(Topic ID: 294126)

What is the Good, Bad & Ugly of owning a EM Pin?

By F-14Pin

6 months ago


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  • 40 posts
  • 25 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 6 months ago by pinballcorpse
  • Topic is favorited by 2 Pinsiders

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#1 6 months ago

I'm on the hunt for two Pins and given how spendy the Alpha-Numeric and DMD Pins are I'm thinking maybe one of those needs to be a EM Pin to keep the cost down. It would need to be a Space (NASA) related Pin as I'm in Huntsville AL and my room theme is Movie/Space related.

Anyway, I can tinker with these machines but know nothing about the EM stuff other than what I have read. Are they worth buying if they come as "needs some work" or doesn't power on.

Dennis

#2 6 months ago

The best part is that an EM that doesn't work may require cleaning and adjusting some switches but may not require any additional parts!

It is fun getting them working again! If you enjoy troubleshooting and tinkering around.

I find that an EM that gets closer to starting is easier to get running than one that barely gets moving. The reset sequence is usually one of the more complicated aspects to diagnose.

Be prepared to take things apart and spend a lot of time. If that sounds fun to you then EMs are the best! Once you learn a bit about how they work everything gets easier but you have to really get involved to start to see it.

#3 6 months ago

The three you mentioned are all later williams, which are some of the easiest EMs to work on. There's nothing too complicated to getting them working, just need to go through, take mechs apart, clean them, get them moving good, check switches, etc.

#4 6 months ago

My first game was a four player space mission. It was fully functional and is very fun. The other three are project single players. They were sold as working except for X and Y. Getting them to work is easy although time consuming. If you buy a project I recommend a single player game since it will be easier to fix. Since you want a space theme I attached a picture of my Space Mission. Again only buy something like this if it is fully functional.

2ABAA8A7-C4D4-41C1-9597-1DB9A3477DD9 (resized).jpeg
#5 6 months ago

Maybe add Apollo or Blast Off to your list? Both EMs and I have found them fun to play.

Apollo 13 for a DMD.

#6 6 months ago

Good- great art
Bad- weak flippers, slower play
Ugly- No pinball is ugly!

#7 6 months ago
Quoted from Hayfarmer:

Bad- weak flippers, slower play

Williams of this era have strong flippers and play faster than early williams SS often do

#8 6 months ago

You can usually get project EMs for pretty cheap, but be prepared to spend quite a bit of time cleaning/adjusting every switch and a lot of different mechanisms to get them working properly. Different beasts than SS games

#9 6 months ago
Quoted from zacaj:

Williams of this era have strong flippers and play faster than early williams SS often do

True, I was speaking overall

#10 6 months ago

EMs are awesome! They are certainly a different kind of beast than SS games. Don't be afraid of projects. I actually learned the most on a completely seized Royal Guard and Spanish Eyes. My mindset was, it'll take time, but I'll get it going again.

Everything is right in front of you. Learn how to read a schematic (or at least stumble through it like I do )

They can be very rewarding to work on and very fun to play! They're only "slow and floaty" if they are set up that way. I tend to jack mine up in the back, fronts all the way down. Freshly waxed, with clean and rebuilt mechs and they can play plenty fast.

#11 6 months ago

About half of my collection consists of EMs. Keep in mind these have been made
from 1931 thru 1977 or so. There are several catagories of EMs so best to
specify which type you are considering.

Most folks that have only SS pins consider only the later EMs. My list of
good ones from that era are; Wms Aztec, Bally Fireball, Bally Capt Fantastic. The list
of machines to choose from is very long and there are many stand outs!

The good points of EMs; the artwork is usually much better than later games.
They can be fixed easily with common tools. In many cases parts are more
available. Unless they have been badly abused more mechanical problems
can be fixed. Game play can be suprisingly good with many features.

The bad; to fix them you need to understand how they work and not everyone
is willing to spend the time to do this. Since they are older you'll come across
more that are in bad shape. Game play on some can be slow and repetitive.

The ugly; bad backglasses are the bane of older pins. Usually due to flaking.
And all too often cabinet artwork has been trashed requiring a re-paint.

Personally (and I admit to being biased) I feel a pinball collection is not complete
without a nice variety of EMs. Hope you jump in.
Steve

#12 6 months ago
Quoted from F-14Pin:

Are they worth buying if they come as "needs some work" or doesn't power on.

The answer depends on condition and whether or not most parts are present. Others likely have much more experience than I do, but so far I have turned down several that appear to be missing too much, have been seriously hacked, and/or are in too rough shape and have been successful getting all others running as they should. I have only bought one EM that the owner said was working well (it wasn’t and even had a bypassed fuse that could have been dangerous).

