the parts you will rapidly figure out how they work.

and the final obligatory Warnings

No spray contact/carb/etc cleaner in the game EVER!
Almost nothing gets grease and the very very few things that do use teflon based lubricants- WD40 is NOT a lubricant its a mess in a bottle.

Just replace all the coil sleeves- it will make you take a whole bunch of crap apart and the game will play 100% better cause you will clean up the rest as you take it apart to replace sleeves.

#23 8 years ago
Quoted from practicalsteve:

I find blown fuses in the bottom of cabinets all the time when no fuse issue is present. In the EM guide linked above there is a small section in the beginning on how to make a fuse tester, might be a good idea if you start it up and it starts blowing fuses again. Unless you like buying fuses.

I bought a 3 amp breaker (not the 5 amp Clay suggests) and I have a dead fuse. Still practicing my soldering to get those two pieces to stick together. Hopefully, I won't need it

Thanks for the optimism -

#24 8 years ago
Quoted from practicalsteve:

One last piece of advice. As someone new to EM repair (I myself am very much included in that) I would not recommend going through and just cleaning and adjusting every switch in the machine. You most likely will do more harm then good. Get it to power up and see what issues it has and work from there using the schematics.
Also, after you clean the steppers and the score reels, then visually go over every wire going to a switch and make sure it soldered on good.
I had a Worlds Fair that I couldn't get one scoring feature to work on for a year. I made adjustment after adjustment, was sure it was one thing and messed with it for hours, sometimes it worked, sometimes not. Finally got sick of it and said to hell with it. A year later I was going to sell it and decided to give it one more try, thats when I saw the wire that was broken loose from the switch and just laying on the switch. soldered it in two minutes and worked perfect, then spent the rest of my night kicking myself.

I still haven't powered it on (16 dirty score reels + rookie = a long time cleaning). I don't want spend hours chasing down one loose connection, so I've been heeding your advice and checking all the connections as I go. I've already found 4 loose / disconnected wires that I've had to (ineptly) re-solder. I'll post pics below.

#25 8 years ago
Quoted from rufessor:

Great find and looks like good condition- really! Congrats-
Dive in, go slow, take apart ONE thing at a time. Start with pieces that you have multiple examples of- like a score reel- take pics from every angle at every layer of disassembly- get brasso and a rag and polish everything up and put it back together. If you get stuck look at one of the assembled parts. Have fun! Its not rocket science and if your interested and manually play with the parts you will rapidly figure out how they work.
and the final obligatory Warnings
No spray contact/carb/etc cleaner in the game EVER!
Almost nothing gets grease and the very very few things that do use teflon based lubricants- WD40 is NOT a lubricant its a mess in a bottle.
Just replace all the coil sleeves- it will make you take a whole bunch of crap apart and the game will play 100% better cause you will clean up the rest as you take it apart to replace sleeves.

I've been talking to my brother who has also been restoring his EM (800 miles away) and he said I am getting off too easy - my $50 machine isn't as dirty as the one he paid more for.

I went over Clay's advice on pinrepair a few times, so I'm getting the message loud and clear about not putting cleaner / WD40, etc. on the parts (or anywhere in the machine). I like the saying Clay continues to hammer in: "Why would you try to solve mechanical problems with chemicals?" Makes sense in this context.

Thanks for the encouragement - pics to follow.

#26 8 years ago

So far, I've done the following to my 1972 Williams Honey (still haven't powered it on):
1. Checked the fuses (easy enough - they were all missing), bought required fuses and back-ups.
2. Cleaned out the loose parts from the bottom of the cabinet and saved everything that looked remotely useful.
3. Bought 8 bolts (3/8" 16 2 1/2") for the legs, installed (it didn't come with these bolts, but the seller gave me two sets of legs - nice of him).
4. Bought 4 bolts / washers (3/8" 16 4 1/2") to reattach the backbox (didn't come with these either).
5. Checked the coin door mech. Looks good so far, except someone has fiddled with the wiring a little - we'll see how that turns out.

#27 8 years ago

I decided to start working on the backbox steppers / score reels first because I can see what is going on and access the parts better.

6. Match Unit Stepper. Cleaned connections, "fingers", checked wires, checked movement. It was moving pretty sluggish at first, but cleaning the stepper and putting the PTFE lube on it seemed to make it run smoothly. Figuring out how to move the rod in the coil took a minute - got it down now. Also, you may be wondering why I cleaned *all* of the bakelite connectors (even ones that aren't connected to anything). Well, I went through all that work to take the contact fingers off, why would I leave dirt on it? Honestly, I just liked the way it looked when the whole thing was shiny - even if it did take a few more minutes per stepper.

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#28 8 years ago

7. Score reels. I started out by just wiping off the plastic number displays - I wasn't sure if I needed to tear the whole unit down if the action seemed smooth. However, when I was forced to tear one down (when I got to the Player 1 reel, it was so gummed up I had take it apart to get it to work - I was hesitant to disassemble the first one because I thought I was going to break it), it all turned out ok. So far, I've completely disassembled and cleaned 8 reels - it's almost not exciting anymore (Note that in the pics, the reels are in various stages of dis / reassembly - I didn't forget to reattach all the springs, etc.).

