(Topic ID: 249859)

When refurbishing - cosmetics first or electrical first


By DCRand

58 days ago



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  • 41 posts
  • 32 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 56 days ago by EMsInKC
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    #1 58 days ago

    Been refurb'ing machines for about 3 years now, probably about 20 games. When get a project game, sometimes work on all the electrical problems and get it working, then do all the cosmetic fixes. But sometimes work on the cosmetics first, ie: playfield touch up, cleaning and polishing everything, etc, then after looking good - track down and fix any remaining electrical issues. I find sometimes cleaning up fixes electrical problems, and sometimes creates new ones. Keep in mind, I am not doing full restorations - way beyond my current skill set.

    So what do the rest of you do? Get it looking good or working good first, or both at the same time (which I haven't been able to do yet). Still consider myself a newbie, so really interested in any suggestions.

    #2 58 days ago

    Get it working well first. Then take care of cosmetics, focusing first on cosmetics that will actually make the game play better (like leveling inserts and high quality 2pac over any touchups).

    #3 58 days ago

    Most people would say do electrical first..but I am of the mind to do whatever you can afford and have the the time to do first. If you have paint, glue, cleaner, sand paper etc., but you don't have coils, bulbs, etc...then do the cosmetics first. If you are opposite, then switch it around.

    I typically do what fits into my daily schedule...or if I am really going at it for a long time...i switch it up to keep from burning out.

    There is no right answer.

    #4 58 days ago

    The machines I buy are in the 300 to 600 dollar range so they are for the most part filthy dirty so I usually do the cosmetics first while I’m waiting for my new rubbers and schematics to arrive

    #5 58 days ago

    Electrics first - or at least test everything well so you know exactly what works and what doesn't, in case it's something you can fix while taking things apart.

    When something doesn't work after your shop / restore / .. you at least know it worked before and it's something caused by you and not an issue that was in the game before (a short, something plugged in wrong or forgot to plug in, ..). Or if you didn't touch the boards and it worked before you know it's somewhere in the wiring on the playfield and not in the boards.

    #6 58 days ago

    I get it working first so I can play it and then decide if I like it enough to go further.

    This method has saved me a lot of effort by not investing too much time on turds. Get those working and then get rid of them. Cosmetic repair is saved for games I want to keep.

    #7 58 days ago

    I tend to get it working 100% first, or at least tackle known issues while doing clean up.

    #8 58 days ago

    electrics so its in a known working state!

    #9 58 days ago

    I clean it all up, shop it, rebuild the mechs, and then start troubleshooting

    #10 58 days ago

    I'll get it working first to make sure it's not missing anything and take an inventory of replacement parts I'll need. Then I take it all apart to work on cosmetics and, when it goes back together, I really focus on fine-tuning the mechanics.

    #11 58 days ago
    Quoted from TopMoose:

    I'll get it working first to make sure it's not missing anything and take an inventory of replacement parts I'll need. Then I take it all apart to work on cosmetics and, when it goes back together, I really focus on fine-tuning the mechanics.

    Getting it working first then make it pretty IMHO.

    At least get it functional so you know what you are dealing with and then take care of minor electrical/mechanical issues along the way.

    #12 58 days ago

    get it working, then clean/refurb pf then if it needs it cab refurb

    #13 58 days ago

    Depends.

    Here in MI, summer is short, so if i'm planning on sanding/restenciling a cabinet or spraying a playfield (anything outside, basically), it may get dictated by season. If I bought a game today, I'd start on the cosmetics first. If I got it in January, cleaning and electronics in the basement.

    In most cases I'll usually spend a week or so doing some basic cleaning, fix easy/obvious stuff, and playing it...

    #14 58 days ago
    Quoted from aeneas:

    Electrics first - or at least test everything well so you know exactly what works and what doesn't, in case it's something you can fix while taking things apart.
    When something doesn't work after your shop / restore / .. you at least know it worked before and it's something caused by you and not an issue that was in the game before (a short, something plugged in wrong or forgot to plug in, ..). Or if you didn't touch the boards and it worked before you know it's somewhere in the wiring on the playfield and not in the boards.

    +1 This advise is spot on. I did this with my Double Action resto, that was basically trashed cosmetically. Got it all working first, then did a teardown for the cab repaint and cosmetics. Doing the electrical work first has the potential to save you a lot of headaches if you know it worked before you took it apart.

    #15 58 days ago

    Depends on the level of restoration. If its something I can do inside with minimal mess then I don't mind tackling any task that I have the time and equipment for. If I am waiting for parts to get the game going, i'll work on cleaning the playfield. If I have an hour and my soldering station is up and ready from the night before I might repin headers, socket some IC's and do a cap kit on a sound board. In my world its all based on what amount of time do I have at that very moment. Big jobs like cabinet repair, sanding, repainting and stenciling require better planning.

