I’m considering a purchase of my very first pinball machine. I have the funds to get a new-in-box pin, and I really like several of the new Sterns, so I’m planning to go in that direction. My biggest hangup at the moment is that I’m not sure what kind of maintenance I’m signing myself up for.
What kind of maintenance am I looking at for a new-in-box pin for home use?
I know that pins are complicated mechanical and electronic devices, and no two are exactly the same. But I’m hoping you nice folks could give me an idea of how often I should expect to be making repairs, cleaning, etc. Are the repairs on a new machine fairly basic?
I now always recommend NIB for first time buyers. That said, new games often need more than just regular cleaning. Trough opto connectors can rattle loose, flipper transistors can lock on (and need replacing) and opto boards connectors can go flaky, among other things.
What do you bring to table? Are you mechanically inclined? Good with hand tools? Do you know how to use a volt meter? Ever soldered? If you’re mechanically inclined, most everything else can be learned quickly. Youtube is loaded with how to videos.
If you do take the plunge, you’ll want to invite a local with some experience to the unboxing party. Not unusual to find one or two minor issues right out of the box. If you’re really not sure which game to buy, pick the one with less moving parts. If it looks complicated, it’s likely more prone to breaking. Although MET’s snake is a big exception. There have been a few reports of them needing minor adjustments, but overall it’s a complicated toy that works very well (GET A MET PRO!!! d;^).
For cleaning, Novus 1 or 2 and a clean microfiber cloth is all you need. Clean when you see ball trails in the inlanes.
In addition to @phishrace’s good comments, consider picking up a few spare rubbers to have around. Certainly flipper rubbers, as those wear down relatively quickly (you can often rotate them a couple times to extend their life, but sooner or later they’ll need replacement), and perhaps also slingshot rubbers, since those take a lot of punishment. The flipper rubbers are standard sized; slingshots may vary in size depending on the game. Maybe a couple mini-post rubbers (they look like tiny donuts) as well.
(Ask some local pin-owning friends if you could buy a couple of these from their stash, instead of ordering from one of the parts suppliers, just because the shipping cost would probably double the price of such a small order!)
I might offer the same recommendation to have a box of spare lightbulbs, but these days it’s hard to say which bulb(s) you might need until you settle on a specific model of game. At least you can get away with playing a game with a bulb out, whereas a broken rubber often makes the game unplayable.
Good luck and enjoy!
Yeah, that’s part of what I worry about. I know a lot of pinheads are mechanically inclined people who like to tinker. I’m not that way at the moment, but I’m willing to learn. I do have hand tools and know how to use them. Never used a volt meter or soldering iron.
I live close to Game Room Guys–I’d probably be buying the pin from them. I figure for more complicated repairs I could call them.
That’s interesting. Do you have any suggestions on which of the NIB Sterns I could buy would be less complicated? I’m most likely to buy a Star Trek Pro or Walking Dead Pro.
Before you put a deposit on anything, ask GRG what their rates are in case you need them after the relatively short warranty expires. Also check their reputation in the community. I’ve heard of them, but no idea on their rep. If they check out and you can occasionally afford to have them come over, go for it.
You’ve likely heard of pinside.com. RGP is also an excellent source.
The early ST pros broke the plastic above the drop target fast. I think they may have shortened that plastic, like they did on the premium and LE’s. If not, a plastic protector needs to be installed right away. That plastic breaks about as fast as the sandman plastic breaks.
The head in the barn on TWD had plenty of issues out of the box, but that’s a simple target that’s easily adjusted. The mechanism that moves the head in and out is somewhat complex, but I think I’ve only seen one problem with that mech.
Both are awesome games to play and are holding up well so far. You really can’t go wrong with either.
Forgot to mention… If GRG will setup and test your game, either at your house or at their shop, let them. Plenty of distributors prefer to do it this way for first time buyers. The setup guy should be able to take care of any minor issues that might pop up.
I’ve only purchased one NIB (most recent re-release of Iron Man). In 500 plays, it has only needed two things:
Adjusting the stopper under the playfield that determines how far down the up post goes (just turned it a few times with my hand - all set)
A lug broke off a flipper coil. Needed to solder it back on.
You should get less maintenance issues with NIB, but I tell anyone who wants to own a pinball machine that they should be willing to learn how to work on them. Or else, be willing to pay to have someone come over to fix stuff a lot.
With a NIB, most things will be simple to learn. But don’t expect any pinball machine to be maintenance free.
FWIW, I bought a gently-used Lord of the Rings, and while I was a little bit worried about needing to do maintenance, I’ve actually found the whole experience of learning about and working on the machine (maintenance, cleaning, adjustments, modding) to sometimes be as fun as playing it.
It might not go the same way for everyone, but it was a nice surprise for me!
Thanks for the helpful responses, everyone. I’m feeling more confident that I can handle this.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Nick. I ordered a Walking Dead Pro a few weeks ago, and opted to go with the distributor near my home. He wasn’t the cheapest option, but as I’ve read that even NIB games have problems, I wanted to buy from someone close by who could offer maintenance on the game.
That’s a great game and good move. Hope you’re enjoying it.