A well lit marquee is one of the best forms of advertisement for any arcade game. While the marquee artwork itself can be compelling, the addition of a back light to this area of the cabinet can really make it stand out. Arcade cabinets have used various methods over the years to ensure that this section stays bright and vivid. We’ve seen coin-op manufacturers use everything from everyday household bulbs to a strips of small, DC voltage powered lamps to the more standard fluorescent light fixtures. Although all of these methods achieve the goal of lighting the marquee, there is a new technology that has gained popularity in recent years. That technology is LED, or Light-Emitting Diode. In this post, we will discuss LEDs in general and the process of replacing a standard marquee light fixture with an LED light bar.
Replacing A Marquee Light (With An LED Light Bar)
Before we get started, let’s take a second to talk about LEDs. As we mentioned in the introduction, LED stands for light-emitting diode. LEDs work much like regular semiconductor diodes except that when you apply a voltage to the leads it creates light. LEDs were created in the 1960s and were mainly used for low intensity red lights such as traffic lights, computer status lights, etc. Now, with the advances in technology, LEDs can be found in all sorts of real world applications including light bulbs, light bars, etc. The reasons why LED technology has become so popular are fairly simple: 1.) it has a much lower energy consumption than standard incandescent lighting 2.) it lasts much longer with estimates around 50,000 – 100,000 hours. These benefits are really what’s driving the change to LED over the standard incandescent and/or fluorescent lighting that’s found in most arcade cabinets today.
Now that we have discussed LEDs and their benefits, let’s talk about the process of installing one in your arcade cabinet. The first step in replacing your marquee light with an LED light bar is to check the voltage that your current fixture is getting from the power supply in your arcade cabinet. In order to accomplish this, you will need a multimeter. We discuss multimeters in our post on Your First Arcade Toolbox. We highly recommend checking out this post if you are not familiar with multimeters or need help purchasing one. Checking the voltage is a pretty simple process for most arcade cabinets. All you need to do is track down where the marquee power wires plug into your power supply and check the voltage at that location with the game on. Many marquee fixtures have a connector that’s located close by that can easily be unplugged and used to check the voltage as well. Keep in mind that the voltage type (AC/DC) and amount can vary greatly depending on the cabinet so be sure to change the settings on your multimeter if you have any difficulties during the voltage check step.
Once you have determined the type and amount of voltage that’s going to your current marquee fixture, you can purchase the correct LED light bar for your cabinet. In the video for this post, our cabinet has 100 VAC going to the marquee light fixture. As such, we were able to order an LED light bar that would accept this input voltage.
Please note that 100 VAC is a somewhat uncommon voltage for an arcade cabinet. With that said, the LED light bar that we use in the video will work with the standard 120 VAC voltage as well. Most arcade cabinets in the United States are going to use either 120 VAC, 5 VDC, or 12 VDC for their marquee lighting. We have also used the LED light strip below in 12 VDC installation and have had really good luck with it:
There are many 5 VDC LED light bars available as well but we have not had any experience with one at this time but we would expect you would have the same level of success that we have had with these items.
With the correct LED light bar in hand, you can now proceed to the installation step. Be sure that the game is powered off during the entire installation process otherwise you could risk electric shock. In most arcade cabinets, there are a series of screws that keep the marquee light fixture in places. You will need to remove these screws and disconnect the power connector (or cut the power wires if your fixture doesn’t have a connector) in order to remove the entire fixture from the cabinet. Make sure that when you cut the wires for the power connector that you leave a bit of wire on the connector side (6 inches or so if possible). We will use this wire to connect the new fixture so that we can use the existing connector.
Now that the old fixture is removed, we can install the new LED light bar. Using the included mounts (or your own mounting system), position the LED light bar and attach it into the cabinet. We recommend using the screws that were used with the existing fixture if possible as these should already be the right depth as to not come out of the other side of the cabinet. After the LED light bar has been mounted, you can connect it to the existing power wires that were used for the previous fixture. We like to use wire nuts to attach the new LED light bar to the power wires for testing purposes. Once you are sure that the new LED light bar is working, you can remove the wire nuts and use the solder/heat shrink method that we’ve discussed in the past to keep these wires connected. Keep in mind that if your old fixture had a connector, you will want to tie the LED light bar power wires in to this connector (this is why we mentioned leaving some wire in place when you remove it). Otherwise you can just tie these wires directly into the existing power wires in the cabinet. At this point, you should be ready to power the cabinet on to check your work. If the LED light bar powers on, you can consider the project complete.
Regardless of whether you are a collector or an operator, most of us would agree that an arcade cabinet just looks better with a well lit marquee. While incandescent and fluorescent bulbs have been the marquee lighting standard for many years, LED light bars have become more and more popular as the technology has advanced. Thanks to these advancements, you can now ensure that this area of your cabinet will be bright and vivid for many years to come. Please leave any questions or suggestions in the comments section below.