How to Troubleshoot a Pinball Machine

By Shanika Chapman

Pinball machines are a classic form of entertainment still used today. The biggest problem with pinball machines is the amount of maintenance they may require. Because of the physical nature of pinball machines, they are susceptible to damage. Moving mechanical parts that constantly suffer abuse leads to everything from damaged parts to malfunctioning circuit boards. Properly troubleshooting your machine can save money in maintaining the unit as well as help you learn to keep it in operating order.

If possible, obtain the manual for your pinball machine. An online collection of manuals can be found under the "Support" link at Flipperspill.com. The manual should have troubleshooting tips specific to the machine, customer service numbers and part order forms.

Generate a test report that tells you of switches that are likely failing. Test reports are generated when the machine is powered on or when the button inside the coin door is pressed. Depending on how old your machine is, the diagnostic mode may have many other tests and other troubleshooting data. The pinball machine's manual has more data on that specific machine's test reports and diagnostic tools.

Determine what the issue is. Typically, pinball machine problems occur with the scoreboard, on the play field, in the flipper mechanisms or with the coin deposit.

Check the machine's fuses, which usually are located behind the coin door. Replace any burned-out fuses. Take note of which fuses were burned out as there is often another problem that has caused the fuse to burn out in the first place.

Look for damage to the circuit board, such as burned spots, disconnected components or damaged leads. If there is visible damage on a circuit board, an electronics repair shop should be able to fix the problem.

Check the coin slot and deposit mechanism for debris or components that are stuck in place. This area is susceptible to jamming. Common coin slot problems are gum in the slot and a full coin box.

Verify that the flippers consistently work. Flippers usually are controlled by opto switches, which can overheat when defective, causing the flipper fuse to blow on a regular basis. Check the flipper mechanism for debris. Test for damaged opto switches using a multimeter. The multimeter should read less than one volt when the flipper button is pressed.

Tip

To avoid some potential issues, keep your pinball machine clean. Open up the machine and use alcohol-based cleaning products to clean electrical connections to keep the unit properly working.

When cleaning electrical connections, unplug the machine and discharge the capacitors. If you are unsure how to discharge the capacitors, leave the machine unplugged for 24 hours prior to the cleaning.

About the Author

Shanika Chapman has been writing business-related articles since 2009. She holds a Bachelor of Science in social science from the University of Maryland University College. Chapman also served for four years in the Air Force and has run a successful business since 2008.