Pinball Tips and Tricks

Pinball Repair Tips and Tricks

Over time you learn a few things, some simple, some amazing and some just outright handy! In this section I will post handy Pinball Tips and Tricks for repairs that I have learnt and helped me along the way.


Tip 1 – Rust Removal

When restoring pinball machines rust is nearly always present. The legs and coin door are the usual suspects while brackets, screws, nuts and bolts and so on are also on the list. There are plenty of commercial rust removal products out there but my go to is White Vinegar, it is completely safe to use and is as cheap as anything else you will find plus it works well. It is especially economical when it comes to using large quantities in big tubs etc.

For legs I have a piece of PVC pipe capped at one end and big enough to fit four legs in, it takes about 5 litres of vinegar to fill and cover the legs completely. I also have a large black tub for coin doors, lock bars, mechs etc that I use about 10 litres of vinegar in. The trick is to soak for approx 12 – 24 hrs depending upon how serious the rust is but also you need to scrub the item with a nylon bristle brush every couple of hours to help loosen it up.

It works a treat and once cleaned, rinse with fresh water immediately and dry off. If you are going to paint the item all good, prime and paint as you normally would. If you are going to keep the metal finish remember the rust has probably removed or damaged a lot of the protection it once had such as chrome or nickel plating. For chrome legs that are not in too bad condition usually keeping them polished will help keep any surface rust at bay, I generally paint the inside of the legs to stop the rust returning and to give them a nice finish by colour coding the paint to the machine.

Parts like brackets and mech pieces I like to coat with “Inox”. Polish everything and then spray some Inox onto a cloth and wipe it over the metal surfaces. Ultimately you can re-electroplate some items such as brackets, bolts and screws with zinc, I will create a post about doing this later.

Tip 2 – Removing Light Bulbs

This is an oldie but a goody! Mainly used in the backbox where fat fingers won’t fit, try using the rubber from the end of the ball shooter rod. By placing the open end over the light bulb you can get a better grip to push, twist and pull. The same goes for putting them in. I have a piece of stiff tube about 20cm long and the rubber fits firmly in the end which gives me extra reach and control.

Tip 3 – Get a Sonic Cleaner

Cleaning parts is a must and especially playfield posts, flippers, lane guides etc. Sonic cleaners work extremely well and bring plastic parts up like new.

A trick is to place smaller parts in jars then place the jars in the water filled sonic cleaner. The jars can hold screws and other small bits and you can use vinegar or other cleaners without filling up the whole sonic cleaner. Another product I use is called Scalex, usually used to clean toilets and other places where scale builds up. I use it to clean screws, nuts, bolts etc and used in a jar in the sonic cleaner it removes rust and brings the metal items up real quick, be careful not to leave in too long as the metal items can blacken. Once these small items are cleaned I rinse , dry and coat with Inox.

Tip 4 – Cleaning Products and Uses

Cleaning products are something we all use on pinball machines but what we use and where can vary. This is a list of what I use and where.

  1. White Vinegar – Used for rust removal.
  2. Simple Green – Used in sonic cleaner and for a lot of general cleaning where there is grime.
  3. DeSolveIt – Used after removing mylar to get rid of the adhesive layer that is left on the playfield.
  4. Magic Eraser – Used for some deep cleaning on the playfield, used in conjunction with Isopropyl Alcohol but be careful here.
  5. Scalex – Used for cleaning screws and small metal items, brings up chrome pieces nicely.
  6. Novus 2 – Used for polishing playfields and plastics.
  7. Autosol – Used on most metal parts that need to be shiny.
  8. Gumption – This stuff is great to remove yellowing on cabinets from nicotine etc.
  9. Isopropyl Alcohol – Used in many applications, be very careful on painted surfaces such as aprons and pop bumper caps.
  10. FW1 Car Cleaner – Used to clean everything from playfield to cabinet and backglass, I use this last to make everything shine.
  11. Mr Sheen – Used when I don’t have FW1 Cleaner, great for keeping everything shiny.
  12. Carnubra Wax – Used to protect the playfield after a deep clean.
  13. Huggies Baby Wipes – Used for general cleaning and removing hand marks from cabinets, brilliant for cleaning dirty wire looms and also good for cleaning score reels.

Stay Tuned for More Pinball Tips and Tricks