Williams 5″ Score Reels – Cleaning & Repairing

Five inch Williams score reels were used in earlier games.  The one we are working on today is from a 1957 Williams Baseball pinball machine.

Supplies Needed

You will need the most of the same supplies as outlined in the starting page on EM – Score Reels.


As with all parts of a pinball machine, lubrication should only be used where there are metal to metal contact.  There is very little of that here.   We use a light coating of teflon lube on the circuit board electrical contacts.   The plunger and linkage are nylon, making lubrication not needed.  If this is lubricated, it will soon get ‘gunked up’ and cause problems with the reel.

Removal of the Score Reel

backbox board from Williams baseballIf your backbox can be easily removed and setup on a table, that would make this process easier.  Otherwise, this maintenance can be done with the mechanisms still mounted in the backbox cabinet.

Each reel is held into place by two small clips.  These clips can be easily removed by hand or pliers.  Set them aside into your parts storage.

Disassembly and Cleaning

score reelLift the reel out for access to the parts.  The wires will just be long enough to slide out and move to the side.

The reel is held in place by a clip.  If it is a clip like this in the photo, it will be easy to remove.  Some are held in places by a retaining ring.  These can be difficult to remove.  Remove this clip and the washer underneath.  Set these aside in parts storage.

Note: Do NOT remove the three screws on this reel.  The screws hold contacts on the other side. If removed, it maybe difficult to get them back into the proper position.

back of the reel

The back of the reel will house a gear plus two wafers.  Clean as much of the grease as possible off.  This will be re-greased with Teflon Grease or Super Lube.

There maybe a small circuit board.  If so, the contacts should be cleaned with Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish.  This can be accomplished with either a rag, or through the use of a Dremel and a buffing wheel.

Light Teflon lub
Teflon Lube

When cleaned, wipe the board with a rag and isopropyl alcohol (not rubbing alcohol which may contain lanolin).  This will removing the remaining polish.  The contacts should now be nice and shiny.  Squirt a small amount of Finish Line Dry Bicycle Chain Lubricant on a Q-tip and wipe the contacts.  There should be a shiny thin film left.  Alternately, grease maybe used, but this MUST be just a light thin coating.  Extra grease will attract dirt and act as an insulator.

Remove the two screws holding the board in place and set them aside.

The rest of the mechanism will house a solenoid coil, plus several switches (the number will vary).  These will need to be cleaned.

coil stop with bad wire solder job
Inspect solder

Remove the two nuts (if present) on the back of the bracket holding the coil stop in place. Also remove the two screws holding the coil stop and set the screws and nuts aside.  Inspect the wire connections to the coil.  If the solder is a cold solder joint, or the wires are partially broken, remove the wires, tin the wires and solenoid tabs with solder, then reconnect the wires.  A poor connection here will result in poor power to the coil.

clean with isopropyl The switches should be able to be cleaned with a Q-tip and isopropyl alcohol.  These should be nice and shiny when cleaned.  If not, then pull out your Dremel and clean with the 1/8″ Carbon Steel Brush 443 tip.  Be careful when using the Dremel as the action of the Dremel spinning can damage the switches.  Generally, we use this carbon brush tip for high current switches only.

Note: Take a photograph of the positions of the wires. They need to be returned to the approximate location when done.  Wires out of place or sticking out might hit the reel or other moving parts. This could result in binding or wearing of the insulation and shorting.

linkage and plungerNote the plunger and associated linkage.  This is held in place by a small spring on one end of the linkage.  Remove the spring and set it aside.  Carefully pull out this linkage off of the shaft.  Note that the linkage will have to be in a specific position to clear a switch. When reinstalling, it will be important to position the linkage in the same position to clear that switch.

Clean up the linkage with isopropyl alcohol.  Use a rag.  Some soaking in alcohol might be needed.  Set the linkage aside for now.

clean dirt off the plateClean the coil sleeve and coil stop with alcohol.  Use a small alcohol soaked cloth and snake it through the coil sleeve.  Clean the shafts that the reel and the plunger mechanism rotate on with alcohol.  Snake an alcohol soaked rag through the shaft on the reel.  Do not lubricate the main shaft.  The center piece is nylon.  With a metal shaft, then a nylon piece over the shaft, then the reel over the nylon, there is no metal to metal contact.

Lubricate any metal to metal moving parts.  Use light amounts of Teflon grease or sewing machine oil.  Be very careful to not get lube on the plunger or into the coil sleeve.

Reassembly of the Score Reel

Slide the linkage back into position.  Connect the spring to the linkage but do not connect the other end to the bracket.  Slide the coil with its sleeve in place over the end of the plunger and reconnect the coil stop.  Install the nuts on the back later.  Insure that these parts move easily (with the spring not connected).

clean grease offInsure that the wires in the back of the reel housing are back in their proper positions. Re-attach the small circuit board into position with the two screws.  Check the position of the wires going to this board. 

Lightly lubricate the gear and the wafers on the back of the reel.  

Note: Getting this reel back into position can be tricky.  If it does not slide into position, do not force it as you will break or damage switches or linkage.

There is a second linkage held in place by a spring.  Move that in the direction that the spring is stretched out and carefully slide the reel all the way down the shaft into position.  This may also take carefully pulling back a switch or two.  Be patient.  Once the reel is down far enough to get the retainer into position, hold it down.  It may try to pop up.

reassembled with clip in placeSlide the clip into place.  Your reel is reassembled.  Check its operation by pulling in the plunger mechanism into the coil with a ‘snap’, then let go.  The reel should effortlessly rotate.

Be sure to install the nuts on the back of the coil stop screws.

Check the proper operation of the switches.  One switch should close each time the plunger is pulled in.  The other switches will open and close depending on where the reel is located.  They will move when the reel moves from ‘9’ to ‘0’ and ‘1’.   Adjust the switches with a switch adjusting tool if needed.


Comments, including suggestions, improvements, errors, etc. are welcome (see below).

If you have a specific question about your game that does not directly apply to fixing Williams EM Score Reels, please see our FAQ section.

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