Behind the scenes: How much work goes into making the arcade games you enjoy playable?

It’s not easy maintaining a collection of games – there are always things to repair…. I thought I might take a quick walk through our arcade space and discuss what I usually do after a party and what happens to the machines and what needs to be done to the games to get them working for the next event. Some machines hold up; some break down. Take a walk with me and see what work needs to be done?

Rebuilding flipper plunger links. Is it worth it?

In this video I show how you can replace a broken linkage in a flipper or slingshot or other plunger assembly. These are notorious for breaking. You can purchase the entire assembly with a link, or you can punch out the roll pin and install your own link. Is it worth it to DIY this? I’ll let you decide.

Repair, don’t replace that broken pinball coil!

Pinball coils (aka solenoids) are windings of insulated copper wire that create electromagnets that make things move on the playfield. If you have a coil that is no longer working, and doesn’t have any obvious signs it has “melted down”, there’s a very good chance you can repair it instead of replacing it. In this video I go over how this is typically done. This works on all types of pinball machines from the EMs to Stern, Bally, Williams, etc.

First Look: 1968 Gottlieb Domino Pinball

Here’s a quick video of a new machine that entered the club today. It’s pretty rare to find this machine especially one in such good condition, so it’s a treat to bring this to you.. check out this early Gottlieb Wedgehead, Domino.

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!

Earthshaker: Working on bad circuit boards

Let’s take a look inside the backbox of the game and see what we see…

Now that we’ve identified some issues with the aux power board, we have to deal with it, first by removing components…  Oh by the way… I’ve rightfully caught a lot of flack from the folks on rec.games.pinball about my “bridge rectifier removal technique”… Let me elaborate on that… Korn and others are 100% right in that it’s always bad to try and “force” any components from the board, and if solder is not properly melting, it’s best to re-flow new solder onto the old joint to help remove stuck pins.

I would like to say in my defense, this board was really messed up beforehand.  The traces and thru-holes were already damaged on the board, and I had carefully loosened most of the pins of the BR before turning on the camera, so it looks like I’m using more of a “gorilla” technique than in reality.  So that’s not a good example of the best way to remove components, but I knew already I was going to have to rebuild all those traces and I was a tad impatient.  My bad.

Now we begin work on the actual circuit board and show how to identify broken traces and find where they go so we can run jumpers. Looking at the schematics helps us double check everything.

Now putting the finishing touches on the jumpers and adding the bridge rectifiers…

Now comes the moment of truth, putting the repaired aux power board in the machine and turning on the power for the first time:

So far so good for my first major Sys11 repair.  While I have a few Sys11 games, I haven’t had to do a whole lot of repair work on them so this was a learning experience for me too.

Fixing a dead dot matrix display board

The other day the DMD just went “poof” on one of my machines.  After doing a little research, and checking connections and things, I realized the DMD board died.  In this installment, I walk through the process of rebuilding the power supply-portion of a Bally/Williams WPC DMD board.  In part 1 I describe what I’m doing and introduce you to the tools I’m using.

 

Next up, let’s talk about using a meter to check circuit board traces as we go along..

Desoldering and replacing components.

Now the moment of truth!  One thing I want to add is pay very close attention to each item you are replacing on these boards.  Two diodes, capacitors or transistors may look alike, but have slightly different values or part #s.  The three power transistors and the diodes are not all the same.  You may have to bust out a magnifying glass to note the different in the markings on each part.  This should also be cross-referenced with the schematics and/or parts list from the game manual.