Best Practices in Home Maintenance

Hey everyone!

I’m curious to hear if anyone has advice on best practices for someone new to making pinball repairs on home machines (DMDs, in my case).

I’m a relatively new owner, and one of the things that most attracted me was the opportunity to learn more about the engineering and maintenance of the machine. I’m a tinkerer by nature, and much prefer hands on experience when learning new skills, but frankly the idea of burning my house down in the process is enough to give me second thoughts :slight_smile:

I was recently troubleshooting a shooter rod issue, and realized that even once I found and fixed the problem, I had no idea how to judge the quality or safety of my work. Did I use the right solder? Should I have added heat shrink tubing somewhere? Did I need to prepare the surfaces beforehand?

Running through all the fuses is next on my list, but I wanted to ask if any of you had some basic-level advice you’d give to someone diving in for the first time.

Thanks! is a pretty decent online resource. is another.

Subscribing to is nice as well. I think it’s a $20 donation for lifetime access. Lot’s of detailed how to videos on that site.


Welcome to pinball ownership, Juan!

Although I’m a long time player and collector, I’ll readily admit (and my friends will eagerly confirm :wink: that I’m not really a hardware tinkerer. I’m kind of a klutz, and sort of the stereotypical software guy – fine with a keyboard, but giving me a soldering iron or screwdriver is begging for trouble.

Given that background, I feel comfortable saying: don’t worry too much about it. If I haven’t burnt down my house yet (I haven’t even burnt up a single pin!), you’re unlikely to do so. If you have experience soldering other things, those skills will transfer well to pinball machines… if you don’t have soldering experience, get some scrap parts at --Radio Shack-- errr, Fry’s? Mouser? well, somewhere, get a few wires and switches you don’t mind ruining, and practice. There are lots of good videos online to help tutor you. If you don’t have solid soldering skills, you probably want to keep the iron under the playfield, where most components are relatively large-scale, cheap parts, and not in the backbox, where it’s easier to trash a PCB with a bad soldering job. And try to keep the iron away from your body parts. :smile:

It’s pretty difficult to do any serious damage when you’re working with parts commonly found in all pinball machines: microswitches, solenoids, stuff like that. They’re relatively inexpensive and easily replaced. (One sorta-exception might be flipper adjustments: it’s possible to adjust the flipper bats low enough that they scrape the playfield surface when they move, which could wear off the playfield paint… that’s bad. But you can readily determine when this happens by sight and by feel.) You want to be more careful when working around a game’s unique components, including flat plastics, ramps, and custom devices or auxiliary PCB’s, etc. Those parts can be difficult to nigh-impossible to replace, and accordingly expensive if you do find replacements.

And as Williams suggests, look around the Web for guides… there’s LOTS of great information out there. And feel free to ask here… whatever problem you’re having, surely several other people have also had.

BTW, earlier I mentioned my dubious skill set, but even so, I’m able to do stuff like tear down and rebuild playfields (for cleaning, replacing ramps, etc), solder loose playfield wires, adjust switches, rebuild flippers, etc. If I can do those things, anyone can. :slight_smile: I keep the heck away from PCB repairs, and am thankful to have a good friend who donates his time to deal with those when needed (thankfully, not too often!).


@williams, thanks for the links! Pulled the trigger on pinballninja after seeing my game listed, and it looks like a really great resource.

@joe that’s exactly what I needed to hear — really appreciate it. I’m a software guy myself, and the break-it-first/fix-it-after approach runs deep :slight_smile: All the work you described doing is exactly as deep as I’d like to go. Now I’m off to tear this thing apart!

Thanks again!

Great… good luck with it!

One other thing I’d recommend when taking apart a game is to take good, high quality photographs. Lots and lots and lots of them. Later on you will inevitably wonder where this washer goes, or whether that ramp is supposed to be on the inside or outside of that metal guidewall, and photos will help with that. (The only trick with photos is that they assume that your machine was correctly assembled when you got it, and you’d be surprised how often that’s not the case, because some previous owner did it wrong… or less frequently, that it was done wrong at the factory.)

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