Fixing messed-up pinball flippers, slingshots and ball kickers

As I continue working on another new machine, Bally’s “Black Rose”, the first order of business is to go over the flippers and other areas where parts are not working. This series focuses on basic problems that occur with pinball flippers and also addresses an issue involving a broken ball kicker (the same assembly that is used on slingshots). Here I address everything from replacing a coil, coil stop, coil sleeve, to determining which parts to replace and which ones to save, as well as wiring problems, end-of-stroke switch problems, flipper bushings and more.

When I first got this game the system diagostics reported an unusual error: “Upper flipper EOS switch stuck closed.” That was a sign that someone had monkey’d with the machine and not done things right. As you will see in the videos, there ended up being a plethora of problems with the flippers in this game, each representing some of the most common problems with modern pinball machines. I go over how to fix them.

In a nutshell, the following issues were found and corrected:

  • flippers needed cleaning and coil sleeves replaced
  • bad wiring job on one flipper
  • broken/improperly-installed EOS (end-of-stroke) switch
  • bad coil stops that needed replacing
  • fixing and re-shaping coil pistons
  • replacing a damaged/melted coil and sleeve
  • fixing a broken armature on a ball kicker (same assembly for slingshots)
  • replacing a broken flipper bushing
  • replacing a flipper return spring that was the wrong type

You may be wondering, why was the machine reporting only one thing wrong when there were so many other issues?  Not everything that is wrong with a pinball machine can be diagnosed by the software.  Obviously things like sticky flippers or dirty coil sleeves can impact performance but still make the game think everything is working.  The same thing goes for the kick-out coil.  The game wasn’t quite smart enough to know it wasn’t working.  One way the game determines if certain features are working is to keep track of how often they are triggered and if a certain number of games is played, without a certain feature activating, the game can sometimes report things broken.  Other times, things may be broken but they are still being triggered (like the kick-out solenoid).  So it’s always best to go over everything carefully to make sure there are not more problems than what is indicated.

Rebuilding/Repairing a Bally Squawk & Talk Sound Board

In this latest episode I deal with a sound problem on our Mr & Mrs Pac Man pinball machine.  The sound and speech is intermittent and low in volume.

When dealing with any game that is 30 or more years old, you can bet that the capacitors are suspect.  These electronic components are known to go bad over time, since they have liquid inside that can dry up, or leak out.  It’s relatively easy to acquire and replace the components provided you have the right tools, and then you insure your game board will ideally last another 30 years.

In the video one thing to note is you aren’t always limited to having to find the exact same value/model capacitor.  You can replace a capacitor with a lower voltage rating with one of a higher voltage rating.  (i.e. replace a 25v cap with a 50v)  But you want to make sure the capacitance value (in farads or microfarads) remains the same.  You can also replace an axial cap (one with the leads coming out of each end) with a radial cap (with both leads coming out from just one end) as long as you get the polarity properly oriented.  Make sure you note that markings usually point to the negative lead, while an indentation on one side of a capacitor will mark the positive lead.

After replacing the caps, we still have some flakyness with the speech portion of the board.  I’ve got some replacement pots on order – when they come in I will check on the board traces and solder joints and probably replace that pot… stay tuned and thanks for following the saga!

Fixing Bally/Williams Pinball Reset Issues

Probably one of the most common problems people experience with the modern Bally/Williams DMD machines are random resets of the game in progress.  Sometimes it appears these resets happen at certain times (like when you hit a flipper or during multiball) and you think it may be directly related to that.  Most of the time, that’s not the case, although heavy activity like firing certain solenoids might cause a drain which exposes a weakness in the game’s power system.  We’re going to go over the standard procedure to deal with this issue.

After the board is removed, I go over the process to desolder and remove components.

Now time to solder the new components on the board. You have to be very careful to not mess up the traces. There are also some recommended jumpers you can run around the bridge rectifiers to double-up on the traces. I don’t go into that in the video but you can look at Clay’s guide for more details on that.

Another thing you might want to do if you do not replace all the caps, is to mark on the top of the cap the month/year you replaced them.  This way in case there’s any confusion, you’ll know which components are newer and which ones may still be original.

And now the moment of truth!