If an EM has been sitting, it’ll likely have dirty contacts and gummed up steppers. Machines that have been sitting in a basement or in storage will usually not work immediately when first plugged in. They may have also been put in storage or haven’t been played because something went wrong with them and the owner didn’t have the know how to repair them. And then even if the machine is “working”, there’s no guarantee it’s working as it should or doesn’t have potentially dangerous hacks in it unless it has been gone through by someone with some expertise.

Before I go check out a machine in person, I always ask the owner whether or not they think anything is missing and don’t bother to ask if it’s working as I expect it isn’t and actually hope this is the case as I look forward to doing what it takes to make it so. If you go this route, learn to read schematics and get good at diagnosing problems. Older machines usually just need a new cord and new rubber ring kit and a good going through. If you’re willing to tinker and learn, getting an EM in your lineup should be worthwhile.

#13 6 months ago

Thanks for the great insight on EM's. Apollo 13 is on my list for a DMD machine.

I did find a non working Capt. Fantastic EM (1976) that is somewhat local (same state) for $500. Per "original" owner powers up, lights work, bumpers don't work and playfield glass is missing. Otherwise a somewhat clean looking machine from the pictures anyway.

#14 6 months ago

The thing about EM pinball machines is that all the parts are serviceable by the average person, assuming you can find/buy parts and have tools and knowledge to affect those repairs. The other thing is that you can count on having to do some repairs to the machine from time to time, more frequently than on a newer machine. Newer machines will normally operate for some time before needing repair, but it will eventually be necessary, even on a newer machine, not to mention normal cleaning and such. Another thing to consider is that normally, an EM machine can be acquired at a much lower cost than newer machines, simply because most collectors would rather have a newer machine with special features/displays and toys on the machine. A lot of people would rather not work on their machine frequently, in order to keep it operating normally. So just get ready to work on the machine if you decide to purchase it, because it will be necessary.

#15 6 months ago

You get one and mostly it needs to be 'gone thru' and tuned up. And 'gone thru' doesn't mean you have to clean every switch. Not like an old SS game (or even a newer one) where you might have to replace some or all of the pins in the connectors, replace the display(s), replace a boards(s), battery damage, replacing all the old capacitors etc. If you fix one up and do it correctly, in my experience in home use the darn things almost never break down or even have a failure and only need occasional cleaning and lubing of a few units.

#16 6 months ago

The three Williams machines you mention have excellent detailed manuals to make troubleshooting easy.

#17 6 months ago

Not really a lot of “bad” other than trying to chase down a cold solder connection or switch connection. Fixing the problem takes seconds. Find the problem can take hours.

More good news is most parts are still available with Steve Young.

I like short challenging games. I play my EMs and early SS more than others. I like the Jersey Jack POTC but we’re talking an hour plus commitment and a good game to appreciate and unlock what it has to offer.

Spend some time with the recent threads regarding pooling chipping of clearcoat on some of the machines being made today. Maybe stop and look at some threads on trying to resolve node board failures etc.

Now pour one out for them and go play your EMs that don’t have any of those problems.

#18 6 months ago
Quoted from Knxwledge:

You can usually get project EMs for pretty cheap, but be prepared to spend quite a bit of time cleaning/adjusting every switch and a lot of different mechanisms to get them working properly.

Do not clean and adjust every switch.

I literally have never done this and I own a bunch of them!

#19 6 months ago
Quoted from Gotemwill:

Do not clean and adjust every switch.
I literally have never done this and I own a bunch of them!

Agree, no real harm if the cleaning is just a piece of paper to wipe out dust from years of sitting, but the switch points have seated themselves together (like a valve getting 'broken in' in an engine) and cleaning an EM switch in the typical sense of filing or burnishing with a tool will remove that. And the black silver oxide that forms on them is not a bad thing, it's a great conductor. That's assuming the points are not actually burnt, but those are the small minority in the machine. A switch that lights lamps won't normally get burnt. A switch in a relay that closes but then another switch on the score motor actually completes the circuit won't normally get burnt.

#20 6 months ago
Quoted from Gotemwill:

Do not clean and adjust every switch.
I literally have never done this and I own a bunch of them!

You should, at a minimum, inspect every switch if you want a reliable machine. If it has good wiping motion, then don't adjust it. If it's barely making contact or not making contact, adjust it to work properly. I always give every contact at least a single quick brush with a file or something. I've had too many machines that weren't working because only a pin prick of material was actually making contact, and then a random bit of dust floated in. A good blow of compressed air would probably work too... High action switches like the ones in the score relays should probably be thoroughly cleaned though, imo.

