(Topic ID: 188912)


By Otaku

2 years ago

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    #1 2 years ago


    Welcome to my guide - the "definitive guide" to owning an EM pinball machine in the 21st century, more specifically relevant to this current day. No outdated "old guy hacks", whilst including
    many valuable tips that may have lasted for decades that are valuable enough to stick around in general. Less than solid-state machines, there is absolutely no baseline for nearly anything
    done in the EM pinball community. There is a large variance for personal preference on things that can be tuned different (i.e. flippers), and even on the things where there really is only
    "one right way to do it" people still have 1,000 different ways to do it today (d'oh!) - not including the 1970 hack done to your 1965 machine using lamp cord! This guide is designed to offer the
    most positive experience you can get owning an EM pinball machine by combining not only how to fix things but how they work (no guides seem to really include this), without all the frills
    of useless theoretical tips - only TRUE experience.

    I have been collecting dedicatedly for two to three years and in this time I have collected over 30 machines and even more arcade machines and have noticed almost on accident recently that I have somehow retained a wealth
    of information in my head after this period of time that some people have been building for decades and have boosted my position from newbie to EM expert not only from putting this info to use but also coming up with my own
    proprietary methods for doing certain things through very pinball packed years. And I am thankful for this. Just turning 19 years old a few days ago, I realize I am going to outlive the sources of this very specific and somewhat niche
    information - I plan for pinball to be present in the rest of my plans and have serious plans to open a pinball museum one day, hopefully starting within this decade. I have laid on the sidelines with this knowledge aside from
    supporting help threads on Pinside, and want to finally combine much of it together into a guide to not only help out but also share my love of EM games and my seriousness about this wonderful hobby and my growing collection I am very proud of.

    I'd like to thank:

    - The numerous people who took the time to write long plain-text guides for the internet and those who continue to contribute in helping out around places like Pinside (especially), everything here is 100% hand-typed by all means and also referenced from my head only for the most part but I have used a lot of these resources in the past for both my own machines and also for learning
    - My friend Joe Riccio (not a Pinsider) for having the basement that kicked me into EM pinball overdrive
    - My great friend Vic Camp for not only welcoming me into his gameroom but sharing a lot of great advice about EM pinball (Gottlieb especially) and always being a great encouragement even if not always intentional - his top notch Gottlieb collection alongside of his humble attitude is very inspirational to me
    - The number of great EM pinsiders I have met either in person or at shows
    - The very generous donators who helped recently great my games out of danger in a leaking basement who saw the significance in it and myself

    Without further ado, let's get the ball rolling! (Pun literally not intended, oops)

    (I typed this all by hand and from memory in about 4-5 days. I hope you enjoy my guide and find it incredibly useful in your personal pinball adventures. -- Steven)

    #2 2 years ago


    Table of Contents:

    [N/A] Entry Note/Welcome/Introduction
    [N/A] Table of Contents
    [0] The brain and basis of an EM pinball machine (Quick machine intro)
    [1] What is a relay?
    [2] What is the score motor? How does it work?
    [3] How do pop bumpers work? (Also: EM pop bumpers locking on?!)
    [4] What are stepper units? How do they work?
    [5] Flippers weak? (and: how they work!)
    [6] MYTH: "Coils either work or they don't", proved UNTRUE personally!
    [7] Setting a machine to free play (no coins - just press start)
    [8] What is the coin lockout mechanism? Should I disconnect/reconnect it?
    [9] Score reel woes, maintenance, and both mechanical and cosmetic cleaning
    [10] My machine is starting up fully dark or in TILT
    [11] My machine starts the reset sequence but won't reset!
    [12] A BRAND NEW troubleshooting tip/system, created by Otaku - 'signal vs. action'
    [13] Fixing "Shotgunning" (rapidly firing slingshots and pop bumpers)
    [14] Machine is blowing fuses/(OR) Machine blows out all (GI/normally lit) lights (either in backbox/head, playfield, or both)
    [15] Common issue: Score motor is running nonstop when machine is powered on with no response to start button
    [16] Cleaning and waxing your EM playfield to perfection of look and speed
    [17] De-rusting non-painted pinball legs, pinball leg care/polishing (also applies to non-painted coin doors)
    [18] No keys, locked out? Don't pry the doors! Drill (or pick)!
    [19] Loading and unloading from your vehicle, and setting up your pinball machine - from floor to play - an extremely specific guide "the Otaku way"
    [20] The leg bolts won't screw in or won't go all the way in correctly!
    [N/A] Closing Note

    #3 2 years ago


    [1] What is a relay?

    The relay: the main staple of any EM pinball machine. A relay's purpose and function is simple, commonly controlled by a 30 volt or 50 volt coil, a relay pulls in to move the ends of metal (conductive) switches. When activated, it can have switches that open, close, or make/break, the latter meaning it moves away from touching one switch blade when the relay is off to pressing against another switch blade.

    The simplest relay in any EM pinball machine is the 100 point relay. It is simple, it activates and closes two normally-open* switches momentarily, one switch sending 30/50 volts to a score reel, and another sending the same amount of voltage to the respective chime coil designated for 100 points (on that particular chime). Pretty simple.

    Let's step it up a tiny notch. The 10 point relay, while although it varies from machine to machine, is usually the relay that controls the 0-9/"MATCH" unit. This unit rotates with each 10 point switch hit to provide a semi-random number (not really, but thst kind of effect) at the end of the game to try and match to and also is used to alternate playfield features when needed/if used. This unit is a unit that only steps one direction (non-restting unit), and also is of course powered by a coil. So, let's add another new switch to our mental picture of a relay. A third normally-open switch is found on the 10 point relay which momentarily actuates the 0-9/"MATCH" unit, alongside of the score reel, and alongside of the chime coil. Still with me here? Pretty simple, right?

    The interesting thing about all of this is that (DON'T DO THIS EVER! ONLY MENTIONED FOR SCIENCE) if you ripped this relay out of the cabinet, removed the constant supply of 30 volts on the "HOT" side of the switches (half of each switch) from the equation, and tied the receiving lines of the match unit, score reel, and chime coil in one big bundle to the receiving line of 10 point relay coil, you would get the same effect since they all use the same voltage on the coils, thus bypassing the relay. So, Otaku,
    why DID they use relays then? Well Jimmy, it is only possible to do this because this is a very similar circuit ALL with normally-open switches that close at the same time (A), ALL use the same voltage (B), and ALL are designed to be in the same electrical circuit (C). Here, a relay is pretty much just used for cleanliness also because there would be no reason why you wouldn't if the rest of the machine is filled with them. BUT, the things you cannot do with this setup are huge. First of all, when the machine resets and a different circuit provides voltage to your score reels without the chime or match unit, you'd be sending voltage back through the line and activating these other features. Obviously can't have this. Also for instance, if a relay needs to OPEN a switch and CLOSE another (very common), you can obviously only do this through a relay rather than it being hardwired and relying on the CLOSING action of a playfield switch to provide the main power. Or, what if you're controlling solenoids AND lighting? Solenoids (coils) are usually 30/50 volts and lightning is almost always 6 volts in these machines. If you send 6 volts through your coils they won't budge, and if you send 30/50 volts through your lighting (light bulbs) they will blow in less than an instant. By having completely isolated different switches within the same relay, you can do each of these things! A relay just physically moves switches together without any necessary electric connection to it - it is literally like a physical hand pushing a set of switches together and infact they can be actuated by hand and this is done all the time in testing and repair. It just "gives the push" for isolated switches, only creating a physical effect rather than providing an electrical voltage. So, you can send 100 volts through a 6 volt relay rated to have 100+ volts pass through it with no problem and vice versa. The plate on the relay is of course made of non-conductive plastic rather than metal to provide this "push" (actually a "pull", to be specific!!!) without linking voltages of different switches together or even of the same switch together when it is open.

    For instructions on making sure a relay functions its best, see the section on cleaning switches. Besides this (meaning the relay itself), make sure your relay has a spring on it (this pulls the relay back to the off position when deactivated and keeps it there), and has a well-functioning coil. Coils that are erroneously locked on will burn up after a short period of time and will need to be replaced, and coils designed for lock-ons on purpose (such as hold relays, alternating relays, coin lockout relays, etc.) can last for days while on but eventually degrade enough to turn black, burn the paper casing off, and eventually fail after years or decades of use. Appreciate their hard work but then replace with a fresh new APPROPRIATELY-SIZED/MARKED coil to bring the relay back to life, or even if these long-life relay coils have not burned out yet I recommend replacing them if they are getting to be really ughly to avoid any interruptions. As per the coin lockout section (read it there if doing this), they can just be disconnected if not using coins to put an end to that coil - it's not needed for free play situations nor does it need to obviously be replaced if disconnected.

    Also, make sure no wires have seperated from the ends of the switch blades! Often hard to notice in a big mess of wiring but even a hairline separation (wires tend to not move much at all after so many years, when they break off) will obviously not provide voltage through it! A very gentle tug on each wire will often put this one to rest, but also make sure you have a well-done and functional solder connection linking the wire to the switch blade solidly (itself) as well.

    *(the "normally-" prefix is used to describe the setting when the relay is not powered, meaning it is off.)

    #4 2 years ago


    #5 2 years ago


    [2] What is the score motor?

    Ahhh, the score motor. If there was anything reminiscent to a "brain" behind an EM pinball machine, this would be it! Static switches (like a normal 10 point playfield switch with no other function) don't need it to rotate, but aside from these most-basic circuits, most of each machine uses it. Anything that requires multiples or timing! A score motor is made up of different sections of things called "cams" with different patterns cut into them. One will connect (or disconnect - there CAN be a mix of both on each switch stack) a set of switches once per revolution (called a "pulse"), and one will pulse a set of switches 5 times per revolution. There are many different combinations (70's Bally and Williams score motors especially have a lot while Gottlieb seemed to group the combos together more and avoided any duplicate cams) and each are stacked either on top of each other (all Gottlieb, all Chicago Coin, early Williams, early Bally), or on the sides of each other (Williams, Bally, and any foreign games that used these companies as a baseline such as Interplay) that rotate together. These later Bally and Williams score motor assemblies had more cams on them (as aforementioned) because they only had one switch stack per cam (so there were assumably some duplicates of cams if REALLY needed - the switch stacks got pretty big/tall though), while the Gottlieb score motor assemblies often times completely surrounded all cams of the motor with multiple switch stacks that shared the same cam. The pulsing of these switch stacks are entirely depending on the grooves cut into these cams and the revolutions of the score motor. Again, like a relay, these switches are isolated and the connection and role of the score motor is purely a physical one. The motor itself, which the cams are attached to, is commonly a 30 volt 60hz (non-export games, others were 50hz to match the country) motor. Pretty large and heavy-duty (only speculated/assumable), and heavy in weight themselves. The motor will only spin in one direction. Do not attempt to hand spin the motor in the opposite direction or wire it backwards (spins opposite) you will break a couple of things.

    Use your ears and listen to nearly any EM machine, especially a Williams or a post-1967 Gottlieb (both have more noticable score reel noises) - listen to the reset sound. It's a sound that even gets stuck in my head from time to time like a song and is unforgettable. "TOCK TOCK TOCK TOCK TOCK, TOCK TOCK TOCK TOCK TOCK, TOCK TOCK TOCK TOCK TOCK"... all multiples of five with a gap in between, hear it? (Seriously, go YouTube it) That is because that specific cam (also shared with the 50/500/5000 point system, etc.) pulses the switch stacks 5 times per revolution, and at the end of the revolution, if it is still being powered after "finding home", it will continue for another revolution (until the operation is complete). That is why all of the machines make such a distinct sound when they reset, in multiples of 5, all the way back to the earliest machines up until 1979 when the last EM machine (well, last widespread) EM pinball machine was produced. Every. Single. One. You'll also notice 5/50/500/5000 points is a common score to earn on EM pinball machines as opposed to 40 or 60 (it does certainly vary though) as they could do this without an entire extra revolution (60) or cutting the main signal off early while the motor finishes spinning (40).

    While many/most things in EM pinball machine should NEVER be oiled (even the cams we just talked about, DON'T oil those! NOR THE GEARS ON THE MOTOR!), there is a process for oiling your score motor (meaning the "core" motor (not a typo...) itself literally, not the attachments as stated) and that is usually something that can be oiled. To be honest, it's not even something I've ever needed to do before and is pretty uncommon, but I do have one machine (a 1969 Gottlieb Airport) that has a different sound to it that could likely benefit from a good oiling, and I assume it wouldn't hurt presuming you do it correctly. Lots of score motors actually have many different sounds even from the same manufacturer (it's a beautiful thing - like a soundtrack of each different machine life as silly as that probably sounds) so there is no real basis on this, but I can just kind of tell with that one. (Very dry/rough sounding)

    The process for oiling a score motor (Gottlieb motor used for mental reference) is dripping some common 3-in-1 oil (a few drops, not a lot) on the bearing pad on the bottom (or likely the side on the horizontal kind) of the motor. Again, this isn't something I've really ever needed to do nor have I done and only read about a while back (and verified as I typed this) so you will likely not have to either, but it is an uncommon helpful reference that is very rarely included in any guides or asked about (thus no answers to find on Google!), so I knew I wanted to include it here incase anybody has to in their own situation. Of course, use at your own risk/judgement; your mileage may vary. (Most things here I've done but I felt this one could be an exception)

    #6 2 years ago


    #7 2 years ago


    [3] How do pop bumpers work? (Also: EM pop bumpers locking on?!)

