Cleaning your pinball machine

Your pinball machine needs maintenance, and cleaning is probably the most important thing you can do. Dirt causes wear on a game. Even if your game already is in bad shape, there's no reason to not to do anything and make things worse.There are too many worn games around which aren't worth repairing anymore. And unfortunately I've already seen a few (recent) games who practically became worthless and almost destroyed after 3-4 years because a home owner had it and didn't clean his game or kept it in a bad place. So please look after your game..

  • Keep the playfield clean. If you see dust getting in corners or underneath slingshots, vacuum it. Go over it with a soft cloth. Wax it.
  • Have shiny balls. Rusted or pitted balls destroy your playfield !! Replace them with new ones, they're much cheaper then a new playfield !
  • If you buy a pinball machine, the best thing you can do is to clean everything on it. 'Shop it': remove everything from the playfield, clean everything, replace light bulbs, put new rubber on it, adjust switches, wax your playfield, ... Yes this takes time, you will spend at least 2 days, but it will be worth it. Your game will play much better, and now the dirt is out of all those little corners which you couldn't reach otherwise, it will stay much cleaner when you play it.
  • If you remove everything from a playfield, take pictures, put everything in little bags, take notes, .. be sure you know where everything went so you can assemble everything again. If you don't dare to shop a pin yourself, find someone who does it for you.
  • Use a hard car wax. This is what protects your playfield for wear and makes it shine.
  • Buy new rubbers for your game ! If you've got a game with rubbers of 10 or more years old: put new rubbers on it. They don't cost a lot and do make a big difference. The game will come back alive.
  • Avoid humidity
  • Avoid direct sunlight, excessive heat or temperature changes !!

faded pinball cabinet
Cabinets will fade when they're exposed to sunlight !
This game had original bright red and orange colors on the cabinet, now the right side has faded to black and white.

worn pinball playfield
And this is what's left of a playfield that was in a greenhouse addition of a house for a few years.. Heavy temperature changes made the paint brittle and come off the wood.

One small remark on removing everything from the playfield. Some things are not easy to remove. Pop bumpers have to be soldered loose below the playfield (for the light bulb in them), and some of the little metal wires and posts can also be difficult to remove. So if you are not sure about removing these parts, you can leave these on. Just be careful when cleaning waxing, you may hurt yourself when you hit a metal post..
Update: here's a new article about shopping and cleaning a pinball machine.

williams pretty baby
Try to keep the game as original as possible. I know, it's your game, you do with it what you want.
But this for instance is a Williams Pretty Baby, 2 player pinball machine. Made in 1965 with a production run of only 1300. Designed by the legendary Steve Kordek.. enough to be interesting to collectors, if it hadn't been covered with stickers..

Some information about cleaning diamondplated playfields.
Games made after 1992 have a clearcoated playfield (except for Gottliebs !). This is an automotive clearcoat that is very strong and protects the paint from wear. Over time, scratches can come into this coating or it may become dull. Because it is an automotive clearcoat, you can use cleaning and polishing products which are designed for use on cars (but take care, don't use everything without testing it or considering what effects it may have).
With a small buffer you can let the playfield shine as new. However: take care in places where there is already wear. Also don't over-use polishing compound, or polish every few months. The clearcoat is only a thin layer on top of the paint. With a buffer you remove a bit of this layer. You don't have to be a genious to understand that if you buff too many times, you will eventually wear out the clearcoat and have you playfield has less protection against wear. Buffing is not a magic solution you can do over and over again !
Therefor some collectors strip everything from the playfield and have it clearcoated again. Then it gets a fresh, thick layer which will protect the playfield for many years. So if you buy a polished/refurbished game, look careful what you're getting. Polished games may look as new now, but actually have less protection for the years to come. If you want to play a game a lot and still want it to look good in 10 year or more, in my opinion a new layer of clearcoat is the only way to go !
Here is more information about clearcoated playfields and diamondplate.