(Topic ID: 347611)

Thinking of buying my first EM

By Foxxstone_80

7 months ago


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    #1 7 months ago

    Title says it all. I've never had an EM and looking to buy my first one. I've gotten pretty comfortable working on early solid states through late 90s machines. I get it that EMs are a whole different animal, but I have no doubt I can learn to fix issues as I go....much like I did when I started out not knowing anything about pinball machines before I bought my first 3 yrs ago.

    Fairly local to me someone is selling a Bally hi-deal. Looks to be in decent shape and appears to be working well from videos I've seen. I wanted to start off with a fully working EM for my first one. I'm just looking for general advice on what I need to consider before jumping into EMs. What type of things should I look out for when I go and check it out, and any other non obvious things to keep in mind?

    #2 7 months ago

    EMs are not "oooo scary." Almost every issue is a busted wire/bad solder joint, a maladjusted or stuck switch, a stuck or maladjusted mech, or a blown fuse caused by one of the above. With patience, logical thinking, and the help of the em studs here, anyone can fix an em. The schematic does help tho.

    Do the steppers move freely? Does it reset properly? Does the credit reel decrement when you start a game?

    #3 7 months ago

    With patience, anybody can fix a complete non-working EM.

    #4 7 months ago
    Quoted from fireball2:

    EMs are not "oooo scary." Almost every issue is a busted wire/bad solder joint, a maladjusted or stuck switch, a stuck or maladjusted mech, or a blown fuse caused by one of the above. With patience, logical thinking, and the help of the em studs here, anyone can fix an em. The schematic does help tho.
    Do the steppers move freely? Does it reset properly? Does the credit reel decrement when you start a game?

    Pretty much sums them up. If all the parts are there it's usually a matter of making sure things are clean and adjusted properly.

    Just like a SS pin, the playfield action is relative to clean coil sleeves, properly adjusted pops, switches, flippers etc.

    The only difference is the logic, it's still a 1 or 0, ON of OFF condition. It's just done with a contacts on a switch stack or stepper unit.

    Biggest issue with EM's is typically steppers units. The grease used years ago becomes gummy and stick and prevents them from incrementing/decrementing properly. Get rid of the crud and they run like new again.

    Bally Hi-Deal is a fun pin and a solid title from Jim Patla.

    #5 7 months ago
    Quoted from fireball2:

    EMs are not "oooo scary." Almost every issue is a busted wire/bad solder joint, a maladjusted or stuck switch, a stuck or maladjusted mech, or a blown fuse caused by one of the above. With patience, logical thinking, and the help of the em studs here, anyone can fix an em. The schematic does help tho.

    Sounds great. I'm not too concerned, I just know nothing about EMs at this point. I feel like I can handle all of the above, especially with the help of the EM studs.

    Quoted from fireball2:

    Do the steppers move freely? Does it reset properly? Does the credit reel decrement when you start a game?

    Here's where I can express how little I know about EMs. I don't know what any of that means lol. Time to do a little research.

    #6 7 months ago

    For EM's you'll have to know how to solder, not hard to do.

    When I first started with EM's I did the "one issue at a time" approach to fixing a pin. Now when I purchase an EM I rip it apart and clean everything then re-assemble.

    A relay activates an armature that either opens or closes a set of contacts. By manually activating a relay you can visually verify if the contacts are operating properly. It's really that straight forward.

    The tougher issues to deal with are cold solder or loose solder joints that are causing issues, they can take a little time to figure out.

    But as stated, there are some fantastic guys in the EM section that will help you. They will try and teach you as they help you.

    I can manage with a schematic but by simply observing proper electro-mechanical operation, you can catch most problems. Emphasis on observing the mechanical.

    But lets focus on your Bally, is the video public?

    #7 7 months ago
    Quoted from Garrett:

    For EM's you'll have to know how to solder, not hard to do.

    i've gotten pretty skilled at soldering, so no concerns there. I really enjoy board repair and have rebuilt and repaired several trashed boards.