    (Again, please note that if you somehow haven't left after browsing trying to fix a solid-state machine - this does not translate over fully and they are different enough to make a huge difference! Find help elsewhere or send me a PM for that stuff!)

    Pop bumpers, a MAIN staple of pinball everywhere! When even your grandma knows to put a pop bumper on your birthday cake, you know it's a popular symbol of pinball everywhere. But, how do they work?

    There are several parts to a single pop bumper assembly (and the rest are basically duplicated in each individual bumper), you got your pop bumper body... your pop bumper skirt... your pop bumper cap... your pop bumper switch/spoon... pop bumper ring... ahh screw it, here's a picture!

    detail (3).jpg

    So basically, your ball skirts along (or violently smashes into) the pop bumper skirt, lightly pressing down onto it - this skirt has a long peg molded onto it which then pushes down onto a unique switch under the playfield (literally shaped like a round spoon towards/on the end, to compensate for movement of the skirt peg without letting it slip off the area of the switch), triggering the pop bumper. Power is sent to the coil below the playfield, which is attached to a yoke, which holds two pegs (called "rods") of the pop bumper ring. The coil pulls on this whole assembly ("firing the pop bumper"), pulls the ring on the top of the playfield (NOT THE SKIRT, a metal ring that is usually out of view when not being pulled due to the viewing angle of playfield pinball) down a significant amount, and due to basic physics the lack of space, smaller than the ball (pinball), now created between the playfield and the ring fires the ball out at very quick speeds.

    HOWEVER, this is not the conclusion of the circuit of an EM pop bumper. There are one or two (it depends) components left, each extremely important to the operation of the pop bumper! An end-of-stroke switch that pushes open to tell the machine when the pop is finished, and occasionally a pop bumper relay for when the pop bumper does more than one function or has an advanced function. Let's get that relay out of the way - a great tip (The great Bruce Moyer actually told me this two days ago, thanks Bruce! I could easily agree and likely would have headed that way myself, but at the same time it truly is something that could have also easily slipped my mind and probably most others' as well!) is that the secret to great action in a pop bumper is not only clean switches on the pop bumper and a clean assembly, but also clean switches on the pop bumper RELAY! Many of these relays pass the power of the bumper THROUGH the relay rather than handling it seperately or alongside of the pop bumper power. (Meaning the pop bumper switch actually triggers the pop bumper RELAY rather than the bumper itself! Interesting, right?!) So, it is equally as important that the switches on this relay are clean for great pop bumper action, especially/mainly the one that controls the power to the pop bumper coil on this relay! A lot of machines also just don't have this relay and it is wired as stated earlier, directly controlling itself where the switch just sends the power right to the pop bumper. (and to the respective point relay, also often through an alternating relay if two different possible values can be obtained, one "when lit") Second, there is the
    end-of-stroke switch beneath the pop bumper. This is a NORMALLY-CLOSED switch that will open when the pop bumper is all the way down and is ready to be shut off again, this switch is actually (commonly...) controlled by the pop bumper YOKE rather than relating to the skirt and the peg coming off of it - it is usually further down on the assembly and the lowest switch down, by itself. When this opens, it cuts power to the bumper and the other respective systems involved in it, like the respective score relay. Unfortunately this switch is commonly misadjusted (either naturally or by a clutzy operator/enthusiast/owner who left it that way erroneously):

    IF IT IS ADJUSTED TO NEVER OPEN/NEVER CREATE A GAP... This is the worst of the two BY FAR. If the switch never opens, power will never be cut to your pop bumper(s) (and since they can be wired together from the factory as stated earlier, this will apply to all linked pop bumpers, unfortunately...) and they will burn out each pop bumper coil for the affected pop bumpers, and also possibly the respective score relay coil, the score reel coil, the chime coil, the pop bumper relay coil, and any coil(s) associated with additional functions of the pop bumper, whether it be a relay (coil) or another unit (coil). IF THIS HAPPENS (it's VERY common on project machines!), SHUT THE MACHINE OFF INSTANTLY WITHOUT HESITATION! With these STRONG pop bumper coils you have a very short period of time before they completely burn themselves out in a giant puff of smoke (you'd be surprised! Makes the sound you'd kind of expect too) - this is not even the type of problem you ever need to fix with the power on either so you have no excuse for not shutting the machine off right away. No nosing around, just shut it off instantly! Shut the machine off, adjust your switch (clean it too... but if it were dirty it'd be stuck open not closed) by manually depressing the pop bumper ring by hand for reference (again, no need to ever have the machine on for this) (you want it to open with a decent sized gap right when the pop bumper ring is about to bottom out/travel the full distance), and fire it up, start a game, and try again! If it still does it, SHUT IT OFF AGAIN, and try again. If not, this may not be your problem. If it's not, try checking continuity of the two wires that go to the switch with the switch open. Your results may vary or be useless because these wires also run through other coils sometimes which are also just an extended short themselves (it's how they work), and also other relays, so there will be some kind of a reading.)

    IF IT IS ADJUSTED TO ALWAYS BE OPEN/(OR) ONE OF THE SWITCH BLADES IS BROKEN OFF/(OR) THE SWITCH IS MISSING... This one is mostly harmless. The game simply thinks it's instantly finished the second the coil is fired. Except, that doesn't mean the coil will shut off right away, it will simply just let go right when the ball travels off of the skirt. So, if your ball hits it quickly and the ring shoots it away fast, it will send an signal too short for the bumper to complete a full "pop". The end-of-stroke switch is designed to ensure the pop bumper makes a full cycle (for satisfaction sake) and by it being stuck open, broken, or completely removed (without the wires touching, which would be equivilent to the above) completely disables this system and will leave your will constantly varying results, inconsistency in pops, and generally pretty boring pop bumper responses to hits.

    If you need to remove the pop bumper for any reason, you need to remove the light socket inside unfortunately. You can do this by desoldering or clipping (desoldering recommended, you have to 10000000% HAVE to resolder them anyways so if you don't have a soldering iron yet go pick up one - electrical tape jobs are terrible and especially won't work long on this high-vibration application, meaning the pop bumper specifically (but the whole machine has a lot of vibration)) At this point you will have to reinstall it when it is finished so many recommend just ordering a new pop bumper light socket (or the amount that you need) since you're going to be reinstalling it/them anyways. Remember, they're special - so if you don't want to do any adapting work - remember to order "pop bumper light sockets", not just the normal pinball light socket. They're pretty similar but pop bumper light sockets have the two long "legs" on them that reach down through the pop bumper body and the playfield.

    A pop bumper will also be dead-feeling (in addition to the dirty switches mentioned above) if your main pop bumper "spoon" switch is misadjusted it will not behave too great. It may work, but the pop will be weak or will only fire with hard hits... or perhaps not at all! Get yourself a "leaf switch adjustment tool", you'll need it for a lot of EM work but ESPECIALLY this, if not its finest application in these machines! You want to adjust them so they are close as possible while still leaving a gap so they don't lock on, and also so they don't fire when you are playing the game. Give it a good shake and maybe a light pound on the playfield (careful, obviously) to make sure they don't fire when they are not supposed to. If you adjust it too close, they will definitely do this, happens all the time with misadjusted pop bumpers adjusted too close! There is a very very fine line for a perfectly tuned/greatly tuned pop bumper switch ("spoon" switch). Also, as noted, make sure that end-of-stroke switch is working, IS ACTUALLY IN THE MACHINE (haha), and adjusted properly to prevent incomplete and varying pops and action.

    #8 2 years ago


    #9 2 years ago


    [4] What are stepper units? How do they work?

    Stepper units are another huge foundation behind the inner workings of an EM pinball machine, which control things like the bonus, ball in play/player up (if applicable), match/0-9, and much more.
    In pre late-50's games, before score reels became a thing, the "lightbox scoring" was also controlled by one very large stepper unit or more.

    A stepper unit looks complicated but the idea behind it is actually pretty simple. You have a circle set of contacts (which can either be "receivers" or "powered", depending on what role they play), and one or more conductive metal arms/fingers to again either send or receive voltage to/from a contact.
    Each time a unit steps, all of the arms will advance a position onto the next set of contacts. Stepper units come in different designs across each manufacturer and also different types.

    There are non-resetting units that continuously rotate, never stepping backwards or "fully" resetting. Then you have the ones that do reset - but there are two types of THESE! Some do a full reset, meaning they pass back over all contacts to a specific starting position in one go (one pulse of the coil), while others reset by going backwards one point at a time, much like how they step forward - they step back the same way - one contact at a time.
    This kind of unit is needed for something like the bonus unit, which needs to tally each 1,000 point contact one at a time as it drains down. Did you know: The bonus unit actually doesn't really "know" how much bonus it needs to add? While the unit is resetting (say, at the end of a ball), a circuit livens up that sends solenoid voltage to an arm, so each time the unit and arm steps over each contact (remember, one at a time backwards) while it resets, it adds another 1,000 or whatever amount back to the bonus until it is fully reset.
    This is another great example of EM technology, they need to reset the unit for the next ball/player, but also utilized the reset as a secondary usage for tallying up the bonus as well, both at the same time. Rather than each contact being specific, each is rather just an 1,000 point contact. So if you have a 9,000 point bonus racked up, your unit has to reset 10 positions to 0, so 1,000 * 9 = 9,000. Each of those positions share the same exact circuit that leads to the 1,000 point relay, rather than needing a circuit for each specific amount like a 50 point relay. It simply just shoots 1,000 points up for each step backwards until it knows the unit is reset. Not much sentience there.
    That being said, if your bonus unit gets stuck on a contact, it will continue to add 1,000 points regardless of what your bonus is until the unit is unjammed. The machine never knows what your bonus is, it just knows "not done resetting bonus" and "done resetting bonus". 1's and 0's...

    Another interesting circuit is the 3-ball play circuit on an EM. Back in the day, operators had the choice to set an EM between 3 balls and 5. (and 8 of all numbers, if you count Gottlieb add-a-ball games from a range of around 1968-early 1970, thanks Gottlieb I guess... I doubt that was rarely EVER used)
    If your EM is set to 5 balls (the standard, I must add!) the ball in play unit will continue to step with each ball coming up through the trough until the last ball, when it steps itself to the game over position (or just fires a game over relay if applicable and stays on ball 5 position until reset for the next game). However, on 3 ball play there is a problem.
    You have the ball 4 and ball 5 position/contacts standing between you and game over. Oh no! Well, never fear. (This may be specific to Gottlieb 70's single-players, I never tried 3 ball on Bally or Williams - pre-70's Gottlieb single-players and Gottlieb multiplayers just used a game over relay) Much like the switch that kicks on when you drain on ball 5 (controlled through the score motor as well, just before the outhole kicker is set to fire), when you drain on ball 3 on a 3 ball set game, it triggers a relay to advance the unit 3 times into the game over position.
    Of course since operators didn't want people to know they were missing out on two balls, first the lighting circuit to the unit is disabled (so you don't see the ball 4 and ball 5 lights come on quickly as it passes over them), and then it automatically pulses the ball count unit three quick times, ball 4 for about a second, ball 5 for about a second, and then finally the game over position. (again, if applicable)
    I was very fascinated by this feature even though all my EMs in my gameroom are faithfully set to 5 ball play (as I believe it should be for this era - SS is 3 as well), if you listen to a 3 ball set game as the game ends, listening for the loud distinctive "CLICK CLICK CLICK" of the ball in play unit swiftly/quickly passing over these unused contacts, as pulsed by the score motor in usual fashion.

    So, is your stepper unit not working, gummy, or STUCK? Well, the first thing I always like to do is get rid of the grime on those contacts, even that can be enough to slow up a unit. Some people get specific and use alcohol to clean contacts, or a Brite-Boy, etc., but if you don't mind scuffing up the unit a little some very fine sandpaper used in the direction of travel (meaning follow how to the stepper arms move) will do the trick.
    I don't like this as much because it does scuff up the units and I would like to look into a better alternative but if you are not concerned it gets the job done well and damn well. Most of the time it is only the Gottlieb units (my favorite) that have large gaps between the contacts, so like on Williams and Chicago Coin units you don't have much to scuff up besides metal contacts anyways, so go for it. Bally is in-between on how their contacts are laid out. Sand the contacts (some look more like large flat square pads, like Chicago Coin games) lightly until the contacts or pads are back to a shiny gold or silver color and all "travel" marks (little trails left by the arms) are gone or mostly gone.
    Make sure you don't overdo it or sand too hard, it's not easy to do but remember you do not have unlimited metal there and you also don't want to make one contact uneven or it will provide a very intermittent connection.

    Next up is checking out the back of the unit, many units have a screw or pin in them that allow them to be folded down for service without having to remove the entire unit. Make sure all of your springs appear to be intact. These things can become stretched out over time and no longer step up the unit, so if this appears to be the case I would recommend ordering new ones from somewhere like Marco Specialities. You can also shorten an old spring to give it a tighter pull more reminiscent to the original, but I would just recommend buying new ones. There is a giant spring in the center of the unit that controls reset functions and give the unit a "push back" if it is a full-resetting unit. This spring is a giant pain in the ass, so try not to mess with it unless you really need to. Note, your springs may be fine but the unit may be gummed up. Before replacing them or messing with them, it is often a good idea to disassemble the back of the unit (and remove the springs anyways) and clean it up with some cleaner like Simple Green. There was oil applied to these units at the factory or by clumsy operators that dries up over time and freezes up or bogs down the unit.
    Cleaning it will remove this oil and allow the unit to operate smoother. I never re-oil my units as they are mostly designed to "run dry". Some people choose to lubricate the contact disc itself with the appropriate lubricant (not oil, and HELL NO to WD-40! Flammable and never dries!) but I and others also choose to just let this be and run it dry. You can make your own decision there without ill effects, as long as it is done correctly with the right specific kind of lubricant. (teflon lubricant)

    Last but not least, make sure your stepper unit's shaft is not too tight up against the disc (pulling it too close), or it won't spin even with the best of your efforts! There are a few allen wrench screws on this shaft, and while they need to be tight themselves, you need to make sure the rotating disc is not offset hard into the unit, or the physics won't allow it to spin or spin well. (and will also wear down the contacts quicker) You want a solid connection that touches the contacts fully, but also not having the disc grinding into the unit basically.

