Cleaning A Pinball Machine

Cleaning A Pinball Machine

When you find pinball machines for sale in your local area, quite often they are in rough shape. The rubber rings might be broke, the ball might get stuck when you play it, and the playfield might have a thick layer of dirt on it. In this post, we will discuss some basic steps that you can follow to get your pinball machine looking and playing close to like it did when it was new.

Cleaning A Pinball Machine (Part One)

Cleaning A Pinball Machine (Part Two)

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Let me start off by saying that our company, Varcade Entertainment, has won awards in the past for our pinball restorations from the Texas Pinball Festival committee. We actually have one guy on our staff that specializes just in pinball cleaning and maintenance. We love pinball and take pinball restoration very seriously. Hopefully this information will be helpful to those of you who are just starting your pinball collection.

Before you can clean your pinball game, it would be good if you knew how to open it. Open the coin door and find a latch inside typically located in the top right or top left corner. This latch keeps the lock bar in place that holds the playfield glass. Move this latch to unlock the lock bar and remove it from the cabinet. Once you have removed the lock bar, you should be able to easily slide the playfield glass out of the pinball machine.

Now, we’ll open the backbox which contains our backglass, backglass lamps, and our boards. First, locate a key to unlock the backbox. This key is usually located inside the coin door. Take the key and unlock the backbox locks which are usually located on the right or left hand side of the backbox. Once you have unlocked the locks, lift the backglass up from the bottom and pull away from the backbox. Set the backglass in a safe place as you don’t want to damage it accidentally. To gain access to the boards, located some latches located on the backglass lamp panel. Lift the latches and you should be able to swing the backglass lamp panel open and gain access to your boards.

Now that we have access to the playfield, lets start our cleaning by removing the plastics. The plastics are plastic pieces that cover the playfield and usually have artwork related to the game on them. It’s a good idea to take pictures of the plastics before removal so you know where to place them at the end of your cleaning. If your plastics are warped try putting them in the oven. Check out the Mr. Pinball Repair Tip Archive for more information.

Once you have removed your plastics, you can now remove your rubbers or rubber rings. Again, you might want to take pictures before you start removing your rubber rings so you know where to put them after your cleaning. It’s also a good idea to order a new rubber kit before you remove your current rubbers as older rubber rings tend to break or crack upon removal. Having new rubber rings will also make your pinball machine play better. We recommend you order your new rubber kits from Steve Young’s The Pinball Resource and just dispose of all of the current rubbers on your machine.

With the rubbers and plastics removed, you can now clean the playfield. We usually start our cleaning process with Novus. Novus is a cleaner specifically made for pinball machines that comes in 3 different varieties: Novus #3 for removing heavy scratches, Novus #2 for removing fine scratches and Novus #1 for cleaning and protecting. Novus #1 is very similar to a glass cleaner so you can save some money and just get that instead. You can order all 3 varieties of Novus from Steve Young’s The Pinball Resource as well.

Depending on the playfield, we usually start with Novus #3 following it up with Novus #2. On playfields that don’t have many heavy scratches, we usually skip the Novus #3. To apply the Novus #3 or #2 to your playfield, drip the contents of the bottle on your playfield. You really want to treat this like a wax job. Take a terrycloth and swirl the Novus into playfield. Scrub areas where you can see the scratches to remove them. Once you have applied the Novus #3 and #2, you can come back with Novus #1 or a glass cleaner to make your playfield shine.

You might see some areas that are dirty even after applying the Novus on the playfield. This is where our first secret ingredient, Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser, comes into play. Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser is great on difficult to clean places. You can buy it at pretty much any grocery store. To use Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser dip it in water, scrub the playfield and watch the dirt come up!

Perhaps your pinball legs or coin door are in pretty rough shape and you can’t seems to get them clean. Our second secret ingredient is MAAS. MAAS comes in a silver tube and is used to clean metals. You apply it with a regular terrycloth and use a swirling motion much like with the Novus. MAAS is very concentrated so a little goes a long way. You can get MAAS from www.maasinc.com.

Once you are satisfied with your playfield cleaning job, it’s time to apply the wax. We usually use Turtle car wax but any carnauba wax should work fine. You can get wax from your local auto parts store. Apply the wax all over the playfield using the same swirling motion as you used on the Novus earlier. Make sure you let it dry for a reasonable amount of time before trying to buff it. We usually put anywhere from 3 to 4 coats of wax on a playfield.

While you’re waiting for the wax on the playfield to dry, you might consider cleaning your pinballs. Pinballs tend to spread the dirt around on a playfield so making sure their clean can help make your cleaning job last longer. Also, you can clean your drop targets during this time. Make sure they are in the down position and prop up the playfield. You should be able to see them and reach them. Just use a general cleaner such as glass cleaner or Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser to remove the dirt from them.

Now that the playfield is clean, we can start replacing the rubbers that we removed earlier. Usually there is a rubber map in your instruction manual, however, you can also refer to the pictures you took before you removed them for your cleaning job. We usually start with the flippers and work our way up the playfield but it’s entirely up to you. Once you have replaced all of the rubbers, you can move on to the plastics. Again, refer to the pictures that you took earlier for placement. After you have finished replacing the rubbers and the plastics, your playfield cleaning job is complete! Clean the glass real good using glass cleaner and then slide it back into place, replace the lock bar and call it a day!

We hope that this post has given you a good starting point for how to clean and open your pinball machine. If you would like to read more about cleaning and shopping a pinball machine please visit Flippers.be at http://www.flippers.be/nbshop1.html. Do you have any other comments, questions, or suggestions about cleaning a pinball machine? Please leave them below in our comments section.

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Comments
  1. Larry

    Enjoy your informative video’s. Do you have any that are directly for the BINGO machines from Bally? Thanks

  2. Jonathan Leung

    Larry,

    Unfortunately we do not have any videos that are directly for the BINGO machines from Bally. If these machines are video based they should work very similar to the arcade games that we talk about in our videos. If they are more like pinball machines then you probably need to check out the Game Repair section on Marvins Marvelous Mechanical Museum page at http://www.marvin3m.com/.

    We have also featured your question on episode 13 of our Q&A podcast. Please listen to it for more of our thoughts on your question. Thank you for your question and good luck with your future repairs.

  3. Brian Powers

    What do you do if you find scratches on the glass. How can you get those out? Should you just get new glass cut?

  4. Ryan Claytor

    Is there any chance you could do a video about swapping-out simple parts like lights that have burned-out and busted rollover star buttons? Thanks so much for your informative videos.

  5. Jonathan Leung

    Brian,

    Getting a new piece of glass is always be best option. You can get a new piece of pinball glass for less than $70 shipped at a lot of places online . Seems pretty reasonable if it’s a pinball machine you want to keep for a while. As for getting scratches out of glass, we recommend going to an auto parts store and ask them for something that will work. We have heard that steel wool and Novus might help but it’s probably better just to get you a new piece of glass.

    Thank you for your question and good luck with your repair.

  6. Jonathan Leung

    Ryan,

    Yes, we can definitely accommodate your request. We’ll add them to our project list. Hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to show some pinball light/part replacements soon.

    Thank you for your question and good luck with your future repairs.

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