Sunday, June 30, 2013

Problem Solved: green joker FIXED!

Since the moment I got this machine, there has been an erratic problem with the green joker:  After the ball reset, there would be about a 30% chance that green joker would trigger, meaning all drops were suddenly 1000+1000=2000 points, the kickout hole was now worth 2000, and green lanes were lit for 3000.
Obviously if this happened on your ball that would be a major advantage.  It wasn't consistent, so would definitely add some chance to match play.
Sometimes, though very rarely, the green joker would trigger while the ball was in play, away from the normal green triggers.

While the green joker went on, no points were awarded.  This led me to believe that the joker relay mechanism itself was at fault:   perhaps mis-lubed, perhaps a spring not pulling in the proper way.

It's hard to see here, but here are two shots of the green joker relay..

Lucky for me, the green relay is the one at the end of the entire unit.  had it been any other of them, I would have given up right away:  No way in hell am I opening that thing up at this point in my pinball training!

But while under the playfield, I checked the green joker rollovers, and oh look what I found:

This is a video of the rollover switch after being hit.  As you can plainly see, it vibrates.
When I hit the adjacent rollover switch, you can see the white plastic piece stay snug to the metal, no vibration whatsoever.

Here is the back of switch:

The bottom wire is the White-Orange one, and that controls scoring.  The Blue+Orange wire is for the relay mechanism.  Since it was that switch that was vibrating, that would explain why it would turn the green on, but not award any points.

I tightened the screws (in one first...) and then got to work adjust the switch blade.  I couldn't get it perfect, such that the white separator was flush to the the adjacent metal piece, but I did give it some space.  
It could be done better, but it all seems to be working:  Played 2 games, not a single green joker relay was activated inadvertantly.


This, and the springboard rejects up the left side, are the 2 biggest problems that were effecting game play.  I am so happy to have solved them!

Right now that leaves a selection of minor drop target issues, each of which happens too irregularly to bother with at the time, and an erratic issue of sometimes the bonus isn't counted proper.
I know for the bonus I need to clean the AS stepper, so perhaps I will get to that in the coming week.

Problem Solved: metal railing

Another win!   Since I got the machine, the shot to the left jokers had a major springboard effect.  Numerous shots headed up there would hit the metal bar and "spring", and ultimately reject and fall down.

I noted, a while back, that this was due to the gap between the metal guide bar and the rubber.  Slowly but surely, I've been working the metal bar back, and now it looks like this:

When compared to the old pic, it's hard to see the difference, but the metal is now more curved, and the gap to the rubber diminished.

The end result is that game play is much smoother and faster.  Very few balls are rejected due to sprinboarding when shot up the left.

Friday, June 21, 2013


A big part of this hobby, as it turns out, is lusting after the great white whales:  Any game still on your want list.
My particular situation limits the dimensions of this.  After a year of organizing, I have space for no more than 3 pinball machines in the back storage room. 3.  That's it.  No more.
Sure, I only have one now, but my dreams or so much bigger.

My "dream" setup is mediated by different levels of fantasy.
In the ultimate "money is no object" dreams, it is hard to pick 3 machines that are outside of the top 20 lists at IPDB or Pinside.
If money were no object?  I guess Theatre Of Magic, Medieval Madness and The Addams Family.  I got the Mr. Pinball 2013 price guide and they list there for 4500, 11375 and 4825, so $20k of pinballs, plus more expensive in Canada no doubt.
Or maybe 21st century pins only?  Lord Of The Rings, Simpsons Pinball Party, and Tron. But even at original release prices, that's $15k.

So my sites have been on more affordable pins.  the pins of the early 90s are where my heart is, those earlier DMDs, and luckily there are a few out there that are still pretty reasonably priced.

Right now I am hunting down a Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends.  Not an overly complex game, but I really wanted something kid-friendly.  It lists for about $1800.
I have my eyes on other cheap games form the era, like Hook, Back To The Future, Street Fighter 2, Independence Day, and, shockingly... BAYWATCH.
I remember really enjoying that game, and looking at it now I really appreciate how much is crammed in to it.  The ball is shot up a habitrail, and so instead of a shooter lane on the right, they have maximized the playfield.  It feels like a wideboy, but is in a normal cabinet.  And since I can't get widebody machines down my stairs, it shoots up my want list for sure, The Hoff be damned.

I have an opportunity to get a Space Shuttle, and that with Rocky + Bullwinkle and Royal Flush would put me at my max, 3.  LIVING THE DREAM:  a great EM, a great SS, and a fun DMD.
If I ended up getting Baywatch as well though, it'd most likely be Royal Flush leaving.  I have to face the facts:  with only 3 spaces, I will probably end up with 3 DMDs.

so what would be the dream lineup of relatively affordable pins?  An aspirational setup would be No Good Gofers, Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and Jurassic Park.
I'm a bit on the fence about Ripley's, just for the fact pervasive nature of Ripley's profiteering via racist orientalism.  Maybe replace it with Cyclone...

That's all pie-in-the-sky dreaming though.  I have my Royal Flush.  Let's see which one is next.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

new record for Problem -> Repair time (weak flipper)

I was in the middle of playing a game when suddenly the right Royal Flush flipper went "soft".  It lacked any real power.    The full cycle of it seemed to falter partly under the weight of the ball, then finish it's flip.

I raiesd up the playfield and took a look.

Here we have the 2 flipper coils just resting.  Note the bend in the switch plates on the left (bottom) flipper switch.

