The Restoration Process

Written by Gary on . Posted in Uncategorised

The following section details all of the steps that we typically perform when doing a total machine restoration.  As you will see, we do everything most other people do, plus some extra stuff that many people don't.

Not everything on the list will apply to every game.  Electro Mechanical games, for example, will have no circuit boards and generally have no under field ramps. We can do everything on the list to your game or only do as much as you want; it’s just a question of how good the machine is to begin with and how much you are prepared to spend.

  • Functional Check: There's no point in cleaning and polishing a game that doesn't work properly, so we run the game through all of it's diagnostic tests. We will take note of and repair any flipper that doesn't flip, pop bumper that doesn't pop, switch that doesn't switch and feature lamp that doesn't light. Any flippers not operating at full potential will be re-built as well. This, of course, is a simplification of what we do. There is no end to the weird stuff we find going on under the playfield from hacked wiring harnesses to completely missing assemblies - especially from imported machines.
  • Power Cord Inspection:  We will inspect and repair or replace the power cord if necessary. Many power cords are mishandled and get the insulation torn away, leaving exposed wiring. One of the most popular operator "modifications" is to rip the grounding pin off of the plug to make it fit into a non-grounded outlet. This is a safety issue that really should be rectified.
  • Fuse Inspection: We will examine all of the fuses in the game to ensure they are of proper type and value. Fuses are a very important part of a pinball machine. They are a safety mechanism that prevents a machine from harming itself and most importantly, you and your home and family. Many times, a previous owner will replace a fuse that keeps blowing with a fuse that is WAY overrated for that circuit, like putting in a 30 amp fuse to replace a 5 amp fuse. If a properly rated fuse keeps blowing, there is something wrong with the games wiring, circuit boards or power supply. Even worse, sometimes a person will jam a screw or paperclip into the fuse holder. Any of the above conditions must be rectified or the game can go up in flames.
  • Battery Check: We will check for battery damage and install a new battery or batteries. All modern games have batteries of some sort to hold high scores and game settings while the game is turned off. These batteries have caused the death of many games due to the fact that most if not all batteries eventually leak caustic substances when not changed regularly. This leakage can cause major damage to circuit boards, connectors and the wiring harness.
  • Electronics Inspection: We will examine all of the circuit board connectors in the game. Having your connectors in good condition is critical to having a machine operate reliably for years to come. This is especially true on early digital games. Often, games will develop intermittent problems due to bad interconnects on the circuit boards. We generally recommend re-flowing the solder on all of the connector pins as a precaution. In cases of games with battery damage, we will re-pin all of the affected connectors. We will also re-build any connectors that have become burned or tarnished. There's nothing worse than having a nicely restored game that only works when it feels like it.
  • External Cleansing: We will clean all external surfaces of the game. Some of these games have sat in damp and dusty warehouses for many years. I certainly wouldn't want all of that dirt in my home and I'm sure you don't want it in yours. Lots of times the cabinets are discoloured due to all those years of cigarette smoke getting blown all over them while the game was earning money on site. We do our best to get the games as clean as humanly possible.
  • Legs: We clean and polish the legs. Most games have at least some level of rust on the legs. We do our best to clean and "de-rust" the original game legs. In more extreme cases, or upon request, we will install brand new legs and we can also install new leg bolts and levellers on the legs if required at additional cost.
  • Coin Door Clean Up: We will refurbish the front coin door. The coin door of a game can often take much abuse over the years. From getting kicked or hit to having beverages spilled on it to being broken apart by vandals, the front door of a game can have a hard life. We will disassemble the door and clean it to the best of our ability. If it's a stainless door, we will remove any rust spots and polish the front. For painted doors, we will generally refinish the door. In more severe cases, the entire door can be replaced. We'll even clean up or replace the coin mechanisms and change the pricing labels to Australian if necessary
  • Internal Cleansing: We thoroughly clean out the inside of the head and lower cabinet. The heads are sometimes full of dust, dirt or even spider webs. The lower cabinet is often used as a garbage bin when the game is on location as it is a convenient place to throw bad light bulbs, blown fuses, broken rubber pieces or other bits of junk.
  • Playfield Glass: We clean the playfield glass front and back and scrape off any "foreign substances". All older playfield glass has some degree of nicks and scrapes, but if the glass is badly damaged we can install a new piece of crystal clear tempered glass at additional cost. We also clean out the glass channels that hold the glass in place as they are typically full of gunk making the glass very difficult to remove. If the channel is broken we can replace it with a new one at additional cost.
