Pinball Cleaning Tips

This is a set of tips for making your pinball clean, fast, and healthy.

First, you need to clean the machine ... here's how:

  1. Remove the glass and as many ramps and habitrails as possible. If you are going to do a major cleaning, also remove any mini-playfields (ala powerfield on TZ or Path of Adventure on IJ) or other plastics / playfield parts that may get in your way. Make sure you unplug the miniplayfield or any other lights and switches from their wiring harnesses (turn the power off first!) before removing any restraining screws.
  2. Remove all the pinballs from the game. Make sure you check for balls in various lock mechanisms or traps (Swamp on TAF, Lock on TZ, Idol on IJ). Cycling the power or switching into then out of test mode will usually clear the playfield of missing pinballs.
  3. Check the entire playfield surface for burned out bulbs (use the Test mode to activate all the lamps or cycle through them one at a time) and replace any burned out bulbs. Also remember to check the flashlamps. Now check for hidden G.I. lights that may be burned out. These will usually lurk under some hard to get to piece of playfield plastic. Replace as needed. Remember to make a note of any lamps burned out that reside under the playfield as you will need to replace them when you raise the playfield.
  4. Double check that you got all the burnt out light bulbs -- some may have been just 'loose'. Raising and lowering the playfield will reseat the sockets. Replace any suspect bulbs (so you don't have to come back after them later).
  5. Raise the playfield and check for any loose screws. Any nut or screw laying in the cabinet body has to have come from somewhere ... loose screws and bolts mean loose game pieces. Loose solenoids will bind and burn out. Tighten all the solenoids. If you can't find where a screw comes from, check for loose things above the playfield ... it is not unheard of for screws or nuts to work loose from playfield features (Indy's Path of Adventure, for instance) and fall through playfield wiring holes or switch cutouts to the cabinet floor. If a tunnel isn't working it is likely a screw, nut, or something else has fallen into the tunnel. As an example, broken electric chair light bulbs on The Addam's Family tend to fall into the swamp tunnel.
  6. Lower the playfield and remove all rubbers (including flipper rubbers) and clean with Wildcat RC-88. If they do not clean well or are worn, then replace them. Clean the flipper paddles themselves with rubber cleaner (this will get the rubber gunk off). If the game has a manual plunger, be sure to check the plunger tip for wear. Don't forget to rotate the flipper rubber when you reinstall it so the worn spot at the tip is on the backside of the flipper, providing fresh rubber for the tip.
  7. If the playfield is Mylared or Diamondplated (ie: virtually any game within the last five years), use Novus #2 plastic polish. If the playfield is bare paint, use Wildcat 125 or Mills Wax. Use a soft cotton rag or towel to spread the polish thinly and evenly over the whole playfield. Novus may be used on plastic ramps, but not Wildcat 125 -- Wildcat will damage ramp plastics!. After it dries, buff it off. Make sure you get it all as the liquid will seep under metal rails, into screwholes, etc. Be sure to get down the inlanes, outlanes and into the drain area. Take extra care around any jet bumpers as these are high traffic areas. This is like car wax -- the more you buff, the slicker the surface. Don't skimp here ... this will be your polished playing surface.
  8. On Diamonplate playfields, an optional final coating of Novus #1 may be applied at this point -- this will cover any fine scratches the #2 may have missed.
  9. On other playfields, an optional final coating of Mills Wax may be applied at this point -- this will cover the playfield with a protective wax coating.
  10. Use diluted glass cleaner to clean each ball. Check each ball for damage and wear. Damaged or worn balls should be replaced as they will damage the playfield. Note that special balls such as Twilight Zone's power ball will almost always look dirty -- the trick here is to check the surface to see if it looks smooth and polished. Any scratches, pits, gouges, or scrapes indicate a damaged and worn ball that needs replacing. Don't gamble on your playfield's life -- if the ball looks scratched, dull, or is damaged, then replace it. New pinballs are only $1.25 or thereabouts ...
  11. Reassemble the playfield making certain that playfield parts with solenoid shafts sticking through them (ie: the back ramp on IJ with the ball stopper shaft sticking through it and ball diverter shafts) don't bind. Use a dry cloth to wipe down any fingerprints you may leave on the playfield as the oil from your fingers will attract grime. Be sure to make sure each and every post, nut, and screw is tight and secure. Loose things will come loose and mess things up.
  12. Reinstall the balls and play a test game. After checking ball travel, grab the ball and try each ramp,specialty item, and tunnel for proper operation. If you rack up too many points in doing so, be sure to slam tilt prior to the third ball to avoid messing up game statistics.
  13. Clean both sides of the playfield glass, reinstall the glass and lockdown bar and you're done !!

Preventative Maintenance : any of the following should be performed as needed depending on machine use.

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Document converted to HTML by David Gersic dgersic@niu.edu
And further editted by Jonathan Deitch

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