Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pinball ownership: maintenance weekend

Pinball ownership is super-rewarding, but it isn't all fun and games.  Here's a little breakdown of how a recent weekend went.

Saturday night
Installed AC/DC drum kit mod and replaced the flipper rubbers in the mini playfield of AC/DC.  It's not that easy accessing the mini playfield, so while we had it open, we cleaned the playfield and view window with a little Novus 1, and made sure the targets were all in good working order.

I don't think we actually played any pinball, because by the time we were done with that, it was time to get the kids to bed, and we needed to catch up on Walking Dead.  The only time we can watch zombie-related tv is when the kids are asleep.

We'd been having a fuse blow frequently on our new WHO Dunnit machine, and the preliminary steps that sometimes resolve this sort of problem, like replacing the batteries, hadn't helped.  It was to the point where we needed to remove the motherboard and bring it to a technician for diagnostics.  Upon taking the board out, we discovered that it had been "hacked" to death, meaning someone had done a non-expert job of trying to fix various issues that had come up during its lifetime.  Broken traces for one thing, judging by the network of worm-like wires strewn across the back of the board.  If you're not a professional pinball tech, that's the danger in trying to fix things; you run the risk of making it worse.  We brought the board to our pinball tech, who confirmed that the brain of this machine was beyond repair.  Replacing a motherboard isn't cheap, but at least now we knew the source of the problems we'd been having with it.

Lunch break.

The next machine in need of work was Judge Dredd.  The first project was to fix a fried connector for the general illumination (GI) backbox lights.  The connector has fried at some point before we acquired this machine, so I don't know the specifics, but the white connector housing was half toasted like a campfire s'mores only not delicious.  This was our first time replacing a connector, but it worked, and behold, there was light! :)  Now that those connections were restored, we were able to identify about a dozen burned-out bulbs, and replace them with working bulbs.

Next we did a flipper rebuild for the lower left flipper of Judge Dredd.  This is one of the rites of passage for being a pinball owner, doing your first flipper rebuild.  Once you're used to doing them it's not that bad, but the first time can be an intimidating prospect.  After all, if you get this wrong, it impacts the entire gameplay experience, and the angle of the flippers is a precision matter that you totally take for granted before having to do this.

About 8 o'clock that night, we got around to actually playing the machines.  It wasn't a long session, but it was a good one, and it felt great enjoying the fruits of the weekend's maintenance and repair labor.  Not every weekend goes like that, but there is almost always something needing doing when it comes to pinball machines.

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