Pinball machine update

Yesterday I received a nice box of parts that I had ordered, and immediately set on installing many of them as soon as I got home. I installed a new ball shooter, although it doesn’t seem to shoot the ball far/fast enough to go all the way up the skill-shot-entrance-ramp-thingy. I may need to adjust the angle of the playfield or use the spring from the old ball shooter or something. I replaced about 2 dozen lights (I wasn’t keeping a close count), and now there exists much more flashing and prettiness.

Still to do: permanently mount the battery holder I got at Radio Shack so it’s not just nestled in amongst the wires (although that seems to be good enough for now), replace all the rubber rings (I got a new set of them in my box yesterday, it’s just going to be a pain to get to all the areas of the playfield to put them in), solder a few things together, figure out why the drop targets aren’t working at all now (previously only the center target wasn’t working), make a new connector so I can get the upper playfield general illumination working (and I’ll probably need to replace some bulbs there, too), and fixing a couple misc. switches. It’s definitely looking better and better all the time, though.

When do people want to come over and play?

Pinball update

I removed the metal piece that was preventing the ball from launching properly. (I think it fell off of the lock mechanism that we drilled through.) The game is now completely playable. All that’s left is replacing some lights, fixing some switches, getting a new plunger (the one we have mostly works, but it’s held together with duct tape), replacing some connectors (which are used for the general illumination, which just lights up the playfield but isn’t required for the game to function), hooking up a new battery connector (so I don’t need to reset the settings each time I turn it on), and a lot of things could use cleaning. But the machine works, which is very exciting.


I got my package from Germany today that had my replacement pinball display board (that runs on LEDs instead of Neon). Once I could see what the pinball machine was saying to me, I could put it in test mode to determine that a Slam Tilt switch was stuck closed, preventing it from doing much. Likely, it (quite correctly) got jostled during transport. It still doesn’t have batteries (meaning that it can’t keep high scores or Free Play settings through a reboot), about 20 lights don’t work, some switches don’t work, and launching the ball onto the playfield via the plunger (you know, the normal way of launching a ball onto a pinball playfield) gets the ball stuck at the top somewhere. But we can play games, and it mostly works.

Ordering parts from Germany

I just ordered the PinLED 10001 display board for my pinball machine. From the only place that seems to have them in stock, which is the people who created them. In Germany. I think I got a little hosed on the $ to € exchange rate, and I hope that it safely makes it here, and then doesn’t get too caught up in customs. (I can just imagine seeing a box of circuitry coming over with a display and someone mistaking it for an explosive device counter or something.)

Next up, while waiting for it to arrive, is wiring in a new battery holder (to power the settings RAM while the machine is off) to replace the badly-corroded one (since the batteries in it probably hadn’t been replaced in 15 years), and trying to replace a bunch of lights. (It’s tough to replace the lights without knowing if I’m putting it in light test mode correctly, since I don’t have a working display.)

I think I am starting to understand all this more and more, though. Hopefully this thing will be up and running within a couple months.

Pinball Update

I’ve been getting handy with a multimeter now, and it looks like the voltages are all getting to the right spot on the pinball displays, but the displays still aren’t working. It appears that having dead displays isn’t that uncommon. So, it looks like I need to either (a) buy 2 new alphanumeric displays and do quite a bit of unsoldering/soldering to replace them, or (b) get a board designed/manufactured by a third party that uses LEDs instead of gas tubes and replaces the entire existing display board. I’m currently leaning toward (b), because even though it’s about twice as expensive the LEDs should last much much longer.

However, I need to find a place that carries the model for my type of machine. The online stores that I’ve found seem to be out of stock.

Breaking into my own pinball machine

The display on the pinball machine still doesn’t work. Diagnosing this required getting into the backbox where all the circitry is. Getting into the backbox requires removing the backglass (with the pretty art drawn onto the glass). There is a lock holding the backglass in place.

We didn’t have the key for this lock.

So, today, I bought a drill, and my wife the master driller drilled through the lock, into the screw on the other side attaching the lock to the bar holding the backglass.

I now have access, and can start in with my new multimeter at diagnosing things.


I’ve done quite a bit of research on the Internet this week, and there’s a ton of stuff out there on fixing old pinball machines. It’s quite a significant hobby. Unfortunately, it seems that the era of pinball is slowly dying, as everything’s moving to video games and slot machines (and video slot machines), as there seems to be a lot more money to be made in those areas. There’s only one remaining new pinball machine manufacturer. But I’m looking forward to getting our machine this weekend, and hopefully over the next few weeks I’ll be able to make it playable. I’ve already ordered a multimeter which will probably help me in my quest. From my online research, the score display probably just needs a fuse changed (if I’m really lucky), a couple resistors and diodes replaced (if I’m slightly less lucky), or I’ll need to try to replace the whole score display system (if I’m really unlucky, as it’s not like anyone makes these parts anymore).