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An issue with a pinball machine resetting itself is not a rare problem—on the contrary, especially with WPC Bally Williams pinball machines, this malfunction is quite common. While this problem usually originates with the pinball’s drive board, there are many things that can cause a pinball to reset itself.
So what should you do if your pinball machine keeps resetting? A pinball machine owner can do some troubleshooting to locate the source of the power trouble, and there are minor repairs they can do to get the machine running again. However, whether a person repairs a pinball machine on their own or takes it into a repair technician depends on their personal level of comfort with electrical repairs.
Pinball machines run on a high voltage that can be very dangerous to meddle with, so those people attempting to repair or troubleshoot their own pinball machines need to be careful. Read on to find out more about some of the potential causes of a pinball machine reset error and what you can do to fix it.
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Game Resets are a Power Issue
The main thing to remember when dealing with pinball machine problems that involve a random reset is that in all likelihood, the problem is going to lead back to the 5VDC power source and driver board. The reason that reset problems are common is that the five-volt power source for the driver board is minimally sized for all the various software and hardware functions it needs to run.
The way that the electrical circuit is set up is such that if the voltage drops below the cutoff point (typically 4.7 VDC), then the machine will appear to shut down mid-game unexpectedly.
This is because WPC pinball machines have a built-in “watchdog” circuit in their microprocessor unit that initiates the shutdown as a result of lowered voltage. Once the circuit is shut down, however, voltage usually recovers to the point that the machine boots itself right back up again. This is what results in an apparent reset.
Many Electrical Problems Can Lead to Resets
Though most reset problems in pinball machines can be traced back to the driver board, it’s worth it to do some thorough preliminary troubleshooting prior to replacing or repairing any parts. This is because electrical components of pinball machines, especially very old pinball machines, are very delicate pieces of technology.
In many cases, it can be difficult or even impossible to find replacement parts for some pinball machines, so you’ll want to preserve as many of the electrical components without damage that you can. Replacing a driver board may or may not even be possible depending on which pinball machine you own.
So before you get to that point, you should inspect the pinball machine methodically to see if there are any obvious problems that can be solved before attempting to take the pinball machine apart and make repairs on individual components. If you’re not an experienced electrician, that is sometimes a job best left to professionals.
Replacing Parts vs. Repairing Parts
You shouldn’t jump straight into replacing your driver board if you’re experiencing reset problems because if your voltage problems are related to some other issue, you’re going to be replacing an expensive and difficult-to-find part for possibly no reason.
While replacing parts on a pinball machine is possible, it’s usually a good idea to check the system over in its entirety, as voltage-related reset problems can also originate at the following locations on the machine:
· Slam tilt switch
· Switching lines
· Molex connectors
· Wiring harnesses
Just as in automotive repair, just throwing parts at the machine when you don’t really understand the source of the problem is a surefire way to end up spending more money, time, and effort in repairing your pinball machine than is necessary. Why put yourself through the frustration if you don’t have to?
It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t attempt to perform any kind of intensive electrical repair without having a strong foundation in understanding electrical work. Pinball machines operate on a level of voltage that can be deadly to those who are inexperienced with electrical circuits, so it’s important that you know what you’re doing before working on your machine.
Potential Areas to Troubleshoot When Checking Pinball Resets
Prior to any attempts to replace a driver board, here is a list of things you can do to troubleshoot your pinball reset problems (for these steps, you’ll want to have a multimeter handy):
· Check the line voltage. Inadequate line voltage can lead to a reduced voltage that will trigger a reset cycle.
· Check to make sure that the power/driver board is screwed down tightly. If the driver board becomes loose, this can cause a poor ground connection.
· Check the header pins. These pins can develop cracked solder joints as a result of age or neglect, and if they are damaged, they will require a reflow solder.
· Check the flipper coil diodes. The jolting movement of the pinball flippers can loosen solder joints in this area, as well as the header pins.
· Check the Molex connectors and reseat. When connectors become loosened or short out, this can cause a reduced voltage that triggers reset malfunctions. Note: To adjust the Molex connections, you will require a Molex extraction tool.
· Check the wiring harnesses. This is another potential area that can short or lead to a reduced voltage problem with the driver board.
· Check bridge rectifier and capacitors. The capacitors can be replaced with capacitor kits, but this needs to be done as a last resort.
The reason you want to check all of these points of the pinball machine’s electrical circuit before replacing anything like the capacitors or driver board is that most people who attempt to repair a pinball machine aren’t experienced.
If you’re a novice at electrical repair, it’s easy to accidentally damage your pinball machine in such a way that the electrical connection is severed entirely, and the pinball machine ends up with permanent intermittent reset issues.
Safety Issues When Repairing Pinball Machines
Working on a pinball machine to either troubleshoot or perform minor adjustments/repairs carries a danger of electrical shock or even electrocution. If you do decide to work on your own machine to address reset problems rather than taking it to a repair shop, here are some things you need to keep in mind to remain safe:
· Be careful using solvents or other chemicals around your open pinball machine. These chemicals are flammable and can start a fire when exposed to electrical sparks.
· Avoid grabbing things with both hands. This can create a circuit through your heart that could cause a potentially fatal arrhythmia (erratic heartbeat) if you are shocked.
· Remember that all electricity is looking for a ground. If you are the closest “circuit” between a bolt of electricity and the ground, guess where it’s going to go?
· Wear shoes with rubber soles. This helps keep electricity from jumping to you by conduction.
· Don’t poke around with the power on unless you absolutely have to. This is the most dangerous way to work on a pinball machine with regards to electrical shock, so try to keep the power off during repair whenever possible.
· Surgical latex gloves can help prevent shock. These cheap gloves help prevent electricity from traveling to your body, as latex is not a good conductor of electricity.
Electricity can be dangerous, but only if it is disrespected and not understood well. Make sure you are experienced enough with electrical circuits to attempt a pinball machine repair before you begin, and you can avoid injury in the process.
Worst Case Scenario – Call A Tech for Pinball Machine Reset Problems
If you don’t have the electrical skills to handle troubleshooting a pinball machine reset problem that may involve some soldering work to correct, you always have the option to take the pinball machine in for repair.
But for those who would like to attempt repairs on their own, you can find a detailed troubleshooting guide for WPC pinball machine reset problems here.