(Topic ID: 322007)

how many plays before a Stern machine's flippers get weak?

By NewFloridian

83 days ago


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  • Latest reply 74 days ago by PinRetail
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#1 83 days ago

We have a Godzilla (Premium) game with 500 plays in our home/office. The flippers seem weaker than when the machine was new, especially the upper left flipper. The weakness isn't consistent either, but generally it has become more difficult to get the ball up ramps (from the two lower flippers) and around the upper loop. Is it normal to have to service the flippers after 500 plays? And will be doing this every 500 plays going forward?

Thanks in advance for any advice to this first-time owner!

#2 83 days ago

In the manual (https://sternpinball.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Godzilla_Pro_web.pdf), it says to check for excessive flipper wear every 5000 plays.
pasted_image (resized).png

500 isn't a lot of plays all things considered, but with some of the newer Stern games we put out on location like Rush and Mando, we have had coil stops break within the first two weeks. It would be a good idea to check the flippers out, check for play in the linkage, excessive metal shavings in the cabinet under the flippers, take off the coil stops and inspect them.

14
#3 83 days ago

Probably need to replace the coil stops. I’d replace all 3

https://www.pinballlife.com/flipper-coil-stop-for-sternsega.html

Here’s a couple YouTube videos

#4 83 days ago

Thanks! We're due for a "clean and wax the playfield" according to that Stern document. Is that actually something you'd do on a machine that is 3 months old and in a home use situation?

#5 83 days ago

I bet you just need to give the playfield a good wipe, a microfiber cloth with Novus 1. Grime builds on the playfield and slows down the ball. After 500 games/3 months, yes you should clean it and I would change the balls. I do a quick clean every 50 plays or about once a week when I am playing a game a lot. That is more than necessary but I like the game to always play it’s best and that’s how I keep it up.

Changing coil stops is also a good idea.

#6 83 days ago
Quoted from NewFloridian:

Thanks! We're due for a "clean and wax the playfield" according to that Stern document. Is that actually something you'd do on a machine that is 3 months old and in a home use situation?

What could be happening is your skills are improving and your ball times and game sessions are getting longer that can cause something called flipper fade. The coils heat up dramatically lowering flipper power in long sessions next time you play see if you notice it at the start of the session. There is flipper fan mod ppl are adding to games to help with this.

#7 83 days ago

The coil stops are loose or broken. Known issue. Replace with Pinball Life coil stops as Stern uses the cheapest they can find. When you are in there clean the sleeves and plungers, check all screws for tightness. Some will be loose throughout the machine. Use Novus 2 as per the manual then Carnauba wax. Not cleaner wax. Carnauba wax only.

#8 83 days ago

As others have said, it’s most likely the coil stops and to answer your other question, no you won’t have to do that every 500 games if you get the ones from pinball life. The ones stern use are terrible, I replace them when I first get a new game and recently had one that was spinning even though it only had 1 test play.

You should give it a quick clean often though, it’ll only take 5 minutes. Wax on a nib home game is more down to preference imo, though others will disagree and say it’s essential.

If once you replace the stops you find the flippers are good when you first start playing but after a few consecutive games they are becoming weak, get some flipper fans

#9 83 days ago
Quoted from NewFloridian:

We have a Godzilla (Premium) game with 500 plays in our home/office. The flippers seem weaker than when the machine was new, especially the upper left flipper. The weakness isn't consistent either, but generally it has become more difficult to get the ball up ramps (from the two lower flippers) and around the upper loop. Is it normal to have to service the flippers after 500 plays? And will be doing this every 500 plays going forward?
Thanks in advance for any advice to this first-time owner!

A couple of things. As others has said, it is time for a good wipe down, and wax. There are infinite articles on this on pinside. https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/wax-1. I personally clean with plain Gojo hand cleaner and then use carunba wax.

As to the flippers themselves, at this point in time changing out coils will do absolutely nothing, but changing out the coils stops may help. This is an easy change and a full set of 3 for all flippers runs $18.

If you do decide to replace the coil stops you will need 3 of these. https://www.marcospecialties.com/pinball-parts/515-6308-01
This is a relatively simple fix that can be done without replacing any electronics. It is a mechanical piece you unscrew, replace, and screw back in. Note that these kind of act like the backstop and will absolutely affect the strength of the flippers.

Alternatively, there is a setting in the menu to adjust the flipper strength.

One final thought is that if the flippers themselves are getting weaker over the course of a long game, this can be due to excess heat buildup in the coils. Some games like Lord of the Rings are notorious for this https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/diy-amazon-flipper-coil-kit-25-35-no-tools-5-minutes#post-7034411 However, this should only be an issue on extremely long games, or an hour or so after continuous play on the game. They make ready made plug and play kits for Godzilla, but this is not likely to be your problem unless a bad game for you is still in the low billions.