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#29 8 years ago

8. Player Count step unit. This one was a breeze, but I'm glad I could get a feel for the "snowshoe" style contacts / fingers that were described in the pinrepair guide. The stepper was a little slow, but it completed all its functions with manual contraction / reset. I still cleaned it, just for the experience. I guess I forgot to take a pic of this stepper all reassembled - but it is and it runs smoothly now. I made sure the contacts were lining up with the rivets - I had to nudge the bakelite board a little to get them centered.

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#30 8 years ago

I also had several wires come loose when I was cleaning the score reels. Oddly, it was the same wire on the same blade for various reels. Also, I don't really know how to solder, and I have a cheap soldering iron. It went something like this. Using a 25 watt / 900F iron (that drops temp real fast upon contact with other metals), and using 60 tin / 40 lead 2.2% flux 0.040 solder, I applied some flux to the blade and to the old solder. I heated the older solder and shook it off / scraped it off the best I could (I don't have a de-soldering pump thing yet). I reapplied a little flux to the wires, held the wires to the blade, put the iron on the blade / bare wire ends until they were hot enough to melt the new solder, applied new solder slowly (but quickly because my fingers were burning and the iron was dropping temp) to the blade and wires (I tried not to touch the solder to the iron directly). I let it sit for few minutes and tugged on the wire - hopefully I didn't get a cold joint, but that wire isn't going anywhere now.

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#31 8 years ago

Great post! Going over a bow and arrow when i come hone from vacation. What did you use to clean the match stepper? Is sand paper ok?

#32 8 years ago

Use brasso followed by 91% alcohol, & then a very-very-very light coat of Teflon gel lube.

#33 8 years ago

I followed Clay's advice on pinrepair. I used 91% alcohol for an initial wipe of the major crud, then I used 400 grit wet / dry sandpaper to get the stubborn stuff off, then I wiped the surfaces and nylon parts off with more 91% alcohol. I applied a light coating of the PTFE grease / gel ("Super Lube") to the areas where the contacts met the board, then I reassembled.

#34 8 years ago

Since I'll be wrapping up the backbox pretty soon, and since my machine didn't come with a back panel, I'm thinking I'll need to construct one myself (don't want anymore dust getting in there after I've cleaned it!).

I'm thinking of getting a piece of MDF, cutting to size, and adding a simple latch / non-locking lock type mechanism. Any suggestions on how to replace a back panel?

#35 8 years ago

Let's fire that puppy up before we put on a back panel. LOL, but seriously you can post in the EM parts wanted for a back panel.

#36 8 years ago

Thanks poppapin, I'll check that out.

#37 8 years ago

Also back panels available from PBR

#38 8 years ago

They are loud without the rear panel- so get one soon.

#39 8 years ago

Finished cleaning the steppers and reels, checking wires, and scrubbing connectors. Put the head on and fired it up.

I turned on the toggle and then hit the left flipper - playfield lights came on, motor turned, but nothing else happened. No lights on in the backbox.

Turned it off, pulled the backbox connectors and reinserted to make sure they were seated. I manually reset the score reels to all 0's, then turned it back on. Nothing but PF lights and motor turning again.

Tried adding a credit by the coin door switch, 0.25 relay fired, but no credit added. Went to the backbox and flipped the credit switches manually, hit Start and a bunch of stuff happened. I triggered the pop-bumpers, drop targets, slingshots, all on Player 1.

The scores reels were going a little crazy, several player reels turned at once. A loud buzzing started and started to smell like hot electricity (kinda like burning).

Turned the machine off, unplugged main, checked relays, manually moved and reset steppers, clicked through score reels and checked connections.

Plugged back in, turned on switch, hit left flipper, added a credit on the credit reel, hit Start 4x. A bunch of clicking and whirring. Hit PF targets, scoring seemed better and accurate, tripped End of Ball / drain switch (to move to the next Player), hit targets, repeated for all 4 Players.

I tried to go through all 5 balls per player (by manually switching the drain switch), but the game never stopped.

Turned off, back on, hit L flipper, hit Start, all the score reels and steppers reset (yay).

Still, only one light on in the backbox, have to manually add credits in backbox, one of the rollovers causes a very loud whirring and hot electric smell until disengaged by hitting another rollover (down post), the "B" drop target sticks.

I'm glad it seems to work a little better now, but the weird thing is I have no idea what I did that made it run better.

Still need new bulbs, left flipper parts, and I need to figure out what that buzzing / burning switch is doing. And I need some pinballs too, of course. Ordering soon.

#40 8 years ago

BGresto.com has honey backglass. just at whatever that costs it will be more than you paid for the rest of the game!

#41 8 years ago
Quoted from mot:

You should buy "This Old Pinball" video #1. It's a beginners guide to EM repair and restoration.

What he said!!

#42 8 years ago

BGrestoro is priced pretty reasonably, but when you pay what you did for a game.... everything else starts to look expensive

1 month later
#43 8 years ago

I have a Honey and may re theme it ... If I do you are welcome to the back glass.

I used to live in Tempe Rural/Broadway area.

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