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Common Problems

...or...

What to look for when buying a pinball machine...


Score Display: Expensive to fix - on numeric or alphanumeric displays check all elements for all digits work, do not flicker, and are even brightness. On DMD games, use the operator menus to test that all lines and columns on the display are working and that the display works well during a game.

Cabinet Damage: Pinballs are heavy and big and often moved around and can have taken serious abuse or have had extreme preventative maintenance done on them to prevent abuse:

  • Backbox: Check the backbox for dinks cause when moving the game. Or work done to paint back in and cover up this damage;
  • Flipper Area: Wear around flippers where the hands of hundreds of players have rested;
  • Coinbox Door: Check for damage from irate player who's just lost his money;
  • Hasp: Some operators fit a hasp across the coinbox - this entails drilling a couple of holes in the front of the cabinet which may be difficult to hide;
  • General Artwork: The cabinet should look good so examine the artwork closely for any damage - useful to look at the cabinet sides from many different angles in good light;
  • Decals: Some games (such as Flintstones or ST:TNG) have decals on the backbox and are prone to damage or malicious peeling off, other newer games (such as Monster Bash) have full cabinet decals which can become badly damaged especially around the legs;
  • Cabinet Fading: Any game will suffer if left in the sun for any length of time, but some games suffer particularly badly, for example Indiana Jones cabinets are commonly badly faded completely losing the orange and yellow colouring.

    Backglass/Translite Damage: Exmine this carefully from both sides - it's often easier to spot damage from the reverse side.

    Legs: Check all legs match, are not too rusty, have all bolys, and are the right colour (perhaps check the flyer).

    Playfield Damage: Examine areas of high ball traffic for damage:

  • Kickouts: Check for wear around any sink holes;
  • Kickouts: Examine areas of playfield where ball lands after being kicked out;
  • Flippers: Damage to flippers can cause them to drag on the playfield;
  • Swirl Marks: Tiny sei-circular marks in the playfield common on non-mylared playfields especially around high ball traffic areas such as pop-bumpers;
  • Light Inserts: These can lift or sink and should lie flush with the playfield;
  • Kickouts: Check for wear around any sink holes;
  • Broken Plastics: A heavy steel ball rattling around in a cabinet full of ornately shaped pieces of plastic is likely to cause some damage. Without preventative maintenance, some plastics may become cracked or chipped - most common to be chipped are the slingshot plastics (the triangular ones just above each flipper).

    Ramps: Replacement ramps are impossible or very expensive, check for cracks particularly at ramp entrances.

    Test Report: Most modern games have a test report - switch the game off then on again and look for errors;

    General Illumination: Burnt G.I. connectors are quite common - check all lamps work and examine the boards in the backbox for any signs of melting or

    Bridge Rectifiers: Frequent random resetting is one symptom - play the game with the coin door closed as this enables the high-power circuits and may show more problems.

    Dirt: Thick coat of black pinball dust covering everything. Surprisingly this can sometimes be your friend if you're prepared to spend a few hours cleaning the game when you've bought it. Examine th playfield closely - it's possible this layer of dirt has given the playfield a protective coating from dmaged balls;

    Rubbers: Off-coloured rubbers indicate a poorly maintained game but can be cheaply replaced.

    Scratched Glass: Not impossible to replace but examine the glass covering the playfield for scratches or chips.

    Damaged Balls: If the game contains damaged or rusty balls, then chances are they've already damaged the game.

    Manual: Manuals are shipped with new games but may become seperated from the game - but do ask.

    Spares: Some games are shipped with a small pack of spares (such as extra slingshot plastics or rubbers) - check inside and ask just in case.

    This is just a start - if you have other good buying tips or common problems let me know here or at fez@extraball.co.uk

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    last updated 16 Jun 2010