(Topic ID: 348178)

Stern Dracula Feature Lamps

By BrotherSir

7 months ago


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#1 7 months ago

Been wrestling with a Stern Dracula feature lamp issue. Intermittently, all of the feature lamps will completely stop working. It starts off with everything normal, but after the game has been on for a while all of them go dead. Re-seating connectors seems to bring them back temporarily, but I think that's just a coincidence. They will also randomly come back for a while, then die again. I've rebuilt connectors at both the rectifier and the lamp board. I swapped in an Alltek lamp board to eliminate that cause.

I'm pretty sure the problem is at the rectifier board but not sure where my next step should be. My readings at TP1 have been all over the place at different times, but the last one I took with the lamps out was about 1.1vdc which is way low. Even the reading I took with lamps working was a touch low at 4.8ish.

The board itself is a replacement board that seems relatively new (it was in the game when I bought it). Seems unlikely the BR is failing but I'm open to anything. Maybe I re-pinned a J2 connector poorly?

Thanks for any help!

#2 7 months ago
Quoted from BrotherSir:

all of the feature lamps will completely stop working.

Does this include the feature lamps behind the backglass? By your description I presume yes.

Quoted from BrotherSir:

Maybe I re-pinned a J2 connector poorly?

There's no J2 connectors that can cause this or is it a typo?

Quoted from BrotherSir:

The board itself is a replacement board that seems relatively new

It wouldn't be the first time the feature lamp bridge was poorly soldered on the replacement board - it's one thing to check. Maybe even the transformer wires for the feature lamps are poorly soldered on the rectifier board.
Also, worth replacing the F1 10A fast blow fuse on the rectifier board incase it's intermittent.

Quoted from BrotherSir:

Seems unlikely the BR is failing but I'm open to anything.

The bridge rectifier works in two halves so yes, very unlikely both halves would fail at the same time.

#3 7 months ago

Yep, includes the backbox feature lights. GI stays stable.

I didn't mess with the fuse since it does work at startup, but I can definitely swap it and see what happens. I generally assumed fuses would be all or nothing.

I checked the solder points on the back of the rectifier board and didn't see anything suspect. Is there a specific wire from the transformer I should look at? Or maybe check the connection at the transformer?

#4 7 months ago
Quoted from BrotherSir:

I generally assumed fuses would be all or nothing.

It's rare but low voltage fuses can fatigue and crack and also you can get fuses that don't have a good connection at the can end. These are intermittent faults I've seen.

Quoted from BrotherSir:

Is there a specific wire from the transformer I should look at? Or maybe check the connection at the transformer?

The feature lamp AC wires come from lugs 13 and 14 at the transformer. They go to the rectifier board at solder joints E9 and E10.

RectifierBoard_TransformerPoints1_256.pngRectifierBoard_TransformerPoints1_256.png

#5 7 months ago

Well I swapped the fuse for a new one and the problem still came back. It'll still be a few days until I can dig deeper into the rectifier wiring, but I'm not too optimistic the problem is there.

A new thought I had is that since it always works on boot up, and then fails after the game has been on for a while, maybe the bridge is overheating? Is that likely (I'm far from pro at this)? Cause/fix ideas?

It would explain why re-seating things appears to "fix" it, when in reality it's just able to cool down enough while I'm doing that with the game off.

#6 7 months ago

had exactly the same thing happen on a Playboy.

Switched Illumination on.......then off, over and over for months until the SI gave out. It was indeed the bridge rectifier on the rec board.

Put in a 'Tangles' rec board and all good.

#7 7 months ago
Quoted from BrotherSir:

A new thought I had is that since it always works on boot up, and then fails after the game has been on for a while, maybe the bridge is overheating?

The bridges don't have a thermal shutdown feature.
Reseating connectors probably tells you there's a connection issue also potentially the act of flexing the board to remove/reinsert the connector with a bad solder joint on the board.
When the lights go out, wiggle the connectors and also put some pressure on the bridge to flex the board (careful the bridge will be hot).

#8 7 months ago

Yeah.

I'd start by replacing the rectifier board with a newly purchased one. The original bridges might be the problem, but you need to replace the pins to the connector anyway, so when you replace the board that gets half the job done. Then I'd replace the plug connectors to the rectifier board with crimp and stuff trifurcon.

Any connector that you wiggle or unplug and replug in that seems to help I'd replace both pins and plugs, and I'd do all the recommended fixes on the pinwiki while I've got the boards out.

Reliable power is key to reliable operation, and the connectors on machines that are 40 years old need to be addressed.