  • Shooter Inspection:  We will clean and check the shooter assembly. That ball shooter has seen many a pull in its lifetime - we think it deserves a new set of springs, rubber tip and nylon sleeve if required The outside spring is usually always smashed and rusty and the inside spring can weaken over time. After a shooter tune-up, it'll work as smooth as silk.
  • Score Display Inspection: We clean and inspect the game displays. Properly functioning displays are a very important part of a pinball machine as it's the only way the game can convey information to the player. If it's a mechanical game, we clean the score reels and ensure proper operation. For older electronic games, we make sure that all digits and segments are working and bright in the numeric or alpha-numeric glasses. For newer electronic games, we make sure that all columns and rows are working and bright on the large dot-matrix display glass. Burned out or non-functional display glass can be replaced at additional cost.
  • The Playfield Bottom: Next, we start on the playfield by cleaning the part you never see, the bottom. On newer games, there are any number of tunnels, scoops or under-playfield passages that the ball will traverse. These parts of the game get infested with black dirt because almost no one ever cleans them! If you don't clean these areas of the game, the ball will simply pick up the dirt and carry it right back onto the cleaned upper playfield, making it dirty within a few games. The other important thing to clean on the bottom side of all pinball playfields is the plastic inserts that the lamps shine through. This is another area that is often neglected by others. Clean lamp inserts really make the lights pop out from the top of the playfield. We also clean or replace all of the feature lamps under the playfield.
  • Part Replacement: We will inspect the upper playfield for any broken or missing parts. Certain parts of a pinball playfield are commonly broken. Drop targets, stationary targets, bumper caps, lane guides, light shields, ramps and other plastic parts can really take a beating from the ball, but fortunately most common parts are still manufactured. Some game-specific parts like light shields with artwork on them can be difficult or impossible to find. We will replace any broken part on the playfield that is able to be replaced, or if a suitable replacement isn't available, we can sometimes fabricate custom parts at additional cost.
  • Playfield Teardown: We will disassemble the entire upper playfield to prepare for cleaning. The only way to properly clean a playfield is to take it apart. We remove all of the plastics, ramps, old rubber, posts, bumpers, light bulbs, aprons, etc. As you can imagine, this is a very time consuming task. We must keep track of everything that is removed and where it was removed from for hundreds of parts. On modern multi-level games, just the tear down and cleaning of the playfield alone can take a two full days or more.
  • Playfield Re-Assembly: We will clean all of the playfield parts and reassemble the playfield. Everything that goes back onto the game will get cleaned and polished. All of the light shields, plastic posts, metal posts, lane guides, bumper caps, flipper bats, ramps and everything else will get polished either by hand or in a tumbler. New upper general illumination lamps and fresh rubber will also be installed at this time.
  • Balls: We will install new highly polished premium pinballs. New balls in a game look really fantastic and play super fast, but there is a more practical reason to replace your old balls. Used pinballs develop tiny scratches and pit marks over time. These imperfections in the ball will act like a mini-sanding disc on your playfield and cause premature playfield wear. If you play your games a lot, you should replace the ball(s) every year. It's an inexpensive way to keep your game looking and playing at its best.
  • Score Card Reproduction:  We will reproduce and install new score and instruction cards with covers. The instruction cards provide the player with a bit of insight on how to play the game and what is required to win. Old instruction cards are generally dirty or yellowed and the clear plastic covers are often missing. We can also supply custom cards if you want those as well. We think that new score and instruction cards are a nice finishing touch on a fully restored game.
  • Game Configuration: On newer games we will reset the game audits and high scores and we can also configure and update the game software if required on a modern Stern pinball machine. We will also reset the high score table. Who wants to know someone else's high score? You want to know YOUR high score! Newer games also have many options for configuring the rules of game play. We will get the game set back to the factory defaults and can show you how to make any changes that you want. We can also set the game for free play or make it so that coins are required to play.
  • Play Testing: We will play test the game numerous times and adjust any bumpers, slingshots or targets for optimal performance. Then we'll play the game some more just because we like playing pinball. This is the part we like best!

You should keep in mind that there is a limit to how well a game restoration will turn out.  Miracles cannot be performed on games that have been seriously neglected, nor would the cost be justifiable when it would be less expensive to simply replace the game entirely.  We treat all games as if they were in our own collection, and you can expect the utmost in quality workmanship.