This article is an update to a previous Pinball News Pinball Tools article, and is presented to you in four parts: General Hand Tools, Electrical and Electronics Tools, Soldering Tools, and Damaged Hardware Removal with this, Electrical and Electronics Tools, being the second.
As with the first part, my perspective comes from someone who is a homeowner, a professional electronics technician, and a pinball repair technician on the side.
The driving force behind upgrading my electrical and electronics hand tools was advances in technology.
Due to limited parts availability from all the new little pinball companies, stock of game-specific replacement parts will be very limited. Eventually, pinball owners will not be able to buy complete assemblies to easily swap out. They will either be forced to make repairs themselves, or find someone to do it for them.
For those who don’t want to perform their own pinball repairs, you can use The Directory here on Pinball News to help find someone who works on pinball machines. NOTE: Pinball News does not promote or endorse any particular pinball repair resource. The businesses listed are only for convenience of its readers.
Having recently updated my pinball tools, I am more than willing to share my list and the reasons for the specific upgrades.
The greatest of these reasons is a tool’s dual-purpose; using it for both pinball repair and general home Do-It-Yourself (DIY) work.
The tools are listed here from most-used to least-used. The list is fairly extensive and has been internally hot-linked for your convenience, including links to a tool’s description in the General Hand Tools article where applicable (indicated by *).
Where possible, whenever an older tool is No Longer Available (NLA), a newer model is listed instead.
- Ground Fault Indicator*
- Portable Lighting*
- Screwdriver Handle*
- Short Insert Bits*
- Flush Cutters*
- Needle Nose Pliers*
- Card Stock
- Contact Burnisher
- Point File
- Wire Stripper
- Digital Multimeter
- Switch Tools
- Crimp Tools
- IDC Tools
- Potentiometer Adjusters
- Test Clips
With the exception of any notes, the following format will mostly be used throughout this article:
– Name of Tool
– Old: Manufacturer, Item Number or Part Number
– New: Manufacturer, Item Number or Part Number
– Picture: Left/Top will be the old tool, Right/Bottom will be the new tool.
Card stock with no finish can be used to clean gold-plated switch contacts. I ‘updated’ my cleaning cards by making them into cleaning strips.
|Old: Various, Various|
|New: Various, Various|
Pro Tip: Use a card strip to check and clean the jaws of callipers before you use them.
I use a contact burnisher when the gold-plated points of a switch are excessively dirty. My burnishers started getting old and worn. I found ceramic insulator sheets that last longer and can themselves be cleaned.
|Old: GC 9338 and JONARD 0B-2|
Pro Tip: Some Williams System 7 playfield switches, from around 1980 to 1981, were incorrectly assembled. These switches either require more frequent cleaning or need to be properly rebuilt.
I upgraded from a hard needle file to contact/point files, also referred to as ‘ignition point files’.
This type of file should only be used when cleaning tungsten carbide points. These are on ‘sparker’ switches in electromechanical machines and on the flipper switches of some older solid state games.
Although they look similar, hard files differ in purpose from jewellers files. Hard files are to be used, in one direction, on hard metals. Jewellers files can be used, in both directions, on soft metals.
Do not confuse point files with flat diamond files. Only point files are used for pinball repair and come in two varieties, flexible and rigid.
Pro Tip: As a point files is a point file, you can save money buy purchasing one not listed specifically for pinball use.
I have used my wire stripper on a great variety of wires, from thin telephone wire to thick home electrical wiring. It works equally well on solid solid core and stranded wire.
|Old: Paladin Stripax Pro, NLA (newer model PA1113)|
|New: Paladin Mini-Stripax Plus, PA1115P|
For working on pinball machines, the only advantage the new stripper has over the old is the handle orientation.
Pro Tip: Not that you’ll ever need to, but thee strippers have replaceable gripping blades.
