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When a pinball machine gets off-center, you want to level it so that you’re playing field has the proper slope. Leveling a pinball machine can be done with some simple steps and a few tricks.
Here’s how you level a pinball machine:
1. Lean down to the leg of the machine
2. Take the footer and turn it right or left to lift the leg up
3. Tighten the nut on both legs to level it with a wrench
Tightening it makes the level permanent so that it doesn’t slide. Without the nut, the screw that holds the legs will twist.
Read on for anything else you might need to know when leveling your pinball machine and some advice for the process.
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How to Level A Pinball Machine
When you get your pinball machine off-center, you need to level it to get the playing field right again. To do this, you need to be familiar with all the parts and how they work.
First, you have what is called a caster in your pinball machine’s legs. These are from whoever manufactured the machine and are going to be referred to as screws here. There are some for replacement levelers on hardwood floors or tile called soft bottoms.
You want a good heavy-duty leveler. Your nut is probably going to be 9/16th of an inch. The thread of it is most likely ⅜’’ or 3/16’’. You want a 14 to 14 and a half mm wrench to work with these dimensions. Heavy-duty levels are made for the legs of your pinball and have square bottoms under the threads.
The square shape lets your wrench grip onto it, and you can use a 9.5 to 10 mm wrench for this part. You will want to tighten it upwards heading to the leg, and only one nut is needed. You will want to make sure the playing field is level before you tighten it permanently.
Getting down on the floor beneath the machine is necessary to reach these legs, and having someone to help you both lift the machine and check for adjustments after you move the nut around is helpful. Audible devices that help you check for adjustments are available for those doing leveling on their own.
You can use a felt pen or sharpie to mark where the feet are once you level it so that if it shifts, you can get it back to its original position.
To go over these steps in a more straightforward way you will want to:
1. (Check for adjustments needed previous this)
2. Lift your pinball machine
3. Take the leg and lift that up
4. Take your wrench and tighten the nut around the screw
5. Lower the leg back down
6. Check for adjustments a few days later
How to Check That Your Playing Field Is Level
There are a few ways to double-check that the playing field on your machine is at a proper level. One way to check is using bubble levels.
Bubble levels will check based around the buoyancy of the bubbles encased inside a tube that float to the surface.Your bubbles will naturally want to float to a higher area so you can check with this that it is leveled. This tool uses gravity to check because of the way it naturally wants to push the bubbles away.
You can also use a spirit level, which is easier to read than the bubbles but may be off by a bit. Check that the bubble in the spirit level is between the two middle lines with your level both left and then right. It would help if you waited a few moments in between testing because the bubbles move slowly.
Another way to check is with electronic levels by using an accelerometer. This means the tilt level on your pinball machine isn’t just up to gravity but also the amount of fall over an extended period. They are virtual bubbles that are calibrated and easy to read on smartphones.
There are useful apps such as Pin guy for iPhones that both level it and check the slope with voice commands so you can stay under the machine as you work — checking its bubbles with about a two or so second delay in between adjustments. For Android, you can try an app called Pinball Leveler. It also has speech cues like the iPhone app.
You use the accelerometer like other bubble levelers, and it doesn’t just have to be on your phone because there are models that you can use specifically for this. There is usually a beeping noise and light up markers so you can quickly tell what you need to adjust on your pinball machine.
A more challenging tool to use is a clinometer. It has a smaller scale and is harder to read. However, this tool can determine both level and slant. The bottom of the needle in this device requires a weight. A clinometer is more expensive than other tools as well.
Using a roll is another method. For this, the only tool you need is your eyes. In the roll method, you put a pinball at the back of the playing field, hold it in place, and then release it. Eye it carefully to see if it rolls straight or not.
How to Adjust Your Machine, Front to Back, Side to Side
Adjusting your pinball machine to be level may require the movement of several pieces. You want to think about the carboard or wood that your playing field is as 2-D with just left to right and top to bottom. You want your left to right tilting to be at zero degrees, which is considered level. For your front to back, you want to get a 6.5-degree tilt.
Anywhere from six to nine degrees is suitable for the slant on a playing field. Some manufacturers recommend a higher tilt, and some players like faster action. Anything less than 6.5 degrees will lead to a ball that gets stuck on the playing field. If it is higher, the player will have more difficulty hitting the ball properly because it will be traveling more quickly.
If you readjust your machine over five degrees, let it sit for a while, and then come back and revisit the measurements, double-checking it didn’t settle too much or shift over that time.
Official Help from Stern
Want to get some help direct from the source? The below video is put out by Stern which currently is the only manufacturer of pinball machines.
They give exact instructions on how to level a pinball machine properly.
Are There Any Non-Flat Pinball Playing Fields?
So, your pinball’s playing field is a little wobbly, and you are getting tired of constantly making adjustments on your machine, and your friends are giving you grief about it. What can you do? Say Orbitor 1. If you’ve never heard of the machine, don’t worry—it’s kind of rare. Stern Electronics designed a game that didn’t have a flat playing field. Imagine dips and curves and an all-around warped playing field. The playing field was so odd that a ball that went past the flippers would sometimes fall in front of them. Maybe that’s why this machine was the last game built by Stern Electronics.
It is a rare pinball machine. We know of no other machine as crazy as the Orbitor 1.
Finally, when you go to adjust a pinball machine, you will want to make sure you have the proper tools and knowledge to do so. The next steps are to go ahead and adjust your machine! After you have done all that, there’s only one thing left to do. Release the ball and get to flipping.