This seems like a lot of work, and it is. These machines are taking quite a bit of service time to make them as reliable as they were 40 years ago (not very reliable...) Hehe.

#9 7 months ago
Quoted from Quench:

The bridges don't have a thermal shutdown feature.
Reseating connectors probably tells you there's a connection issue also potentially the act of flexing the board to remove/reinsert the connector with a bad solder joint on the board.
When the lights go out, wiggle the connectors and also put some pressure on the bridge to flex the board (careful the bridge will be hot).

What I'm saying is that reseating the connectors isn't actually doing anything. I've already re-pinned/replaced the connectors with no change. I also swapped the entire lamp board with no change in behavior. Wiggling wires has no effect.

What does bring it back is powering the game off, waiting about 15-20 min, then powering the game back on. Quickly power cycling the game does not.

Having power drop at the feature bus pin on the rectifier board means the problem is upstream from there, yeah?

And yes, I can just replace the rectifier board but I'd like to hammer out a root cause for this. Especially since this is already an after-market board.

#10 7 months ago

disconnect J1 and J3 from the rec board, leaving J2 only to allow the rec board to get power.

what readings to you get at the Test Points on the rec board, remebering there is AC and DC.

#11 6 months ago
Quoted from BrotherSir:

I'd like to hammer out a root cause for this

(EDIT: I was a bit harsh in the first version of this post. I see a lot of 'they did half the job' on pinballs of this age, and I personally advocate for extensive repair/replacement of boards and connectors. Edited post follows).

If you suspect the bridge rectifier, just replace it. When you do that you'll also need to check the connections on the back of the board, and you can fix anything dodgy like bad solder connections.

Connectors are the next step.

While you've got the rectifier board out, resolder the pins on the connectors going to and from your bridge rectifier. Sometimes poor connections will reveal themselves when you reflow the solder.

Then replace the terminals in the connectors. Trifurcon grabs the pin on three sides, it's mechanically superior, so take advantage.

Then trace how the entire feature lamp board gets power. Replace the connectors to power for this board. Pins and plugs, both on the lamp board and the solenoid driver board where the 5v comes from.

Then trace how the feature lamp board gets CPU signals. Replace these connectors. Pins and plugs, both on the CPU and the Lamp Driver board. Start with the Lamp driver board.

This kind of step-by-step can lead you to the specific problem.

You can trace a specific problem down... but since you are there, the recommended advice is to suspect a board, replace that board. That solves the pin side of all of the connector problems as well as any questions about board problems. Then you replace the terminals in the connectors to that board. All of them. That solves current and most future problems with 40-year old connectors that were designed for 35 insertion/removal cycles, and were designed with planned obsolescence.

Good luck, and let us know what you find!

#12 6 months ago
Quoted from BrotherSir:

The board itself is a replacement board that seems relatively new

a) Post some pictures of this replacement rectifier board
b) Have you pulled it out to inspect all the soldering on the back of the board including the soldered wires from the transformer?

#13 6 months ago

Finally had a chance to fiddle with it again. So the rectifier board that's in there is from Anarchy. Readings at the test point when the game is first turned on:

TP1: 6.1vdc
TP2: 242vdc
TP3: 15.3vdc
TP4: 7.3vac
TP5: 46.7vdc

All readings are the same after the game has been on for about 30 min, except TP1 drops to 0.8vdc.

Pictures of the board:

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I also noticed this ground cable tucked near the transformer that goes from the vent in the head to nothing. Is that an issue?

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#14 6 months ago

The soldering on that BR1 bridge looks terrible. Please resolder it and try again.

#15 6 months ago
Quoted from BrotherSir:

I also noticed this ground cable tucked near the transformer that goes from the vent in the head to nothing.

One side is supposed to be connected on the left side of the cabinet where the EMI filter is to join earth from the cabinet to the headbox. The EMI filter is the silver box that your line cord is connected to. The other side is screwed somewhere on the bottom of the head that connects to all the metal shielding.

#16 6 months ago
Quoted from Quench:

The soldering on that BR1 bridge looks terrible. Please resolder it and try again.

Will do. Just to clarify, are you talking about reflowing these points?

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#17 6 months ago
Quoted from BrotherSir:

Just to clarify, are you talking about reflowing these points?

Yep, they're the BR1 pins to resolder.

#18 6 months ago

that solder on the pins of BR1 looks to be tarnished and adding new solder may not take.

i suggest using an exacto knife, razor blade, small wire brush, even a small screwdriver to try and remove any oxidation leaving the original solder joins shiny.

