How to Fix Pinball Machines


Classic, arcade-style pinball games can be a great collectible or an investment as an antique. Repairing an old pinball machine can also be a great project to work on your tinkering skills so that you can enjoy free pinball entertainment whenever the mood strikes you. However, there can be a variety of problems with pinball machines. Diagnosing the correct problem will help you to have your pinball machine in fine working condition.

Things You'll Need

  • Pinball machine
  • Wrench set
  • Screwdriver set
  • Soldering iron
  • Springs
  • Diagnose whether your problem is electrical or mechanical. Does the machine start working properly and then stop all of the sudden? Do both flippers work correctly? Are plastic parts warped or faded? Do the metal pinballs need replacing because they are stripping the paint from the plastic parts of the machine? Usually, cosmetic problems are easier to fix than electrical or mechanical problems.

  • Open the front coin door, which will allow access all other parts of the machine that will be needed to slide out the glass top. Release a lever (usually found on the right part of the inside of the coin door of most models), which will in turn release the lock-down bar. Slide out the glass top of the machine and access all of the inner parts as well.

  • Remove burned-out bulbs. Use rubber oven mitts or pot-holders that have dexterous fingers on them to protect your fingers if the bulb is still hot. Plug in new bulbs so that all of your lights are working properly.

  • Disconnect any warped plastic pieces and re-warp them into shape. Place them in your car between two heavy pieces of glass on a sunny day. Check back after a couple of hours and you will have plastic that has re-flattened itself through being warmed up by the sun and compressed back into shape by the heavy glass. You may also want to put small weights around the top piece of glass for extra compression.

  • Replace the flipper coil if any of your flippers chatter or have multiple movements associated with the push of a button. While replacing the flipper wire coil, also check the wire winding that unwinds when you depress the flipper button. Reconnect and solder the wire winding to the flipper coil and lug. If the wire winding looks frayed or damaged, then replacing it as well will ensure smoothly functioning flippers.

    Align the flippers by inserting an Allen wrench into the small hole located directly beneath the flippers so that the flippers are resting against the Allen wrench. Tighten the roll pin underneath the flippers until they are in alignment with each other and are supported by the wire from the roll pin and not the Allen wrench.

  • Replace the fuses. Because a continuity check or oh meter does not simulate the same electrical current and voltage conditions as when the machine is running, it can be difficult to tell whether a fuse is good or bad. If you suspect that your fuses are old, replacing them all will help determine what other problems may need to be addressed. At any rate, you will need to replace the fuses at some point in the life of the machine.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be careful when tinkering around with a plugged-in pinball machine: There is always a threat of shock or even electrocution.

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  • Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
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