Fiona and I have been going to Pinfest since 2015. Pinfest is an annual pinball festival that takes place in Newcastle on the Central Coast and is hosted by the Newcastle Pinball Association. It is always a fantastic event with many machines on free play for the general public to play.
This year, we decided to donate one of our own machines for the event. Getaway was playing well so we decided to bring it along. I was interested to see how it would hold up with two days of continuous play. Pinfest does strange things to pinball machines; a machine that plays fine in a home environment may be perform poorly at an event like Pinfest unless it has been finely tuned. I thought I had set Getaway up nicely after our restoration a couple of years ago and various tweaks since then. So, we loaded it into the car and headed to Caves Beach!
Setup and initial testing on Friday night went without a hitch. Everything was working as it should have been. A good omen for the first free play session on Saturday morning! Richard Rhodes (formerly Australia's No. 1 ranked player) test played it for a few hours and said it was the best Getaway he had played in his life. If Richard was happy with how it played, then so was I!
Saturday morning came and went. The machine was played constantly for several hours. A couple of the lamps had stopped working as they had wiggled slightly loose from the lamp board sockets. These just needed reinserting to get them working again.
Close to the midday break, I went to check out how the Getaway was doing. The person playing it lit the lock, and made a lock shot. The ball made it up the ramp, down the right wireform, and into the lock area. But instead of stopping, it ran straight over the disappearing post in the lock, and down the right inlane. What the hell?
He tried another lock shot, and the same thing happened. It looked like the disappearing post was just being run over by balls instead of stopping them in the lock. Damn. As it was close to the midday break, I let it be, and decided to fix it during the break when there weren't so many people around.
During the break, I took the post assembly apart. There was nothing loose or missing, but it looked like the tip of the disappearing post had been worn down by the balls impacting it. This was probably contributing to the problem, allowing the balls to pass over the post and push it down. But this wasn't the cause.
The main problem was that the post's position was too low. Therefore, balls could easily knock it down when entering the lock. The position of the post can be adjusted slightly by loosening the screws on the bracket and shifting the top half of the assembly (which holds the plunger) upwards. This will push the post up as far as possible above the playfield. This seemed to do the trick, as the post was now slightly higher when in the resting position. I installed some longer 6x32 screws into the assembly and secured them with nuts to make sure the assembly wouldn't move down again. I hit a few balls into the lock area and the post stayed up when hit and kept the balls locked. Repair success, and within minutes of the doors reopening for the afternoon session. Phew!
The rest of Saturday afternoon went smoothly with no further issues. On Saturday evening, the machines were available for Pinfest event staff to play. Getaway was played a fair bit, but not nearly as much as during the day. Fiona and I left Pinfest late, at around 10:00 pm, and went to get some dinner and some sleep.
Come Sunday morning, we got back to Pinfest early to make sure everything was ready to go. I turned on the Getaway, a ball was served into the shooter lane, and I flicked the shifter to launch the ball. And... nothing! No ball launch.
I put the game into test mode. The shooter lane switch was working fine. I tried activating the plunger coil in solenoid test. No response. I checked the wiring to the plunger coil. All good. Time to check the backbox. I looked at the fuses and saw that F102 had blown. I replaced it, but to no effect. I tried grounding the transistor that drives the plunger coil (Q52) but the plunger still did not fire. Then I checked for power at the lugs of the plunger coil - it was getting power - but only 15 volts. There should be at least 50 volts at the coils. Weird.
I left the machine in solenoid test with the plunger coil active. I followed the wires from the coil, across an inline connector, to the high current driver assembly (part no. C-13509) that houses the transistor which drives the plunger coil. I wiggled one of the connectors on this board and the plunger started firing (as it was still in test mode). So, the issue was on this board somewhere. I took the board off and sure enough, there was a huge cold solder joint on one row of header pins. Reflowing the solder fixed the issue for good.
I ran through other solenoid tests to see if anything else was going wrong. I found that the ramp lifter assembly had stopped working and that the ramp was stuck in the down position. I popped the playfield up and looked at the lifter assembly. The coil plunger was stuck and wasn't moving up or down. I took the assembly apart and couldn't see anything wrong. After putting it back together, it moved freely again. Easy fix. The machine was ready for another full day of flipping.
On Sunday afternoon, another problem reared its head - the ramp lifting mechanism again! This time, it was stuck in the up position. Taking the assembly out from under the playfield revealed the problem pretty quickly. The armature sub-assembly that holds the ramp in place (part no. A-8936) had lost a screw and come loose from the main assembly. The second screw that secures it to the assembly was also very loose. I have had to retighten these screws a couple of times in the past as they tend to loosen with the constant raising and lowering of the ramp. This time I fixed it permanently with some longer 6x32 screws and nuts to hold them in tight. This did the trick and the ramp moved up and down nicely again. The Getaway played without issue for the rest of the day.
When I bring machines to shows like this, I like to record gameplay and audit data to see how many times the game has been played and how many times each feature has been activated. There were some interesting audit results...
Wow! Over 300 games, 16 hours of straight gameplay and over 20,000 right flips! No wonder there were a couple of small issues to deal with. Overall, the Getaway played well most of the weekend and I was happy with how it held up. Several people commented on how good it looked, and some of them thought that the playfield had been recently clearcoated as it was so fast and shiny. Not many of them knew that it had a playfield protector until I pointed it out. While it didn't win the best in show award, a few people did approach me and tell me that it was the best machine they played that weekend. I love my machines, but I love it when other people enjoy playing them, too. So it was awesome to see that people were enjoying all of the hard work Fiona and I had put into it. Still, it's not every day that one of the country's top players tells you that your machine is one of the best he's ever played, so I'm happy with that!
Next year, we will definitely be bringing another machine along. Getaway will have a rest, so I will have to think about which of our other games can meet the Pinfest challenge!
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