Open the Pinball Machine Cabinet

The first step to doing any type of pinball machine maintenance is to open the cabinet. Prior to starting, make certain there is enough room in front of the machine equal to the length of playfield glass.

Note: Click on the photo for a larger image.

The location of the lock lever on a Sega / Data East / Stern pinball machine from the mid-90’s.
Bally / Williams
The location of the lock lever on a Bally / Williams pinball machine from the mid-90’s.

1) Open the lower front coin door. This is the door where the coins would be inserted. Usually, it is locked and you will need the key.*

2) Look for the lockdown lever to the right of the open door (see picture). This holds down the lockdown bar which is at the bottom of the playfield glass.

3) Move the lever to the left. Some levers are spring loaded, so it may be necessary to hold it in place. Remove the lockdown bar by lifting it as shown to the right. Some lockdown bars may stick in place.

Early Bally SS
The location of the lock lever on a Bally pinball machine from the late 70’s to the 80’s.
Remove the lockbar. Set it aside (underneath).

4) Move the lockdown lever back to the right. Close the front coin door and lock it to prevent it from swinging open.

Note: Close (and lock) the coin door prior to removing the glass.  Sometimes the coin door will rub the glass and leave a long scratch.

5) Grab the bottom of the playfield glass and pull it towards you. Carefully slide it all the way out without putting upward or downward pressure on it. Store the glass away carefully.

Note: Be careful with this glass.  Playfield glass is supposed to be tempered glass.  A slight nick can cause it to explode.  Because the glass is hard to see, I always store it in a place that someone cannot accidentally run into it.

Remove the playfield glass.
Slide out the playfield glass.
Lifted Bally playfield
Lifted Bally playfield.

Prior to tilting up the playfield, be certain to remove the pinball(s) to prevent damage to the playfield or the backglass.

Grab the playfield down where the pinball drains (exits) and lift. Most games will have a bar located in the cabinet on the right side.

This bar is used to hold the playfield in the upright position as shown. It is similar to the bar that holds open the hood of many cars.  This bar usually holds the playfield up on only one side.  This is not the best design.  Insure that the playfield will not collapse on someone working underneath it.

Above is a Bally game from the late 70’s to 80’s that is opened using the support bar on the right hand side.  All Bally, Stern, Williams and Gottlieb games from that period are similar.  So are EM machines.

Most of the games can be opened further, to an upright position. Prior to doing this, make certain you have removed the pinballs or they will come crashing down and can damage the game.

Note that the bottom of the playfield can be carefully pulled forward on the two wooden rails (rails) inside the cabinet (if there!).  To access the entire bottom of the playfield, it is necessary to lift it onto the wooden tracks on the left and right of the box, then swing it beyond the vertical position and lean it against the backbox.  This is not easy to do, especially the first time.

Bally / Williams playfield
Bally / Williams playfield from the early to late 90’s.

On the left is a Bally / Williams game from the early 90’s. It is also supported by the bar on the right.  Many of those game rest on two pins inside the box.  The game simply swivels on those pins.  To access the entire playfield, simply swing it beyond the vertical position until it leans against the backbox.  Unfortunately, those games with this simple mechanism are hard to work on on the back of the playfield towards the bottom.


DE/ Sega / Stern
DE / Sega / Stern from the 90’s to early 2000’s.
Tilted up playfield.
Tilted up DE / Sega / Stern playfield.

 Sometimes, the playfield must be pulled forward. This can be accomplished by grabbing the supports under the playfield as is shown in the Data East / Sega / Stern game. On other games, such as the 90’s Bally / Williams, it is easier to walk to the side of the machine and grab the entire playfield and slide it towards the players position (at the plunger area) and then tilt the playfield beyond the vertical position until it gently rests against the backbox.

 Above are a playfield from a Data East / Sega / Stern game from the mid-90’s. Note that the playfield is pulled forward prior to lifting into the vertical position. This game can also be supported using the lift arm on the lower right.  Some Bally / Williams pins are designed like this.  Generally, this is the easiest design to work with.

Note:  If your pin is the type that is pulled forward onto pins on both sides, like the DE/Sega/Stern pin above, it is important to pull it forward completely, with authority, in order to lock the mechanism, prior to swiveling into the upright position.

*If your game is not locked, it should be. Inside can be high voltages that can kill. If you don’t have a lock for your machine, or you don’t have the key, then order replacements from the pinball machine companies that supply parts. Be certain to lock both the front of your machine and the backbox. If your machine is locked and you don’t have the key, then either get a locksmith or drill it out and then replace the locks. Don’t leave your machine unlocked or leave the keys in reach of others.