Jeffrey Smith and Phil Adams share something in common. They both work with clients to help maintain coin-operated machines—everything from jukeboxes and video games to vending machines and dartboards. These longtime experts sat down with Tourist Attractions and Parks to discuss some of the lessons they’ve learned over the years when it comes to keeping coin-ups in great shape. Regular maintenance, they both agree, saves money in the long run.
Smith, a sales manager of Game Room Guys in Belmont, Mich., specializes in a variety of coin-operated machines leased and sold direct from the Midwest showroom. He works with both businesses and homeowners to help create and maintain the most popular entertainment devices—jukeboxes, pool tables, pinball machines—and to get the most miles out of these moneymakers.
Adams & Adams in New Bedford, Mass., is a family business that dates back to 1933. Four generations of Adams’ have made it their business to supply jukeboxes and other coin-operated devices throughout New England for eight decades. Adams admits that growing up in the business means he’s seen it all and he’s probably had to troubleshoot just about everything. The trick, he said, is keeping up with ever-changing technology. Here are tips from Smith and Adams:
TAP: Coin-operated machines can be found just about everywhere—bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and cinemas. What’s your top tip for maintaining these machines for best possible use?
Smith: Keep the machines clean. Clean fans, monitors, keypads, etc., are pivotal in keeping machines up for long periods of time.
Adams: Clean machines and you will earn more money. Machines should be checked weekly. This includes cloth tears on the pool tables, lights out on jukeboxes and video games and even damaged or broken cue sticks.
TAP: How do you train staff to service and clean the machines?
Smith: We spend time with them on a continual basis. There is always more to learn and we make sure our employees are abreast of any new techniques that are available.
Adams: Cleaning machines—it’s just basic. Clean the glass, wash the outside of the machines and vacuum the inside. Our machine distributors occasional have “service schools” once or twice a year. The technology is always changing, so we make sure we send our technicians to these service schools whenever they are available.
TAP: Are there specific tools or products you use to clean and service coin-ops?
Smith: Air compressors, canned air, glass cleaners and elbow grease are the best tools.
Adams: Hand-held vacuums work. We also use air blasters to blow out the dust that accumulates from the cooling fans in jukeboxes. We also use a really good commercial cleaning agent for the outside of the machines. Dollar bill acceptors have to be cleaned on a regular basis, too. We use a commercial dollar-bill-cleaning pad that is in the same shape of a dollar bill. It is inserted into the bill acceptor and then rejected. By doing this, the cleaning pad cleans all of the sensors in the dollar bill acceptor.
TAP: What are the biggest problems you face with these machines overall?
Smith: Overheating. If the regular maintenance is not performed—and the machines’ fans get full of dust—they overheat. This leads to more expensive repairs on boards, monitors, memory, replacing capacitors, you name it. Dirt leads to bad things.
Adams: Most machines are connected to the Internet. The biggest problems we have are with our Internet connections like DSL and cable. When the Internet connection is disrupted, the machine goes out of service. We are at the mercy of our Internet providers when problems arise.
TAP: What’s a common customer question?
Smith: The number one question I get asked is, “Can I fix this myself?” Too many times a customer will spend hours trying to fix something and inevitably they create a bigger mess and cost themselves more money. If the customer does his or her part in keeping the equipment clean and performs the manufacturer-recommended maintenance, then most repairs can and should be done by a professional. But if a person such as myself suggests that you fix it yourself, then go ahead and give it a try. As soon as you get out of your comfort zone, you need to stop. Hooking one wrong wire up can burn a control board up and cost you a ton of cash.
Adams: “If our machine goes down how long will it take to fix?” Our answer is usually within the hour. If we can’t fix it, we replace it.
TAP: Should machines be serviced regularly?
Smith: Yes. As an example, pinball machines should be serviced at least once a year. One hour of service by a technician each year can avoid many minor problems that you may not even know exist. One small part going bad can cause a string of items to go bad.
Adams: Yes. Pool tables should have the cloth changed at least once a year. Jukeboxes and video games should be checked weekly for any dust build-up inside the machine. This can cause a machine to overheat and shut down, causing expensive repairs later. Always check for burned-out light bulbs because a dark machine looks like a broken machine.
TAP: Any advice you would give customers about how to avoid problems in the first place?
Smith: It does not hurt with games to have a technician periodically take a look at them. Bits and pieces could be going bad, but are easily noticed by a trained eye. This can save you a major headache when you have plans for a party or event at home or at your business and want to make sure the games are up and running.
Adams: Keep any and all liquids off of the machines! One spilled drink on any machine will cause major problems. -Expert Advice:
How to Keep Coin-Op Machines Clean and in Working Order
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