    Another common misconception is an issue where it is not the stepper's problem at all. You can step up (and down/reset) a unit by hand, but you do need to "act" like a coil and do it incredibly swiftly to accurately emulate the results. Quickly in, quickly out, a nice hard emulated "pulse". This is a good way to test if your stepper is acting up or if it's an issue in another part of the game.
    A common culprit is a dirty or misadjusted score motor switch not pulsing a stepper for long enough. People always say "Oh, it's NEVER the score motor!" but that is probably the BIGGEST lie I have ever heard in the history of this hobby! While it is probably one of the later things you should check (before you know what you're doing for sure), it is definitely not impossible and 30 EMs later
    I have done major score motor work at least 6 times. If you can help it, do not disassemble any of the switch stacks on the score motor. If you need to, for god's sake, TAKE PICTURES. LOTS OF DAMN PICTURES. Because when the switch stack explodes/falls apart in your hands and you have to put it back together, you absolutely NEED to know which order they go in. So, just try clean and adjust the specific switch (not all of them - I never recommend that personally EVER) without any disassembly. In most games the score motor switch positions can be found in a paper piece stapled into the side of the cabinet (if yours isn't missing), but at a certain point a lot of the manufacturers stopped doing this and instead put it either in the manual or in a side-section on the official schematic of the game's internal wiring.
    If your stepper is functioning well by hand, make sure your coils, coil sleeves, and score motor switches (relevant to the unit at hand) are working as intended, and that the switch(es) is/are clean and properly adjusted. A common issue is also that the little plastic spacer in between the score motor switches fall off, and if it's one of the first one in a row, it will throw off the ENTIRE row of switches! But even at the very end of the row, it just takes one little one to throw something big way off!

    #10 2 years ago

    media-stepperunits2 (resized).png

    #11 2 years ago


    [5] Flippers weak? (and: how they work!)

    Introduced in 1947 on Gottlieb's "Humpty Dumpty", flippers are just as relevant to pinball today in 2017 (and beyond) as they were decades ago. In the prime of the flipper, all EM machines across many manufacturers had them (many even had more than two), but they all pretty much worked the same. (even if the part layout was different, which was very common)

    While I'll leave the different specific parts of a flipper mechanism up to the diagram, the main operation for a flipper is this.

    The player activates the flipper switch, either on the left or right side of the cabinet. In some games, there is an actual arm connected to the button itself that pivots when the button is pushed which then pushes a switch under the playfield, activating the flipper (completes the circuit). However, more commonly the button is directly connected to a leaf switch (common EM switch) which makes the connection right there.
    This power shoots up the wire faster than you can say "flipper" and then powers on the flipper coil. Unlike most coils, flipper coils have two sections/windings to them. One is the "high power" section, which actually receives the same power as either point receives, however this winding has a shorter path to ground
    and thus gives much more power to the flipper. This is used for the initial "burst" of power when activating the flipper, to make shots to the back of the playfield and provide a strong push to the ball. However, if this was held down (like when cradling the ball), it would quickly overheat and destroy the coil. So, another solution had to be made. The "flipper hold power" (do not mistake with 30v hold/120v hold) circuit is a longer winding of lesser force, which in turn creates a cooler
    circuit that can be held in for a shorter period of time and is only needed to hold the flipper up with or without a ball on it, so it is not very powerful.

    Then, when the flipper reaches close to its highest point, it pushes open a switch (called the flipper end-of-stroke switch) which simply cuts power completely to the "high power" lug of the coil, leaving power to the "hold" section of the coil as the only thing left. This will then be used to hold up the flipper until it is dropped back down (when the button is released).

    If your end-of-stroke switch is permanently adjusted open or is dirty, there will never be a connection for the high power lug of the coil, and the flipper will only use the "hold power" (weak) for even the initial bursts of power. Considering this is a large reduction of power, your flipper will not be able to push the ball up the playfield as well and may even struggle to push it at all. However, this is pretty harmless.

    If your end-of-stroke switch is adjusted to open TOO EARLY (but is still closed towards the beginning of the flip), it will provide high power until the switch opens up. Since it opens too early (before the flipper is finished traveling), the flipper response will be mediocre, and again, the ball will not be going anywhere too fast.

    On the other hand, if your end-of-stroke switch is stuck CLOSED, high power will never be disabled to the coil even when holding the button in to cradle the ball or the like. This will be met with a much louder buzz than normal, and will semi-quickly destroy the flipper coil (it will melt/burn up).

    A common issue is wires that break off of any part of the end-of-stroke switch circuit, all contained very close/near to the flipper. The high vibration of these systems (especially when loose to the playfield - tighten the frames if so) makes for a high likelihood of wires that can break off of the soldered joints and fall off. (You should never use spade connectors for flippers, on that note, that's just silly) With the circuit broken, again high power will never be able to reach the coil.

    If a wire breaks off to the low power circuit (wired directly to the coil), as soon as the end-of-stroke switch opens and the high power section is cut off your flipper will go completely dead. (like an impulse flipper of the 40's/50's, they couldn't be held) If you hold the button down the flipper will flip like a fish out of water, flipping each time the flipper drops back down but never holding.

    Flippers also can become weak due to degraded parts. For this reason, many pinball retailers sell "flipper rebuild kits", of which you would need to order your specific model of flipper. (even each manufacturer had a few different incarnations of their flipper design, so there's a lot of different options unfortunately and you have to get the right one).
    A common "solution" for some is to buy high powered customized "orange dot" or "yellow dot" coils. This is a silly, unneeded fix (that can break/harm items on your playfield through force easily) and is very amateur if your purpose is just to fix a degraded weak flipper. A well-rebuilt, properly adjusted flipper will almost always be all you need to make all shots in the game and also will be fairly quick. (in EM scale, of course)
    You should never need to use these aftermarket custom high powered coils (that these machines were NEVER designed for) or adjust the machine's transformer to higher solenoid power (it's not included in this guide for a reason, because this is 2017 not 1977) for good flipper response. Completely rebuild the flippers and adjust them properly and you will be very pleased! You should be able to use your original coils, so don't waste your money ordering new ones. (Coil sleeves are a much different story though!) Also, never oil or lubricate your flippers. That is a BIG no-no and will lead to many more problems!

    #12 2 years ago


    #13 2 years ago


    [6] MYTH: "Coils either work or they don't", proved UNTRUE personally!

    This is going to be a short one, but something I felt I really needed to throw in. All the old EM geezers will always say "A coil will either WORK, or WILL NOT WORK, no in between!"
    While this is true about 95% of the time, about 8 months ago I finally encountered an exception which was very plausible to be recreated in any pinball machine.

    I had just picked up my 1962 Williams Vagabond "reverse-wedgehead" pinball machine. The seller noted there was some kind of 10 point scoring issue, where the scoring was intermitting (would only sometimes work) for that digit.
    I figured, okay, dirty 10 point relay contacts. With other projects going on, I just settled with the scoring issue for a while and went about playing the game for enjoyment rather than score until I got another chance to look at it.
    Then finally one day the reel stopped responding to a much less degree (to where it was not resetting half of the time), and I finally decided to take a look at it a few months later.

    At some point the 10 point reel coil had actually locked on due to a stuck switch, before I owned it. This had burnt the coil up pretty bad, but not to the point where it was destroyed. However, it had actually burnt up so close to the edge of no longer working that
    it had created a small in the internal windings, thus breaking the circuit. With any little vibration, the coil winding would touch or break again, so it would only score about half of the time. It worsened over time as the gap grew bigger/less conductive.
    So, with a new coil ordered, it arrived in full new-old-stock glory, I put it in, and the problem was completely solved. I didn't even ever end up cleaning the 10 point relay, just to be clear that it had 0 involvement in the issue. It was 100% on the coil.

    So yes, a coil itself can be intermittent which has been forever said as "impossible" previously. Mythbusted! That being said, if your coil is working fine and is a little brown around the wrapper from heat or even not at all, replacing it as part of a rebuild is a bit of a waste, and a decently expensive one too. (If you replace working coils, send me the old ones!)

    #14 2 years ago


    [7] Setting a machine to free play (no coins - just press start)

    Setting a machine to free play is simple on most EM machines with a credit unit. (If you have an add-a-ball machine, there is a different process for this - keep reading)


    There is one simple switch on these credit units that lets the machine know if the machine has credit(s) or not. Again, the machine has no sentience to how many credits it has or not. Funny, isn't it? It knows "CREDITS" or "NO CREDITS". Yet again, another 1's and 0's thing. Anyhow, this switch can be permanently adjusted to be closed in an erroneous fashion to provide free play,
    or can be jumpered with similarly-gauged wire and solder. (There will be a constant supply of voltage flowing through this so you want a wire that is similar in size to the rest of the machine - remember to do this with the machine off) Either is fine, but I usually go the jumper wire route just because I don't want to bend up the switches too much. Removable and not hard to do if you can solder. (this isn't circuit board work, you can be a little gnarly) Please do not
    cut the wires off of the switch, strip them, and tie them together. This is hacking up the machine and will make it more difficult for the next person to figure out and repair if they want or have to use coins.

    Spotting your "has credit" switch is easy, look at the switches on the unit with 0 credits, then look advance the unit by hand to give it a credit and watch as these switches move. See which what moves and closes as the credit unit goes from 0 credits to 1 credit. This will be the switch you need to jumper.
    There will be a few other switches on this unit, like your maximum credit switch. Leave these alone and do not purposely misadjust them. Leave them alone as they are not involved in this trick/adjustment.

    With that done, you should now be able to start the machine using the start button even when the machine has 0 credits on the reel. Importantly, this trick is 100% the most efficient way of doing this, as it will still allow you to earn, deposit, and drain credits to the unit by activate rewards, depositing quarters, and starting games. (to drain the credits back down like normal) The most important part of this is earning the in-game "SPECIAL" rewards. As stated, the unit will still go up (and eventually down as used) normally with this minimalistic simple adjustment, the most efficient one there is. The hacky days of adjusting your maximum credits pin to a negative value to stop the unit from going to 0 or cutting off the wires to the "drain credit" coil is over and has been for decades. Never do these silly methods (especially because they are a huge pain to repair for the next guy!).


    ADD-A-BALL MACHINES (lacks credit unit and add-a-ball/replay setting plug, locked on add-a-ball):

    Setting an add-a-ball machine to free play is a bit more of a conundrum. Nothing can be completely easy, can it? It's not even that it couldn't be done, it's the fault of the matter that there is literally physically nothing to start the game (besides end-of-life 1977-1979 games, depending), no button or anything. The game is started when a coin is dropped into the slot. Hrmph!

    Well, you have a few options here. If you have a 1960-1975 Gottlieb door, you're in luck! You can actually bend the single credit switch's arm up to be actuated by the coin return lever/button. This is the commonplace way to do it for Gottlieb collectors with add-a-ball machines and is customary at shows. You can then push in the coin return, and it will simulate a coin being registered as being deposited, and then automatically starts up the game.
    Something about the smooth actuation of the return button always makes me excited to play an add-a-ball game, it's a really neat way to do it and feels great and well-done as well, no hacks required.

    Later on in the 70's when Gottlieb switched all games into the new cabinet style (deeper) with the new door, the add-a-ball games also went along for the ride. These doors now had start buttons too like their replay sisters, but still lacked credit units entirely. But, by simply adding one wire jumpering this start switch to the credit switch, in one single button press you can fake-credit the machine (only controlled by a relay, remember, no unit!) and start it, just like you would with any other game on free play. Great! Don't bother with the other wire of the switch as this is obviously highly unnecessary and will cause unintended results/errors.

    On other games from other manufacturers, unfortunately at times it gets a bit trickier. The coin return trick may work on certain doors as well (not guarenteed, and I think it works best on the aforementioned Gottlieb door), but in the past there is no other options than wiring a momentary toggle switch to the credit switch (both sides) and finding some way to allowing it to be pressed.
    Try not to drill a hole in the game. I've fit them through coin return holes and other things before. But, BE CAREFUL! MANY OF THESE CREDIT SWITCH WIRING SETS USE FULL LINE VOLTAGE (110 VOLTS) WHICH CAN BE LETHAL. Please take care in your wiring for yourself and your guests when utilizing this switch, lock the coin doors properly to prevent small children or other people from opening them and hurting themselves, and REMEMBER TO DO THIS WITH THE MACHINE FULLY UNPLUGGED, NOT JUST SWITCHED OFF! On most machines
    the credit circuit is still live even when the machine is off, ESPECIALLY games from 1967 or earlier. !!!!! TAKE EXTREME CAUTION AND DO AT YOUR OWN RISK !!!!!

    #15 2 years ago


    [8] What is the coin lockout mechanism? Should I disconnect/reconnect it?