Good luck! Godzilla is a great game!

#10 83 days ago

Please report back how things progress for you. I have the exact same issue. The weird thing is that they are weak when starting the first game of the day. Will check the coil stops on my Godzilla Premium.

#11 83 days ago
Quoted from JayLar:

Please report back how things progress for you. I have the exact same issue. The weird thing is that they are weak when starting the first game of the day. Will check the coil stops on my Godzilla Premium.

Yea, if you notice on the first game of the day, it’s a mechanical issue. Upgrade the parts mentioned above, and it will help.

Also as mentioned above, be aware after continuous play for a good stretch of time, will have some flipper fade, until the flipper coils have time to cool down. Or, look at installing the flipper coil cooling fans, if you get to that point. I have them on my Rush, and have not experienced any flipper fade, and we usually play it for 2-3 hours at a time.

#12 83 days ago
Quoted from NewFloridian:

Thanks! We're due for a "clean and wax the playfield" according to that Stern document. Is that actually something you'd do on a machine that is 3 months old and in a home use situation?

Nope. But I can almost guarantee that one or all of the coil stops could need to be replaced. Those have a high failure rate.

Might want to try flipper cooling fans or those CNC precision flippers too.

#13 83 days ago
Quoted from JayLar:

Please report back how things progress for you. I have the exact same issue. The weird thing is that they are weak when starting the first game of the day. Will check the coil stops on my Godzilla Premium.

This. Fade only occurs after periods of play. Never right away. So your issue is most likely mechanical.

#14 83 days ago

Also maybe you just have the machine set slightly too steep? A small adjustment can make a big difference.

#15 83 days ago
Quoted from chuckwurt:

This. Fade only occurs after periods of play. Never right away. So your issue is most likely mechanical.

My coil stops were fine. There's a metal ring around them which looked very bent and wobbly. Is this normal?

#16 83 days ago

Yes, that's a spring washer to keep the coil in place.

-8
#17 83 days ago

Saying bad coil stopper is responsible for weak flippers is like saying your car has less horse-power because of bad brakes.

#18 83 days ago
Quoted from JayLar:

My coil stops were fine. There's a metal ring around them which looked very bent and wobbly. Is this normal?

Yes. Normal.

#19 83 days ago

Are the pinball life coil stops the same or of comparable quality to the Marco ones?

#20 83 days ago
Quoted from thekaiser82:

Are the pinball life coil stops the same or of comparable quality to the Marco ones?

Yes.

#22 83 days ago
Quoted from ALY:

Saying bad coil stopper is responsible for weak flippers is like saying your car has less horse-power because of bad brakes.

It is on sterns. The stopper actually breaks off the bracket and gets magnetized to the plunger. It’ll look fine at first glance, then when you move the flipper by hand you can watch the stopper move into the coil. Had it happen on DP and AIQ so far. First sign is the little brass shavings in the cabinet directly below the flippers.

#23 83 days ago

It’s like having the parking brake on while trying to drive

#24 83 days ago
Quoted from JayLar:

My coil stops were fine. There's a metal ring around them which looked very bent and wobbly. Is this normal?

How did you check your coil stops? If you only did a visual check you might want to hold a finger on the round part of your stop(with power off) and with the other hand activate the plunger and if you feel any movement it needs to be replaced. Sometimes it looks fine(no gold dust) but it’s actually loose.

#25 83 days ago
Quoted from Wildbill327:

How did you check your coil stops? If you only did a visual check you might want to hold a finger on the round part of your stop(with power off) and with the other hand activate the plunger and if you feel any movement it needs to be replaced. Sometimes it looks fine(no gold dust) but it’s actually loose.

Take it out and look at it. Two screws.

#26 82 days ago

Thanks, everyone! A lot happened while I was down at the local NFL game (the Team of Science lost to the Team of Party On; Patriots 7 and Dolphins 20).

The weak flippers are apparent even on the first game of the day (it is home use so we seldom play more than 3 games per day). I will report back after the coil stops are replaced. The dealer who sold it to us is local so I think I will be able to get them to come over and do all three flippers and the clean/wax.

#27 82 days ago
Quoted from Wildbill327:

How did you check your coil stops? If you only did a visual check you might want to hold a finger on the round part of your stop(with power off) and with the other hand activate the plunger and if you feel any movement it needs to be replaced. Sometimes it looks fine(no gold dust) but it’s actually loose.

