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Basic Troubleshooting Of An Arcade Game

Basic Troubleshooting Of An Arcade Game

Before you can fix an arcade game, a pinball machine or any electronic device, you have to first accurately analyze the problem. A few tools and a good eye will take you a long way towards performing a professional repair. In this post, we’ll discuss some simple steps you can take when you are starting a repair job.

Step 1: It’s usually easier to determine what is wrong with a game by determining what is right. Are there any signs of life at all? Does the marquee or other lights work? Do you hear the monitor? Does the game play blind? (i.e. the monitor has no picture but you hear sound from the game) If the game is appears to be dead, start simple. Do you have 120 VAC going into your power supply? If your power supply is good, is it supplying the correct voltage (usually 5 VDC and 12 VDC) to you main board and other components?

Step 2: Always start with the obvious. Try using the self test on the PCB or in the test menu if the monitor is working. Input and output tests will tell you if certain things are functioning properly. Find a manual for the game online and look for troubleshooting tips inside of it. If the manufacturer is still in business don’t be afraid to give them a call. Look for places that look burned or have loose wires or connections.

Step 3: Use a multimeter. Don’t trust your eyes, trust your meter. Check for blown fuses. Read the manual for your meter or find one online. There are many things you can use your meter for from simple tests down to the component level.

Step 4: Check all wiring. Do some basic continuity checks with your meter and make sure you have good connections. The wiring harness can be a common place for issues as previous owners might have flexed the wires or mishandled them. Trace down the wires using the connector on the harness as a test point.

Step 5: Ask for help! If you are ever reach a point where you don’t feel comfortable, it’s a good idea to ask for assistance. There is no shame in asking a question only in being afraid to ask! Make sure you have as much information as possible when asking for help. Information like the name of the game, the manufacturer and time period are very helpful to someone trying to assist you. Please feel free to leave a comment on our site or email us with your question. We will try to assist you in any way possible.

Always make a commitment to doing the job right. Don’t take shortcuts or do it half way. Your arcade game deserves better and you will be glad in the end you took the time to do it right. Good luck with your projects in the future and again please feel free to leave any questions or suggestions in the comments section below.

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Comments
  1. Rob

    Thanks for the invitation to ask a question. I have a millipede game (atari) and have two issues. BTW I’ve had the board checked by mikesarcade and they claim all is good.

    First the sound has stopped working. I have determined the speakers are fine and there is power to the amp. When I disconnect one of the terminals and reconnect there is an amplified “pop” so I guess the amp is functional. It worked before I sent the board to Mike’s.

    The secon issue is that I noticed a row of “mushrooms” that sometimes appear on the top of the screen and work their way down and sometimes I see a colum of them and they seem to reset the game when they reach the bottom of the screen.

    Please tell me where I start and if you have any good suggestion on where I can send the board (CPU) for repair if this is not a novice type of repair.

    Thanks again for the help!

    Rob

  2. Jonathan Leung

    Rob,

    First off, we have done business with mikesarcade for years and feel that they are a trusted and reliable arcade repair service. It sounds like your problem is in your AR (Audio Regulator) board. This board controls the voltage going to your motherboard and your audio amplifier. You can get an AR board repair kit from The Real Bob Roberts for about $7 to $15 depending on the model of the AR board you have. These repair kits are fairly easy to install and can be applied in 30 minutes or less. We highly recommend doing this! If it doesn’t entirely fix your problem, it should at least prevent future problems from occurring.

    Thanks for your question and keep us posted on the results of your repair.

  3. rick anzalone

    I have a donkey kong 2 board set game. There are a few sound problems with it. It keeps playing the same background music from a section of the completion of the rivet board. It also is missing other sounds in the game such as monkey laughing hammer, striking objects, and effect of jumping over objects. I don’t know what section of the board controls these actions. please help me understand where to look.

    Also the colors are not very bright and not correct no matter how much I adjust everything. Is this a symptom of caps or bulb. It still has original sanyo monitor.