    I will say that I almost always give the game a good vacuuming as it makes everything that comes after it easier and more enjoyable.

    Thanks
    Blake

    #16 58 days ago

    I clean it and do cosmetics last for the simple reason that cleaning and doing work below the playfield might result in getting things dirty again causing me to duplicate efforts

    #17 58 days ago

    It depends if it's an EM or SS.
    EM shop it before I even plug it in. I have no doubt I will get it working. If it's PF touch up, strip PF and touch it up, etc.
    SS, I'm not so good at the electronics, so I make sure everything is working first, then shop it.
    Good question David.

    #18 58 days ago

    Generally electrical first. This way you can man-handle it to get it running without worrying about the finish of it. Also, when you are ready to do the cosmetics you may think everything is hunky dory, but when you start tearing stuff apart and really looking close at everything... you may find even more things that need to be addressed (odd hacks, weak components, etc...). So don't be surprised if you are going to need to revisit electrical fixes again anyway.

    #19 58 days ago

    I'll vacuum out the game first, then work on electric/electronic/mechanical issues, then after it's working, do a tear-down and shop job.

    #20 58 days ago

    electrical first and foremost. we have all played the game when buying a game.... well it doesnt work so who knows what else is wrong with it. That will instantly kill any resell of a pretty game. yep looking pretty is instant gratification. usually easy to do. but when the rubber hits the road its all about the game working like it should.

    #21 58 days ago

    No poll? come on man. JK

    I do electric/mechanical first - get it working, then cosmetic.

    #22 58 days ago

    Seems like the tide turns towards getting things playing correctly. I take the opposite tack. When I get a game in, I'm usually planning to do a full restoration. I don't even set it up or plug it in. I start stripping the play field, working on cleaning, touch ups, leveling nserts, excetera. Eventually, when I have time, I will start to work through mechanical parts of the game. This is work well for me for the last decade.

    #23 58 days ago
    Quoted from stashyboy:

    Seems like the tide turns towards getting things playing correctly. I take the opposite tack. When I get a game in, I'm usually planning to do a full restoration. I don't even set it up or plug it in. I start stripping the play field, working on cleaning, touch ups, leveling nserts, excetera. Eventually, when I have time, I will start to work through mechanical parts of the game. This is work well for me for the last decade.

    I like to know what mechanical pieces I'm going to be hunting for before starting cosmetics. That way you can get done what you can and move to cosmetics while searching.

    Cosmetics you generally know right up front what you need but if working on an old EM might take several weeks if not longer to find an part. Some like King Tut for example have unobtainable mechanical parts in the reset bank mech and it would be unfortunate to spend weeks if not months getting the game looking pretty and then discovered this.

    #24 58 days ago

    If a game doesn't work, looking purty doesn't do much for me until it does.

    Mechanical's always a first. Usually start with the motor board, cabinet/coin door, backbox, and then Playfield.

    After all that, then I make it look purty.

    #25 58 days ago

    Also make sure it works fine before moving to the cosmetics.
    Want to make sure it's wortg it before spending hours depopulating/painting/populating.

    #26 58 days ago

    This a great thread. A lot of thought behind each direction here and good to know.

    My step process with EVERY game is to vacuum it out first. Too many washers, clipped wires, screws, bulbs, etc. get into the mechs and cause havoc. A good general cleaning is my priority to get rid of stuff that doesn't belong there. First vacuum, then reverse hose to blow out as much dust or crap inside the machine.

    But I go with cosmetic to see what I have. If a playfield is grimy/dirty/soiled I want to strip and clean it to see how much wear I have. Then the decision is to go Electrical/Mechanical or the rest of the Cosmetics.

    #27 58 days ago

    Get it playing correctly first. That means electrics. Work out any strange bugs, then move on to the fun of cleaning and polishing it. Flipper rebuilds are the "go between" though, because I only want to pull them once. So I will do most of the mech, but not finish it off until the game is ready to go on the topside.

    But like most people seem to be saying, it is just a preference. There is no right or wrong answer.

    #28 58 days ago

    I vacuum first. Then I go after electronics and electro-mechanicals before I get into cosmetic work.

    Here was my last nightmare that I addressed first before I did anything.

    20190508_213759 (resized).jpg
    #29 58 days ago

    In addition to taking weather into consideration for what I do first, I need the instant affirmation that "i'm not gonna let THIS one sit around forever"..... so I'll do a quick clean up, fix the easy electrical stuff (lights/connectors), basically make it look/play a little better in the first couple days, and go from there.

    I guess that's my way of justifying another game......"see, it's not a piece of shit after all...."

    #30 58 days ago
    Quoted from Ricochet:

    Generally electrical first. This way you can man-handle it to get it running without worrying about the finish of it. Also, when you are ready to do the cosmetics you may think everything is hunky dory, but when you start tearing stuff apart and really looking close at everything... you may find even more things that need to be addressed (odd hacks, weak components, etc...). So don't be surprised if you are going to need to revisit electrical fixes again anyway.