1 week later
#19 6 months ago

I think we have a winner. Resoldering the BR1 pins on the board seems to have done the trick. So far, it's been running for the last hour with no drop in the lamps. I'll leave it on for a bit more and take some readings, but I think it's solved.

Thanks for the spot, I didn't really think to look at the pins other than the headers. I'll have to add it to my troubleshooting list.

#20 6 months ago
Quoted from BrotherSir:

Resoldering the BR1 pins on the board seems to have done the trick.

Good to hear, hopefully it's solid now.

Yours is the second or third black Anarchy rectifier board we've seen with this issue.

#21 6 months ago

Well, in a turn of events the feature lamps are fixed but almost all of the general illumination suddenly went out while playing. I'm thinking I'll just reflow the remaining BR points and hope that helps.

The part that seems odd is that all but the GI on the very top left of the playfield (under the uppermost left plastic and the dead bumper) is out. Why would those ones stay on when the rest went out?

#22 6 months ago
Quoted from BrotherSir:

The part that seems odd is that all but the GI on the very top left of the playfield (under the uppermost left plastic and the dead bumper) is out. Why would those ones stay on when the rest went out?

Bally ran two G.I. wire sets to light different areas of the playfield. I'm used to seeing Sterns with a single a wire set but maybe Dracula was before they cheaped out in this respect.
So at the J1 playfield connector on the rectifier board, do you have G.I. wires populated at J1 pins 2 and 5?

BTW someone else had exactly the same issue with their black Anarchy rectifier board just yesterday: I pointed them here to your thread and they saw the same bad soldering on their bridge.
https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/future-spa-club-come-on-in-the-water-is-warm/page/9#post-7943415

#23 6 months ago

Nope, matches the schematic below.

Screenshot_20231230_080744_Samsung Notes (resized).jpgScreenshot_20231230_080744_Samsung Notes (resized).jpg

Now things are getting trickier. While looking at things I checked the voltages on all the test points again. They were all sitting about the same as above, which are a bit above where they are supposed to be. I was getting some flicker in the lights when coils were following so I checked all the connectors. Sometime during that I lost everything and now it won't boot. I get a solid red and a loud obnoxious hum at the speaker. It's an Alltek, so the indicator says "over voltage." I'm not sure how that happened just wiggling connectors, but here we are. The upper left connector is the culprit.

I haven't replaced any of the MPU connectors yet so I'll probably just work on that while it's down, but I don't think that's going to fix it. Pictures below of the GI before, and the board error.

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#24 6 months ago

Try reseating both the bottom left MPU and the top right Driver board connectors with power off. If works, then it is time to repin them. I suggest really repinning the whole game. Might as well start where the issues are happening now.

#25 6 months ago
Quoted from BrotherSir:

Nope, matches the schematic below.

In that case the G.I. problem is a wiring issue somewhere on the playfield.

Quoted from BrotherSir:

It's an Alltek, so the indicator says "over voltage."

Looking at the Alltek schematic, that LED will come on when the MPU board is missing 12V - it doesn't make much sense since nothing else on the board uses 12V so why care. Suspect it's a schematic error. I can't tell from the picture but is the +5V LED on too?
On the MPU board, measure the voltage at TP1 (+5V In) and TP4 (+5V). If you have 5V at TP1 but not at TP4 then the MPU board fuse is blown (the yellow thing that looks like a capacitor) directly under TP1 on the MPU board).

If it's just missing 12V at the MPU board then re-terminating the MPU J4 connector is needed.

#26 6 months ago
Quoted from Quench:

In that case the G.I. problem is a wiring issue somewhere on the playfield.

Makes sense. Something probably got loose, and probably near that upper part of the playfield. My thought is that since that area still is getting power, the break is nearby.

Quoted from Quench:

I can't tell from the picture but is the +5V LED on too?

Nope, just the center light. And it doesn't even start a boot sequence.

Quoted from Quench:

On the MPU board, measure the voltage at TP1 (+5V In) and TP4 (+5V). If you have 5V at TP1 but not at TP4 then the MPU board fuse is blown (the yellow thing that looks like a capacitor) directly under TP1 on the MPU board).
If it's just missing 12V at the MPU board then re-terminating the MPU J4 connector is needed.

The fuse would make sense. I didn't know the board had a fuse. Hopefully that's it.

#27 6 months ago

3 games I worked on with either an Alltek or Weebly MPU, always been connector issues with either the bottom left MPU or the top right Driver board connectors with oxidized pins, when the over voltage LED was lit.