    The coin lockout mechanism is a small coil-driven mechanism on the coin door in electro-mechanical machines and solid-state machines. The purpose of this coil is simple,
    to allow the acceptance of coins into the machines. Prior to the late 60's, machines would start up FULLY DARK. It was impossible to know whether or not a machine was on or off if it had no been played yet for the day. (or was tilted)
    So, to prevent people dropping in their coins and losing them to machines that really WERE off, the coin lockout mechanism/relay was introduced. When this coil is not on, the coin door will reject ALL coins placed into it regardless of what they are. Even proper clean coins inserted correctly will be rejected.
    When the machine is on, the coil will lock on (it's a long-life coil) and allow coins to be accepted. However, there are times when the machine is on that it will be disabled. For instance, when the score motor is running the coin lockout coil will shut off. That is because when the score motor is mid-cycle, it has no way to add the credits to the machine or reset the machine if a dime/nickel were inserted. Remember from earlier: resetting the machine (instant from smaller coins, no start button push needed) requires pulses from the score motor, or if multiple credits are added from dropping in a quarter, the score motor is needed to do these multiples from only one switch press - and if it is busy, it can't.
    Also, of course, as stated the coil will naturally be off when the machine lacks power (meaning, is off), and as an obviously intended side-effect it will also then reject coins as well.

    If you are not using coins in your gameroom (or business), you can clip one lead off of the wiring off from the coil to disable it. Remember to clip extremely close to the coil lug just incase you or anybody else wants to re-enable it,
    and remember you remove two or more wires that are bundled together, you need to tie them together after the fact again - I recommend removing the positive wire as usually this is only one wire on that end of the coil, while usually two or more ground wires are tied together at the coil lockout coil. (and must remain tied together for some other coils to function properly)
    Please remember to tape off the end of this wire as I have had people do this to machines and then once in my possesion I actually had a machine that had a wire shorting to the coin door between metal and the wood on the coin door and actually started a small fire/smoke-fest. Thankfully no major damage, but you do not want that wire shorting against anything, especially the coin door or the very-close-in-proximity ground wire(s) on the other end of the coil.

    This coil after so many decades of being locked on frequently burns out or buzzes loudly, so you can either replace it or simply just disable it and obviously then you can just leave it as is without replacement with no direct repercussions.

    #16 2 years ago


    [9] Score reel woes, maintenance, and both mechanical and cosmetic cleaning

    Unfortunately due to the massive amount of different score reel designs, explaining a rebuild for all of them combined in one single guide, or even each individually, is quite the task to do and likely impossible due to all of the rarer variants.
    However, let's explain WHY they get gummed up.

    Originally, many parts in these machines were lubed from the factory. This lube made it through the machine's intended lifespan of 4-10 years just fine, but once you start pushing 40 it's bound to get a lil' sticky in there. Additionally, some clutzy operators
    may have tried their own lube "solution", which is almost always entirely worse than what the factory used and gummed up these units even worse.

    So while I cannot explain disassembly for each score reel style (I find Williams to be the easiest and Bally looks pretty similar to those), the goal is simple: Get it CLEAN. We need to get all of that old lube/gunk off of all parts of the score reel.

    Disassemble your score reel (sorry... have to be vague as aforementioned), and REMEMBER [!!!] which way the score reel is facing, you will save yourself a ton of trouble later on even if yours is the style to "adapt". I typically reset them to 0 just so I can remember where to place it when reassembling later on. Usually there's a certain set of screw holes which narrows down the possibilities but only marginally.

    If you haven't picked up a spray bottle of Simple Green yet, go to your local Home Depot or possibly Wal-Mart and grab a bottle or two - you'll need it. This can be used for many things pinball, including lightly wiping down cabinets or cleaning playfield posts. There is also no chemicals or ammonia involved.
    So, disassemble your score reel (TAKE A LOT OF PICTURES FIRST, AS ALWAYS!) and grab yourself one of those little circular or square plastic containers you have tucked under the kitchen sink (like the to-go Chinese soup comes in from the Chinese Food place down the street) and fill it with a healthy amount of Simple Green,
    enough so all parts can be submerged fully. Then drop these disassembled parts in, and using a clean rag (I use microfiber but for this it's rugged and doesn't really matter too much) start scrubbing these parts while they are still submerged in the liquid. It does take a little while but they get very nice and clean. I recommend
    then rinsing the parts under normal cold/warm water as sometimes there is a little green haze left behind (not permanent), particularly seen on white PLASTIC pieces. Dry thoroughly and then leave out to sit until we are finished with the next step, this will allow them to also air dry fully to get anything dry that you missed. (you'd be surprised)

    Then, head back into the gameroom. You should have a bare score reel assembly with a PCB still screwed to it or in the vicinity. Our goal here is to clean the metal frame and peg that the score reel rotates on, so if the PCB (printed circuit board) is still in place, remove it from the assembly. You should never need to desolder any parts during this rebuild, so do not remove it from the machine entirely, just push it aside.
    Make sure you do not lose the screws, as always! Once you are down to the metal frame, peg included, place a towel or rag under it to catch any mess from cleaning. This should be covering the bottom of the head or perhaps any score reels below it if it is a multiplayer game. Then, give it a healthy squirt or three of Simple Green (using the squirting nozzle this time rather than dumping it in a jar) and use a rag to clean up this frame.
    Remember, removing the junk off of that peg is just as important as the rest. Scrub clean and dry thoroughly. Of course, this time DO NOT involve water.

    Once you are certain everything is clean and dry, begin reassembling the score reel at hand. You may also lightly sand the score reel circuit board (remember, fine grit, lightly, and in the "direction of travel") to remove any gunk providing resistance to the rotating arm on the reel. After this, some opt to use aforementioned teflon lube on the circuit board, but that is it. You should never have to lube any plastic-on-metal parts and it is only good on like 50% of metal-on-metal parts. I personally choose just not to use it at all and have had no issues, among many others. It is not as big of a deal as you may think.
    Doing it wrong or adding too much will just gunk up your score reel again and your work will be in vain.

    If your switches on the score reel (0 position switch, 9 position switch, etc.) are too tense, it will also give the reel trouble when advancing/resetting. Make sure these are adjusted properly. Once the score reel is re-assembled, by watching the switches you will be able to tell which is which. 0-position activates when the score reel is on 0, etc..
    Make sure they are adjusted correctly to match and do not provide too much tension when activating.

    Cosmetic cleaning is a bit of a doozie. Score reel numbering is very very fragile and is one of the weakest parts in pinball machines, but only when attempted to be cleaned. If you must clean your score reels, start simple with a water lightly damp with water and scrub AROUND the digits and in between. You may add dish soap if needed, but use large caution.
    Funny story, I have a friend here in pinball who told me this: he had a friend that was very new to the hobby once call him up and talk about how he is cleaning his score reels with a certain cleaner, one that is known to be extremely abrasive (unbeknowst to him). Now, my friend nearly dropped the phone, but in reality the score reels were fine. Meanwhile, even on the same type of score reels he had seen the numbering come off even just with water.
    The fact of the matter is they are entirely random across all manufacturers. It is not only each manufacturer, but each game. Your 1976 Gottlieb Sure Shot's digits may withstand a cleaning with Mr. Clean (don't try it, only a harsh example!!!) while your 1977 Gottlieb Jungle Queen digit's may flake off with warm water. This is really no consistency to any of the results found while cleaning score reels so the only thing to do is use extreme caution.
    If you get them "pretty clean" but are still not happy with the results, remember that mistakes occur in pinball when you try to push the boundaries too much. At that point I would invest in reproduction score reels (and send me your old ones...), or print-outs of the digits in stark white that you can glue/stick onto the reel.
    Allow to air-dry.

    #17 2 years ago


    [10] My machine is starting up fully dark or in TILT (additionally: or gets stuck in TILT after tilting)

    TILT. Always a negative connotation - and perhaps not what you'd be expecting to see when you turn on your beloved machine for the first time! Or even worse, your machine is fully dark.

    Let's start with the basics - your machine may not be malfunctioning at all:

    - PRE-1967/SOME 1967 GOTTLIEB MACHINES (120V HOLD & 30V HOLD): They start up fully dark. A game must be started (either through coin or start button) for it to light up, and then it will stay lit until powered down. If the machine is tilted, it will stay partially lit (head lit). This is how the machine operates in correct working order, if it does not, you either have no credits in the machine or there is a fault/issue somewhere inside of the machine.
    If your machine stays fully dark even when "commanded" to start up, a common misconception is that there is something major wrong. However, remember: If your machine is not beginning to START, it will not light up either. It does not necessarily mean your GI fuses are bad or that you are not getting line voltage to the machine or that it is "fully dead". While this may be the case,
    it is not as likely as you may think. A good way to check on pre-1967 Gottlieb machines is by lifting the playfield. Make sure the machine is plugged in. (Warning: Please take caution in the following instructions as slip-ups can result in bodily harm/shock(s)) With the playfield up, locate and manually activate the "120V hold relay". Push on the plastic plate to activate this relay, and if working properly, it should lock on immediately and you can remove your hand. Remember to only touch the plastic plate as these bare metal switches are energized with 120 VOLTS/WALL LINE VOLTAGE!!!!!
    If correctly locked on, your machine's head should be lit up, and if the lights aren't burned out, should display the word "TILT". Next, do the same thing for 30V hold relay (its little sister) to light up the playfield. Again, it should lock on and you can remove your hand as soon as it does so as it will hold itself in. Next, try and start your machine. If it starts, you have an issue with the machine locking one or both of these hold relays. If it does not, there is something not allowing your machine to even start. This can be as something as simple as no credits in the machine and no free play mod,
    or something as complicated as a fault early on in the start sequence. An annoying thing about these Gottlieb machines is if a unit (like a bonus unit) is not correctly as its home position it will not allow the machine to even start. This is an incredibly annoying system as when a unit is incorrectly positioned, it will not only not allow the machine to start, but will make it give 0 response to presses of the start button - it won't even try to reset. Terrible design, but it is what it is. However, this circuit only goes as far as kicking in the 120V & 30V hold relays, so once those are manually activated, you should be able to start the machine using the button on the coin door and no other shortcuts. Any problem further down the line is likely not related to this.
    If still no luck, a good way to bypass half of the start circuit (the coin circuit) is to manually actuate the START relay by hand. This is technically equivalent to pressing start on the coin door (but not quite) but instead is more of a master switch and comes after checking the credit wheel for credit, etc., and is the most likely option to allow you to start the machine. If it then starts, you can then narrow it down further as something that comes before the start relay. Anything after that should be a different issue but would still have the machine light up, so it is not covered here. [Keep reading into the main section for further diagnosis shared across all brands of machine, this was just an intro]

    - POST-1967/SOME 1967 GOTTLIEB MACHINES (30V HOLD ONLY): They start up in "TILT". Gottlieb removed the 120V hold relay at some time in 1967, so now technically think of it as permenantly wired shut. If you read the last section, you would know when you manually activated the 120V relay that it would light up the head and show "TILT" (if the TILT bulbs were not burnt out) - that is basically the same state we are in now, except as there is no longer an 120V hold relay, this is the starting state. One step ahead.
    By pressing the start button or inserting a 1-credit coin (not quarters), in correct working order the machine should light up fully (locks the 30V hold relay) and begin to start. If not, you either have no credits in the machine or it is not working properly. [Keep reading into the main section for further diagnosis shared across all brands of machine, this was just an intro]

    - EARLIER WILLIAMS OR BALLY MACHINES: The same basically applies as the pre-1967 Gottlieb machines. It needs to be started before it will light up at all. They will light up when started, if the machine is in correct working order.

    - POST LATE-60's WILLIAMS MACHINES OR BALLY MACHINES: These machines, like the pre-1967 Gottlieb machines and earlier Williams or Bally machines, start up fully dark. They will light up when started, if the machine is in correct working order. However, an interesting thing about a lot of these machines, is that if you press the lift flipper button it will light the machine up for you instead of you needing to start the game to light it up. This is a useful tool in troubleshooting and also making sure a machine is on or off. It is effectively basically just a power switch for the 30V hold relay, like as if you were opening the machine and activating it by hand. It is also great for when you power on your gameroom and want everything lit up without resetting all of the machines.
    There was never a Gottlieb equivalent to this.

    So, your machine won't start or is stuck in TILT. After reading the above texts, we now know what the two major systems behind this are and what activates them. The 120V hold relay (if applicable), and the 30V hold relay. All of these things come before a machine begins to reset so if your machine is starting up but is having TROUBLE resetting (stuck score reels, or reels reset but then an issue occurs, etc.), disregard this entire section.
    The first thing to check in this situation is the painfully obvious (that you may not even want to after 30 pinsiders suggested it... but they're right): CHECK THE FUSES. If you have a blown 120V main line fuse, your machine will not light up at all regardless of era/year. Of course, do this with the machine UNPLUGGED as even if the fuse is blown half of the fuse and fuse holder will still be fully live, and if it is good, both sides will be. Don't hurt yourself!
    The next fuse to check is your 30V solenoid fuse. This should almost always be a SLOW-BLOW fuse so even if the fuse is rated correctly but is a FAST-BLOW fuse, it will not perform correctly and will blow even when operating conditions are fine. Your 6v fuses can also be checked, there is one for the playfield lighting, one for the backglass lighting, and sometimes even one just for the coin door lights. (separate circuit) However, even with these lighting fuses blown or completely missing you would still hear the machine reset
    and see the score reels cycle, it's purely cosmetic.

