Pinball Rehab

pinball repair and restoration

Soldering Circuit Boards Soldering Circuit Boards Hot

I don't really care if you want to turn a minor problem into a major problem by overestimating your soldering skills, or thinking soldering a pinball circuit board is easy.  Although I would recommend against it.  I do care that OEM pinball circuit boards are becoming a scarce commodity and you just ruined one.

At least 75% (and maybe as high as 90%) of the people currently soldering pinball circuit boards, shouldn't be.  As a result, the board repair shops have all seen a dramatic increase in hacked (non-repairable) boards in the last few years.  You wouldn't buy a pair of hair clippers and think you could cut your wife's hair, so why do people treat soldering any differently?

If you think I'm exaggerating, here's just a couple of the many posts you will find on the forums.

"I replaced U14 and the switch column worked fine.  However, other switches stopped working.  I reinspected my U14 soldering job and found out I was lacking continuity for a few pins....  I now have ground errors on rows 1, 2, 3, and 4.  Is it possible I shorted the newly replaced U14 chip?" -- More likely he overheated the chip and blew it out.

"OH SH** Well I replaced u-20 with a socket and new chip and.....Dead column 7, Ok, checked and I had lifted the trace when I was soldering and I had no continuity, one discrete connection later and I am in business.  Actually not, the game is now completely DEAD." -- Most likely he lifted the trace when he was desoldering and didn't even notice when he was soldering.  Who knows what he blew the second time around.

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Soldering Circuit Boards

The problem is you can find thousands of articles on the web providing soldering instructions, so it must not be that hard.  I can tell you as a professional, it is.  Soldering a twenty year-old, typically over-heated circuit board, without lifting a pad is difficult even for experienced solderers.

I can teach you how to solder playfield components (see Basic Soldering Tutorial), but it takes training, experience and the proper equipment to repair pinball circuit boards. 

Here's a quick quiz to see if you should be soldering pinball circuit boards.

  1. I have been professionally trained in soldering.
  2. I have at least two-three years of experience soldering circuit boards.
  3. I own a temperature controlled soldering iron with multiple tips.
  4. I passed the Should You Be Soldering Pinball Circuit Boards Quiz (you can find it here).