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monthly FAQ, two of two

( Part1 - Part2 )
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Archive-name: games/pinball/part2

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
Reading this FAQ from an archive somewhere?  There may be a more recent
version at the official web site, " "

Most recent update:  March 19, 1998.  Pinball upkeep doesn't change much!

This is the second half of the collector's FAQ for, 
covering techniques and parts suppliers for keeping home pinball machines
up and running.

The first half of the FAQ provides pointers (both on-line and paper) for
more information about the world of pinball, and explains how to buy your
very own pinball machine!

=======================      Playfields         =========================

Playfields come in three flavors:  Mylared, non-Mylared, and Williams'
"DiamondPlated" fields.  Mylar is a sheet of clear plastic laid over
the playfield to protect it.  Mylar can get grubby, and slows down play...
Some pinball purists remove the Mylar and keep their fields well waxed.

For Mylared playfields, you can use "Endust" or something similar.  If 
your game is already in good condition, it does just what you want, and 
without that annoying waxy buildup!  

Williams field service suggests cleaning DiamondPlate playfields with
Novus Plastic Polishes #'s 1 and 2.  #1 to clean and repel dust, #2 to
remove fine scratches.  Or you can simply wipe the field clean with a rag
and some glass cleaner.  KIT carnauba wax is also reputed to be good.
Call Novus at (800) 548-6872 for a distributor in your area.  Brady
Distributors (see bottom of FAQ) and some plastics supply houses carry Novus. 

By the way, Williams does not recommend "Wildcat" wax on DiamondPlate
playfields, as it can seep under any mylar pieces and dissolve their 
adhesive.  It can also cloud clear ramps, with repeated use.

Maintaining your non-Mylar playfield is more complicated.  There are special
waxes made for this, such as "Mills" and "Wildcat," which are available
at distributors or via mail-order.  (See list of suppliers below)  Wax 
protects the playfield's paint, and provides a smooth, fast, surface for
the ball to roll on.

A dirty playfield should be "dry wiped" with a soft rag before the first 
cleaner/wax application -- that much less dirt to get trapped in the wax.
Do NOT clean playfields with water!  Lemon Pledge is reputed to be an
excellent general-purpose cleaner; you can also clean up the playfield
plastics with it, and use it to freshen up a game that's alread got a
good coat of wax.

If you want get ambitious and remove your Mylar, Brian Millham
offers the following advice:

	"It turned out to be a BIG, MESSY job, but it was worth it!
	The best method that I found was HEAT.  I simply took a hair dryer
	and heated up a portion of the Mylar, starting from an easy to get
	to edge, and peeled it up.  Once you get it started, the job is fairly
	easy, but slow.  Let the heat do its work.  Don't overheat the
	playfield, but also don't pull the Mylar up too fast.  You don't want
	to pull up any paint with it!

	"Once you have removed the old Mylar, you are probably only half done
	with the job.  You now will need to remove the glue that was left
	behind.  This is the fun part :-)  I ended up using Milwax and
	lots of elbow grease.  Once you start cleaning off
	the glue, you will find that it looks like you are making a bigger
	mess than you had.  Don't worry, it will start coming clean.
	Oh, did I mention to have LOTS of cloths to do this part?

	"It played like a whole different machine!  And it looked better too.
	The Mylar leaves a dull finish.  A waxed playfield looks nice and

Also, there are solvents available to dissolve the glue...I've seen these
work with magnificent results.  Michael Knudsen reports:

	"I just heard from a serious pin restorer that that Blue Stuff
	(called CP-100 by Gemini Inc in Michigan) really dissolves that
	gunky glue that holds down Mylar sheets.  Not only cleans it up
	in short order, but will even soak under the edge of a Mylar sheet
	(like around a bumper or ramp) and loosen it right off the playfield!
	So now The Blue Stuff has its special niche in pin work.

If you want to do playfield touchup, you can use Testor's paint.  You'll 
find this in the plastic model section of your local toy store.  There
are some new Testor's paint pens on the market, too, which work well.

Lettering can be either retouched by hand, if there's enough to salvage, or
completely redone with rub-on letters.  Art supply stores have the latter.
Before retouching the playfield, be certain to clean well and remove all 
the old wax!  Brian Casper has used grain alcohol with good results.

You can build up height in worn or chipped spots by using multiple coats
of paint.  Be sure to allow plenty of time for each coat to dry, and finish
up with coats of polyurethane spray.

Deeper gouges and holes in your playfield can be patched with "Bondo," a
product typically used for repairing car bodies.  Bondo should be applied
to the bare wood; beware of getting it on playfield plastics, as its
solvents may attack them.  It is very hard after it cures, so you should do
as much shaping of the area as possible while it is still malleable.  Once
it dries, you need to use a power sander to smooth it out.