    Thank you for your time.

  4. Jonathan Leung

    Rick Anzalone,

    Nintendo arcade games are notorious for having the sound board attached to the monitor frame. This problem sounds like it might be related to this board. Both Arcade Shop Amusements and Bob Roberts sell a Sanyo 20EZ Audio Board Repair Kit. We suggest getting this repair kit and installing it on your board. Hopefully this will solve your sound issue. Concerning your monitor issue, we would definitely start off by applying a cap kit to your monitor. This is always a good place to start when you have issues like low brightness and washed out colors. Try a cap kit first and let us know if you continue to have brightness or color problems with the monitor.

    We have also featured your question on episode 1 of our Q&A podcast. Look for it to be posted on our website soon. Thank you for your question and let us know if we can assist you further.

  5. rick anzalone

    As far as the sound problem I replaced the 8035 chip on the cpu board and all sounds worked properly.

    I installed a cap kit but my problems still remain. However I did find that somebody had replaced them before and one of the values were wrong and it repaired a problem I was having with the screen being divided when turning it on.

    The color problem is this, everything that would be white is green,the red and blue are very dark and has trouble making browns, pinks, and purples. I replaced chips at 2E cpu, 2F cpu, and 2N video and no change. These chips are for color. I would like to know if the Z80 chip processes the color before sending it to the monitor or if this is a monitor issue.

    Thanks again.

  6. jacob a

    i have a question concerning my pac-man coctail arcade it was made in 1981 in franklin park illinois when i plug it in the picture comes on and pac-man does his rounds but the power pellets never go away and then the picture will fade away please help

  7. rick anzalone

    I found an article on the net about crt’s and it made me decide to take it to a tv repair man to rejuvinate the tube. The guy was nice enough to show me how the restorer worked and removed a short but did not fix it. He said I could find an old tv and if it fit the neck board it would work. I did just that at the thrift store, and with minor modifications it worked. Thank you for this site and introducing me to the begining basics of arcade troubleshooting.

  8. Dave Nutini

    Hey all,

    Just purchased an NBA Jam machine and I just lugged it inside, plugged it in to find out that I can hear the power working, however, only a black screen and no game sounds. Not sure where to look or what to do. Any tips as to how I can get this working?

    Thanks!

  9. Jonathan Leung

    Rick,

    We are glad you got your problem resolved. We were kind of curious about which game you are actually referring to though. Is this a Donkey Kong Junior or a Donkey Kong II: The Return Of Jumpman? We have also featured your question on episode 2 of our Q&A podcast. Look for it to be posted on our website soon. Thank you for your questions and good luck with your future repairs.

  10. Jonathan Leung

    Jacob,

    Sounds like you might be having some board trouble, however, it’s really hard to narrow down what chips are having problems without seeing a picture or video of the issue. You can get pacman replacement chips from Bob Roberts for about $10 a piece. You could always get a full set of chips and replace them all but more than likely there is just an issue in one or two of them.

    We have also featured your question on episode 2 of our Q&A podcast. Look for it to be posted on our website soon. Thank you for your question and please send us a video or some photos so we can help your further.

  11. Jonathan Leung

    Dave,

    First question we have is was it working at the time of purchase? If it was then your problem is probably related to a loose connection somewhere. Check your harness that connects to the board and make sure it is connected good. Next thing to check is the power supply. Please refer to our post on Checking And Replacing A Power Supply for more information on checking a power supply.

    We have also featured your question on episode 2 of our Q&A podcast. Look for it to be posted on our website soon. Thank you for your question and good luck with this repair.

  12. Robin

    I purchased a Space Duel game and at that time it had a small white dot in the middle of the monitor screen. Within a few months, the white dot is now the origin for lines that go to all the objects floating on the screen (vector lines?). My question is if there is an adjustment I can make to the monitor to fix the problem or is this the result of another issue. The game still plays, the color is great and the sound is great. The only issue is the annoying lines. Thanks in advnace.
    Robin

  13. Jonathan Leung

    Robin,

    The first thing we would try is to adjust the brightness control on the monitor. There are typically 2 places on the monitor chassis where you can adjust this. Check out our post on Adjusting An Arcade Monitor for help on locating these brightness controls. If this does not solve your problem then you might be having a problem with another part of your chassis. Please keep us posted on your progress.