    Now straying away from the obvious and the painfully-always suggested, once you ensure the fuses are good, the next step is to examine your hold relays. Again, you want to do this with the machine unplugged. On more than one occasion I have had wiring fall/break off of the hold relay (whether when moving a machine or just for no reason at all) which didn't allow the machine to start or even budge much at all. An interesting example is when the wiring that HOLDS (locks on) the 30v hold relay is broken but the activation wiring is intact.
    You can reset the machine, it will reset, but as soon as it is finished and begins to rely on the hold relay - the lights will flash, BOOM, lights out, TILT, and no response. That is because the machine rides its own weight during the reset sequence, until at one point where it engages the 30V hold relay (and expects it to lock on), then a moment later pulls away and makes the rest of the sequence ride on the 30V hold relay instead of the hardwired 30V circuits. So even if a 30V hold relay activates correctly, it needs to hold properly as well or your machine will TILT as soon as that tiny spring pulls it back to the resetting position literally a second or less later.
    There is a small jumper wire on this relay that goes from the relay switches to the positive lug of the relay coil itself, creating a 30V loop which locks on the relay. If this is missing (verify first though that it was actually there to begin with), cut, broken, or detached, it will not perform the "HOLD" part of the 30V HOLD relay. Additionally, on the other end of things, if the activation wiring is incorrect, the 30V hold relay will never receive that initial burst of energy to prompt it to ride on the lock-on circuit (constant flow of 30V from the transformer, not just a loop of the same energy, that's impossible) and thus will never perform its duty properly either.

    While I have never had this problem occur with a 120V hold relay, they operate similarly and all wiring should be inspected. (WITH THE MACHINE UNPLUGGED) Please only re-instate factory wiring and do not misinterpret this as "add wiring that never existed"... verify, verify, verify. There are a lot of very generous people on Pinside that likely own the same machine as you that are not afraid to take pictures for somebody in need. It is better to have a non-working machine for a few more days than experimenting blindly with 120V circuits and burning your house down. Please do not experiment if you have no clue what you do are doing and touching.

    The way TILT has worked has always fascinated me. Through the 30V hold relay and the TILT hold relay, your machine's default state is actually by all means "in TILT", which is why Gottlieb machines especially post-1967 always start up with the word "TILT" lit in the backglass (Especially interesting when you have rows of them like yours truly) and the playfield dark.
    Due to how the game works, the natural state and resting state (when OFF or TILTED) is actually in the "TILT" setting. You'd think the machine would activate something like a relay to go into TILT when needed, but the entire time while it is operating the machine is actually "pushing away from" TILT rather than it being something it activates. To go into TILT when a player shakes the machine too hard, it actually just deactivates these main crucial relays and rests in the TILT mode. Fascinating!

    Additionally, if a small short occurs, it will kick the machine out of 30V hold in somewhat of an attempt at protection. If it repeats, eventually it will just blow the fuse instead of doing this, but it's a nice little touch for a one-time accidental short when putzing about with a screwdriver or there is a small noticable fault in the machine, fixed too little too late.

    Additional note (SCORE MOTOR NOTE): Even if the machine is lit up, if your score motor HOME switch is misadjusted (stuck activated, which I believe is open on most machines) and the motor stops immediately in the middle of a cycle when disengaged/no longer needed instead of "traveling home" - the machine WILL LIKELY NOT START via the coin door/normal means, but will respond to the start relay. I have seen this personally a few times.

    While this can be contributed to a few different actual bizarre errors: In the EM world, many machines will actually end your entire game in event of a TILT. (and many will not light up again at all or fully, until restarted) This includes all Gottlieb single-player machines (at least past 1977), other single-player machines, and some multiplayer machines.
    Fun fact: Often times multiplayer machines only made you lose the ball (which is how today's trend started actually) because if they wanted to end the entire game, they had to make sure they only did it for the player at fault, so they'd need 4 additional relays for each player to permanently count them out of the game while the rest of the players played, else all players would unfairly lose an entire game and you would have more than just 1 unhappy person... So most of the time, manufacturers just avoided this by making the player only lose their current ball, which was much easier to accomplish. However, some games (early Bally multiplayers especially) really did go through all of the effort to give each player a game-ending tilt.
    There are multiple "TILT" screenings on the backglass for each player (and special-wired lights to match) and in the event of a TILT, they would be skipped over while their friends finished the game.

    Your machine may not be malfunctioning at all!

    #18 2 years ago


    [11] My machine starts the reset sequence but won't reset!

    So, your machine is beginning to start (meaning it doesn't qualify for the last section(!)) but will not fully proceed through the reset sequence.

    While reset sequences vary from manufacturer to manfacturer, from era to era, and from type of machine to the next (multiplayer vs. single-player vs. add-a-ball), there is a general basis for a reset cycle/sequence:

    - Score reels must be reset, and all score reel 0-position switches must make good clean contact (if you have a 4-player machine, that's 16+ of them!)
    - Bonus unit, if applicable, must be reset (does not include pre-late-60's Gottlieb machines which actually never reset the units at the beginning of the game and you can steal the last game's bonuses. Strange, yes, broken, no.)
    - Ball count unit or player unit must be fully reset (and if you have an add-a-ball machine they usually count down to 0, if not already there, and then up to 5 (or 3... or 8 (lol) depending on your setting) in this kind of fashion: 5 (back), 4 (back), 3 (back), 2 (back), 1 (back), 0 (back), 1 (forward), 2 (forward), 3 (forward), 4 (forward), 5 (forward))
    - Relay bank typically resets last or first, but can vary in position in the reset sequence (so yes, this must be reset as well and successfully trip the switch that says so)
    - Any relays involving things marked as completely reset must be clean and functioning properly (the Ax and Bx Gottlieb relays are a common issue in this(and pain in the ass))

    So, the first thing you should check as it comes first (and is the most common culprit anyways) is that your score reels are all visually at 0, then next you need to make sure all of the 0-position switches are gapped correctly. One of these switches can be found on each score reel in the machine. If it is a single-player, you will have maybe 4 or 5, while if you have a 4-player machine you could have 16 or more.
    Even if the score reels are resetting to 0 successfully, the machine needs to KNOW this too - it can't see! That is what those switches are for.

    Next, you need to make sure all of your steppers are resetting correctly. Even if you hear a certain stepper resetting over and over, it does not necessarily even mean that it is the culprit, many steppers are tied to the same reset line and will all continue to pulse until the final one has finished (and marks itself as such).
    Cleaning the contacts on these steppers and properly adjusting and cleaning misadjusted and/or dirty switches on the back of the unit usually solves this, as these determine if the unit is in the reset position or not. See the "stepper" section for more detailed information on this.

    The relay bank also needs to fire. (Careful, this is usually an 120V coil! Usually that coil is only used on those AND many drop target banks, but not promising anything!!!!!) Typically if it is trying to fire, it will fire itself over and over again, once per score motor revolution. This one is a bit more obvious than the rest because of this, but there are also other things involved that could cause it to not fire.
    To make things more challenging to figure out, even if you reset this by hand (pushing on the large bar across the top) it will generally end the reset cycle regardless or not if it is the culprit - so don't use this as an accurate troubleshooting tool when diagnosing the reset bank(s). Remember, if the score motor switch that resets the bank (or relay switch(es), etc.) are dirty or misadjusted, it won't ever fire at all.
    Be careful when adjusting things score motor switches, and make sure the machine is UNPLUGGED, as since the relay bank coil is controlled by 120 volts, it does also pass through these bare metal score motor switches!!!

    Finally, figure out which relays in your specific game pertain to the reset cycle, and it is a great idea to make sure all of the switches on these relays are clean and well-adjusted even if you just go through them all at once. It may solve your issue, but it also may not. (and certainly make sure you DON'T make it even worse by messing them up!)

    If you get nearly to the end of the reset cycle and your machine's score motor continues to cycle, remember to make sure your outhole coil is working and the wires are attached properly. If the outhole coil/assembly never has any chance to fire, the ball will continously hold down the outhole switch, causing the motor to run continuously, attempting to repeatedly pulse the outhole coil. (quite unbeknownst to you, if it's burnt out, not working, or disconnected - as it won't make any noise or visual movements)

    #19 2 years ago


    [12] A BRAND NEW troubleshooting tip/system, created by Otaku - 'signal vs. action'

    When troubleshooting my 1969 Gottlieb Skipper, I had an issue. My player unit wasn't advancing to the next ball properly (in a one-player game it needs to advance 4/5 times to pass over all other players), and as far as I knew it wasn't the unit but I wasn't sure.

    The player unit is the "action" side of the equation.

    Meanwhile, the next culprit would be the score motor switch that pulses the unit 4/5 times to advance to the next ball (the "signal" side of the equation).
    I had doubts that this switch was adjusted well enough or conductive enough (it was degraded), and it seemed that it was so inconsistent that I needed to figure out if it was infact sending all 5 pulses and it was the unit not utilizing them correctly,
    or if it was the switch itself sending an incomplete "signal" of sorts to the unit that was causing it to act strange. While you could use an analog multimeter for this, I didn't have one on hand (only digit - which isn't good for these quick pulses) and needed another solution.
    So, using a temporary alligator clip jumper, I wired up the positive terminal/lug of the player unit advance coil to a positive terminal/lug of any score reel! (Player 3 was closest, so I used Player 3's 10 point reel and reel coil) I knew since they both used 30 volt coils(!!!!!), they could be wired as such without doing any damage. (Ground is already handled by the score reel! Don't wire it up in addition) Not only did this neat trick allow me to see/listen to how many pulses the score reel would receive (and thus the player unit would receive) on a known-good coil assembly, handily enough it was even numbered of course!
    So every time the player unit was being pulsed, it would also pulse/activate/add to the score reel. When the score reel only advanced 2 or 3 times per cycle instead of 4 or 5, I knew the problem lied in the degraded score motor switch blade that was only intermittenly sending voltage to the receiving end of the switch. After changing the switch to a better spare part I had on hand, the issue was fixed thanks to this great troubleshooting idea! Of course, then you want to disconnect the temporary jumper bridging the score reel and unit to return to normal operation.

    However, remember that score reels are also in a circuit so take care when using this trick in something like reset sequence troubleshooting, where all reels must be at 0 for the machine to continue to proceed.

    While I came up with this simple trick, I don't take ANY responsibility for any use of it whatsoever, positive or negative: meaning, be smart and don't hurt yourself (or your machine)! Of course, make sure both circuits are rated for the same voltage. If I jumpered to this the 120v reset bank, I could start a fire and burn out the coil (and possibly much more). Make sure they're rated the same for sure, FIRST!

    #20 2 years ago


    [13] Fixing "Shotgunning" (rapidly firing slingshots and pop bumpers)

    This one is a bit more simple. If you have things that are "shotgunning" (activating and deactivating multiple times rapidly, occurs most commonly in slingshots) there is an intermittent connection, either caused by a dirty switch, a misadjusted switch that is getting close enough to arc, or by a rubber that is too tight.

    The most common cause of this is brand new rubbers that are too tight, which put pressure on the switches and make them rest too close to the other blade of the switch, so when they activate (initially being activated by the ball) and deactivate, they arc and create another connection (and the cycle repeats very rapidly until eventually the connection is broken). You can pull on them by hand (do it a few times in a "stretching motion", almost like fist bumps, rather than one hard pull to avoid breaking it) to stretch them out properly. With rubbers that are too tight, even when the ball does NOT hit it initially, they can fire on their own if the heavy vibrations of an EM pinball machine causes the small gaps due to the tight rubber to make initial contact.

    Another way this is caused is by dirty switches that don't make a complete connection when activated and arc to create a spotty connection when activated. These are things that usually "shotgun" only when activated rather than continuing on their own like the rubber issue, but I have also seen it do that as well if adjusted a certain way.
    File your large switches (like in a slingshot) with a flexstone/file to remove any dirt or grime that is on them. Even on a newly restored or cleaned game, you would be surprised how quick this can build up. Unlike some things in the pinball world, this is by no means a "once and done for the next 35 years" situation whatsoever. More of a routine maintenance thing, mainly when required however.

    Last but not least, switches that are just plain adjusted TOO close will reproduce the effect that rubbers that are too tight give, now mainly caused solely by vibration. If you have pop bumpers or slingshots that fire (or even shotgun) on their own without activation, this is the cause. Adjust the switch blades further apart - but not too far! There is a very fine line between a malfunctioning game and a "plays like garbage" game when tuning these very play-important switches.

    #21 2 years ago


    [14] Machine is blowing fuses/(OR) Machine blows out all (GI/normally lit) lights (either in backbox/head, playfield, or both)

    If your machine is blowing a fuse, it could mean a few different things. You either have: A direct short (positive to negative), something pulling too much power, or something "pushing" too much power.

    A direct short is caused by something shorting with little resistance, such as a positive and negative line being tied together or touching somewhere within the machine. Also, a direct short frequently occurs when a coil melts down and it turns from a certain amount of resistance into very little resistance or often times even a direct (no resistance) short due to the internals touching.
    Depending on which it is, when the coil is activated (especially if it locks on - like a pop bumper which can't push the end-of-stroke switch due to the burnt coil) it will blow out the fuse quickly or in somewhat of an instant. These solenoid fuses are of the "SLOW-BLOW" variety, meaning they take a few seconds to blow out due to how they are designed. You want a continuous issue to blow the fuse, but not a very tiny spike of too much pull (it happens, and isn't an issue), which is why these are designed and implemented into these machines.
    That being said, depending on how many amps something is pulling, it can very easily turn a "SLOW-BLOW" fuse into a makeshift "FAST-BLOW" fuse if the amount is far beyond the rating of the fuse, such as a direct short.