I took it apart and checked it very carefully. Now I don't know if the OP and me have the same weakness (I can still play the game decently, flippers just feels weak and not snappy). Following the thread.

#28 82 days ago
Quoted from chuckwurt:

Take it out and look at it. Two screws.

I’ve had a few that passed the look test but not the physical test. It’s usually good practice to try to physical move things(especially if they’re mechanical) when you’re trouble shooting if it’s possible…at least in my experience.

#29 82 days ago

1,937th game your flippers will fail everytime.

#30 82 days ago

In addition to checking the coil stops, check the coil sleeves also. Dirty coil sleeves can rob power from a flipper, so replacing them occasionally is a good idea as part of general maintenance.

If it’s not the coil stop, move the flipper rapidly with your hand and do the same on another flipper to compare how they feel. If one feels like it has more resistance then it might need an adjustment.

#31 82 days ago
Quoted from NewFloridian:

Thanks, everyone! A lot happened while I was down at the local NFL game (the Team of Science lost to the Team of Party On; Patriots 7 and Dolphins 20).
The weak flippers are apparent even on the first game of the day (it is home use so we seldom play more than 3 games per day). I will report back after the coil stops are replaced. The dealer who sold it to us is local so I think I will be able to get them to come over and do all three flippers and the clean/wax.

This is a SUPER easy job that you could easily do yourself. Pinball (as a hobby) is something you really need to get 'hands on' with or you will quickly find yourself paying hundreds or even THOUSANDS of dollars to have someone come and do simple things such as adjust a flipper bat angle.

#32 82 days ago
Quoted from Wildbill327:

I’ve had a few that passed the look test but not the physical test. It’s usually good practice to try to physical move things(especially if they’re mechanical) when you’re trouble shooting if it’s possible…at least in my experience.

Yes. Sorry. It all needs to be one piece. Grab it. Anything move? Replace it.

#33 82 days ago
Quoted from ALY:

Saying bad coil stopper is responsible for weak flippers...

You know, I'm surprised by this also. There are at least twenty things involved in correct flipper performance, and for most of my pinball career I wouldn't have said check the coil stops first.

Then new Stern pinballs suddenly started having weak flippers, and there would be a sprinkling of brass dust in the bottom and the coil stops would need to be replaced.

Surprising!

This is now a quite common repair for Stern pinballs within the first few months of ownership.

#34 82 days ago

Bingo. This is a new stern issue only.

#35 82 days ago
Quoted from ALY:

Saying bad coil stopper is responsible for weak flippers is like saying your car has less horse-power because of bad brakes.

It appears this is not true (any more)

P.S. No Sterns in my collection.

#36 81 days ago
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#37 79 days ago

I’ve noticed something about Stern flipper rebuild kits that I’ve purchased on line. The flipper bat will not properly tighten into the plunger. I’ve tried taking pliers to adjust where the plunger squeezes the flipper bat, to no avail. I’ve bought some from a local distributor with no issues. Easy peasy. I even tried these online purchased kits again on other machines to rule out human error and it just won’t tighten enough.

#38 77 days ago

The local (South Florida) service guy came over. The coil stops, a suspected weak point for newer Stern machines, were okay in his opinion. There was a fair amount of black dust inside the coil sleeves, which required replacement (a 45-cent part in quantity; see https://www.pinballlife.com/2-316-coil-sleeve.html ). The flippers are definitely more powerful and consistent now. The service guy said that it was essentially what he has to do every month on every machine at the arcade where he primarily works. He used a cleaner/polish (not a wax) on the playfield. It does look like something that I could learn how to do after watching a few times.

He said that a complete replacement of the flipper (everything underneath the playfield) is about $60 and 20 minutes to install (maybe that's for two) and it sounds as though this is what he does rather than attempt repairs that go beyond a coil stop issue.

I have played only one game so far, but I think the flippers are more powerful and consistent than before. Unfortunately, I don't think they're quite as good as they were when new (500+ games ago).

Thanks to everyone for the advice shared above!

#39 77 days ago

He may have also increased the power on them unbeknownst to you -

You could also do that yourself if you want them stronger.