    Thanks and this is what prompted the question. Often have to fix new and fun electrical problems after cosmetic work.

    #31 58 days ago
    Quoted from DCRand:

    Thanks and this is what prompted the question. Often have to fix new and fun electrical problems after cosmetic work.

    That's kinda why I tend to wait on the electrical stuff....especially if it ain't working right in the first place.

    I totally see the logic in getting it running right first though, so you know where you're starting. I just rarely do it lol

    #32 58 days ago

    Thanks everyone great insights.

    #33 57 days ago

    Perhaps I should have mentioned I do examine all the mechanical parts of the game and start putting together a parts order first thing. I live 45 minutes from pinball resource. I pick up my orders in person whenever I'm over there. I mostly work on Gottlieb and have about four or five parts games I have parted out so often have the unusual spare parts I might need. Standard stuff I replace like coil sleeves, some coil stops, linkage, rebuild flippers and Pops etc. always make the list. Also usually continuous on coils. Once in a while there are hiccups where I find something but I have the luxury of being close to PBR as I mentioned.

    Quoted from gdonovan:

    I like to know what mechanical pieces I'm going to be hunting for before starting cosmetics. That way you can get done what you can and move to cosmetics while searching.
    Cosmetics you generally know right up front what you need but if working on an old EM might take several weeks if not longer to find an part. Some like King Tut for example have unobtainable mechanical parts in the reset bank mech and it would be unfortunate to spend weeks if not months getting the game looking pretty and then discovered this.

    #34 57 days ago

    It's good to get the low hanging fruit and easy wins out of the way, whether cosmetic or electric or mechanical. That way you get some motivation to keep going by seeing some improvements right away. Chasing the easy stuff might also reveal other things to change your focus. My procedure is generally:

    1) Vacuum and wipe-down. You might find all kinds of random parts, hints, and tells.
    2) Inspect all wiring, once-over... just to get a sense of condition, potential hazards, and functional level
    3) When game seems "safe" to turn on, do so. Run diagnostics, play games, take inventory of needs

    That inventory is key, and why every situation is different! You might end up with a game that looks great but needs functional work. Or a game that plays wonderfully but looks like crap. Mostly likely, a little column A and a little B - depending on how picky you are.

    So then you review your inventory, budget and goals, and decide where to begin. Can you fix Cosmetics without affecting Function, or vice versa? If so, pick whichever suits your fancy. However, if this mech or that board can't be accessed without exposing other flaws, and/or it makes sense to "add on and do this while you're in there", or "track down the root cause"... well, every situation is different. Maybe you have to disassemble a game so thoroughly to fix something cosmetic, that you use the downtime to fix other stuff. It really doesn't matter, so long as you work toward your goal.

    I've bought a few games that were complete and total basket cases and absolutely dangerous to plug in (or even touch) so I essentially was starting from near zero in either case. On those I would work in tandem: on the electrical / mechs for a while until I'd get frustrated or at a temporary dead-end waiting on parts... when that happened I'd work on the cosmetics (while pondering the troubleshooting in the back of my mind). When the cosmetic stuff ran into its own delays (waiting on supplies or weather) it was back to electronics. Eventually it all comes together, and basket cases are among my favorite projects.

    #35 57 days ago
    Quoted from goingincirclez:

    It's good to get the low hanging fruit and easy wins out of the way, whether cosmetic or electric or mechanical. That way you get some motivation to keep going by seeing some improvements right away. Chasing the easy stuff might also reveal other things to change your focus. My procedure is generally:
    1) Vacuum and wipe-down. You might find all kinds of random parts, hints, and tells.
    2) Inspect all wiring, once-over... just to get a sense of condition, potential hazards, and functional level
    3) When game seems "safe" to turn on, do so. Run diagnostics, play games, take inventory of needs
    That inventory is key, and why every situation is different! You might end up with a game that looks great but needs functional work. Or a game that plays wonderfully but looks like crap. Mostly likely, a little column A and a little B - depending on how picky you are.
    So then you review your inventory, budget and goals, and decide where to begin. Can you fix Cosmetics without affecting Function, or vice versa? If so, pick whichever suits your fancy. However, if this mech or that board can't be accessed without exposing other flaws, and/or it makes sense to "add on and do this while you're in there", or "track down the root cause"... well, every situation is different. Maybe you have to disassemble a game so thoroughly to fix something cosmetic, that you use the downtime to fix other stuff. It really doesn't matter, so long as you work toward your goal.
    I've bought a few games that were complete and total basket cases and absolutely dangerous to plug in (or even touch) so I essentially was starting from near zero in either case. On those I would work in tandem: on the electrical / mechs for a while until I'd get frustrated or at a temporary dead-end waiting on parts... when that happened I'd work on the cosmetics (while pondering the troubleshooting in the back of my mind). When the cosmetic stuff ran into its own delays (waiting on supplies or weather) it was back to electronics. Eventually it all comes together, and basket cases are among my favorite projects.