#21 6 months ago

I've almost always gone over all the switches. Tighten the stacks, clean switches and as Zacaj says adjust only where needed. Most switches won't need adjustment but it's good to check. I know the Night Rider I am currently working on has a bunch of drop target switches that aren't making contact in either position. I may as well correct that before I fire it up for the first game.

I sort of understand when some guys advise against cleaning and adjusting them all. if you're a novice you can really hose things up. Realistically though I've never had this process cause more issues. It generally clears most things up. When you inspect everything you find disconnected wires, worn parts, broken switches, hacks and debris lying around that can cause a short. Sometimes a game will generally work with issues that can be corrected before it causes a bigger problem.

#22 6 months ago
Quoted from AlexF:

if you're a novice you can really hose things up. Realistically though I've never had this process cause more issues.

Imo, if you don't understand how a relay works enough to inspect+adjust it properly, and you own an EM, you need to learn that. People not knowing the bare basics, poking around randomly until stuff 'works', etc is why EMs get a bad rap for being unreliable when they can be anything but

#23 6 months ago
Quoted from F-14Pin:

Thanks for the great insight on EM's. Apollo 13 is on my list for a DMD machine.
I did find a non working Capt. Fantastic EM (1976) that is somewhat local (same state) for $500. Per "original" owner powers up, lights work, bumpers don't work and playfield glass is missing. Otherwise a somewhat clean looking machine from the pictures anyway.

Jesus, jump on that thing! If you ever decide to go balls deep on a restore you can purchase a new playfield , backglass and stencils. I havent seen a Capt for that price in about 5 years, working or not - seriously, go get it.

#24 6 months ago

Blondie!

#25 6 months ago
Quoted from AlexF:

I've almost always gone over all the switches. Tighten the stacks, clean switches and as Zacaj says adjust only where needed. Most switches won't need adjustment but it's good to check. I know the Night Rider I am currently working on has a bunch of drop target switches that aren't making contact in either position. I may as well correct that before I fire it up for the first game.
I sort of understand when some guys advise against cleaning and adjusting them all. if you're a novice you can really hose things up. Realistically though I've never had this process cause more issues. It generally clears most things up. When you inspect everything you find disconnected wires, worn parts, broken switches, hacks and debris lying around that can cause a short. Sometimes a game will generally work with issues that can be corrected before it causes a bigger problem.

I generally clean and adjust every contact when picking up a new EM, its not for everyone though. It takes some practice and experience to "get it right" and Gottlieb's in particular can be problematic with their short contact arms.

Generally once you get it right they are trouble free assuming they get used on a regular basis.

#26 6 months ago

I find when playing with multiple people EMs are perfect. This is especially true if some of the players are not great players.
Most of the time, EMs do not have long ball times. Short ball times mean everybody gets to play. EM rules are easy to understand.
They are fairly easy to work on and very forgiving. After a proper cleaning and adjusting, they are very low maintenance and extremely reliable.

#27 6 months ago
Quoted from zacaj:

You should, at a minimum, inspect every switch if you want a reliable machine. If it has good wiping motion, then don't adjust it. If it's barely making contact or not making contact, adjust it to work properly. I always give every contact at least a single quick brush with a file or something. I've had too many machines that weren't working because only a pin prick of material was actually making contact, and then a random bit of dust floated in. A good blow of compressed air would probably work too... High action switches like the ones in the score relays should probably be thoroughly cleaned though, imo.

Okay, but the OP is asking about his first EM. There are dozens of posts from first time EM owners who did just what you describe and come here for help when a sort of working machine now does nothing.

Context matters!

#28 6 months ago
Quoted from F-14Pin:

I'm on the hunt for two Pins and given how spendy the Alpha-Numeric and DMD Pins are I'm thinking maybe one of those needs to be a EM Pin to keep the cost down. It would need to be a Space (NASA) related Pin as I'm in Huntsville AL and my room theme is Movie/Space related.
Anyway, I can tinker with these machines but know nothing about the EM stuff other than what I have read. Are they worth buying if they come as "needs some work" or doesn't power on.
Dennis

You’re making a great choice by getting an EM. Every once in a while I go over to the other forums on this site and I can’t believe the prices people pay for modern machines. I definitely could not afford to be in that hobby!

Like many have already said, the 70s Williams games are great starter machines and intuitive. They also seem to hold their value if you can get them reasonable enough (<$1k). I say go for it!

