Common Questions

When people come into the store, they play a few games and then have a lot of questions about pinball machines. In this blog post, I’ll try to capture some of the frequently asked questions about pinball machine ownership.

1) Do you deliver?

Yes, we deliver throughout New England. This entails bringing the machine into your house and setting it up. Typically it takes about an hour to get the machine into your house and set up. Price of this service depends on a couple of variables; the first is the distance we have to travel to your house and the second is whether it will take one or two people. Typically we can deliver to most homes with a single delivery person. However, if you have turning stairs or narrow entrances it may require two people to lift the machine.

Setting up a pinball machine is not difficult and doesn’t require any specialized tools, so if you want to set up yourself, we’d encourage you to do so.


2) Do things break?

For the most part pinball machines are pretty sturdy devices. They get a lot of abuse in bars and family entertainment centers and keep on ticking. That said, a pinball machine has (in essence) a metal ball bearing rolling, bouncing, and sometimes flying around the inside of it, so they will occasionally break something or cause a part to wear down. At the heart of a pinball machine are lights, rubber parts, switches, and solenoids (electromagnets). With modern pinball machines using LED lights, the lights rarely fail. But if they do it’s usually very easy to swap them out. 

The ball rolls over switches or in the case of things like slingshots, the ball hits a leaf switch. Switches don’t break often and most of the issues that we see involve leaf switches getting bent and making poor contact or constant contact. This fix usually just requires a small bend of the leaf switch to correct the contact.

Solenoids make the balls move around the playfield. They are coils with a metal rod at the center. When the coil is electrified, the rod moves and pushes the ball. Solenoids drive the flippers, the slingshots, the pop bumpers, and more. We rarely see problems with solenoids but they do need occasional TLC.

Overall, new pinball machines don’t have many issues. If you decide that you want to buy an older pinball machine, do expect to have some issues. Over time things fail, especially solder. So if you decide you want to buy that Addams Family pinball machine from the early 90’s make sure that you’re up for doing some troubleshooting and have a little experience with a soldering iron. 

3) What is maintenance like?

You will need to do some preventative maintenance but not as much as you think.

With modern pinball machines you can see how many games have been played in the Service menu. This is useful in determining a maintenance schedule. The maintenance schedule and tasks listed below are what I like to do. If you talk to other pinball machine owners they may have other suggestions that work for them. I recommend listening to all input and then decide for yourself what works best for you over time. Also note, this is not a exhaustive list, this is just a high-level overview.

Before the first game of the day, I do a quick look at the playfield and make sure nothing has come loose or the playfield isn’t dirty.

At 500 games, I recommend cleaning and waxing the playfield. I use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the playfield and/or a vacuum cleaner with soft bristles to pick up any dirt that doesn’t come up with the cloth. If there is dirt that is ground into the playfield and has discolored it, I will use a solution to clean it. I use two different cleaners. If I’m in someone’s house, I’ll use rubbing alcohol. If I’m in my shop I’ll use NAPTHA which smells but doesn’t contain any water.

Once the playfield is clean and dry, I’ll use carnauba car wax to wax the playfield. One thing to note, I’m not too worried about getting the playfield cleaned or waxed everywhere. I typically will not remove ramps and other things to get to the playfield at this level of cleaning. Make sure the car wax you are using only contains carnauba, you don’t want all the other polymers that are sometimes added to car wax. Once the wax dries (usually about 10 minutes), I wipe it up and then apply another coat.

When you’re doing this waxing, also wiggle any posts on the playfield. Overtime posts will loosen and it’s a good idea to tighten them when you find they have loosened up.

You should also check your pinballs to make sure they haven’t gotten rusty or have any nicks in them. Marks on the balls will scratch the playfield and you obviously don’t want that. Pinballs are cheap, so replace them at any sign of damage. 

At 2000 plays (or a couple of years in most homes), I’m thinking about replacing all of the rubbers on the machine. Over time the rubber parts will wear down with cracks or tears in them. The easiest way to do this is to buy a rubber kit for the game so you have all the parts. I’m not going to go in depth in this post about replacing rubbers. You will most likely have to remove some plastic pieces and ramps to get to the rubber parts. Just be methodical and take your time. At this time, with ramps and other things removed, make sure to do a thorough cleaning and waxing.

At this point, I’d also check the flippers for excessive wear. This will require looking at the flipper mechanism underneath the playfield. If there is a lot of wear the flippers will usually seem weaker. Flipper rebuild kits are available and require replace the plastic, rubber, and plunger mechanism of the flipper.

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