    Great point. I should have mentioned that in my post.
    Vacuum first and look through the parts that you find in the Backbox and Cabinet. Those are the clues as to what might have been replaced or what is missing from the mechs. (Where did the screw come from? Why is there a broken switch blade bent that way? Why is there plastic insulation in the cab instead of cloth wire cover?)

    #36 57 days ago

    I’ve been working on an EM (Snow Derby). I dove right into cosmetics, made stencils, stripped, and repainted the cab and head, touched up the sad-looking backglass, including airbrushing, so it looks presentable. When I started, my son-in-law said, “Shouldn’t you make sure it works first?” I’m thinking, “He’s not into working on pins, I’ll do it my way.” Then after thoroughly going through the cabinet board and head mechanicals, I decided to try to start it up before moving on to the playfield, and it won’t start up properly. There’s a short somewhere causing it to skip a step, and I've visually inspected everything so many times I had to take a break. I don’t know if I caused the problem, either during the cosmetic or mechanical work. If I can’t find the problem soon, I’ll probably end up selling it as a project after spending so much time on it. My son-in-law was right! From now on, mechanicals first.

    #37 57 days ago

    Don't give up on it! If you live anywhere within Clay Harrell's service range, perhaps call him? I bet he can get it working very quickly. He is a wizard.

    Quoted from wolverinetuner:

    I’ve been working on an EM (Snow Derby). I dove right into cosmetics, made stencils, stripped, and repainted the cab and head, touched up the sad-looking backglass, including airbrushing, so it looks presentable. When I started, my son-in-law said, “Shouldn’t you make sure it works first?” I’m thinking, “He’s not into working on pins, I’ll do it my way.” Then after thoroughly going through the cabinet board and head mechanicals, I decided to try to start it up before moving on to the playfield, and it won’t start up properly. There’s a short somewhere causing it to skip a step, and I've visually inspected everything so many times I had to take a break. I don’t know if I caused the problem, either during the cosmetic or mechanical work. If I can’t find the problem soon, I’ll probably end up selling it as a project after spending so much time on it. My son-in-law was right! From now on, mechanicals first.

    #38 57 days ago
    Quoted from DCRand:

    Been refurb'ing machines for about 3 years now, probably about 20 games. When get a project game, sometimes work on all the electrical problems and get it working, then do all the cosmetic fixes. But sometimes work on the cosmetics first, ie: playfield touch up, cleaning and polishing everything, etc, then after looking good - track down and fix any remaining electrical issues. I find sometimes cleaning up fixes electrical problems, and sometimes creates new ones. Keep in mind, I am not doing full restorations - way beyond my current skill set.
    So what do the rest of you do? Get it looking good or working good first, or both at the same time (which I haven't been able to do yet). Still consider myself a newbie, so really interested in any suggestions.

    You have posed a great question. As previous posters have suggested I like to get the machine working first before any cosmetic attention.

    But after getting it working I then resto one part of the ops at a time in this sequence. Lightbox; motor board;coin door; playfield. After each sequence operation I then re-test to confirm all ok. This isolates any problem which may emerge from the full operational resto and these do happen. Then the cosmetics begin.

    #39 57 days ago
    Quoted from stashyboy:

    Don't give up on it! If you live anywhere within Clay Harrell's service range, perhaps call him? I bet he can get it working very quickly. He is a wizard.

    Thanks, I had Clay out to work on a few machines when I had just started into pins 3 years ago, and he fixed them for me, but since then I have worked on my own machines and would consider it a personal failure to hire and pay someone to fix one. This one just has me stumped. Also, this is just at an intermediary stage, I haven’t worked on the playfield mechanicals yet, this was a pretty rough project. Hopefully fresh eyes will work for me when I get back to it, which I’m just about ready to do.

    #40 57 days ago

    With my restorations I started off with mechanical but as I got 4 done I shifted to cosmetics then fixing. I found myself feeling like I was doing double the work mechanically by working on it, breaking it down, then rebuilding and working on it again. My mindset now is, make it look how I want then fix what’s broke because I’ve yet to see a pin short of being smashed with a wrecking ball that cant be fixed. And even then you can just rebuild the cabinet, stencil it, find a PF, and so on. The only pin I think that’s documented that someone gave up on was that STTNG that poor dude pulled out of a fire.

    https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/star-trek-tng-the-mother-of-all-restorations

    #41 56 days ago

    If it works at all I tear it down and do all of it at the same time.

    If it's non working I try and get it working first. However sometimes you end up taking it apart anyway because you just can't get it going assembled.

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