#40 77 days ago

I still think you should replace your coil stops, as strongly suggested above, and the screws that hold them, which are most likely weak as well.
A sight test cannot guarantee these are still good and this is a well documented issue on new sterns. They need to be replaced.
Here are the part numbers. I have great luck with pinball life so that is the site I pulled these parts/numbers from.
Spares on hand are good to have and the shipping cost won't change for adding extras. You have a 3 flipper game so change all 3.
buy 3 or more of these:
https://www.pinballlife.com/flipper-coil-stop-for-sternsega.html
buy 6 or more of these:
https://www.pinballlife.com/10-32-x-38-black-socket-head-bolt.html
buy 6 or more of these:
https://www.pinballlife.com/10-split-lock-washer.html

Recommend you purchase these cabinet and side protectors when you lift any pinball playfield. Protects cabinet and side art blades from scratches.
https://www.pinballlife.com/interior-cabinet-protector-blade-set.html

watch this video:

Also, you can increase or decrease flipper power in the settings menu(we can walk you through this as well if you are hesitant to navigate the menu).
Who's to say the tech didn't just increase flipper strength when he replaced the coil sleeves. As much as I want to trust professionals in their respective fields, I find the quality of service to be average to poor in most every field these days. I'm not even talking about pinball here.
Tech should have changed the coil stops when in there. They literally had the thing apart. Makes no sense to me.
You can do this. I'm a visual learner these days as well so watch the video a few times and you'll have no problem getting it done.

As far as clean/shine/wax. This is all I ever use on my games.
Wizards Mist-N-Shine and Wizard Mystic Spray Wax. see pics.
Micro fiber cloth and I also use air blower bulb to blow stuff off before and after wipe down and wax. Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blaster Large (it's the only thing I use on my camera lenses)

Lastly, and just to cover the bases......as ball times get longer or your family is playing for an extended period of time (over 30-40 minutes) you'll want to start thinking about a way to cool your flipper coils and magnets on this game. This is done by adding small fans to your game. There are kits available but I'm working on a DIY as we speak for my Guns N Roses.
Here's an example of the ready made flipper coil fan kits and on your specific game title as a bonus.
https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/mod-announcement-extended-play-coil-coolers-spike-2-#post-6881993

Best wishes and report back after you change those coil stops.

r/
Mike
71HvuKFgx3L._AC_SL1500_ (resized).jpg71ZYQnxZkfL._AC_SL1500_ (resized).jpg

#41 77 days ago

I do maintenance for an arcade with 45 pinballs. Flippers can normally last up to 25,000 plays-games before needing a repair or rebuilt. Coil stops are usually NOT the problem for flippers feeling week. They are just simply the "stop" for the plunger. Stern did have coil stop issues in the past (becoming loose) but the games made in 2022 should have good stops now. Any where there is friction will cause the flipper to "feel" weak. 1. dirty coil sleaves will cause friction. You can replace or clean out with a Q-tip. These last a long time. 2. The flipper plunger hitting the coil stop repeatedly (25,000 plays) can cause it to "mushroom" and cause friction inside the coil sleave. You can grind the "mushroom" off or get a replacement plunger. 3. Flipper bushings can wear or become bigger or oblong and create slop causing binding which can make the flippers feel weak. 4. EOS switch gap adjustment. This is a big one. The gap should be no bigger than 1/8 inch when the flipper is in its fully up position. When the gap is open the flipper power lowers or cycles on and off to the hold power. If the gap is too wide the flippers will lose full power sooner in its stroke. My option is that any pinball in a HUO situation very rarely sees flipper wear. This is based on the thousands of games I have seen being played in a commercial environment.

#42 75 days ago

^ THIS

MRG is absolutely right here.

I wouldn't replace coil stops that aren't suffering wear, just because I had the mechanism apart. (This sounds like I'm contradicting my earlier advice that the problem would be overwhelmingly likely to be the coil stops! But if it isn't the coil stops, you don't need to replace them.)

There are a LOT of different things that cause problems with flippers.

When I read the OP's report, I immediately thought ?End of Stroke adjustment?

You know, it's a funny thing. After doing a LOT of pinball repair, I do a lot of little things absentmindedly. I'll pull on this wire, bend a switch blade a little, check the 'feel' of a mechanism... and I don't even notice what I'm doing.

It's quite possible your tech adjusted the End of Stroke a tiny bit when he was looking at the flippers, and that helped. It's also possible that the whole issue was dirty sleeves.

When you noticed that the technician seemed as if he would just put in an all new parts kit rather than attempt repairs... well, that's a pretty good idea. Pinball repairs are very parts intensive. If you don't have the part you aren't going to properly fix the problem a lot of the time. A lot of the time I'll replace quite a few parts when I encounter a flipper problem. It's not a bad idea to buy a full flipper rebuild kit set and throw it in the bottom of the game.

I'm just glad that you got your machine to play better.

As for making it play exactly as if it were new out of the box, making the flippers feel as if they were brand new... Well, I would have done exactly what your technician did, then I'd replace the flipper rubber (surprising what a tiny bit better rubber grip on the ball will do to make your flippers seem powerful!) and I'd polish the playfield.

