How to Set Up Your Pinball Machine

How to Set Up Your Pinball Machine
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How to Set Up Your Pinball Machine
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How to Set Up Your Pinball Machine
Published on
November 20, 2020
Updated on
November 20, 2020
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Setting Up Your Game

**Disclaimer: The following is the script from the video

Hello and welcome to Marco Pinball’s Pintech Series. Pinball is most enjoyable when you have the confidence to take care of your own games. If this is your first time owning a pinball machine, then this series is for you. In module 1, pinball basics, we will cover setting up your game, to basic gameplay, care, and maintenance.  

Congratulations, you got yourself a pinball machine! Now all you have to do is set it up.

Here are some things you’ll need:

  • Ideally, a second person. These things are heavy! About 300 pounds or 130 kg. Plus, pinball is more fun with a friend!
  • Wrench or socket wrench to install the leg bolts. In most games the bolts are either 9/16 or 5/8 inch. It’s important to use proper tools so you don’t damage the bolts.
  • A way to support the game while you install the back legs. Anything sturdy will do as long as it’s high enough to keep the back legs off the floor while you’re attaching them.
  • The eight leg bolts
  • Bolts for securing the head. Whether you bought your game new or used, you should have bolts for the head. Check your manual or look at your backbox to see how it is attached and grab whatever additional tools you need.

Before you begin, make sure the back box, or head,  is folded down and secured to the game with a packing strap, so when you lift the game, it doesn’t get damaged. If the back box of your game is completely detached already, just leave it to the side for now. Place the game in a vertical position with the back end on the ground and the front end in the air. NEVER LIFT THE PINBALL MACHINE UP BY THE SHOOTER ROD!

Attach the front legs to the game using the leg bolts and wrench. The bolts should be pretty snug, but don’t overtighten.

Make sure each leg has a leg leveler and the jam nuts are screwed in below the leg. The front leg levelers should be screwed in all the way so they are flush with the legs.

This is the starting position for leveling your game properly. If your leg levelers are in bad shape like this, you’ll want to go ahead and replace them. It’s a quick fix and you won’t regret it.

Now you can pivot the game down and rest it on the front legs. Grab the rear legs and unscrew the rear leg levelers an inch or two. Have the legs and bolts within easy reach on both sides of the machine.

Now you will need to prop the game up onto the front legs. Preferably with a helper, lift the back end of the game and rest it on a stool or chair so it will sit slightly higher than the length of the back legs. This will allow you to install the legs without them hitting the floor.

Attach the back legs with the bolts, remove the stool, and set it on the floor. Again, the leg bolts should be pretty snug, but don’t overtighten.

*Put the game close to its final location, leaving enough room to access the back of the game.

If your game is on carpet, use some sort of furniture sliders to make it easier to move.*

Remove the strap that secured the back box of the game. Carefully lift the head up, making sure the wires tuck into the body of the game as the head goes up without getting pinched.

Now you can attach the bolts that lock the head into an upright position.

Keep in mind that the setup for old and new games will be slightly different depending on the style of the game. For games built before 1980, back boxes are usually separated from the lower cabinet. Here’s how to secure a backbox from a 1980’s bally.

First, reach into the lower cabinet and route the AC power cord to the outside. There’s usually a notch for the power cord to nest in. Remove the backglass from the back box carefully before attaching it to the lower cabinet. Lift the back box up and set it in place, open the backbox, and fasten it with bolts. Reach inside the game and take out the wires that connect the head to the body and connect them. If the wire connectors weren’t marked to show where they plug in to the circuit boards, definitely check your manual for instructions. And you’re done! Well, almost. There’s no pinballs and the Game’s probably crooked. No problem. We’ll tackle those  issues in the next video.

Preparing Your Game For Play

Here is this awesome Twilight Zone almost ready to play… But first we have a few more things to do. One of them is cleaning these balls. Let’s get them in the game.

You’ll need:

  • Rag to clean the balls
  • A small level

Once you’ve attached the legs and backbox, you’re ready to inspect the underside of the playfield, remove any remaining packing material, adjust the tilt mechanism, and install the balls. You’ll need to remove the playfield glass to do that.

First, open the coin door with the key that came with your game. Depending on the age of your game, you should see one or two latches holding the lockdown bar in place. Unlatch them, and remove the lockdown bar by lifting it up and out.

Newer Stern games have two latches on the back side of the front panel, one on each side of the coin door opening. Be careful, they will spring open quickly!

Close the coin door so you don’t hit or scratch the glass with it. Carefully slide the playfield glass all the way out using just your palms, to avoid getting fingerprints all over it!

The glass is tempered, so nicking the edge of the glass will cause it to explode. Be careful!!Also keep in mind that placing the glass on a solid surface, where the temperature change could be too extreme, can cause the glass to shatter. The safest method is to protect the top and bottom edges of the glass with a towel (We like to use a cut up pool noodle!) and lean it carefully against a wall.

Depending on the game, there are two main ways to access the underside of the playfield. In some games, you simply tilt the playfield straight up so it leans against the head.

Otherwise, you may need to pull the playfield out slightly, toward you, before you tilt it up. Some older games may also have a prop of some kind that you can rest the playfield on.

Be careful! Watch where your fingers are when raising and lowering the playfield! Also, avoid bumping the playfield when it’s in the upright position. It can slam down unexpectedly. If your game is new, remove the remaining packing material which can be attached to the underside of the playfield. Inspect the bottom of your playfield and make sure there are no loose connectors, screws, wires or mechanisms.

The next step will be to install the tilt mechanism, if it hasn’t already been installed. It is usually located inside the cabinet on the left side. Check your manual for specific installation details.

You’ll want to make sure your tilt mechanism is adjusted to your satisfaction. If it’s too tight, your game may “tilt” at the slightest bump: the game lights may flash or a “TILT” message may appear on the backbox, and the ball in play will end. It’s more fun to “Shake it and NOT break it”.

You can test how sensitive the tilt mechanism is by shaking the game when you play.

Now lower the playfield and install the balls. Just put them on the playfield and let them go. Byeeee! They’ll drop between the flippers and out of sight into the ball trough.

If your game is older and the balls are worn or dented, you’ll probably want to order some new ones. They’ll look and play a lot better.

Now you can place your game into its final location.

The last thing you’ll want to do before you play is level your game.

Many games have a small bubble level attached to the lower right side of the playfield. This level indicates the pitch of the game from back to front.

Use a small carpenter’s level or angle finder tool (also called inclinometers)  to measure the slope. Also, many smartphones now have angle measuring apps built in.  Place your level directly on the playfield, not the playfield glass.

Most electronic pinball machines are designed to have a 6-½ degree slope, but you can add or subtract a degree according to your game speed preference by screwing the rear leg levelers in or out. If you want the game to play FASTER, increase the pitch on the back legs.

You will also need to level your game to 0 degrees from left to right by placing the level parallel to the front of the game.  

Adjust the leg levelers until the readings on both levels are satisfactory.Finally, slide the playfield glass back in, replace the lockdown bar, and secure it in place with the latch.

And that’s it!

If you just can’t wait a second longer, you can go ahead and plug in your game and power it up.

Or, stick with me for the next video, where we’ll tackle how to adjust some common game settings.

This video has been made possible by Marco Pinball, your one-stop, everything-pinball shop. Visit us at for all your pinball needs.

Stay tuned for more Pinball Basic videos. Until next time, happy flipping!

About the MarcoTV crew:


Marc, Paul, Nancy Mandeltort


Imoto Harney


Krystle Gemnich and Kyle Spiteri


James E. Moriarty and Imoto Harney


Merry Dankanich


James E. Moriarty and Imoto Harney