One essential part of owning and operating an arcade machine is maintenance/repairs. Arcade, pinball and other amusement machines will all require maintenance at some point in their lives. This series of articles have been created to help you discover the root of a game problem, hopefully leading you to a resolution as quickly as can be possible.
NOTE: PrimeTime Amusements is in no way responsible for any damage to any component of yours in any attempted repair. We are simply providing this information as a service, with no guarantee of the outcome.
For our first article, let’s start with the basics of troubleshooting. Believe it or not, it is a skill, which means that it can be developed. The better you are at troubleshooting, the quicker you can discover the right problem and come to the correct solution.
If you are more of a visual learner, here is a 50 minute video that introduces you to the methodology of troubleshooting. While the basic discussion is dealing with computers, the method can easily be adapted for arcade machines:
Now, onto some written basics that are more tailored towards arcade machines. Do keep in mind that here at PrimeTime Amusements, we do offer free technical support for any product purchased from us via phone or email. We can assist you in the troubleshooting process if and when it is needed, but we will need to verify that the product was purchased from us and not another distributor. If the latter is the case, please contact that distribution company for support (and if they no longer exist, the manufacturer is often the only resource).
Step #1 – Read appropriate warnings.
Most arcade devices will come with warning labels, as well as warning information contained within the manuals. Please take heed to be aware of these issues before getting started. Where you are working with electronic components, there is always a chance that the proper lack-of-care can cause further damage to the part, or harm to your person. The former is the case with static electricity (to resolve, always make sure that you have had static discharged from your body before working on a component); the latter involves high voltages that often go through the wiring and capacitors in the hardware. Proper body protection and sometimes the process of discharging a component is needed before you can work on something. It is always recommended that you work with a machine off and unplugged from the wall, but even then that is not a guarantee that all of the components have been discharged and are free of dangerous voltages.
Overall, don’t be afraid to take your time! Rushing through a problem often compounds issues, as you end up skipping a basic step or ignore a warning that ends up causing damage. By taking care, chances are you will get it right the first time, which saves you time and money in the long run.
Step #2 – Identifying the problem & the part at fault. This usually is the easiest part of the process, but keep in mind that symptoms do not always indicate problems – an issue can be misleading. Normally a problem can be that a button doesn’t work. The joystick only pulls up. The pointer on the guns is way off. But when you have multiple problems in the same game (multiple controls don’t work, or issues that only appear at random) the fault may be more difficult to ascertain.
It is also important to identify the potential parts that are at fault for an issue. That is where it is useful to research the problem before you become too far involved. The Internet is the best and easiest resource to use for such research, but do NOT ignore the manual either. Almost all manuals feature a troubleshooting section & parts list in the back that will allow you to consider all of the potential issues that might be at play.
This also brings to mind the need for asking the right questions/using the right terms when you search online. “how to fix an arcade button” or “arcade button not working” is more effective than “button broken” (too vague). It is also often necessary to search for part numbers, to where you can then see if there are other problems that have been encountered with that part by others. This is especially true of pinball machines.
Step #3 – Identify the tools you’ll need to work on the problem. If you don’t come properly prepared to resolve an issue, you may end up wasting time going back-and-forth trying to find the right tools. We will cover basic tools needed in another article, but it is smart to purchase a good toolbox or bag and have it stocked with a variety of tools – even if you don’t think you’ll need them – so that you won’t have the run-around.
Granted, there are times where you’ll be looking at an issue and the part may require an odd tool to remove. But as long as you have a solid collection of basics together, this will be rare.
Step #4 – Always start with the basics. Never jump to the conclusion that the most serious problem is the most likely cause for the fault. The opposite is so often true. Check your connections – something as simple as a wire might have simply come loose. Check for power, both voltage and grounding. Check the settings if applicable (this is often the case on monitors). Make sure that if a part is supposed to be making contact with something else that it is doing so. If you have more than one of the same component in a game and the others are working fine, compare the working with the non-working one and see if anything is out-of-alignment or amiss. Going about it this way and checking the quick ‘n easy stuff first can save you a lot of trouble.
Step #5 – Swap things out. If the previous step has not resolved your game’s issue, then this the next best thing. If a part is giving you trouble, then one of the most effective ways to determine where the issue lies is in swapping it out with a known working part of the same kind. If the issue follows the part, then it might not be the part at all, but something like the wiring or the power supply. If it doesn’t, then you know that there is something wrong on the part.
This is simpler to do in the case of small components, like joysticks & switches. It may be more difficult & expensive to do with monitors or game boards, but when possible, it is effective.
Step #6 – Look into warranty support. If you have determined that a part is at fault, then you will want to see if it’s failure is covered under warranty. All products that we sell feature a limited warranty from the manufacturer. Certain elements such as labor & shipping are not covered by us nor the manufacturer in any instance. But if a component has failed under the warranty period, then you can have it replaced.
Keep in mind, when you contact anyone about a warranty part replacement, they will ask you what troubleshooting has been done in the first place. If it really is something simple at fault, then that saves everyone the cost & trouble of the warranty replacement.
Step #7 – No warranty support left? Don’t give up! Unfortunately all warranties end, but that doesn’t mean that something cannot be fixed. In instances where you have purchased the machine from us, we can figure out how to get the part repaired or replaced. Do note that costs on this will vary, depending upon the part at question. In the case of classic games from the 70’s or 80’s, it may not be possible to locate replacements at a reasonable cost, or at all if the component is rare.