How to Maintain and Store a Pinball Machine

Last Updated on March 9, 2023

By Vince Mancuso,

Throughout the years, commercial arcade games have drastically changed with the advancements of graphics. However, one game has always remained true to its roots. The lights and sounds of a pinball machine capture the attention of people today as they have for nearly the past seven decades, if not more so in recent years. Pinball games are thriving in both popularity and even competitively, with the International Pinball Flipper Pinball Association having grown by 22,500 registered players in the past eight years.

With the resurgence of popularity for pinball machines, spoke with Jared Guynes, Social Media Manager for Stern Pinball, the largest and oldest pinball manufacturer in the world, on proper maintenance as well as useful storage tips for when pinball games may need to be temporarily stored.

“We’re as hardcore involved with pinball or more so than anyone in the world,” Jared says. “There are some other pinball manufactures that have popped up, but they’re all small operations. Our place is massive. We make thousands and thousands of games per year.” He adds that the company has a lineage dating back to the 1930s.

Outside of his professional role with Stern Pinball, Jared said he loves pinball and owns a small, personal pinball arcade in his home. “The bug hits you, and it’s so much fun. It’s a very physical game in a digital world.” Jared continues on, saying he thinks the game is becoming more popular due to it’s physical nature, offering people a different experience from a smartphone and other digital games. And, fortunately, care and storage of a pinball machine is fairly simple, so the fun can go on for decades.


cleaning a pinball machine

“The regular thing you wanna do is clean the play field,” Jared says, as it’s important to keep your machine clean. “A pinball will slowly, very slowly, disintegrate over time, because it’s being banged around. This is why you’ll see a black trail or black dust.”

You can clean the play field by first removing the glass panel that lays over the play field, which is the area where the pinball actually moves around. Once this is done, Jared recommends using Novus 2, a specialty cleaner and scratch remover. “It works extremely well on all the plastics and clear-coated plates to remove dirt and dust and any little bits of trash that can get up into the machine.”

He adds that you should use a microfiber cloth to wipe down all parts of the play field. Apart from this regular cleaning, Jared says to change out the light bulbs every few years. These two simple steps will help prolong the life of the game.


pinball machines
Photo by James Brooks

One thing people may differ on is where to place a pinball machine and whether places like a basement or garage space are safe for the machine. As to that, Jared says it will vary on where you live. “In terms of homeowners, a majority keep them in their basements. However, there’s an entire section of the country, including where I live, where we don’t have basements.”

Ultimately, the decision on location should be based upon the humidity, not temperature. “Generally speaking, if it’s possible, you want keep it in a place where it’s climate-controlled,” Jared says. While temperature is more a matter of comfort for the user, he goes on to say a pinball machine is durable against a range of temperatures, but it can be damaged by prolonged exposure to humidity levels near and above 70%. So, when owning a pinball machine in humid states such as Florida, he says to either use a dehumidifier at home or make sure the area is climate-controlled, adding this feature is also important when it comes to storage.


While pinball games are loved by those who own them, there are situations when they need to stored somewhere temporarily, such as when you’re relocating or perhaps remodeling your basement into a game room fit for your own arcade. In such a case, self storage can provide you the room you need, convenient locations, and features to protect them, such as climate control.

“Putting the machine in a climate-controlled unit is the best option,” Jared says. Storage units with climate control have a moderated temperature and humidity level, keeping the moisture below that 70% humidity mark. This is especially important for those who own older pinball machines. “A lot of people have older machines, and older machines are especially susceptible to moisture.”

Moisture damage to a pinball machine can include rusted metal components, warping of wooden cabinets, and condensation forming on the play field and other electrical elements of the machine, all of which can cause pricey damage to your pinball machine.



Individually alarmed unit

While extremely uncommon, Jared says it’s not entirely unheard of for a pinball machine to get stolen. For instance, he says he’s heard stories of someone relocating and leaving a pinball machine unattended, allowing thieves to strike quickly. Though, again, he adds it is unlikely a thief will target a 400-lb machine.

“Thieves are going to try and steal almost anything else because pinball machines are heavy and hard to move,” he says. Still, he stresses that it’s important to take into account the area you’re storing in, especially the crime rate. Most storage facilities offer security measures such as electronic gate access and video surveillance to prevent potential thieves from entering the property. However, if you are concerned about security, look for a storage facility with individually-alarmed units and onsite management. These features will offer an immediate response to any potential break-ins and can give you peace of mind.


pinball machine on dolly
Photo by Alec Longstreth

“The first time I moved a pinball machine, I had all four legs on and the head up, in the back of a truck,” Jared recalls. “I had no idea, because nobody told me. You always want to be careful when transporting a machine.”

Jared says the correct way of moving a pinball machine is vertically. With models made in the last 30 to 35 years, there will be a hinge on the back of the pinball machine’s head, which is the big square that faces the player to display the score. After placing a towel, blanket, or even a piece of cardboard over the glass panel on the playing field, he says to slowly lower the head on to the covered panel.

From here, use a ratcheting strap to tighten the head to the cabinet. To prevent damage and wearing on the machine’s corners, Jared says you should place a small piece of cardboard or cloth between the strap and pinball machine. Once the head is secured to the cabinet, slowly lower the head to the floor, with the coin door facing toward the ceiling. Then remove all the legs by undoing their bolts. Jared says the legs easily stack and should be taped together along with the leg bolts in a small plastic bag to keep everything in one spot.

Once the pinball machine is vertical, a dolly can be used to move it around easily. Jared adds that if you’re hauling it in a truck bed, keep it down flat and use lots of mover’s blankets to keep it covered. “Those are your best friend.”

“At that point, the machine has a much smaller foot print and can fit more places,” he says. “This enables you to place several pinball machines in one storage unit.” With the ability to store pinball machines vertically, you’re also able to save money by using a smaller storage unit, even when storing more than one machine. Though, Jared does add it is perfectly safe for pinball machines to be stored on their legs if you have the space.

Owning a pinball machine for personal use or even to have in your restaurant or store can be a fun, if not an addicting, part of life, as Jared says he went from owning one to now 17 machines himself. For those who may have an older or damaged pinball machine that was not properly cared for or stored, there is a wide network of enthusiastic pinball-machine owners and repair services eager to help.

“People forget that these are commercial products for commercial use; they get pretty dirty. You can almost always get them cleaned up and working,” Jared says. “Don’t give up on an old machine because they need a little effort and affection.”


Beercade, an Omaha, Neb. bar that houses arcade and pinball machines, offers some insight on how they clean, maintain, and store their pinball machines.


Do you have a favorite pinball game? How about an arcade game in general? Let us know in the comment section below!

All images have either been provided by a listed organization or are licensed under the Creative Commons.