Then I'd be looking at other things. Last week I had an Addams Family. The problem that got his flipper fixed was the bushing (unusual when it isn't visibly cracked), replacement flipper bats (lower right flipper bat shaft was bent just a tiny amount so it wasn't perfectly straight) and the standard 'plunger-link-crank-arm sleeve stop EOS switch and return spring'. Now, an Addams Family almost always is worn to the point where looking for the exotic failures is probably where you are going to find your issues, but in this case it was the bushing and flipper bat shaft keeping the flipper from it's best performance.

Thanks for reporting back to us on what got your machine fixed!

#43 75 days ago

a quick visual guide to coil stops being bad is a noticeable amount of gold or silver colored dust at the bottom of your cabinet underneath your flippers. this indicates that the coil stops are being chipped by the impact of the metal plungers.

as previously stated, the quality of the parts being used today is noticeably less than 5-10 years ago.

even if you do not notice the metal shavings, it is a good idea to remove the screws holding the stops in place and visually inspect them. mushroomed coil stop ends can impact flipper performance as well dirty, swollened, cracked and/or broken coil sleeves.

coils that have overheated can also impact the plunger's ability to move smoothly though the sleeve as the coil is energized. if the coil sleeve is not able to be removed easily, that can indicate either a damaged sleeve and/or coil. coils where the inner plastic liner has expanded will not allow the plunger to slide as easily as it should. depending on the severity, you can run a drill bit through the coil and open up the inside again so that the coil sleeve fits easily and the plunger travels without any resistance.

coils that overheated to the point where the plunger and/or coil sleeves are trapped to the point where you cannot manually remove them, should be replaced.

#44 75 days ago
Quoted from MRG:

Flippers can normally last up to 25,000 plays-games before needing a repair or rebuilt

25k plays without repair or rebuilds? I'd love to see the parts your games are built of.

25k plays was more like the typical lifespan of a avg route pin... not it's service interval. Obviously we can stretch that further with more TLC.. but 25k plays is a year or two at a --very-- active location.

That's like finding a 20yr old WPC and keeping it stock

Will they still flip? Yes, but I'd wonder what it would be like.

#45 75 days ago

We have a twilight zone that has been operated for 10 years on free play. It has over 200,000 games played. It's been shopped twice. No play field wear. The game; looks and plays great. Flippers have been rebuilt 3 times. Still nice and snappy. We have other games with over 150,000 plays since we have operated them that look and play great. Free play really excelerates the plays.

#46 75 days ago

200k plays for 10 years
that is 380+ plays a week

You'd need to be cleaning those playfields basically at least twice a week.. and the areas you can't reach without disassembly would get really foul in just weeks.

I mylar areas I can't reach to combat that very problem of build-up you can't easily reach so it can go much longer w/o concerns of wear. I can't imagine how you could go 3+ years without a topside job at least.

Or the amount of extra start presses and games abandoned are like the vast majority of your starts...

Even with silicon rubber and a clean game to start, most games will be building up ball trails that need wiping in <200 plays.

#47 75 days ago

All games get a thorough cleaning at a minimum once a week. My rule is anytime the glass comes off for any reason it gets a cleaning, except when customers are playing.

#48 75 days ago

There's a huge difference between Stern flippers and JJP and CGC flippers and I believe that difference is why they eat coil stops faster. They use single wind flipper coils. Coil is given full power for so many milliseconds, then is pulsed at full power. EOS switch can be completely missing, and often is on SAM games, game keeps playing fine.

Stern briefly went back to dual wind flipper coils at the start of Spike with WWE and one or two other games, but decided later they needed the extra transistors for other things and went back to single wind. Software and design is what kills Stern coil stops faster. If you own a modern Stern, you absolutely should have extra stops on hand. And if your game has a flipper issue, the coil stop is the first thing you should check. Coil stops are cheap and easy to replace. Accept that Stern's don't last as long and have spares around.

#49 74 days ago

Here are some of our audits on some Stern and CGC games. NONE of these games have had any flipper maintenance or rebuilds. They don't need any at this point. All shots can be made, and the feel is nice and snappy. In fact, the majority of the maintenance on these games are flipper and sling shot rubbers. We had to replace scoop protectors on Munster's and MB. These are wear items. These games have been great to operate.

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#50 74 days ago

Just wanted to say Thanks to MRG for posting all that.

This was really interesting.

Also, thank you for providing clean, working (presumably...) pinballs for people to enjoy. In a world where nearly every machine I come across in a commercial setting is filthy dirty and poorly adjusted when it's not outright out of order, it's quite refreshing to see someone who has made the heroic extra effort to keep pinballs clean and working.

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