Saturday May 18, 2024

Guide for First Time Pinball Buyers

Hauling a Machine
Another aspect of buying a machine is of course hauling it home.  Is your car/SUV large enough to fit a machine into?  You'll want to figure that out before arriving at the seller's house and wasting both of your time when you can't fit the machine into your vehicle.  You don't want to have to resort to mangling your machine because you took something apart that wasn't meant to come apart in order to fit it in your vehicle.  If your vehicle isn't large enough you'll have to rent a truck/van or get a friend to help out.

You should get rough dimensions of the inside of your vehicle and compare with dimensions of the machine's cabinet/head from the seller or online resources.  Machine dimensions can vary quite a bit, especially wide-body or newer machines with heads that fold-down instead of being removed form the cabinet.

This article may help in determing if your vehicle can haul a machine:

There are some common tools you should consider bringing along.

  • Hand truck - if moving machine up steps or long distances (ie. back yard to front yard, etc)
  • Wrench for leg bolts (5/8 inch and 9/16 inch)
  • Wrench for head bolts
  • Furniture pads / Blankets - to rest fold-down head on or protect head/cabinet inside vehicle
  • Flash Light - to look for battery damage
  • Friend to help move if seller is unable to help

Since you'll likely be buying a working machine as your first machine and wanting to see it work, the machine will be fully assembled when you buy it.  This means in order to take it home you'll need to disassemble some of the machine.  The seller *should* help you do this, but if the machine is in someone's home they may have bought it and had it setup for them.  So if you don't know the steps in disassembling a game, you'll want to learn the process and/or verify with the seller if they can help with disassembly and loading of the machine.  Usually people remove the balls from the machine before transporting to prevent any damage caused by the ball dropping down on the playfield when the machine is tilted vertically.  The legs come off and the head of the machine usually folds down or is completely removed.  If the head is completely removed, you'll also have to disconnect wire harnesses in the backbox of the machine prior to removing the head bolts and head.  You'll want to find out if the seller can help load the machine or if you'll need to bring additional help.  You can't plan for every situation so you may just need to check the machine out on a first visit and then come back later with help, the appropriate vehicle and tools.

Setting the Machine Up
Once the head/cabinet and legs are safely in your home, you'll be reassembling the machine.  You'll first get the legs on the cabinet.  Once the head is bolted in again, you'll need to reconnect any wire harnesses that were unconnected.  Usually these connectors are pinned so you can't plug them in wrong, but take care to match up the correct male and female harnesses.  Look for anything that might have moved or been knocked loose while transporting.  Take the playfield glass off and put the ball(s) back in the machine.  Inspect the playfield to see if there are any pieces of plastic, glass, etc that may need to be removed or wiped off.  You should then be ready to play some pinball!

Maintaining the Machine
If you bought the machine "shopped" and fully working, you shouldn't have much in the way of maintenance for a few years.  Just make sure if there are batteries in the machine, you check the date on them and replace them once a year.  If it's an original battery (often soldered onto the board) you'll probably want to cut it off and solder in a remote battery pack or use the machine without the battery.

Having Issues?  No Fear!
If you have issues with the machine there are plenty of resources to help you diagnose and repair the problem.  You may not be technically inclined to fix the issue, but with these resources you should have a better idea of how to proceed.  Depending on the issue, it may be an easy fix you can attempt yourself or you may need to hire a repairman or purchase a new circuit board.  In any case, that's all part of owning a pinball machine.. they hold up surprisingly well most of the time since they were used in a commercial setting and couldn't be breaking every 5 minutes or the arcade operators would have never made any money!  But, as mentioned.. things do break from time to time, even when you buy a fully working machine.

Below are some great resources for repairing & learning about pinball machines: (RGP) Newsgroup
This pinball newsgroup has been around for well over a decade and is one of the premier sources for the pinball hobby.  Need help troublshooting an issue?  Want to find out the latest news in the hobby?  There is a very large community here to help you on your way.

PinWiki is a wiki designed for any information about pinball machines. Repair guides, history, and much, much, more is constantly being added to PinWiki.
A good collection of pinball repair guides.  There used to be a lot more of them here, hopefully they return some day.

THIS OLD PINBALL (Pinball, Shuffle Alley, Pitch & Bat Repair DVDs)
These are *GREAT* dvds if you're new to the hobby.  They will help you repair anything from old mechanical EM machines to the newer solid state pinball games, with some additional dvds dedicated to shuffle bowling & ball bowlers, pitch & bat and manikin arcade games.

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