Greetings everyone! I've been away for a while due to some stupid work-related stuff but I'm back now. (Been back for a couple weeks, actually.)
Kind of a long read, get a drink before you start!
Before my Pinside hiatus, I had just installed GLM's TZ mini-playfield switch kit and was VERY happy with how everything turned out, so much so that I wanted to do a general overview about how it all went and a light version of what to do for those that might be on the fence about it. Give this a read-through, maybe even a couple of times, then dive right in. If you're even halfway decent at soldering, you can do this install. GLM's included instructions are great and should be followed closely as well. When you reach the point of having removed the mini playfield out and take off the cardboard guard underneath, really look at and study all the wiring; where it goes, where it comes from, what colors are attached to what, etc. It's really important to familiarize yourself as much as possible with what you'll be doing and what you want to end up with BEFORE you start. It's always good to have a plan.
One thing you want to be sure of before you start to unbolt things is to disconnect the wiring harness underneath and label the two identical connectors with something easily identifiable. When they're still connected, you can either write on them with a Sharpie(1 and 2, or X and O, or whatever) or put some kind of colored tape on both connectors of one set to ensure they get back together correctly. I know the wires are colored differently and you can match them up that way, but this is just another step I've heard WAY too many TZ owners recommend doing, so I even did it myself. Made it a no brainer upon reassembly.
I know some people have said that this install can be done without removing the mini playfield, but I didn't want to risk anything; from solder splashes to wires not being long enough, to not having enough room to work in, or anything unforeseen. Plus, I wanted to be able to groom and shield the wiring and make it look a lot nicer than B/W ever cared to do at the factory when they were practically throwing these things out the factory doors. Needless to say, I took out the mini playfield on mine. It's pretty easy to do, there's just the two main nuts out front on top of those brackets and the one screw to the wireform ramp in the back. In order not to damage that area where the wireform comes in, make sure to loosen the screw that holds the wireform down to the post on the left side of the left ramp. That'll loosen up that wireform so that once you get the posts out from the brackets out front, you can manipulate the playfield out slowly but surely and it'll be clear of everything pretty quickly. Force is not your friend on this one. You can really bugger up that area where the wireform meets the mini playfield if you try to force things. Take your time, take it easy.
When you have everything unbolted/disconnected, you'll want to put a towel or blanket or something out over the playfield, especially above the pop bumpers so in case you need to, you can set the mini playfield down to work on getting the wiring through that hole in the main playfield. It's easiest to pull them through that hole one plug at a time.
Once it's out and free from the game, you can unbolt all of the switches you'll be replacing and really get a good look at what you're up against. Keep all the hardware organized so you know where it goes for reassembly. You may even want to lay out your new parts to make sure you've got everything and you know where it's all supposed to go. Make sure you've got a good pen-style soldering iron and be sure to tin the pads of where the switch wiring is going to go. There's not a whole lot of room in there when you go to solder the wires onto the new switches, so be careful. If you're unsure of your manual dexterity, it may even be prudent to use one of those third hand-type tools with the clips and magnifying glass to make it easier to get right the first time. Take note of the pads and look closely to which side the wires are going to go. They're also labeled on the board as to where the white and the green wires are supposed to go. GLM's instructions are really good for this, too.
When I cut the wires from the old switches, I trimmed them back a bit so I could get nice, fresh copper so I could further put nice, new solder on them, ensuring that all the solder joints were new everywhere. I did not trim the wires to length for the new switches. I wanted to leave as much of the original wiring intact for the benefit of any future choices I might make or any future owner's decisions/tastes/likes/dislikes. As much as I love to customize and make things nice and tidy, I don't like it when things are difficult or impossible to put back to original. I try not to customize myself into a corner, as it were.
As a part of the "wiring clean up" upon assembly, I chose to sheathe everything with heat shrink tubing. I did not apply heat to it to shrink it down, I merely used it as a protective conduit and as a way to make things look a lot better. I also tidied up the wiring to the spiral light and upper mini playfield optos. Maybe it was just my machine, but that one side of the light that has the resistor attached to it was making intermittent contact with the head of the screw just below it. I rerouted some of that wiring to get it out of harm's way(potential flying balls) and to ensure that nothing can cause any kind of grounding or shorting out. This was my main goal in sheathing everything, protection, then looks….form following function.
I also chose to make my custom "rivet-bolts" for reattaching the sign plastics out front. I take some short 4-40 button head machine screws, scuff up the tops of them and solder fill the tops of them until they're nice and smooth. Then, I polish them up a bit. This makes them look like rivets to the naked eye, but also makes them easily adjustable/removable/changeable. That is a very difficult spot to get into with a rivet press(which I don't have) or even a rivet gun(for those that don't mind using regular pop rivets). So, for me, this was an easy work-around that had added benefits down the road. There are companies that make threaded rivets, for those that'd like to just purchase them.
Here are some pictures of the finished product:
I could not be happier with the results. The switches are super responsive, easy to readjust for stretching rubbers in the future, and make that whole area look SO MUCH BETTER! Honestly, I did not think I'd like it as much as I do. I just knew that area was something that needed a ton of cleaning, adjusting, and part replacing on my machine anyway, so I decided to spend the relatively small amount of money and upgrade to their mini switch kit.
Let me stop you before you post critiquing my methods/abilities/style choices/favorite burrito coverings…..I am in no way any kind of pinball machine maintenance/mod/upgrade expert. What I've written should only be used as a guide and NOT as the ONLY way to do it. This was my own personal experience, what I learned from it, and how I did it. Your experience WILL be different. Your "mileage may vary". The intent of this writeup was just to share and enlighten those who might be struggling with whether or not they can do this install, and whether or not they should. That is all.
Thanks for the read!