    Quoted from Garrett:

    When I first started with EM's I did the "one issue at a time" approach to fixing a pin. Now when I purchase an EM I rip it apart and clean everything then re-assemble.
    A relay activates an armature that either opens or closes a set of contacts. By manually activating a relay you can visually verify if the contacts are operating properly. It's really that straight forward.
    The tougher issues to deal with are cold solder or loose solder joints that are causing issues, they can take a little time to figure out.
    But as stated, there are some fantastic guys in the EM section that will help you. They will try and teach you as they help you.
    I can manage with a schematic but by simply observing proper electro-mechanical operation, you can catch most problems. Emphasis on observing the mechanical.
    But lets focus on your Bally, is the video public?

    Thanks for all the tips. I'm excited to dive into the world of EMs. The video was sent to my via text from the owner, so not currently public.

    #8 7 months ago

    If you get tired of reading the various online resources you could crash some of the online repair clinics for a little live troubleshooting:

    https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/an-em-pinball-online-repair-clinic

    /Mark

    #9 7 months ago

    You know about http://www.pinrepair.com/em/ ?
    More than enough there to get you going.

    #10 7 months ago

    Foxxstone_80 Welcome to the wonderful world of EMs. I enjoy working on EMs much more than my solid state machines. Like the guys have already posted, getting an EM up and running is mostly cleaning stuff or adjusting switches. Spend an hour or two watching this guy's EM repair videos. He does a fantastic job explaining how things work.

    If I were you, I wouldn't just buy any EM that you can find. I would try to purchase an EM machine that is commonly agreed as being one of the better ones. I personally love hitting drop targets down, but I also love spinners. Getting a well respected and popular game will help you be able to sell it along if you end up not liking it, or get tired of it.

    I find the Bally and Williams machines very similar and slightly easier to work on than Gottlieb, but Gottlieb has the sweetest drop targets and chimes.

    In my opinion, the most important thing is that the machine is all there and someone hasn't taken parts out of it. If the machine is all there, then you just need to make sure the playfield and back glass are nice enough for your liking.

    A 1 player Gottlieb machine will likely be easier to maintain and more reliable in the long run because you only have score reels for 1 player.
    All of my EMs have been amazingly trouble free once I got them working.

    #11 7 months ago

    While it's true: If every contact is clean, making connection, and has the proper gap your machine is going to work...

    Most every EM tech I've met has a story to tell about a 'tough dog' that was an incredibly hard repair journey.

    My advice is to make sure you have a good EM tech that can come to your home and help you if you end up with legendary level problems.

    #12 7 months ago

    Just my 2¢
    Start off with a single player and read through this: https://www.pinrepair.com/em/
    Always ask and post your issues/questions in the EM repair section, there are quite a few awesome EM guys here to help.
    Learn how to read a schematic.
    Patience is the key "sometimes" in diagnosing the issues.

    #13 7 months ago
    Quoted from Foxxstone_80:

    Title says it all. I've never had an EM and looking to buy my first one. I've gotten pretty comfortable working on early solid states through late 90s machines. I get it that EMs are a whole different animal, but I have no doubt I can learn to fix issues as I go....much like I did when I started out not knowing anything about pinball machines before I bought my first 3 yrs ago.
    Fairly local to me someone is selling a Bally hi-deal. Looks to be in decent shape and appears to be working well from videos I've seen. I wanted to start off with a fully working EM for my first one. I'm just looking for general advice on what I need to consider before jumping into EMs. What type of things should I look out for when I go and check it out, and any other non obvious things to keep in mind?

    Don't do it!!! I bought one and now I have four!!! Dang it!!! They are awesome to play and much easier to just play (rules and explaining) with friends than the newer ones. But I have a mix of all decades up to current. So, people get to pick and choose. Pick one you like theme wise and give it a shot.