    Something pulling too much power could be a half-burnt coil providing not enough resistance, or a custom topper you wired into the backbox general-illumination line that has 20 #44 bulbs on it... which is 20 more bulbs than the machine was intended to have on that line. (Each fuse rating is specific to each machine, although many may share a certain amount due to easy similarities in the amount of bulbs or solenoids)

    Something pushing too much power is something feeding the line with TOO MUCH power. While this can be an unlikely transformer issue (thankfully fuses work both ways), this is usually caused by a short between the lighting line and the solenoid line. 30 or 50 volts going through an array of 6 volt bulbs in a recipe for disaster even for a second, so the fuse will blow when it is hit with this kind of amperage as well. Unfortunately it's usually not quick enough to stop all the bulbs from blowing out, so aside from replacing the fuse you usually have to go through and replace EVERY bulb
    in the section you blew out, all the general-illumination lights in said section and also any "sometimes-lit" lights that were activated at the time. So if you did this while you were on Ball 2 and you did it within the head, you'd need to replace all the head GI lights as well as the Ball 2 light. Since Ball 1, 3, 4, and 5 had no point of contact, they should be unharmed. (LED lights may vary, they get a bit weird even with only ground attached) Remember to be extra careful when utilizing LED lights... one small slip can easily cost you $50 or more depending on which bulbs you have, they're expensive! Incandescent bulbs are usually pretty cheap but still a pain to replace in bulk, especially if you just did so recently as part of a restoration.

    If you are experiencing similar issues without fuses blowing, make sure you have fuse holders that are clean and in good "health". It is usually just recommended to replace them with proper brand new replacements (If Radio Shack wasn't shutting down again you could just find them there, locally), especially on Bally machines, which used the worst factory fuse holders.

    Sometimes as fuses age they can blow out on their age. It's not particularly common but definitely does happen. If you are in doubt and have fuses to spare, replace it - if it blows again semi-soon, you'll know there is definitely an issue somewhere.

    Don't "overfuse". (replace with a value that is too big) Also, never replace a fuse with a "jumper", like a wire or a bolt. The fuses are certainly there for a reason and if they are blowing that isn't just coincidence either, that means you have a very apparent issue in your game that will smoke immediately if you put a bolt in. While most will say "hell no" to this, there are times when I've done this to diagnose an impossible problem (see what smokes/locks on...) but that is pretty barbaric and should only be done if you are an EM expert and assume all risks. (including fires) Even still, NOT EVER(!) a permanent solution. Please do not risk your home, self, and family due to carelessness! You'd be surprised how quickly one of these can catch on fire if you don't utilize proper fuses!

    #22 2 years ago


    [15] Common issue: Score motor is running nonstop when machine is powered on with no response to start button

    If your score motor is running non-stop immediately when the machine is powered on (not pressing start), that means you either have a stuck switch/relay, or it is in a reset loop.

    STUCK SWITCH: If it is a stuck switch or relay, you will hear the score motor spinning and some lights flashing as it spins, but no other sounds. This is because of a switch that needs the motor to spin for its function being stuck closed (such as a 50 point switch, but NOT a 10 point (with no other features tied to it) switch - this is further described in the score motor section above), but the game is not started so it's not actually performing the function so it's otherwise silent. Most switches will still spin the motor even with the game is not in play (and that's it) if it is in their circuitry, but in contrast do not perform the functions tied to it, in this state.
    Look around for stuck switches (relays also but more commonly switches), particularly on the playfield. While you should always work on a machine with it off and unplugged when possible, if the machine is only 30 volts I usually do this with the machine on. (many are 50 volts and that stings) That way when a switch is opened correctly when poking around, the score motor will stop after its current cycle and will "show you" which switch is stuck. Of course, if multiple switches that spin the motor are stuck, you'll be a bit lost with this method. (especially if you don't properly adjust any stuck switches you find along the way, because all it takes is one to spin the motor, so don't leave any behind if you have reason to believe that there are multiple stuck switches)

    RESET LOOP: Typically if it is stuck in a reset loop, you will hear other units constantly resetting (even if they are not the culprit). It is usually quite loud. Units being pulsed to reset will have rhythms like explained in the score motor section: "CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK, CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK"
    However, if your machine IS in a reset loop and the unit causing the issue has a burnt out or disconnected coil (that isn't blowing fuses), it will be silent and virtually identical sounding as a stuck switch. If you are unable to find units that have burnt coils or disconnected coils, the next thing would be the score motor switch that pulses said unit could be dirty or misadjusted and not pulsing it at all. This is much less frequent than earlier issues, but is certainly not impossible.
    You can make sure all units are reset by pulsing the reset arm by hand until they no longer move. If your machine proceeds once you do this to a unit, you have found your culprit and should diagnose both the coil, score motor switch responsible, and on newer Gottlieb EMs, the Ax and Bx relays tend to also be involved.

    THIRD OPTION, SCORE MOTOR HOME SWITCH: As mentioned previously, if your score motor home switch is stuck engaged (which I believe should certainly be "open" on most machines), it will shut off immediately in the middle of a cycle when no longer triggered and cause problems/lack of start. HOWEVER, if your score motor switch is stuck CLOSED (disengaged) and it can never find home, it will turn into a merry-go-round of sorts and continuously spin like a lost puppy until the machine is shut off. This is not as likely as the other options, but still certainly very possible and something that should be considered, but perhaps considered later than some of the other options.

    #23 2 years ago


    [16] Cleaning and waxing your EM playfield to perfection of look and speed

    Aaaaaaah, the playfield. So beautiful and artsy, yet has the unfortunate burden of dealing with a heavy metal ball smashing into things all over it and dealing with the ball nearly wherever it goes. Not a great mix for something 30+ years old let alone much older.

    This is probably the ultimate debate in pinball. There are millions of different chemicals/cleaners out there and it seems like every Pinsider had to pick a different one...

    I feel like I've perfected the mix myself. I've tried a few different options... here is my favorite and the ones I use across my ENTIRE personal collection (not a paid advertisement, hah!):

    Cleaner: Novus "2" (Novus 2)

    Wax: Mother's Pure Carnauba Wax (Comes in a red tin (don't buy the liquid one), !DO NOT! make the easy mistake of going and buying the kind that has "CLEANER" in the title - it looks identical besides this but is very abrasive, not what we want at all) I found mine at Pep-Boy's, I think AutoZone also carries it as well. Of course the obvious solution is online if you can wait a little bit. (You can) A lot of stores only carry the CLEANER version. Even if you're in a hurry/excited, don't give into the pressure to get this one! Trust me!

    If your game is a very rough project and has literal dirt on the playfield, you can brush this off with just a dry rag, but even Novus 2 on this will help. I like Novus 2 because you can use it from the dirtiest of dirty to very clean. I threw out my stinky flammable harmful Naphtha jug (it didn't clean at all anyways - terrible suggestion) long ago and never looked back. I remember I started to taste that stuff the next day when working with it for too long. Not good...

    So, to start, shake your Novus 2 bottle (carried locally in "The Container Store" in big bottles and small combo packs, buy the big bottles and also invest in some Novus 1 for fronts and bottom borders of plastics, never use 3 in pinball. Much easier to find online, but I've driven an hour one way to the closest The Container Store to go get some more if I was in a hurry) quite well as instructed.
    Then, open it up and squirt some onto a clean microfiber cloth (don't skimp here! There's a great 18 pack at Home Depot for like $10, I LOVE those). Test in an inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn't take your playfield paint off. I like Novus 2 because you can even scrub harder than you would ever have to into a 1960's Gottlieb playfield with no ill results, but I would be weary about using it on a woodrail playfield, especially earlier ones.
    One you assure that it will not damage your playfield, begin to clean your playfield. If I am going through a game for the first time I like to take everything off of the playfield to get it extra clean, and it also making applying to wax later MUCH easier. Eventually your playfield will begin to clean up, and if you have any ground-in dirt marks (looks like crackling, in black) you can scrub a little harder. Novus 2, unlike some other products, tends to be
    pretty good with no messing up playfields and leaving no margin for error. That being said, I did once scrub hard enough to go through the clearcoat on a playfield and it left a nasty light spot compared to the rest of the discolored playfield. You can scrub hard for some time, but not too hard! DODGE INSERTS with text on them because this will likely either fade the inserts or completely pull the text off of them. You have been warned! It's not hard to do and if you get a little on an insert it's not the end of the world, it will wipe off without repercussions once or twice.
    Once your playfield is totally clean (don't forget the usually nasty and gritty SHOOTER LANE! Do it last of course.), leave it sit for about 5 minutes to make sure all the Novus is dry and whatnot (not as important as letting wax dry or really even ever mentioned), and then use a CLEAN microfiber cloth to wipe off the playfield. This will leave a jet-fast speed (you can feel it under your hand with the rag as it begins to slide) and a really nice shine on the playfield.
    Unfortunately, it's not very protected - and we can easily recreate this with the wax which makes the game play even faster and also makes it shine nice.

    I love Mother's Pure Carnauba Wax (and no other wax - waste of time!) on playfields because it creates that impossible clear-coat like shine (without being fully as intense of a shine, which I certainly see as a good thing) and also makes the ball play lightning fast.
    To apply this wax, get some on a CLEAN microfiber cloth and then put it down onto the playfield and begin to push it into the playfield in circle motions. Unfortunately the downside of wax is it creates a billion little wax crumbs, but once they dry up they're not too bad to get - but a tip I found myself when doing this is if you keep the rag firm to the playfield, it will keep most of the wax together in one ball and any little crumbs that do appear either get smushed back into the main one (as described a few words ago) or get trapped in the rag.
    Some people like to heat the wax to make it more applicable. I do this a little sometimes (25% of the time) but not too much or it really gets liquidy and messy and will apply wrong/weird. This process takes a lot of time especially if you do not remove anything off of the playfield, but it is well worth it and is a necessity to owning a pinball machine properly rather than just personal choice.
    One your playfield has been fully applied with one coat of wax (DON'T FORGET THE SHOOTER LANE AGAIN - it's really cool when it's done too!), go do something else for 20 minutes and come back. I'm serious. Set a timer. Not 14 minutes, not 25 minutes. People have always said "no amount of time is too long for wax to sit" but in my personal experience I have found that to be very wrong and it left awful residue and wax behind that eventually turned the ball into something like a snowman effect. Eugh!
    Once it has been 20 minutes, come back again with another CLEAN microfiber cloth (cloth #4 - you can wash these after all is said and done, by the way.) and rub your playfield just as you did when you were applying the wax. You'll begin to feel similar effects under your hand and the cloth as you did with the Novus - it will feel lightning fast and the playfield will begin to shine in the light.
    Make sure you get all the wax (including any that might have gotten stuck between switches or in holes in the playfield, lots seems to also drop into the bottom of the cabinet if you are not careful), then put a brand new ball in your game (if possible) and go enjoy it! I usually give it a little grace period of maybe 10-20 more minutes to ensure it is all dry and that the new ball does not get caked up with anything you may have missed.

    Enjoy your new lightning fast and beautifully cleaned playfield "the Otaku way"!

    #24 2 years ago


    [17] De-rusting non-painted pinball legs, pinball leg care/polishing (also applies to non-painted coin doors)

    Rusty legs... the bane of pinball existence! Unfortunately even on nicer games, many of them were kept in damp basements and were certainly not exempt from rust even just from the air. (HUO doesn't mean SQUAT here!)

    There are two popular routes to take for rusty pinball legs:

    Route 1, EVAPORUST: Evaporust is a very abrasive liquid that you submerge your legs in and it basically melts away the rust. Note that this should only be done for legs and no thin metal pieces as apparently it totally dissolves them/breaks through them. Whoooooops!
    The popular route to take is to create a sealable thick PVC container (tube) for your legs (or leg, depending how many you do at a time), complete with twist-on end, as this prevents "evapo" of evapo! (evaporation of Evaporust)
    Although rather expensive, I have heard stories of people using one batch multiple times with promising results! YOU MUST WEAR HEAVY RUBBER GLOVES, USE IN WELL-VENTILATED AREA (sans sealed tube, although who knows if they're air-tight), AND TRY NOT TO BREATHE TOO MUCH OF IT!
    For timing, it seems Evaporust takes as low as an hour for leg bolts, to up to a few days for rough legs. For a set of medium-rusted legs, overnight is the best starting point.
    While it does cost around $22 USD for a gallon, according to the wonderful Ken Layton, if you run the mix through a coffee filter (to filter out all the metal/rust particles from each batch) you can continue to re-use it with no end specified. (I would guess it loses strength eventually however) So in the long run, it's not that expensive!

    Route 2, TINFOIL AND COKE OR WATER: People have had surprisingly-good results by using the "TINFOIL AND COKE OR WATER" method. This involves basically just scrubbing the legs with aluminium foil dipped in water (or COKE - which is a little scary, soda drinkers) and it removes rust.
    Surprising, isn't it? This method obviously takes a lot more elbow grease than the the Evaporust method (and likely won't do such a good job on legs that are heavily rusted like Evaporust can), but if you have lighter rust, you probably already have the (incredibly cheap) materials at home as-is so it's worth a shot anyways!

    Once dry, you can then use a scotch-brite pad to shine them up before polishing. A great metal polish I use is Mother's Mag Polish (yes another unpaid shoutout for the Mother's brand!), and many suggest waxing the metal afterwards to prevent semi-quick reappearance of rust from humidity. If you followed my playfield cleaning/waxing guide, you'll already have some of that to spare, so might as well! (same process, let dry, wipe off, etc.)

    Mother's Mag Polish also works fantastic on things like siderails, coin doors, metal playfield parts, and more. Remember, they're not actually chrome!

    #25 2 years ago


    [18] No keys, locked out? Don't pry the doors! Drill (or pick)!