To fill in stripped screw holes and the like, you can use "Plastic Wood"
to provide a new surface for the screws to grip.  Another trick is to poke
a toothpick or two into the hole.

=======================        Flippers         =========================

If your flippers seem feeble, have a look at the contacts on the buttons
and the coils themselves.

The flipper coils are actually two coils in one.  One is the relatively
high-current one to initially fire a flipper, and the other is the lower-
current one for holding a flipper up.  The high-current coil is supposed
to cut out at the end of a stroke, leaving the lower-current coil to hold
the flipper up.  If the high-current coil isn't firing, the flipper will
move very feebly.  Conversely, if the high-power coil is constantly
energized, you're likely to fry the coil or blow a fuse.

How this is done depends on the age of the machine.  On older machines,
(Pre-Dr. Dude, 1990) it's done in hardware with a normally closed end-of-
stroke ("EOS") switch which opens at the top of the stroke and puts the
low-power coil in series with the high-power one, reducing the total
current and protecting the high-power coil.  If the contacts on this switch
are bad, the high-power coil won't get full power, and the flipper will be
feeble.  If the switch opens too soon, the flipper will be deenergized
too early.  But if it doesn't open at all, you risk burning out the coil.

Cleaning and adjusting these contacts, as well as the contacts in the
flipper buttons, will fix many flipper problems.  See the directions for
contact cleaning under "General Cleaning Tips" below.

Most modern machines use "solid state" flippers, which use software to control
the strength of the flip.  The most important difference is the fact that the
end of stroke switches are normally open, and close when the flipper reaches
the end of stroke.  When the player presses a flipper button, the flipper
controller board energizes both the high-power (50-volt) and low-power (25
volt) coils.  When the flipper closes the EOS switch, the controller board
shuts off the 50 volts, leaving the 25-volt coil to keep the flipper up.
The practical upshot of all this is that the switches, being low current, do
not need as much care.  Also, the flipper buttons may be replaced by optical
switches, again reducing the necessary maintance.

A sluggish flip may also be caused by a dirty flipper sleeve.  Remove
the sleeve and clean it and the plunger.  DO NOT USE LUBRICANTS on
the flipper sleeve; they will pick up gunk and eventually clog things
back up again.  Replace the sleeve if it looks really worn.

A melted sleeve should warn you to check the EOS switch and make sure
the high-current coil is cutting out on cue.

You may also have a worn coil stop or plunger, causing the flipper
to pull in too far.  And eventually, the end of the plunger will
"mushroom" from hitting the coil stop thousands of times, making the
end fatter and causing friction as it moves through the sleeve.
Best bet here is to replace the plunger.

If you need new contacts, sleeves, plungers, or whole coils, you can order
replacements from the sources listed below.  

Flippers in many electromechanical (EM) machines are driven by AC, so there
tends to be some buzzing associated with them.  This is normal.

=======================     Drop Targets        =========================

To clean drop targets, hold the target up by hand, or remove it entirely, 
and use a moist soapy rag or Q-tip.  Anything nastier than soap may harm 
the paint or plastic.  Again, test on an inconspicious place first.

If your drop targets aren't resetting properly, check to see if the
lip the target sits on is rounded off.  If so, file the plastic lip (on 
the target) flat again or replace the target.  Also, check that the reset 
solenoid is pulling in all the way so that the targets are coming up to 
the correct height.

If the targets don't register when they drop, try cleaning the contacts
as described below.

=======================  General Cleaning Tips  =========================

If this is a machine you've just bought, by all means clean out all the
insides, carefully.  Don't throw out any stray screws, small springs, or
other objects...They might be useful!  Watch out for the various service
instruction sheets stapled around the insides.  If you find any mouse
droppings, check carefully for wires and cables gnawed thru so neatly
that you can't see the gaps!

Intermittently flickering bulbs may be helped by bending the socket
slightly out of round with needlenose pliers (with the bulb out!) to make
the grounded shell fit tighter.  A bit of burnishing to remove corrosion
can also help.

You can use a business card to clean switch contacts.  Slip it between
the contacts, press them together, and saw gently back and forth.  If
necessary, use Freon, rubbing alcohol or some such solvent on the card to 
soften the crud, and use a dry card again afterwards.  High-current contacts,
such as the ones on flipper buttons, may require harsher measures.  Look 
for a "contact burnisher" at your electronics shop or hardware store.
Never use these on the gold-plated low-current contacts, though, as
they'll destroy the plating and lead to corrosion.

If some switches aren't firing, or are firing sporadically, check the 
spacing between the contacts ("Dwell and Gap").  Bally recommends
1/16th of an inch.  You can adjust the spacing by bending the stiff blade
that's between the two conductive ones.

=======================     General Books     ===========================

The following books are recommended for pinball fanatics:

"Pinball--The Lure of the Silver Ball," Gary Flower and Bill Kurtz, 
Chartwell Books.  General overview of pinball history, from EM's to solid
states.  Color hardcover, great pictures.  ISBN 1-55521-322-7.