Digital Multimeter (DMM)
I use the Fluke meter for both pinball repair and home repair. I have many different leads and adapters to ‘get to’ what I am testing. I almost exclusively use Fluke test adapters and leads in my hobby, home and professional lives.
I highly recommend them, but they are expensive. Less expensive test adapters and leads are available. The internet currently seems to be ‘gaga’ over the brand Probe Master. I have personally used them at work with great success.
|Old: Fluke, 77 III|
|New: Fluke, 87 V|
I am a Fluke fanboy! Before I happily upgraded to the Fluke 87 V I tried one of the new and inexpensive (in the world of handheld electrical and electronics test equipment), Smart Multimeters (SMM) from KAiWEETS.
That meter used auto-sensing. Though slow to show results, this automatic feature may be helpful to electronic novices. Though not perfect, the meter performed well enough while testing pinball related voltages. That specific meter is not pictured nor listed. This is because a family member needed a meter and I felt comfortable enough with the way the SMM automatically operated that they received that meter.
Pictured below is another similarly functioning SMM from KAiWEETS which comes with batteries and leads.
Novice Tip: For the beginner I recommend a DMM with only a few functions. The 221220 (sometimes listed as 2212-20) SMM from Milwaukee is a good choice. It: is a known and trusted brand, comes with batteries and leads, is available from many sources, and is more affordable than many other brands.
One of the original leaf switch blade adjustment tools pictured below was complemented with a three piece set. I don’t remember which was the original single adjuster tool.
|New: NLA (replacement set from Marco, 77-SWK)|
If you’re going to work on any pinball machine, I’d say it’s worth it to get at least one leaf adjuster tool. Don’t try to use your fingers, a flat head screwdriver or needle nose pliers. Get the right tool for the job.
My old ‘crimpers’ were replaced with newer ones. The old ones are not pictured here because they were given away.
|Old: NLA and NLA|
|New: NLA (the yellow handled pin crimper has a more modern alternate, Sargent Quality Tools, 1028 CT) and Aries Tool, 21002|
I switched to the yellow handled pin crimper because it crimps both sides of the pin at the same time. This is also true for the modern replacement. The old crimper had to be used twice for each pin.
The black handled crimper was chosen because among its usability is its ability to cut various size screws.
For more specific information on replacing pinball pins, you can check out these YouTube videos:
This tool is used to push wires into the top of insulation displacement connectors. I have had to re-seat wires which were incorrectly installed at the factory and/or were previously mishandled.
|New: Molex 11-02-0015 and 11-02-0016 (obsolete and hard-to-find, but various others are more readily available)|
For pinball, the two sizes you want are 0.100 in (2.54 mm) and 0.156 in (3.96mm). In this case, purchasing tools specifically advertised for pinball may actually be easier and save you money. When possible, re-seat wires with the Insulation Displacement Connection (IDC) tools, then solder the wires in place. Or, better yet, upgrade to a connector which takes crimped pins.
I didn’t bother taking a picture of my old adjusters, sometimes called ‘tweekers’, because they are no longer relevant in the world of modern electronics.
|Old: NLA (TV tuner set)|
|New: Various (part of a kit)|
I got a new set of adjusters with smaller tips, but have only used them for exercising DIP switches and adjusting/calibrating ball sensors on pinball games. However, they were very useful as they were the correct tools for the jobs.
I have rarely used this type of test adapter. They are not recommended for the novice electronics troubleshooter.
|Old: Radio Shack, NLA|
|New: 3M, TC-16, 923700 (sometimes listed with various suffixes)|
I have only used these ‘chip clips’ a few times. I had to buy the red clip for one specific reason – a customer’s pinball machine would intermittently not start up. The pins on the red clip bent at first use. That clip was therefore replaced by the much better quality white one.
For more specific information on using some of these tools for testing pinball electronics, you can check out the Pinball News Transistor Seminar by clicking the picture below.
Please note: The seminar’s associated practice kits have long since become unavailable from Pinball Renaissance.