    We have also featured your question on episode 4 of our Q&A podcast. Please listen to it for more of our thoughts on your issue. Thank you for your question and good luck with your repair.

  14. Dave

    I have a ms packman coctail arcade all works fine untill I or my children bump the machine or tap the glass. The game then restarts and you loose your coins…….I need help to fix.

  15. Jonathan Leung

    Dave,

    Sounds like you might be having a problem with a kill switch. Make sure that the kill switch located in the front of the game behind the coin door is being depressed by the door itself. If this is not the case then you could have a short in your wiring. Run some continuity checks between your power supply and harness to see if it is shorting or not.

    We have also featured your question on episode 6 of our Q&A podcast. Please listen to it for more of our thoughts on your question. Thank you for your question and stay tuned for more videos and podcasts.

  16. Adam

    I have had a Pac-Man machine for about 5 years with no problems whatsoever. However, when I recently moved and then later plugged it in, I was unable to play it. It powers up perfectly fine but the monitor now has only one line across it, like it was completely vertically compressed. I can still press the start buttons and hear it start and work like normal. In that line that I still see, I can still see objects moving around as well. I could really use your help. Thanks.

  17. Jonathan Leung

    Adam,

    Sounds like you are having a problem with the vertical section of your monitor chassis. We would recommend following the yellow yoke wire to your chassis which should lead you to the vertical section. Reflow the solder around the caps and the vertical IC chip in this section and see if this solves your problem. If the problem continues you might try replacing these parts in this section. Check out post on More Troubleshoooting Monitors With Michael for more information.

    We have also featured your question on episode 10 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 repair.

  18. Ed

    I have a Street Fighter 2 game that seems to have a short in it some where. As soon as I power it on the fuse at the power supply pops. What are some basic steps to isolate the short?

    Thanks

  19. Jonathan Leung

    Ed,

    We would recommend trying to unplug some of the inner parts of the cabinet to see what’s supplying the feedback to the fuse. You might want to start off by turning the game off, unplugging your board and turning your game on to see if it blows the fuse. If it still blows the fuse, try unplugging the monitor followed by the coin door lights, control panel, marquee light, etc. It’s obviously something in your cabinet that’s supplying the feedback. The best plan we can give you is to get a lot of fuses and do some process of elimination to see if you can isolate the issue to a particular area.

    Also, you might do a quick check of your AC voltage coming from the wall as well as your power supply to make sure you are getting the correct voltage in both places. It could be that your power supply is giving out the incorrect voltage causing the fuse to blow. Take a good look at the parts in this area to make sure they are functioning properly.

    We have also featured your question on episode 12 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 tracking down your issue.

  20. Sherrie

    I have an Area 51 arcade game and it just stopped working. Could it be a fuse or what else should I look for? I have no idea.

  21. Jonathan Leung

    Sherrie,

    Yes it could definitely be a fuse that caused your game to stop working. We would recommend checking your fuses, power supply, kill switches and power switch. The issue could be caused by any one of these parts. Please see our posts on Checking And Replacing A Power Supply and Checking Fuses With A Multimeter for more information.

    We have also featured your question on episode 15 of our Q&A podcast. Please listen to it for more of our thoughts on your question. Thank you for your question and keep us updated on your progress.

  22. Paul Christian

    I just recently purchased a Super Pac Man arcade. Everything looks and works good except one thing. After the machine is in continous operation for 10 or 15 minutes, a low-pitched intermittant thumping sound is from the speaker. If placed in a laundrymat in its current condition, i’m sure people would call me to repair it.

    Does anybody know what the problem might be?