    #14 7 months ago
    Quoted from gjm:

    Just my 2¢
    Start off with a single player and read through this: https://www.pinrepair.com/em/

    Agree. All mine (4) are single player. I like single player one as less stuff to deal with. But there are some sweet multiplayer ones.

    #15 7 months ago
    Quoted from DBP99:

    Agree. All mine (4) are single player. I like single player one as less stuff to deal with. But there are some sweet multiplayer ones.

    Need to learn to crawl before you walk & walk before you learn to run

    #16 7 months ago

    Wow! Lots of great advice,exactly what I was hoping to get. Thanks everyone for your responses so far.

    I like machines from all eras but early solid states have always been my favorite. So I think EMs would be right up my alley gameplay wise.

    I do really like drop targets. The hi-deal doesn't have any....just standup targets. Gameplay videos make it look like a game I would like though. Plus it's in really great shape. I'll probably check it out either way.

    #17 7 months ago

    Lots of good advice in this thread and you should feel confident knowing that you’ll be able to tackle just about any problem you encounter with an EM with help from the knowledgeable Pinsiders in the EM Tech forum.

    That said, I think by far the best thing you can do to help yourself is learn how to read schematics if you don’t already. There are times when you’ll encounter problems that are easily traceable if you can pull out the schematic and read it properly. It takes a little while and there are lots of people on here to help, so ask questions.

    I bought my first EM 5 years ago with almost zero knowledge of how they operated but they are actually fun to work on. I too was an early SS guy. Now I own 2 Early SSs and 14 EMs.

    #18 7 months ago
    Quoted from Foxxstone_80:

    Title says it all. I've never had an EM and looking to buy my first one. I've gotten pretty comfortable working on early solid states through late 90s machines. I get it that EMs are a whole different animal, but I have no doubt I can learn to fix issues as I go....much like I did when I started out not knowing anything about pinball machines before I bought my first 3 yrs ago.
    Fairly local to me someone is selling a Bally hi-deal. Looks to be in decent shape and appears to be working well from videos I've seen. I wanted to start off with a fully working EM for my first one. I'm just looking for general advice on what I need to consider before jumping into EMs. What type of things should I look out for when I go and check it out, and any other non obvious things to keep in mind?

    Frankly I wouldn't recommend a Bally as your first EM - they are the hardest to work on, with the most confusing logic/schematics, and also terribly made connectors and fuse holders.

    But regardless, I would just make sure your first EM is 100 percent working; that way you can fix one off issues as they happen. I'd never recommend a project/basket case as a first EM.

    There's really nothing to "check out," beyond you don't want a rust bucket, something moldy, etc. EMs are so cheap you aren't really risking much here so you don't need to be too picky.

    #19 7 months ago

    People will have preferences and opinions on the component design from each manufacturer.

    Bally did use horrible fuse holders. Anyone getting a Bally should replace them if not done so already.

    Have worked on Gottlieb's, William's and Bally's.

    I like the way that Gottlieb drew their schematics over Bally/William's. But they are in the end the Bally schematics are fine as originally drawn. Depending on game title the logic may become confusing, especially on some of the Zale era Bally's.

    Personally, I prefer working on Bally/William's as they tend to be easier to service and work on compared to Gottlieb's.

    Gottlieb had superior mechanical designs in many aspects but they aren't always the easiest to work on.

    #20 7 months ago

    Hi-Deal is a very fun game. It's a single player so I don't think it's a bad place to start.

    #21 7 months ago

    I agree, if you have a Hi-Deal locally and you’re interested in it, I would buy it. People here will help you resolve any problem under the sun you might encounter.

    #22 7 months ago

    Go for it. Buy it, play it.. and slink around the EM forums and get familiar with the most desirable/collectable pins via the Pinside /Internet Database top 100/300 lists.

    Those pins are popular/collectable for a reason...fun to play. Lots and lots of EMs out there from all mfg. that are dull and boring after a couple of games played.= low on those lists

    You will find the popular top 100EM pins tend to be scarce. Usually when one pops up for sale its in sad shape from setting in a outbuilding/garage/storage unit or whse. and needs a total restore. These can be very cheap...or the seller has been on EBAY looking over and seeing the over the top ridiculous asking prices for restored examples and thinks he can get that too.