#28 6 months ago
Quoted from PinballManiac40:

always been connector issues with either the bottom left MPU or the top right Driver board connectors with oxidized pins

Yes, very important those two connectors are in healthy condition for the power they carry.

#29 6 months ago
Quoted from Quench:

Yes, very important those two connectors are in healthy condition for the power they carry.

In which case, if this is a original Bally/Stern driver board, should also replace the male header pins on the board.

#30 6 months ago
Quoted from PinballManiac40:

In which case, if this is a original Bally/Stern driver board, should also replace the male header pins on the board.

Indeed, the original 0.1" header pins are very often in average to poor condition and sometimes get overlooked.

#31 6 months ago

So reseating everything didn't do anything. Still going to redo the connectors because they need it though.

I now have all LED lit. Top is green, middle is red, bottom is green. The top and bottom aren't nearly as bright so I can't tell if they are actually lit, or just residual, but they look lit. All solid.

The two test points for 5V are reading about 1.9V, not the 5 they should be. The other test points seemed right. Is that coming from J4?

#32 6 months ago

The Alltek manual points towards Q20 and C23 on the driver board. At this stage, it's the only remaining original board in the game. I'll replace those parts, but I'll probably replace the board anyway.

#33 6 months ago
Quoted from BrotherSir:

The two test points for 5V are reading about 1.9V, not the 5 they should be.

Before replacing parts, you should do some more basic voltage measurements..
Upstream, what voltage are you measuring at the solenoid driver board test point TP1 (5V output)?

#34 6 months ago

Sounds like an improvement from reseating the 2 connectors. Heavily oxidized ones can take multiple reseats to make a difference, which is why you should just reterminate them now. This also includes replacing the header pins on the driver board.

#35 6 months ago
Quoted from Quench:

Before replacing parts, you should do some more basic voltage measurements..
Upstream, what voltage are you measuring at the solenoid driver board test point TP1 (5V output)?

TP1, 3, and 6 all read 1.96V. TP5 reads 16V.

I also swapped in another driver board I had available. Game is now booting correctly, but there are also new problems.

After boot, the GI lights still have the same outages. Several feature lamps (most of the bonus lights) are now locked on. Others will flash, but not in the normal attract mode sequence. Others don't light at all.

I also have no coils except for the knocker and the flippers, confirmed in test menu.

#36 6 months ago

Video of boot up, and video of lamp test.

#37 6 months ago
Quoted from BrotherSir:

After boot, the GI lights still have the same outages.

You need to lift the playfield and follow the G.I. wiring from the working lamps to the non-working lamps - there is a break in the wiring. Impossible for us to tell you where without lots of clear under playfield pictures, you need to visually inspect.

Quoted from BrotherSir:

I also have no coils except for the knocker and the flippers, confirmed in test menu.

The 1 amp slow-blow fuse under the playfield near the flipper mechs is blown. This fuse protects the voltage to all playfield coils *after* the flippers. The knocker is on a separate 43V circuit.

Quoted from BrotherSir:

Several feature lamps (most of the bonus lights) are now locked on. Others will flash, but not in the normal attract mode sequence. Others don't light at all.

Reseat the J4 connector on the lamp driver board and/or the J1 connector on the MPU board.

#38 6 months ago
Quoted from Quench:

You need to lift the playfield and follow the G.I. wiring from the working lamps to the non-working lamps - there is a break in the wiring. Impossible for us to tell you where without lots of clear under playfield pictures, you need to visually inspect.

Found and resolved. Dead bumper lamp wire looked like it wasn't even soldered on.

Quoted from Quench:

The 1 amp slow-blow fuse under the playfield near the flipper mechs is blown. This fuse protects the voltage to all playfield coils *after* the flippers. The knocker is on a separate 43V circuit.

Replaced and resolved. Good to go here.

Quoted from Quench:

Reseat the J4 connector on the lamp driver board and/or the J1 connector on the MPU board.

It definitely seems to be somewhere in J4. It's a connector I've already pinned but I must not have done a great job on it. I'll redo it.

Thanks for bearing with me through all this!

#39 6 months ago

The way it was behaving didn't sit well with me as a connector issue (and I didn't feel like repinning it right now )

The game had a weird mix of LED/incandescent bulbs and I noticed only LEDs were having issues. I switched everything back to incandescents and everything is working 100% correctly now. A lot of the sockets also need replacing, but I already planned on doing that.

I'll redo the LEDs at some point, but for now I'm just going to enjoy the game a bit (and get back to my other project). I don't really understand why they were working fine before, and now are having fits though. Some of them are still working normally.

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