Left flipper button depressed.  Note the good gapping.

here is the limp right flipper when activated.  Less of a gap

the switches there are "End Of Stroke" switches.  I'm not sure of the physics of it, but obviously when the flipper gets to the end of where it is supposed to be, the switch opens.  Something something FLIPPER POWER!

There's a thin strip of something running in the middle of these switches.  Not sure what.  But it was bent up on the left (bottom) flipper, so I tried bending it up a bit on the now-limp flipper.   I don't think it's metal, so decided against further attempts at bending.
I bent the right flipper's bottom metal strip down ever so slightly to accentuate the gap, modeling the left flipper's more closely.

Closed it up, put the ball back in, slid on the glass, locked the lock-bar, closed the coin door, fired it up, entered a quarter, plunged the ball... and BOOM, flipper worked perfectly again!

From problem appearance to fix:  10 minutes.  WE HAVE A RECORD!   Woooo!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I made some quick notes while investigating what happens when the ball drains.  They were useful for me in figuring out that last issue, so figure I should keep them here...


Ball enters trough.
This activates/latches P when, motor is at 1C
P activates the motor.
A is active when there are bonuses out there, and activates E so bonus can count.
at end of Bonus counting, we get to 4th position on bonus unit realy, 8B opens, so A deactivates
O can then activate once A toggles back to inactive, and motor 1C
O activates the ball return coil when Motor 4C.

Monday, June 3, 2013

the mystery of player #3 SOLVED!

I solved the mystery of player #3!

I was puzzling over the obvious question of "What happens in the game in ball #3 that is unique to it, and will also retain it's problem state at power on?"  the answer, of course, THE SCORE REELS!
Yes, once ball #3 is in play, player #3's score is now non-zero.

Here is the player-unit-advance  schematic: (click to embiggen!)

the upper sections are for the reset process. Z1 and Z2 have NC switches that allow for normal operation when the game is playing.  When Z1 activates, all reels for Player 1+2 need to get to reset position before the player unit can advance (and Z1 is deactivated).  Then Z2 activates, opening the NC switch, and then Players 3+4 score reels need to get to zero before the player unit can advance.

In a normal 1 or 2 player game, the score on players 3 and 4 stays at zero.  But once any points are scored on player 3, suddenly the path of "3rd player reset switches" is blocked.
Normally the circuit would go through the NC Z2 switch, but this is where are system was having problems, and yes it was the switch on Z2 that wasn't closed properly.

I tightened the screws, got out the flexstone file, bent the blade inward, and voila, that Z2 switch is now normally closed properly.

Here is a glimpse of it before adjustment:
far right at the top, you can even see the gap between the contacts.  Fix that ish!

Problem solved, player a full 4-player game of Royal Flush!  ON TO THE NEXT CHALLENGES!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

the mystery of player #3

Remember those logic puzzle grids they gave you in elementary school?  you'd have to cross-reference clues and make deductions based on the info at hand to solve the chart and connect all of the proper assignments.
An electro-mechanical (EM) pinball machine is kind of like that.  The functionality is laid out in a straightforward schematic that a human can actually digest and, with some effort, trace cause-and-effect through.

Most EM problems do not require this.  As has been said by people much more talented than myself, a systematic EM overhaul will solve 80% of all problems.  Clean, lube, adjust, and do it all with patience and love.  My last issue, which resulted in a month of downtime most likely due to my lack of diligence in TRUSTING THE METHOD, could have probably been solved with a loving hour of a knowledgeable EM tech following the system.  But I think I have a problem that isn't quite so elementary.  (but who knows, perhaps I speak too soon.)


Player #3 runs everything.  If I set a 3 or 4 player game, once we get to player 3 the player unit never progresses.  When we get to player #3 something... happens.
It's a bit of a mystery.  And I've done some troubleshooting, and I want to lay out the clues so I have them handy for cross-referencing and deducing who is the real killer problem switch...

When player #3 ball #1 drains, the player unit fails to advance.  Ball is ejected in to shooter lane, player #3 ball #1 continues indefinitely.
When only a 1 or 2 player game, player unit steps perfectly through entire game and subsequent game.

When we hit player 3, then we turn the game off, and on again, the AX relay must be manually unlatched and then the player unit must manually (via stepping the solenoid) stepped through each position.  Once it hits the 2nd reset position it takes off on its own and is then ready for a new game.
With just 1 or 2 players, when we turn the game off then on everything is perfect and no manual intervention is required.

When we hit the player#3 problem (as it will be herein be referenced,) I then manually step the player unit to play some of a proper 4-player game.  I decide to turn the power off while set on player #1 ball #3.   with power-on, the manual intervention of AX + player unit stepping is required.  (well, technically I don't know if the AX resetting is really required...  I should test that)
This shows to me that it is not the physical position of the player unit that is resulting in this.

I also ran a test, taking the game to player #3 ball #1, turning it off then on, and no issue.  The issue ONLY arises when player #3 ball #1 ends, and the game fails to progress to the next player.   Progression fails, ball is in shooter lane, off then on and yup, stuck.

There is ....  SOMETHING lingering.  Something that lingers during power reset.
I think the AX/BX relays the only relays that retain a state during power on/off.  The player unit maintains its' position.  But even if I make sure AX and BX relays are reset, I am still forced to manually progress the player unit to its reset states.  I also verified that the coin unit resets fine at power on.

Any ideas?
It's not the play unit position, not the coin unit, it's not the AX/BX relays...  WHAT ELSE IS THERE?