    Locked out? Never fear! When you're locked out of a head or coin door you should never pry the door, you should drill out the lock, or if you have the skill, pick it! A locksmith is a total waste of money, everybody's first "locked out but I have the key somewhere" experience
    is filled with doubts and thoughts of calling your buddy Larry the Locksmith, but don't be crazy. A shiny new lock with similar or better protection is $6. (Larry the Locksmith is not!)

    So, get out your drill. One you can plug in is definitely preferred for this, as it's a battery drainer. Anyways, find a normal drill bit a little smaller than the vertical side of the key slit. WEAR EYE PROTECTION! Then center it on the slit, then begin to drill and push HARD.
    With some locks you just need to drill most of the wall through and then the cylinder will spin like it is unlocked, but with a lot of them (pesky, pesky) you will need to drill all the way through to physically drop the tab off of the back of the lock or so.

    This takes a lot of force and quite some time so just keep pushing hard and slowly going add it at a moderate/quick speed. Some suggest oiling the bit as it spins but I've never done this. Be careful it doesn't snag up in the lock and jerk the drill as this can give you a painful wrist injury or strain. (or sometimes just hurts!)

    Eventually the cylinder will spin freely and you can unlock what's left of the lock, or if not, keep drilling until you drill through and bust the back of the lock off (where the actual tab that locks either door is).

    You can then remove the back door or open the coin door, whichever it is. Buying a brand new lock, which you would have needed to do anyways (a lock without a key is useless anyways, that's why we are here!), is much cheaper than hiring a locksmith for hundreds of dollars! Takes about 5-15 minutes and anybody can do it! Remember, WEAR EYE PROTECTION!

    #26 2 years ago


    [19] Loading and unloading from your vehicle, and setting up your pinball machine - from floor to play - an extremely specific guide "the Otaku way"


    Step #1: Remove all balls from the machine. This prevents them damaging the playfield, plastics, and targets while in transit (the machine gets tipped up and they all fly out) Remember that some machines have multiple balls, even if it is not a multiball-feature machine. Many early Gottlieb single-players/wedgeheads and all(?) Gottlieb single-player woodrails use 5 balls in addition to some games by Bally and Williams. They ALL need to be removed. Don't skimp!

    Step #2: Unplug the machine from the wall. (you will not need to plug it in again) Open the back door of the machine (Locked out? See the previous section!) and carefully unplug the necessary male "jones" plugs from the female receptacles. Remember to only remove the ones that need to be unplugged to take the head off, many others relate to parts inside of the head. The ones that needs to be removed vary from about 1 or 4 (usually 2 or 3), and you can see their wiring come up from the body of the machine/cabinet.

    Step #3: Begin to remove the head bolts. Have another person hold the head for you while you do so. GOTTLIEB HEADS WILL BALANCE - WILLIAMS AND BALLY HEADS WILL TIP IMMEDIATELY! Even so, all it takes it a little movement for a Gottlieb head to fall off as well. Make sure they hold on good! You too!

    Step #4: With all four (or less, but they come with 4) head bolts removed, store the bolts in something like a Ziploc bag with appropriate washers as well. With the help of your friend, lift the head to the floor. If you are using shrink wrap to protect the head, you can do it here. NEVER REMOVE THE BACKGLASS WHEN TRANSPORTING A GAME UNLESS THE GLASS LATCHING SYSTEM IS BROKEN OR MISSING, OR IF THE HEAD CABINET IS VERY DAMAGED. THE SAFEST PLACE FOR IT IS IN THE HEAD! You can now handtruck it to your vehicle. Lift the head into your vehicle by hand with your friend.
    Do not lay it flat. Any rocks that kick up (if using a truck) or anything that falls (truck or van) will have a much larger and fragile surface to do damage to if you do this!

    Step #5: Tuck the entire line power cord into the port hole of the body cabinet. Next, get a stool. Lift up the back of the machine and place the stool under the back of the game. With the cabinet very secure, begin to remove the back legs. Store the leg bolts in your Ziploc (or equivalent) baggie. Once removed, set the legs nearby but also very far away so they do not interfere with the following steps/procedure. Don't want to trip, either! (Very very possible on those legs)

    Step #6: With both of the machine's back legs removed, you and your friend should lift up the back of the game. Using your feet (or perhaps a third accomplice), remove the stool from under the bottom of the game and a good distance away from the machine. Once you are very clear of the stool, rest the back corner of the game onto the floor.
    Your game should now be at an intense downward angle with the lockdown bar on the front of the machine being the highest point right now.

    Step #7: Tip the machine onto its back. If for some very odd reason you have the playfield glass removed or missing, make sure the playfield is locked into the cabinet using the bar inside of the coin door first or it can/will easily tip out. (Again, you should be leaving ALL glass in the game - but just incase it's missing I noted that) The coin door should now be parallel to/facing the ceiling or sky.

    Step #8: With the machine on its back, this allows us to take the front legs off of the machine with immense ease. This is because they are no longer supporting any weight and you also don't have to hold the cabinet up. (either by human strength or a stool)

    Step #9: Deposit those bolts into the Ziploc baggie and place all 4 legs CAREFULLY in the car. Not carefully necessarily because of the legs, but watch that head and backglass. (and you don't want them to shift while driving into the body cabinet and glass either, in addition!) Before you place them in the car, you may shrink-wrap them together as well if you'd like. This will avoid MOST scratches and also more importantly keep them together.

    Step #10: With the machine on its end now looking very compact, you may now shrink wrap the machine if you wish. Once that is done if you choose not to do so, use a handtruck (on the tall bare-wood side) to roll the machine around. This is the "handtruck" position. Handy, isn't it?! Lots of machines actually have little feet on the back just for this position that are never really used when the machine is set up. Roll the machine to your vehicle.

    Step #11: With the machine at your car, remove the handtruck from the equation after positioning it properly. You want the playfield glass facing away from the vehicle, and when all is said and done, you ALWAYS want the back of the machine pointing out towards where you slid it in. (else when you take it back out you'll land on the coin door and front of the machine)
    If you can, lay a nice amount of cardboard down where you are going to put the machine - this makes all sliding/movement much easier but the heavy cabinet will also not move much on it when you or somebody else is driving. Tip the middle of the machine against your tailgate or van, and then with a friend do the ol' "up and in" method (tip) to slide it from the handtruck position into the vehicle while at the same time allowing it to rotate it 90 degrees. It should now be laying flat with the playfield glass facing the ceiling/sky. Voila!

    Step #12: Make sure EVERYTHING is secure (even non-pinball stuff - so it doesn't fall on/damage the machine!), everybody is buckled in, and go ahead and get going!


    Step #1: With everything out of the way, slide the machine body out of your car and rest the back bottom corner on the ground, then tip up on its back. The coin door should now be facing the sky.

    Step #2: Handtruck the machine to its desired location to be setup and played. (Also, bring the head/legs/bolts/etc. inside as well, at a safe distance from the body of the pinball machine so it does NOT get in the way(!).) Remember that this should be indoors and not really even in a "sunroom". Remember that sun badly fades all EM paint, and that humidity kills EMs. These are fully 100% indoor machines. No, your screened in porch DOES NOT count. Remove the shrink wrap from everything, if used.

    Step #3: Put the front legs on with the machine still in this position. Again, with the front in the end, it'll be very easy as there is no weight on the machine right now. Remember to make sure they are snug but not OVER-TIGHT, or you will strip out the leg plates. Somebody else may have already done so if they won't snug up. (See next section after reading all of this!)

    Step #4: Tip the machine forward so the newly-placed front legs are holding up the front of the machine, and the back machine is still wood-touching-floor.

    Step #5: With a buddy, lift the back of the machine up with one hand inside of the port hole edge and one hand under the machine. Kick the stool under it and rest it on the stool, so half of the top of the stool can still be seen. (Meaning: Rest it mostly on the frame of the machine preferably, but the bottom is fully solid too - it just gets a little more wobbly/insecure then)

    Step #6: With the back of the machine in the air, screw the back legs on.

    Step #7: Lift the machine up again with a friend, and slide the stool out. You will no longer need the stool.

    Step #8: PULL THE POWER CORD OUT OF THE MACHINE AND PUT IT THROUGH THE LITTLE INDENT IN THE BACK OF THE CABINET. The bane of EM collectors' pinball existence is forgetting to do this before you put the head on, as it is impossible to do afterwards and you have to unbolt the head and remove it again if you forget. Don't forget! (but you will - maybe just not this time) DO NOT plug it into the wall yet. (That is the LAST step.)

    Step #9: With the back door of the head off (AND THE POWER CORD IN THE PROPER PLACE), you and a friend should lift the head onto the machine. Remember to have your friend hold the head steady as you bolt it on. The head has to be lined up semi-perfectly for the bolts to go in. Don't fully tighten one bolt at a time, make sure they are all in and aligned first before tightening them down all the way - do about half-each to start. Remember, WHEN LET GO WILLIAMS AND BALLY HEADS WILL ALWAYS TIP FORWARD TO THE FLOOR 100% OF THE TIME WITHOUT BEING PROVOKED TO. GOTTLIEB CAN ALSO DO THIS, BUT IT REQUIRES MINIMAL FORCE. JUST HAVE A BUDDY HOLD IT STEADY! Secure the bolts well and tighten them up pretty snug but do not strip them out!

    Step #10: Plug the jones plug connectors back in. On some Gottlieb games there is a very pesky small connector that goes right from the playfield to the head that I have missed two or three times in my collecting so far. With this unplugged, you will lose most scoring (or just 100 points) along with chimes for such, and a few other features. Don't miss it! (or if you have these symptoms, make sure you did not)

    Step #11: After optionally checking that the fuses and other jones plug connectors are secure after the ride, and making sure no debris got between anything, finally plug the machine in, and enjoy!


    A tiny note about leg levelers - adjust/install them while the legs are off - easy!:

    With all four legs off when setting up, it is a GREAT time to install brand new leg levelers and level the legs out! Buy 3" levelers for the back legs, and 2" levelers for the front, and make the two back leg levelers even with each other and the two front leg levelers even with each other as such. Adjust the difference between the sets to your desired difficulty level, creating a bigger or smaller slope of the playfield. The nut on the leg leveler is designed to be on the BOTTOM of the leg (snug) to help prevent leg leveler collapse/slips when finished adjusting the levelers. Wind the nut all the way down to the foot during adjustments.

    #27 2 years ago


    [20] The leg bolts won't screw in or won't go all the way in correctly!

    If you don't use my stool method (tsk tsk...), the last thing you want to find out when your buddy is holding up the back of your 300 pound game is that the bolts won't go in! This is caused by years of overtightening among years of installing and uninstalling of the leg bolts.

    Many have used nuts on the inside ends of the bolts as a quick fix, and while I took this a step further and went and bought WINGNUTS to make it even easier to use, it will be 1,000,010 times nicer for you and any future owners if you do it the CORRECT way and just order some new leg plates.

    These install with two nails or screws. When installing, thread the bolts into them to line them up FIRST, as it is very precise and if you install the nails/screws first, there's almost an 100% chance you won't get it right (and will have to take them back out anyways and THEN do it this way). Might as well not waste your time!

    With those installed you will have nice firm holds on your leg bolts and will also be a breeze to install leg bolts into, or remove from. These updated version of leg bolt holders feature extended threads which is a REALLY GREAT feature to have on something like this which will prevent similar wear:


    That being said, there is still no excuse for overtightening your bolts! They are not "strip-proof", just a little more valuable and usable if they do start to strip out!

    It is also possible that your leg bolts themselves have become stripped or cross-threaded even if not overtightened. A cheap shiny new set of these leg bolts (and head bolts, if you desire) can be picked up at any major pinball retailer. Hardware stores generally don't have the correct acorn tops, so don't go there for these. (Head bolts should be fine there, though - but you HAVE to match up the length (a little longer is fine, just don't go shorter/too short) and size of course! Don't drop your head off the game due to compromising! Remember that people nudge the game as well, so these need to be EXTRA secure!)

    The most common leg bolt size is 3/8-16 x 2 and 1/2 inches. If using something like cabinet protectors or other accessories (not seen as much on EM machines), you make need to ensure the length to something like 2 and a half inches/2 and 3/4 inches. Most retailers today sell them at this length anyways, since the extra doesn't really matter. "all inclusive"

    #28 2 years ago



    PLEASE REMEMBER when working on these machines that there is constantly more voltage flowing through them then you can imagine. When working on these machines (especially with tests that don't require power), the machine should not only be switched off but also completely unplugged.