"Pinball 1," Richard Bueschel.  History of early games, guide to rating
condition of games, descriptions and photos of many pre-1960 machines.
Emphasis on EM or pre-electric machines.  B/W softcover.  ISBN 0-86667-047-5.

"Pinball Art," Keith Temple, H.C. Blossom Publishers.  History of pinball,
focussing on backglass art.  Absolutely gorgeous pictures.  Includes a list
of pinball artists and their machines, and a "notoriously inaccurate"
(according to David Marston) list of pinball milestones.  ISBN 1-872532-10-1.

"Pinball," Paul Zsolnay Verlag, 1992, originally published in German by V.I.P.
Reprinted in the US by Chartwell Books and in the UK by Tiger Books.
General (though not completely accurate) overview of pinball
history, from 1930's to present.  Hardcover, 80 pages, mostly pictures
without explanation.  Includes German games from the 30's and woodrails
from the 40's to 50's.  ISBN 0-7858-0071-9.

Most of the books listed above are out-of-print and can't be found at your
local bookstore.  However, the following people sell them by mail:

AMR Publishing, though they specialize in jukeboxes, sell schematics
and service manuals for an odd collection of older pinball machines,
as well as many of the "coffee table" pinball books listed above.
Box 3007, Arlington, WA, 98223.  (206) 659-6434.

Harold Balde ( has a stock of "Pinball," (US $20)
"Pinball Art," (US $50) and "Lure of the Silver Ball" (US 12.95 for second
edition and $50 for first edition) for sale, as well as other books and
videos on jukeboxes and slot machines.

Mayfair Amusements (see listing below, under parts sources) sells
some manuals and books.

Also, Rick Botts of Jukebox Collector Magazine, is rumored to carry
some books.  (515) 265-8324.

Larry Bieza puts out an annual "Pinball Price Guide," listing price ranges
and guidelines for estimating value for Gottlieb, Williams and Bally machines
from Humpty Dumpty up to the early 1980's.  $18.00 from 1446 Albany Ave,
St Paul MN, 55108.  Email:

Bridging the worlds of print and electonic media comes "Coin-Op on CD,"
a multi-media CD-ROM stuffed full of articles, pictures, and three dozen
AVI movies of vintage arcade machines in action.  $39.95 (+ $5 Shipping)
" ",
Vintage Slots of Colorado, Inc.  Box 1121,  Broomfield CO 80020

====================      Manuals and references     ====================

For guides to maintaining machines, you can try the following:

"The Pinball Lizard" sells a series of reprinted technical magazine
articles which are the best reference I've seen for fixing solid-state
home pinball machines!  It's the "Joy of Cooking" for pinball owners.
Can be ordered from

Pinball Troubleshooting Guide, Russ Jensen.  For upkeep of electro-
mechanicals.   Can be ordered directly from author;  $20 to
1652 Euclid Av, Camarillo, CA, 93010.

"Pinball Machines: How they work & troubleshooting," Norbert Snicer
ISBN 0-646-11126-4.  Available from the author for $40 Australian.
Norbert Snicer, PO Box 622, Randwick NSW 2031, AUSTRALIA.

==============  Sources for parts, machines, etc.      ==================

The following sources have been used and recommended by a variety of people
on the net.  (I've used several of them myself)  For many more sources,
read the ads in the periodicals recommended in part one of the FAQ.
Most of these sources sell parts and do board repair by mail; my
division by location below is mostly for convenience.

US, Nationwide:
Betson is a major Williams/Bally distributor, and sells parts for most
current arcade games and vending machines. Reputed to be a little expensive.
Also sells machines to home owners.  Branches all over:  Pittsburgh, PA;
Los Angeles, CA [(800) 824-6596]; Milford, CT [(203) 878-6966];
New Hyde Park, NY; Philadelphia, PA; San Francisco, CA; Phoenix, AZ;
Main office, Carlstadt, NJ: (800) 524-2343.
URL: " "

After going out of business for a few months in 1996, and being bought
(inventory and all) by a new owner, WICO is back in business again.
WICO is a reliable source of parts for all sorts of coin-op machines,
but a little expensive.  (800) 367-9426.