    I have to agree with other posters...these are not that hard to work on. Just tedious labor & intensive at times. I only own 2 at this time but am ever vigilant for those highly desirable pins to show up for sale and jump quick enuff to get one.

    My 2nd one was a basket case due to rust and corroded parts and faded PF. But i referb/restoed it. (i documented in the restorations thread...SKYLAB) Not a highly desirable pin, but it was a good learning experience.

    U Wanna fix my acid damaged sys11 MPU from my highspeed project?

    #23 7 months ago

    What's the best way to break them down when moving? Does the cabinet separate from the head or do you just unbolt the head and lay it on the cabinet?

    #24 7 months ago
    Quoted from Foxxstone_80:

    What's the best way to break them down when moving? Does the cabinet separate from the head or do you just unbolt the head and lay it on the cabinet?

    4 bolts and you can lay it over strap it to the cab. Use padding and remove backglass of course. Or you can carefully pull the jones plugs and sperate the head entirely. They can be stubborn and you can crack one if not careful. They tend to be way easier after they are apart one time then all cleaned up.

    #25 7 months ago

    Just remebr to high tap EMs when you get them, eXpecially if coming from SS & later

    #26 7 months ago
    Quoted from TheLaw:

    Just remebr to high tap EMs when you get them, eXpecially if coming from SS & later

    Depends on your wall AC. current...High tapping is always an option. Also raise your angle of the PF will speed things up. Some EMs are soooo (zzzzz) slow when set up as they were intended to be in the 60s - 70s

    #27 7 months ago
    Quoted from DanMarino:

    Foxxstone_80 Welcome to the wonderful world of EMs. I enjoy working on EMs much more than my solid state machines. Like the guys have already posted, getting an EM up and running is mostly cleaning stuff or adjusting switches. Spend an hour or two watching this guy's EM repair videos. He does a fantastic job explaining how things work.
    If I were you, I wouldn't just buy any EM that you can find. I would try to purchase an EM machine that is commonly agreed as being one of the better ones. I personally love hitting drop targets down, but I also love spinners. Getting a well respected and popular game will help you be able to sell it along if you end up not liking it, or get tired of it.
    I find the Bally and Williams machines very similar and slightly easier to work on than Gottlieb, but Gottlieb has the sweetest drop targets and chimes.
    In my opinion, the most important thing is that the machine is all there and someone hasn't taken parts out of it. If the machine is all there, then you just need to make sure the playfield and back glass are nice enough for your liking.
    A 1 player Gottlieb machine will likely be easier to maintain and more reliable in the long run because you only have score reels for 1 player.
    All of my EMs have been amazingly trouble free once I got them working.

    Yes Joe Lyons Youtube Videos are Very insightful. He explains his repairs and how everything he fixes is supposed to work. VERY INFORMATIVE Plus hes a Member on Pinside Too.

    #28 7 months ago

    If you are buying a Bally, Gottlieb, or Williams, you can use Henk de Jager's book on pinball repair as a resource. You can get the book from The Pinball Resource (https://pbresource.com/books.html), which is a supplier well known to EM owners. Check other topics here on Pinside to obtain good advice on buying from PBR.
    .................David Marston

    #29 7 months ago

    Go for it!
    What is it going to cost you, maybe $500-$600.
    If you get frustrated with the repairs you can always sell it and likely break even.
    Single player is best as first EM.
    For ease of repair/fixing
    I prefer WMS, then GTB, then BLY
    Avoid CCoin as first EM pin, even if its cheap.

