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Moving a Pinball Machine


Moving Pinball Machines in New York was once as difficult as moving contraband. In fact, it was moving contraband: pinball was banned for decades in the city by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia because it was a “game of chance, not skill.” That ban has since been overturned and pinball players in NYC now flock to Modern Pinball NYC to get their fix. Owner Steve Zahler is no stranger to moving machines; “We rotate machines quite a bit at Modern Pinball NYC and I’ve sold and moved many myself.” Having moved so many machines, Zahler understands the sensitive spots and the right ways to take care of them in a pinball machine move. “Each pinball machine has over 2000 parts and at least a mile of wire inside.” With all that in mind it’s very important to be careful and use the right tools when moving a pinball machine. Here is Steve Zahler of Modern Pinball NYC’s guide to moving a Pinball Machine.

The tools and materials you need to move a pinball machine
  • Adjustable strap
  • Tape measure
  • Screwdrivers
  • Adjustable wrench or ratchet/socket set
  • Good quality hand truck with strap
  • Styrofoam, cardboard and blankets
  • Masking tape or painter's blue tape
  • A weightlifting belt (optional, but recommended)
  • Heavy Duty Gloves
Pinball Players
What to watch out for before your move:

The rails on the upper portion of the machine need to be completely protected or you risk denting and bruising them. The rails are the two long pieces of metal that finish the upper part of the wooden cabinet and hold the pinball glass in place.

When moving a pinball machine you need to put some protective material (cardboard or styrofoam will do) between the upper part of the pinball machine (the backbox) and the cabinet. The backbox typically folds down onto the pinball cabinet and rails. You also must be careful not to bang the backbox into anything as it is wider than the cabinet and this can sometimes be overlooked while moving.

Survey the delivery location prior to moving and make sure to remove any obstacles. Measure all openings to make sure ALL PARTS of the pinball machine will fit through doorways, around bends, etc.

If the machine will be going up or down a flight of stairs get a few helpers; a pinball machine can weigh up to 250lbs or more and it’s DEAD WEIGHT.

Step-by-step: Moving your Pinball Machine
  1. Before moving the machine, open the coin door to unlatch the lockdown bar and remove it (this is the metal bar that secures the pinball glass to the cabinet) and slide off the glass. Remove all pinballs or they might go airborne during the move (we only want flying pinballs while PLAYING the game!). Remove the coin box and put the balls and any loose items found in the cabinet into it (with older games it’s not uncommon for loose screws, bolts, mini light bulbs and plastic pieces to by lying around from prior servicing or simply from years of play). I also like to take any hanging keys off the back of the coin door and put them into the coin box to avoid them possibly falling off during the move. Remember to take the coin box with you to your final destination!

  2. Slide the glass back on, reinstall the lockdown bar (remember to latch it closed) and be sure to close and lock the coin door. Carefully fold the backbox down onto the pinball cabinet after putting protective material on the rails (cardboard, styrofoam) to protect the rails from the weight and movement of the backbox during the move. Keep in mind that in order to fold down the backbox it will need to be unlocked or unscrewed from the cabinet depending on the type of pinball machine, manufacturer, etc. Use a high-quality adjustable strap to strap together the backbox and cabinet. Some backboxes will need to be removed & wires will need to be disconnected for your safety. Read More Here

  3. Lift the back of the pinball machine onto the seat of a sturdy chair in order to keep the machine elevated while you remove both back legs (each leg is attached with two bolts). Carefully and slowly take the back of the machine off the chair and lower it onto the floor. Now put it on its back and remove the front legs. When you're done removing all leg bolts put them in the coin box so they follow you to your destination!

  4. Wrap the entire machine with shrink wrap and cover with cardboard and a few shipping blankets for protection and then wrap around a few times with masking tape or painter's blue tape to keep the cardboard and blankets in place (do not use duct tape or tapes with strong adhesive since you do not want that beautiful cabinet artwork potentially getting destroyed if the shipping material slips and slides off the cabinet during the move). Strap the machine to a hand truck (back of pinball machine facing hand truck) and with a helper, carefully move it to the transport vehicle and lift it in.


kids playing pinball


Tips on Different Makes and Models

Some of the variances were covered in the previous question about backboxes. The difference is between “fold down” types and ones that don’t fold down that need to be removed (see #2).

Very old pinball machines (the ones we call electro-mechanical … before solid state machines were invented) have connectors that need to be separated before removing the backbox. It is also a good idea to remove the backglass (that is the glass on which the backbox illuminated graphic design appears) on these older machines since they are very heavy and fragile. Replacement of one of these glasses (if still available) can be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars! Also, with older machines you might want to have some WD-40 on hand to remove stubborn bolts (especially rusted leg bolts).


Processes to Avoid

Take your time and don’t rush it. Avoid mistakes by planning thoroughly ahead of time. Only move a pinball machine after knowing it CAN be moved from point A to point B paying careful attention to all obstacles, twists turns and bends, and that it’ll fit into the desired space. Some people don’t measure door widths and the final destination height. Will the pinball machine fit under that low ceiling in the basement? Measure first. Some people drag pinball machines from one room to the next without either securing the backbox to the cabinet or folding it down. This can result in major damage in the thousands if the heavy backbox crashes down on the pinball machine glass and cabinet!

The Best “Lifehack” for moving Pinball Machines


Use a weightlifting belt. These things can be heavy (pretend you’re moving a piano). After the machine is folded up, it’ll actually feel more like you’re moving a 250 lb boulder. Get a friend (or friends) to help. Drive slowly and avoid potholes; pinball machines don’t like to be jolted like that (parts come loose especially with older machines). Lock the coin-door and backbox door before moving, and make sure the backglass is fastened securely to the backbox (or removed) to avoid damage. Tie the AC cord around the cabinet or even better, tuck it inside the cabinet if possible (only possible with some models).


After you’re done

After delivery of the pinball machine remember to reward yourself with a few free plays - you deserve it!


About Modern Pinball NYC

Ryan Adams Tweet

Located in the heart of Kips Bay, Modern Pinball NYC offers an exciting and unique recreational experience for the city’s arcade fans. With unlimited gaming passes at low rates, players can get sucked into the thrill of the game without having to worry about their wallet. Modern Pinball is also a great place to throw a party or event with your friends, family or your co-workers; kids and adults alike can agree on pinball! Don’t just take it from us; indie rock extraordinaire and pinball fanatic Ryan Adams loves it over there too, and trusted Steve to move a machine into New York’s famous Electric Lady Studios. Check out the Modern Pinball Website at for more information on all their awesome offerings, and make sure to “Like” their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter & Instagram.

Check out our series on Moving Tough Stuff

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