  23. Jeff

    I recently received(via a buddy’s buddy) a JAMMA Carrier AirWings arcade. It’s pretty good except for the monitor. There’s some image burning from other games when the monitor is off and even when its on. I’m very new to arcade repair/tweaking. Is there a way to fix this?

    Also… sometimes the top third of whats on the screen waves over to one direction so that it looks bent. I’m going to try some of the knobs that I’ve seen you note on this website but if you have a better idea or think it’s just a messed up monitor at this point then please advise! Thanks in advance for any answers you give.

  24. Jeff

    I hate to ask too many questions… but you seem really knowledgeable and helpful!

    I also received a PCB for Bionic Commando. It plugs into my JAMMA slot just fine. It comes up on the screen. But it just plays the idle screen of the ai playing and says “GAME OVER”. No matter what buttons I press nothing happens.

    Ideas?

  25. Bill

    I have a Defender game and last night all the controls on decided to stop working. When I re-powered up the machine the self test says that everything is OK. Any suggestions on where to start on this troubleshoot?

    Thanks.

  26. Jonathan Leung

    Paul,

    Your Super Pac Man sounds issue could be caused by a couple of problems. We recommend checking out the Lawnmowerman’s Pac-man Website at http://lawnmowerman.rotheblog.com/#verticalHum. We would recommend starting with the vertical hum section that we link to and then moving down to the Sound Problems section. This site should give you some great ideas about how to fix your sound issues.

    We have also featured your question on episode 18 of our Q&A podcast. Please listen to it for more of our thoughts on your question. Thank you for your question and keep us updated on your progress.

  27. Jonathan Leung

    Jeff,

    Let’s take your questions one at a time.

    First off, there is really no good way to remove screen burn from a tube. We usually recommend just replacing your old tube with a new tube. That being said, however, you can hide the screen burn by using a piece of dark plexiglass over the screen. We use this trick a lot of times on old Pac Man machines as they usually have a lot of screen burn.

    Second, the curl or bend that your experiencing can be related to the adjustments or could be a capacitor issue. Check out our post on Adjusting An Arcade Monitor for more information on the adjustments. If the adjustments don’t help then you probably need to do a cap kit to solve the problem. See our post on Installing A Cap Kit for more information.

    Third, it could be that your Carrier Air Wings board is set to free play while your Bionic Commando board is not. You might try coining up the game to see if it will allow you to play. You can do this by pushing the thin wire down on the back of your coin mechanism. This will simulate putting a quarter in the machine. After you coin it you should be able to start the game.

    We have also featured your question on episode 19 of our Q&A podcast. Please listen to it for more of our thoughts on your question. Thank you for your question and keep us updated on your progress.

  28. Jonathan Leung

    Bill,

    Defender has an input board that all of the controls are wired to. It could be that this board is bad and needs replacement. Here’s a neat article about how you can build your own: JROK’s Defender IO Widget Board. You should also check your ground wires going to your controls to make sure they are making a good connection. These wires are usually daisy chained which means that one disconnect in this wire could cause all of your controls to stop working.

    We have also featured your question on episode 19 of our Q&A podcast. Please listen to it for more of our thoughts on your question. Thank you for your question and keep us updated on your progress.

  29. John

    Recently purchased mortal Kombat I and can not get it out of free play. I went into the menu by pressing the switch behind the coin door and it seems as if the free play option is controlled by something called the ” dip switch” but it won’t allow mebto change anything from the menu. Help!

  30. Bjw

    I recently bought a donkey kong jr. machine. After getting it home and playing it I realized that I can only play level 1 & level 4. Any ideas on why this would be happening.
    Thank you

  31. GoNzO

    Just found this web site, great info! I just found a williams stargate machine that had a 131 error when I first turned it on, and now it has a white screen with white squares randomly on the screen, I haven’t done much troubleshooting, so I will be visiting reguarly. Thanks for the help!