    #30 7 months ago

    Had a Hi Deal for many years fun single player bally very good choice for your first em. The backglasses on these tend to crack diagnolly for some reason have seen 3 with the same crack including my own. Very straightforward game worked with little issues for many years. Once you dial in an em they will play for a long time as long as you regularly play them. If you get a mulitplayer em make sure you play all players at least once a month so the score reals don't get stuck. It is easier to maintain a single player due to a more simple design and less things to go wrong. If you have worked on SS and DMD games EMs are just another flavor of pinball. You should get a switch adjustment tool and a set of alligator clip testing wires along with a decent mulitmeter to check continuity. Good luck lots a fantastic ems out there easy to learn hard to master!

    #31 7 months ago
    Quoted from pevo:

    Depends on your wall AC. current...High tapping is always an option. Also raise your angle of the PF will speed things up. Some EMs are soooo (zzzzz) slow when set up as they were intended to be in the 60s - 70s

    I enjoy the original speed.

    #32 7 months ago

    For me, the fun:price ratio is extremely high for EMs, and there’s a large variety of them.

    Another thing to keep in mind is the manuals for the machines. I think Williams (and therefore also Sonic) made the best manuals by far. So much detail is given about each relay, stepper, and score motor switch stack (all of which you get to know very well as you work on EMs) that you could probably completely wire a machine from scratch, if used in conjunction with the schematic.

    Gottlieb manuals are second best for me. Not quite as much detail, but they do generally include the machine’s start-up sequence, which can be helpful.

    Bally’s “manual” is basically a few sheets of typed-out information, which isn’t nearly as helpful.

    I’ve come to generally prefer 1970s Williams and Sonic (pretty much a Williams knock-off) multiplayers, and find them straightforward to work on, but there are more score reels and stepper units to deal with in multiplayers. (But, as has been said before, it’s not ooooh scary once you get down the basics).

    #33 7 months ago

    Play a bunch, you never knowm what you'll end up loving. Kings & Queens is probably my fav I own; no drops or inlanes which I might have thought was weird at first.

    #34 7 months ago
    Quoted from Garrett:

    For EM's you'll have to know how to solder, not hard to do.
    When I first started with EM's I did the "one issue at a time" approach to fixing a pin. Now when I purchase an EM I rip it apart and clean everything then re-assemble.
    A relay activates an armature that either opens or closes a set of contacts. By manually activating a relay you can visually verify if the contacts are operating properly. It's really that straight forward.
    The tougher issues to deal with are cold solder or loose solder joints that are causing issues, they can take a little time to figure out.
    But as stated, there are some fantastic guys in the EM section that will help you. They will try and teach you as they help you.
    I can manage with a schematic but by simply observing proper electro-mechanical operation, you can catch most problems. Emphasis on observing the mechanical.
    But lets focus on your Bally, is the video public?

    Another tougher issue is if stepper units are completely frozen. Once you fix a couple it becomes less daunting in the future

    #35 7 months ago
    Quoted from Foxxstone_80:

    Title says it all. I've never had an EM and looking to buy my first one. I've gotten pretty comfortable working on early solid states through late 90s machines. I get it that EMs are a whole different animal, but I have no doubt I can learn to fix issues as I go....much like I did when I started out not knowing anything about pinball machines before I bought my first 3 yrs ago.
    Fairly local to me someone is selling a Bally hi-deal. Looks to be in decent shape and appears to be working well from videos I've seen. I wanted to start off with a fully working EM for my first one. I'm just looking for general advice on what I need to consider before jumping into EMs. What type of things should I look out for when I go and check it out, and any other non obvious things to keep in mind?

    So...did you or didn't you?

    #36 7 months ago

    Planning on getting it Saturday. I'll update once I get it.

    #37 7 months ago
    Quoted from Foxxstone_80:

    Planning on getting it Saturday. I'll update once I get it.

    I’m sure you’ll have a great time working on it. EM’s seem really daunting; but, for the most part - they are easier to get going than a SS as long as you learn the basics. As everyone has mentioned here, most of the issues are mechanical and all of the issues are “physical” even when they are electrical.