    For instance, let us take a 1976 Gottlieb Royal Flush. (MUCH more safe and lacking of 120 volts than the machines of the middle 60's and earlier, but still filled with high voltage right next to lower (but still possibly dangerous) solenoid voltage):


    WHENEVER the machine is plugged in, there is line voltage flowing through the machine. Since the service outlet needed to be live even for service when the machine was off (usually used to plug in soldering irons or work lights), this entire circuit is ALWAYS live! That not only includes the 40-year-old service outlet itself, but also an in-line fuse holder (bare metal) used in this service outlet circuit (and the main circuit, sometimes two separate ones) that has powerful line voltage flowing through it while your family sleeps in bed at 3 AM.
    It also flows to one end of the power switch all the way in the front of the cabinet. This is never shut off even when the machine is "switched off". Only when you unplug the machine from the wall is when this power dissipates. If there is any faults in this 38-100 year old wiring, or if debris, such as from the very populated playfield directly above, falls onto any exposed wiring or metal (like the fuse holder(s)), it certainly has the potential to start a fire. PLEASE PLEASE PLEAAAAAAASE, be responsible.
    All of my machines are on power strips. (Wired dedicated circuits in your home via light-switch also apply !if done correctly!) The machines are always switched off using these power strips, thus eliminating any HOT power (and hopefully a neutral link if it's a good one) from even touching a millimeter of the power cord let alone the internals of the machine. There are many people who rely on these old machine power switches and circuits while they sleep and it bothers me strongly. Many "experts" claim their machine is as safe as can be, and coming from another experienced collector with a large collection like myself, this claim of "expertise" is plain ignorance and a lot of it. If you cannot take the 5 seconds to switch off a power strip (which is quicker to shut off/turn on one machine let alone a whole row at once),
    reduce nearly any chance of a fault from probably 5% to 0.001% (multiplies with each game left plugged in, as well), and protect you and your innocent family from any potential harm, I strongly pity you. While rough projects likely have more potential for causing harm, even the cleanest machine can drop a nut or a screw and start a fire. There are many that disagree and don't care - and to that I politely say "pull your head out of your ass!". You are never an expert if you do not utilize proper safety precautions even for unlikely events. A .5% chance of harming or killing myself and my family while I sleep is too much for me and it should be too much for you as well. Don't be LAZY! Moving on...


    Many of the earlier line cords (which were basically low-gauge lamp cords from the factory) did not "keyed" prongs, meaning you can easily plug it in upside down. This is huge! It flips the HOT and neutral voltage and makes the HOT voltage no longer switched and sends it through the entire
    120v circuit even when the machine is SWITCHED OFF! Even to the score motor switches! While you sleep at 3 AM! Let's look at that diagram again adjusted for an upside down or backwards-wired line cord:


    Wow! Everything marked "DANGER" would be live with powerful 120v wall voltage regardless if the machine is switched off or not, it just needs to be plugged in. Again, most line cords supplied by the factory prior to the 3-prong era (which basically includes most EMs considering even when they started shipping with them late towards the middle of the 70's, most people cut off the third prong...)
    are not keyed and do not look ANY different when plugged in upside down compared to "right side up". YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! I suggest replacing with a full-blown 3-prong cord wired correctly, or if you're a purist, as least with a newer style extension cord which is almost always keyed with the neutral prong being bigger. (USA)

    UNPLUG YOUR GAME WHEN WORKING ON IT, ESPECIALLY 120V/LINE VOLTAGE CIRCUITS! These are usually BUT NOT ALWAYS incased in rubber rather than cloth of the time, and can be picked out from wiring bunches before the full transistion to rubber-coated wiring later on in the 70's. (it was the tail end of the EM era before all of the major manufacturers finally switched over)

    Did you know? The neutral prong is actually big one to the left, while the HOT is the smaller one to the right. (On correctly/traditionally oriented outlets with the third prong hole facing the floor)

    Finally, as stated, machines from around 1967-1968 and earlier generally did not have toggle switches, but you could "bump" them off with a different kind of switch that disengaged a lock relay - which wasn't really "off" at all - EVEN LESS than the Royal Flush! (But could be woken up by any coin switch, start button, flipper switch, etc., it's all always live)

    This is from a 1966 Williams "8 Ball", 10 years older than Royal Flush (and it really shows). A tad scary, isn't it? You can see things like all of the coin switches notated in this diagram, as well as a slew of relay switches, general switches, score motor switches/positions, among other things. Do you really want to sleep with all of this being fully or partially live?:


    Grounded receptacles in homes entered the electrical code book in 1959 as an option, finally being upgraded to MANDATORY in 1965 or 1968. Since prior to this (and it still only really went into effect in homes built in or after 1965/1968 - which to this day isn't even close to all of them) not many had grounded outlets in their home,
    so most pinball machines featured two-prong "lamp cords" from the factory. (Genuinely quite s***) In the event of a main line shorting to any metal, the machine would continue operating (unless creating an electrical short - which would blow a fuse inside of the machine). If anybody touched this piece of metal, such as a coin door, they would be SHOCKED with main line voltage.
    Having done so, many times (more out of carelessness/stupidity rather than pinball machine faults...), it does hurt quite a bit and apparently hurts a HELL of a lot more if you're touching ground/neutral. (I haven't had the pleasure I don't think - getting shocked by just the HOT (one side of the wiring) hurts enough and razzles you pretty bad, you feel it flowing through you)
    Anyways, back to the coin door. If they touched this large electrified piece of metal, they would be shocked, it would hurt, and the machine would stay on until somebody finally unplugged the damn thing.

    With the new grounding system, a "field ground" wire is attached to all metal/conductive parts at risk inside/outside of an appliance (such as the coin door), and if line voltage was ever sent to them, it would travel through this field ground wire, through the power cord out of the machine, into the now-very-recognizable "third prong" hole in the outlet, safely travel through the walls of your house,
    and when it hits the breaker/breaker box (less than a second in real time...) it trips the breaker and shuts off the entire circuit the machine or appliance is plugged into to prevent any damage, injuries, or even fatalities - all without causing an initial direct short to the neutral line inside of the machine. (I believe this is how early breakers/house fuse boxes would shut off/blow aside from being just overloaded, and it's pretty unlikely to occur compared to one loose wire)

    While games started shipping with a 3-prong cord in the 70's, you should ensure that the third prong was not cut/ripped off to fit in a 2-prong outlet. Around 80% of the 3-prong pinball cords from the period and even into the 80's seem to be that way. (Remember, not a ton of people had them yet at the time!)
    Additionally, often times this ground wire will only go to the frame of the transformer. (to kick the breaker off in the event of a transformer fault) Unfortunately, this does not include connections to metal pieces such as the coin door, lockdown bar, side-rails, and more.
    Installing these yourself (even linked to the original intact wiring connected to the transformer frame in bright green) will provide safety and assurance for guests and players to your house and business.

    There was a recent debate about grounding the side-rails that made it onto Pinside. Many say grounding the side rails is bad because it can complete a circuit when leaning on them with their body and working on the machine, whereas if they touched a live wire it would hurt significantly more as it flows through them into the ground wire.
    For this reason, instead of both the side-rails and lockdown bar being grounded, in this group of two they grounded just the lockdown bar instead (which is usually always off when working on the machine), and when the lockdown bar was put back into place, it would touch the side rails and ground them as well without having them grounded when the machine is being serviced as the lockdown bar is not there to complete the grounding circuit (has continunity (connection), but no voltage/amps/current normally). The decision is up to you. If you don't "hard-wire" the side-rails, insure that the lockdown bar ALWAYS makes a good connection to the side-rails to extend this grounding measure to players when playing the game.


    Often time switches and buttons are insulated with something called "fish paper", which is basically a non-conductive paper-like material that stops the flipper voltage and coin door voltage from traveling through the buttons, to the player's hands.
    This can become worn or entirely destroyed with time and no longer block electrical connections.

    The dangers:

    - Many flipper switches are controlled by 30 or 50 volts. This is not as bad as 120 volts/line voltage but can definitely still hurt and cause physical damage or worse. With the fish paper damaged or destroyed, this voltage could flow through METAL flipper buttons.

    - [WARNING] METAL START BUTTONS: All start switches are connected to a start relay, which is very often controlled by 120 VOLTS/MAIN LINE VOLTAGE. If the fish paper here degrades or goes missing (destroyed) it will send 120 VOLTS through any metal start buttons and also likely through the metal coin door. (which, if you're touching field ground, likely will hurt even worse! But also possibly save your life) Make sure the fish paper here is replaced or is in good condition!!!!!

    - [WARNING] EARLY WILLIAMS FLIPPER BUTTONS - BALLY TOO?: As mentioned earlier on many games you can push the left flipper button to light up the game. On later games (from the 70's onward), this was controlled by 30 volts or 50 volts (solenoid voltage), but on earlier games, particularly Williams games, this was controlled by 120 VOLTS/MAIN LINE VOLTAGE and brought it right up to a switch controlled by the flipper button.
    If the fish paper was damaged or missing (destroyed) here, you would get a very nasty shock through the flipper button, and if your hand is resting on that grounded lockdown bar and side-rail, it'll hurt pretty damn bad (but would also save your life instead if you can't let go)!

    Remember that third schematic snippet I posted of the "earlier machine"? Take a look at the bottom left, the proof is in the pudding!:


    #29 2 years ago


    Thank you (and thank yourself! Whew!) for taking the time to read through my guide.

    I ask nothing in return but your safety - without trying to scare you away, please be safe and make conscious decisions when working on your machine(s). EM machines are great because they will take your mess-ups over and over again (to an extent), but at the same time blow them in your face. (I shorted the 30 volt winding on a transformer the other day at the point before any fuses for a second - the transformer was fine but lots of smoke was made at the point of contact!)
    Remember than owning a pinball machine, especially an electro-mechanical, comes with a certain need for responsibility, specifically not to be an idiot (either when plugging that first project covered in old gasoline into the wall or working on a machine) and end up burning your house down. It is not the machines I'm worried will mess up, it's you! (No offense) Just be careful and ask questions before doing anything you feel uncomfortable with and I'll try to help you out! (or another forum member will)

    That being said, (saying this half-tongue-in-cheek) if you have any unwanted machines you'd like to contribute to my museum dream (like I need any more...), you know where to find me! Fact may show that if it's a Gottlieb wedgehead it makes me drive 10 MPH faster on the way down... just kidding. On a more serious note, I can also always use any spare parts you may not have any use for, specifically Gottlieb parts as they make up the bulk of my personal collection.
    If you have anything that's been sitting on your shelf for a while that you can't use, but you think I may be able to, let me know! I would greatly appreciate it, even if it goes in a stockpile. (That's another thing - SPARE parts are GREAT!)

    I can be reached through PM here on Pinside for any inquiries, help, or questions for things that may or may not be covered here in my guide.

    I sincerely hope my guide helps you, and best of luck out there in the electro-mechanical pinball world! At times it may seem like an endless battle, but once you get them running right and cleaned up they will last longer than any solid-state machines *as long as you play them!*. They become self-cleaning at a point, if adjusted right. Best wishes!

    Steven "Otaku", 05/13/2017

    #30 2 years ago

    Above is the end of the original copy of this guide. Any additions (unlikely - but who knows) will follow, clearly noted as such.


    #31 2 years ago


    #32 2 years ago


    #33 2 years ago


    #34 2 years ago


    #35 2 years ago

    There, finished up setting it up and posting all of it in (doing the one last thing after this post). You may reply now.

    EDIT: Woot, finished up the initial posting!

    #36 2 years ago

    Well done! Thanks for posting something like this.

    #37 2 years ago

    Thanks, I know what you know now.

    #38 2 years ago
    Quoted from SteveinTexas:

    Thanks, I know what you know now.

    You do not: I didn't include the secret flipper button combination to turn your machine into a Transformer for a reason

    #39 2 years ago

    Thank you! I have a Boomerang that's needs some love. This should inspire me.

    #40 2 years ago

    Thanks for all the hard work. I'm sure to use this many times in the future.
    It looks you have learned a lot in a few years !

    #42 2 years ago
    Quoted from Otaku:

    [13] shotgunning" (activating and deactivating multiple times rapidly

    You're describing machine gunning, i.e. firing like a machine gun. Shotgunning is a disorganized repair process trying this or that with no focused plan.

    #43 2 years ago

    Maybe this IS his way of paying back. How many people will his guide help now and into the future.

    #45 2 years ago
    #46 2 years ago

    Great write up, I just need to book some time off work so I can real all of it.

    #47 2 years ago

    I didn't read through this, but it looks like quite an effort. Since you took the time and effort to do this, you should read through the pinwiki and see what NEW material you can contribute to it. This way it is preserved and organized - and no drama is attached to it. A lot of effort went into setting that up and contributing to it, when Clay's site first went down. After literally months of work, there was enough material to be useful.

    If you are willing to do that, I would be more than happy to read through what you have and comment on it.

    One comment, after a quick perusal of your rust removal:

    Quoted from Otaku:

    Route 1, EVAPORUST: Evaporust is a very abrasive liquid that you submerge your legs in and it basically melts away the rust. Note that this should only be done for legs and no thin metal pieces as apparently it totally dissolves them/breaks through them. Whoooooops!

    Yet the product information states:

    amazon.com link »

    Super Safe Rust Remover
    Contains No Acids
    Non-Toxic, Non-Flammable, Odorless, safe on skin
    Contains No Acids
    No Fumes
    Safe on skin

    I think you are actually describing phosphoric acid in some form - like Lightning Rust Remover.

    So, you could actually add a third method after you fix up you section.

    Regarding your coil myth busting - you need to draw a real conclusion and discuss trouble shooting. I don't think any of the "old geezers" (who oh, by the way forgot more than you will ever know), really say either a coil works or it doesn't. Internal shorts are a well known issue and are typically measured via an ohm meter and comparison to a like part or a reference like John's Jukes (one of the aforementioned "geezers".

    But, more to the point, you should consider what you are adding and why? If it is just a post in pinside, it will likely get buried in the multitude of other posts. If it is a rehash of old material, why do it? If it is organized or explained in a new way, consider adding it to the pinwiki.

    #49 2 years ago

    Kinda glanced through this and all seems like common sense to me. Sounds like he has read a lot of this elsewhere and is just rewording it to fit his ego of thinking he is now an "expert".

    #50 2 years ago

    I'm not terribly old, but I could certainly do without the "old-man" bashing in this guide. It completely detracts from your intent which, I assume, is to help people.

    Also, posting your age at the end of a guide? Dammit Otaku!

    Anyway, its a very good start, look forward to seeing the final version.

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