I haven't been posting much lately, nor have I been able to take on much repair work due to a house move (more on that later!). However, I've been able to get stuck into a small backlog of board repairs and other minor jobs while I sort out the housing situation.
After the last repair, I thought it would be a good idea to do a short post to remind everyone to check their circuit boards as a part of their regular pinball maintenance regimen. Circuit board parts fail all of the time, but few of these failures will actively damage your machine. Batteries are the most well-known exception and they will certainly damage your circuit boards if they leak. However, fewer people are aware that capacitors are capable of damaging circuit boards in the same way, and should also be checked regularly for signs of damage.
Christmas sure was a good time for pinball repairs! Several weeks ago, a customer advised me that their Elvira and the Party Monsters (Williams, 1989) was no longer working. They had had the game for a long time and it had always played without issue. However, they did note that sometimes it would take several flicks of the power switch for the game to turn on properly. Now, it would not turn on at all. No lights, no sounds; nothing! When they opened the backbox to inspect the game, they found a lot of green electrolyte from badly leaking batteries on the MPU board. Uh oh! This was likely the source of their problems, so they brought the MPU board in to me for repair.
The dot matrix display used in most modern era pinball games is a high-voltage plasma gas discharge display. High voltages are required in order to energize the plasma in order to illuminate it, creating the dots and pixels we see on the display. This process is controlled by a specific section of the display driver board (part no. A-14039) in WPC games. Pinwiki has a detailed description of problems that can occur with these displays and how to fix them. In particular, the section on testing DMD controller voltages discusses the high voltage section of the board and the voltages you can normally expect to find on it. When the components on this section of the board go out of spec, they can affect the display, rendering text and images on the screen impossible to read (if present at all).
At this point, it was time to rebuild the display driver boards in a couple of my games. The display in my Getaway (Williams, 1992) seemingly worked fine, but the voltages being produced by the board were way too high. On the other hand, the voltages on my Judge Dredd (Williams, 1993) were perfectly fine, but the display would occasionally fail and stop working mid-game. Both of these problems were fixed by rebuilding the high voltage sections of the display driver boards.
Up until recently I had been putting up with some strange display issues on my Doctor Who (Bally, 1992) and Judge Dredd (Bally, 1993). Each game worked well enough but there were artifacts on the display that should not normally be present. Since I was about to sell the Doctor Who, I decided to finally figure out the issues with both display driver boards. I also figured it would be a good opportunity to write a general instructional post about integrated circuit replacement on a circuit board.
Here you will find logs of our pinball machine restorations, repairs, discussion about general pinball topics, and recounts of our random pinball adventures.
Check back regularly for updates!
Running this website is a hobby for me, just like pinball. I like being able to show my restoration work to everyone so that others can learn from it and learn to fix their own machines. If you enjoy reading the content, please consider donating to offset some of the website's operating costs.