US, West of the Mississippi:
Two-Bit Score Amusements provides circuit board repairs for Bally, Stern,
Williams, Sega, and Data East pins after 1977.  Can supply and install
game and sound ROMs; sells reprinted shop manuals with schematics as well
as specialized testing chips and text fixtures.  
Austin, Texas. (512) 447-8888 (voice), (512) 447-8895 (FAX) 
URL: " HTTP:// "

Eldorado Products sells copies of manuals and old video game parts.
Long Beach, California. (714) 535-3300 (voice)

Joel Cook and Vickie Huisenga (aka The Pinball Lizard) do board repairs for
all brands of solid state pinballs, and provide tech assistance for EMs.
They also sell parts and basic pinball supplies, and a wonderful series
of reprinted magazine articles on pinball repair.
Tucson, AZ.  (520) 323-7496 (voice) [9:00AM - 9:00PM MST], 

Colorado Game Exchange sells whole machines (both pinball and video,
we'll forgive them for the latter), though their quality can vary.
(800) 999-3555.
The "Pinball Paradise" specializes in 60's and 70's electromechanical
machines.  They can provide parts, schematics, manuals, and advice.
701-C Escobar St. Martinez, CA 94553
(510) 229-9688 (voice), (510) 229-9106 (fax)
URL: " " 

US, East of the Mississippi:
A.M.A. Distributors, Inc., is a distributor and parts supplier for Sega,
Capcom, and Premier/Gottlieb.  Has a solid inventory of Premier parts.
1525 Airline Hwy.
Metairie, LA 70001  (Just barely east of the Mississippi!)
(504) 835-3232 (voice),  (504) 835-9594 (fax)
URL: " "

Donal Murphy runs EWI, an inexpensive source for coils and some plastic parts
He manufactures new bumper caps and drop targets using the original molds.
Chicago, Illinois. (312) 235-3360.

Steve Young at The Pinball Resource has a good supply of miscellaneous EM
parts (wiper/stepping units, motors, flippers, pop bumper skirts, springs,
score reels, etc.)  He also stocks parts for recent machines, and can order
obscure items directly from Williams.  
8 Commerce St.,  Poughkeepsie, NY 12603.
(914) 473-7114 (voice), (914) 473-7116 (fax)

Nick Cochis at Pintronics specializes in Bally and Stern solid state
machines.  He repairs and sells circuit boards (CPUs, driver boards,
displays, sound boards, etc.)  He also sells copies of manuals for
Bally and Stern machines. 
Canton, MA.  (617) 961-3012 (voice), (617) 828-5255 (fax)

Steve Engel at Mayfair Amusement Company carries staples like coils, rubbers
and light bulbs.  They also do board repairs, have parts and documentation
for older machines, and carry a mammoth (6K+) selection of backglasses.
Ridgewood, NY.  (718) 417-5050 (voice)

Brady Distributing Company sells machines and supplies to home owners.
Charlotte, N.C. (704) 357-6284 (voice) and (704) 357-1243 (fax)

Fun 'n' Games sells used pins, parts, and does repairs.
Atlanta, Georgia.  (404) 434-9111 (voice)

James Industries sells new and used pins, jukeboxes, and various pub and
redemption games.  Contact person is Donna Christensen.
Chicago, Illinois.  (708) 358-8000 (voice), (800) FON-JAMES (voice), 
(708) 358-8005 (fax)
URL: " "

Marco Specialties sells pinball collector and tech books, as well as the usual
generic and specific machine parts--bulbs, rubber rings, circuit boards, etc.
Lexington, South Carolina.  (803) 957-5500 (voice),  (803) 957-6974 (fax)
URL:  " "

John's Jukes, Ltd, services Gottlieb boards, as well as Bally, Stern,
Williams, and many other types.  They can burn PROMS to order, and can
supply parts, advice, and copies of manuals.  Does work on video games and
jukeboxes as well as pins.  Vancouver, BC, Canada.  (604) 872-5757 (voice)
(604) 872-2010 (fax),
URL:  " "

United Kingdom:
The Pinball Owner's Association has a new address:
POA, PO BOX 122, Cambridge, CB1 4AH, England. You can contact David Blake,
the Treasurer, by email:  D.Blake@BAS.AC.UK  They have revived
their magazine, and provide spare parts.

An authorised Williams distributor is Deith Leisure, who will deal with
orders of 10 and above. 

Unit 2, Industrial Estate, Leigh Close
New Malden, Surrey, KT3 3NL, England
0181 336 1222 (voice)
0181 336 1487 (fax)

SUZO, 182C Park Avenue, London, NW10 7XH, England.  Telephone 081 961 2661.
They sell through a catalogue with minimum orders of 25.  Credit cards

'Pinball Paradise' is especially good for getting parts for old games, etc.
Unit 1, Greysmere Mews
Beacon Hill Road
Surrey GU26 6NR
01428 606116 (voice)
01428 606106 (fax)

UDC is a source of parts for all manner of pinballs, and also sells
new machines.
United Distribution Group
UDC House
181/182 Park Avenue
London NW10 7XH
0181 965 7071 (voice)

The Pinball Heaven specializes in 1990 and later Bally and Williams
machines.  They sell whole machines as well as parts and accessories.
302b Liverpool Rd, Birkdale, Southport, PR8 4PW, UK
+44 (0)1704 551717 (voice)
+44 (0)1704 551713 (fax>

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