    Make sure you have the right tools on hand and start digging in:

    - leaf adjustment tools
    - flex stone for cleaning contacts (or a Dremel with wire brush)
    - some alligator clip jumper wires
    - fuses or even better blown fuses with circuit breakers soldered in
    - print out the schematics as it’s always easier to use when you can enlarge them and highlight if needed

    I did a bunch of Spring cleaning earlier this year and brought several EMs back to life. By the time I got to the last one, I was able to get it working without even looking at the schematic as I had already done 3 other Williams in a short period of time.

    Have fun with it and good luck on the pickup.

    *I need to get over to your part of the state at some point as I haven’t been to Arnold’s Park and want to ride the Legend. Love wooden coasters and I’m only missing a handful of them in the US. Most are in the Pacific Northwest; but, Lake Okobiji is one of the rare Midwest places I haven’t been with one.

    #38 7 months ago

    I have found a few around our area that were sitting in the garage, pole barn, or basement. Mostly some pretty good deals, but those days are fewer and fewer. The owner either inherited the place or doing some cleaning up, plugged it in and wouldn't work, which then they just want to get rid of it. Usually gummed up steppers. Takes some time to get apart and clean, but then you get a cheap working EM. Score reels can be a hassle, so single player is easier. I have a few nieces and nephews who have more fun with the EMs than a SS.

    #39 7 months ago

    Consider replacing the power cord. Most of the original power cords are safety hazards by now.
    https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/replacing-line-cords-plugs-wall-sockets-vids-guide

    I'd also get it working and dialed in (rebuilding flippers & pop bumpers if necessary, adjusting EOS & playfield switches, playfield pitch, cleaned, waxed, new ball & rubber, etc.) before trying to high tap the game. Think of it as releasing the brakes before applying the gas.

    /Mark

    #40 7 months ago

    High Tapping doesn't exactly blow the ball out of the glass. It's just a standard day 1 adjustment

    #41 7 months ago
    Quoted from TheLaw:

    High Tapping doesn't exactly blow the ball out of the glass. It's just a standard day 1 adjustment

    If that's your preference that's fine. To each his own.

    I never high tap, especially on a machine that is already suffering from playfield damage around inserts. It only accelerates further damage.

    Make no mistake, there is nothing better than an EM that plays fast. And there's a way to get there without high tapping but unfrotunately is takes a lot of time to clearcoat a playfield. The other options are playfield protectors or mylar. All have their pros and cons.

    It's all about friction and required force.

    Aztec cupped inserts (resized).jpgAztec cupped inserts (resized).jpg

    Cupped Inserts (resized).JPGCupped Inserts (resized).JPG

    #42 7 months ago
    Quoted from Foxxstone_80:

    What's the best way to break them down when moving? Does the cabinet separate from the head or do you just unbolt the head and lay it on the cabinet?

    I find the easiest way to remove the head is to take pliers and cut all the wires that go from the cabinet to the head. It's super fast and easy....

    Just kidding, just kidding. Taking apart the connectors is not difficult. Just take a bunch of pics so that it's easy to reassemble and not get things reversed. I like that the head can be removed completely so that moving the machine (especially up and down stairs) is a breeze.

    #43 7 months ago
    Quoted from Garrett:

    I never high tap, especially on a machine that is already suffering from playfield damage around inserts..... The other options are.... mylar.

    Yep a PF like that I would paint & Mylar over the entire middle. Usually some can spray is enough but that one is jacked. Of course I would have already re-glued that double bones that looks sunk but it could just be the angle. Everything @ VFW is tapped, but of course many are nice examples.

    Quoted from GSones:

    I like that the head can be removed completely so that moving the machine (especially up and down stairs) is a breeze.

    Best part of ems! Take down the stairs yourself!

    1 week later
    #44 7 months ago

    soooo...did u ever buy that EM?

    #45 7 months ago

    Nah, deal fell through. But that's OK. I'm on the lookout for an EM though. I want one that I won't get tired of easily, and I like drop targets so I think thats going to be a requirement.

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