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You are excited. You finally got that pinball machine you have been hunting down for years. You plug it in and start to play and then…it stops. Unfortunately, it is fairly common for pinball machines to have issues resetting. So, what do you do when you run into this problem?
What should you do if your pinball machine keeps resetting? This issue is almost always a power supply problem. Fixes can range anywhere from tightening a few screws to replacing the motherboard. The easy answer is you should contact a repairman who can diagnose and fix the issue. For those of you with electrical experience or a desire to learn how to fix machines on your own, there are a series of things you can check to attempt to fix the problem yourself.
There are a number of things that can lead to your machine resetting. Some are general fixes you can look for on any machine, but depending on the year and maker of your machine, there are also specific things you can look for to solve your machine’s problem. Before we get to causes, let’s go over some safety issues.
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Before Troubleshooting a Pinball Machine That Keeps Resetting
Before you start to diagnose what is causing your machine to reset, you should be aware of the potential dangers of working on it yourself. Resetting issues usually have to do with electrical problems in the machine, so you need to be very careful, or you will electrocute yourself. Here are some basic precautions.
- Never use steel wool or WD40: Pinball machines naturally generate high voltage arcs as they operate, and any explosive or flammable material nearby can easily ignite.
- Turn off the machine and unplug before opening: Pinball machines have full household power 120v and other voltages such as 30-60v and 6v inside. Any of these voltages can cause electrocution which could severely harm you or even cause death under the right circumstances.
- Wear latex gloves and rubber-soled shoes: Latex can prevent electricity from running through your body if something goes wrong since it is not a conductor of electricity. Rubber soles on your shoes will prevent you from being a ground for any electricity that might jump from the machine to you.
- When in doubt, call the pros: If you are unsure or not comfortable with any of the possible fixes, call a licensed electrician.
What is Resetting?
Resetting is when your machine suddenly stops mid-game and then reboots. It could happen after specific events, like hitting the flippers or the ball hitting certain bumpers, or at completely random moments.
The causes of these resets tend to have something to do with the 5VDC power source and driver board. Five (5) volts is a low amount for all the bells and whistles on most pinball machines. When the voltage to the machine falls below a certain point, it shuts down until the voltage comes back, then it reboots.
Essentially, when trying to fix resetting issues, you are looking for where the voltage to the machine is being disrupted,
There are some things you can look at no matter what machine you are working with. These are the first things you should take a look at before you move on to more machine-specific suggestions.
- Check the plug: Resetting is a problem with the power supply, so the first place to look is the machine’s plug. If it looks frayed, damaged, or loose in any way, that could be the issue. Also, pay attention to where it plugs into the wall. If the connection is loose at all, this could be your problem. Do not replace the plug unless you have electric wiring experience. Contact a licensed technician.
- Check the wall plug: Your machine is going to need 117v to run. If the voltage coming out of the wall dips at any point, your machine will reset. You can use a multimeter to measure the voltage coming out of any outlet. If the voltage is low, call an electrician to check the wiring in your house.
- Check your coils: If you notice that the machine resets whenever a specific bumper, kicker, or flipper fires, check to make sure that the coil has its diode or that the diode is functioning. This tends to be an issue with flippers.
- Check bridge rectifiers: Bridge rectifiers can be used for power supply. They are also prone to failure, which will cause reset.
- Check voltage regulator: These do not usually fail, but it’s best to check before changing out something expensive. Most games use an LM323K regulator which you can get for under $10.
- Tighten driver board: On some machines, the driver board tends to loosen. This can cause a poor ground connection and cause reset anytime certain coils are hit.
If none of these areas are problematic, there are some model-specific issues that are known to cause reset issues. Here are common issues to look for in the most popular machines.
Bally/Stern Solid-State Games
Bally Manufacturing and Stern Electronics were two of the most popular companies that produced electronic pinball machines. The two companies used similar hardware from 1977 to 1985, so many of the issues are the same. Here are a few things to look for:
- Connectors: These machines are old, and connectors are known to get burned, scorched, and dirty over time. If there are signs of burning or overheating, especially the power supply and the right side of the solenoid driver board, replace them and your issues might go away.
- MPU Board: Both of these MPU boards are known to have poor quality chip sockets. Over the years, they have tended to develop intermittent connections between the chip and the socket. If this looks to be a problem, the best solution is changing the chip sockets or the whole board. You may have to change out the chips as well.
Williams Solid-State Games
The other major electronic pinball developer of the era was Williams Electronics. Their machines from 1977 to 1985 don’t usually reset. The same things that make other machines reset cause these machines to go dead.
Most problems with these machines will be fixed by looking at the bridge rectifiers, the filter capacitors, and the voltage regulator. The one other thing you may need to look at is the diode rectifiers. Most games use two large diodes on the power supply board. If one of these goes, the game will still run but opens itself up to reset issues.
Williams and Bally used the Williams Pinball Controller (WPC) as their standard system board from 1990 to 1999. These machines have a lot of things going on that can cause a reset, many of them easily fixable. Make sure you run through this and the general fix list before replacing any parts.
- Power cord connection: Newer games have a three-prong socket in the back of the machine where the power cord connects. Sometimes the cord loosens from this socket causing intermediate connection. Make sure the cord is in tightly.
- Power switch box: Bad connection and failing parts in the power switch box can cause problems. Turn the machine off, take the box out, and look inside. Any bad connections in the fuse holder, a faulty thermistor, or a failing power switch will make your machine reset.
- Overheated power input connector: if you see scorching or discoloration on the wires of the secondary power input connector, you should have the header pins on the board replaced, as well as the IDC connector housing on the wires.
Want to see 5 common issues of many machines that keep resetting? Watch the video below.
Reset issues are annoying, but there are potentially easy fixes. Give your machine a quick look before sending the machine in for replacement or repair, and maybe you can save yourself a few dollars. If more advanced repairs are needed, remember electricity is involved. Be safe and rely on the pros.