#29 6 months ago

In for a penny in for a pound. I committed to buying the Capt Fantastic Pin today and will pick it up next weekend. It's an early (non-censored) Pin that is complete except for the playfield glass and lock-down bar. I think it will clean up and be a presentable Pin, it does power up so it's not totally dead.

I could be buying a pig in a poke but I think for the entry cost this will be a good EM learning machine.

Capt Fantasic (resized).jpg
#30 6 months ago

Now you’re talking! Congrats!

#31 6 months ago

Alright! 4 score reels to deal with! My first EM was a non working Space Mission so I know the fun!

Good Luck! Post a thread if you have issues but honestly the best resource on Pinside is the EM tech section.

#32 6 months ago

Nice deal. Get it working/cleaned up it could be worth 800 to 1000.

#33 6 months ago
Quoted from F-14Pin:

In for a penny in for a pound. I committed to buying the Capt Fantastic Pin today and will pick it up next weekend. It's an early (non-censored) Pin that is complete except for the playfield glass and lock-down bar. I think it will clean up and be a presentable Pin, it does power up so it's not totally dead.
I could be buying a pig in a poke but I think for the entry cost this will be a good EM learning machine.
[quoted image]

Congrats! Great game that’ll be worth the effort you put into it.

#34 6 months ago
Quoted from Gotemwill:

Okay, but the OP is asking about his first EM. There are dozens of posts from first time EM owners who did just what you describe and come here for help when a sort of working machine now does nothing.
Context matters!

Quoted from zacaj:

Imo, if you don't understand how a relay works enough to inspect+adjust it properly, and you own an EM, you need to learn that. People not knowing the bare basics, poking around randomly until stuff 'works', etc is why EMs get a bad rap for being unreliable when they can be anything but

#35 6 months ago

Eons ago I recall recommendations for light cleaning of EM switches - 'crocus cloth' - but I've never used it or even knew what it was so I looked it up. It's like super fine sandpaper but coated with iron oxide instead of sand abrasive. I assume it works without being harsh but I'd want to wipe the contacts clean afterwards with a piece of paper or a little strip of thin cotton sheet cloth or something to remove any residue.

Or there is the burnishing tool, very very thin blade of metal with a dulled look to it, not abrasive like a file or sandpaper. One ad I saw says it's safe for gold contacts too but no way would I use that on a gold-flashed contact in a solid state game. Strip of paper or business card only for those.

Both things to consider if the switch is adjusted correctly but is still not making good contact but the points are not damaged or worn out or burned from arcing.

#36 6 months ago

Crocus cloth sounds like 3M Trizact that is 3000 grit used for polishing clear coat ( i have several of those).

I have watched a few YouTube vids today on EM Pins and have a better understanding how things work and the flow of the schematics. Putting that to practical used will be the next challenge.

I'm pretty good around a tool box so this shouldn't be a hill to high to climb. Take lots of pictures first than set back and understand the theory of operation and how each part interact with the other parts. Than jump in and work one issue at a time.

#37 6 months ago

I cut my business cards into strips. Any slightly textured light card stock would work. I use the strips with 91% rubbing alcohol. Cleans without being abrasive.

#38 6 months ago
Quoted from zacaj:

Imo, if you don't understand how a relay works enough to inspect+adjust it properly, and you own an EM, you need to learn that. People not knowing the bare basics, poking around randomly until stuff 'works', etc is why EMs get a bad rap for being unreliable when they can be anything but

So let's leave it alone cause we can't see eye to eye
There ain't no good guy, there ain't no bad guy
There's only you and me and we just disagree.

ooh ooh ooh

oh oh oh

#39 6 months ago

Good : WMS Teacher's Pet
Bad: BLY El Toro
Ugly : CCoin Beatniks

#40 6 months ago

I love EM games!

Good:

Easy to explain rules-Most have a ruleset along the lines of: "all you gotta do" and then you try 1000 times thinking you are Maxwell Smart and *missed it by that much*.

Prices are very reasonable. Pretty easy to sell without taking a financial hit or finding people willing to spend 20K on a game.

Original, very colorful art.

Fun to play with friends-games usually are very quick.

Bang for the buck is unmatched. Spending $5000-6000 in EM games could give you tons of options versus one brand new game.

No issues with pooling of the clearcoat. Playfield paint has already cured for 50+ years

Bad:

Some parts can be unobtainium. (Maybe that is an ugly)

Can be intimidating to fix if you are not familiar with how they work (Actually applies across all types of games)

Ugly:

Well, that is in the eye of the beholder. I think some styles of EM art are hideous, but I won't say which because I am sure there are some that would think the exact opposite.

--------
Whatever you decide, enjoy

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