  32. Jonathan Leung

    John,

    The dip switches are little switches on the board that control things such as amount of coins per play and difficulty. It sounds like you’ll need to change your dip switches in order to take it out of free play mode. According to MikesArcade.com, you will need to switch the first four switches on the second set of dip switches in order to change the amount of coins per play. Please see our post on Adjusting Dip Switch Settings On A Board for more information.

    We have also featured your question on episode 23 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 repair.

  33. jeff

    Purchased nba jam tournament addition, have all colors, but red.

    Game plays then resets during the game and have to start over again.

    If you can help it would be appreciated.

  34. Jonathan Leung

    Bjw,

    This is a very strange problem that we don’t see very often. It could be a problem with some of the logic chips on the board. You could get a logic probe and go through these chips to see if any of them are not putting out the proper signals. It’s also very possible that your board is a bootleg board. A bootleg board is an unauthorized copy of an original game board. While these boards are copies, they tend to have some differences from the original. This level issue that you’re experiencing could possibly fall into this category.

    We have also featured your question on episode 24 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 repair.

  35. Jonathan Leung

    Jeff,

    First off, we recommend checking the connection between the board and the monitor. We would specifically look at the red wire to make sure that it is making a good connection to the pin on the chassis. Also, check to make sure that the pin itself is making a good connection to the monitor chassis. These pins have been known to come loose after several years of disconnecting and reconnecting the connector. If the connection is good, we would then start to suspect the red adjustment pots on the monitor. You might try refreshing the solder to make sure they are also making a good connection to the monitor chassis. You can also check the tube like we talk about in our post on Checking A Monitor Tube to see if the red is working.

    As for your second question, the majority of game reset issues are usually related to the power supply. Get a multimeter and make sure that your power supply is putting out the correct voltage to the game board. See our post on Checking And Replacing A Power Supply for more information.

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

  36. Leo

    I have a 1984 Gaplus (Galaga 3) Arcade machine has no sound but the explosion when ship is hit and I hear the explosion when system boots up too. Game plays fine. Found JW4 was cut off and D103 had a cold solder joint on the 90412 power supply. So now I have 12 vdc going to the main board as well as 5vdc. I touched the pins on the LA4480 audio amp chip and get a hum. RM2 on main board has resistance at each leg pair dip switch A S5 on or off has no effect. Any help or direction Thank you.

  37. Leo

    Well Jonathan this is an up date, I have had Mikes Arcade, And Arcade Circuit Board Repair say no help to this midway board… Is this it’s death. I can not believe this. What does it take to fix I understand if it’s about the parts. Lets keep the arcade games alive.
    I have the 60 in 1 Jamma board. Is this the future … What a shame but no parts no parts.

  38. Jonathan Leung

    Leo,

    You might try contacting our friend Raymond at Arcade Components to see if he can help you out with your Gaplus board. He’s one of the best when it comes to board level repairs such as this. Hope that helps

  39. Doug

    Hello I have a 1980 space invader machine that comes on and shows what looks like space invaders on the screen all messed up. But it just sets there and does nothing no matter what do. I have adjusted all voltage to +5.1 +12.1 but the -5 I could only get it down to 5 .24 . I have checked all connectors, solder and so on any ideals on what it might be?

    Thank You

  40. Jonathan Leung

    Doug,

    Sounds like you’re having some sort of power supply issue. You might try rebuilding your power supply. Bob Roberts (http://www.therealbobroberts.net) sells a Space Invaders power supply rebuild kit that should help you out. Just search for “Midway OEM PS (90400) Cap Kit” on his parts page or you could just send him an email asking him for one. You’ll have to send him an email at some point anyways as that’s they only way he accepts orders.

    Hope that helps. Thank you for your question and good luck with your repair.

  41. Doug

    I did check the capacitors and none are putting out what should so will go ahead and try new caps

    Thank You
    Jonathan

  42. Hazel Owens

    I like your tip to find out what’s wrong with a game by first determining what’s right. Like you said, it’s easier to narrow down the source of a problem if you can cross off some possible issues. If you know that the power is working, for example, then you have one less thing to worry about. Thanks for the tips.

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