Wayne Schmidt's Addams Family Malfunction Survey Fifty TAF owners comment on their game's reliabilities, problems and fixes.
When I began thinking about purchasing an Addams Family pinball game (TAF) I worried that maintaining such a complex mix of computer circuits, electronics and mechanical actuators would be too great a drain on my time. To find out how much maintenance a vintage pinball game requires, I got on the Addams Family Owners List website and sent emails to all 221 people who provided addresses. Fifty-nine of these were returned as undeliverable. Of the 166 remaining, 51 answered my queries for information on how long they had their machines before something broke (other than bulbs burning out), what the most common problems were and how these problems were corrected. This webpage presents the results of that survey.
Please note that most of the respondents purchased their TAFs between 1998 and 2002. Anyone reading this page to find out what sort of repair issues they might face if they purchase an Addams Family pinball game needs to realize that games bought today are many years older than the ones in this survey and would therefore be expected to be less reliable.
Thirteen people reported that their games had no problems, except for an occasional bulb burning out, for an average of 4 years from the date of purchase. However, in the vast majority of these cases the TAF they purchased had been completely overhauled by a professional pinball restorer. Games obtained from private individuals were much less reliable. One respondent said that he purchased his game new in 1992 and that it worked perfectly in his home for 14 years.
Most Common Problems and Their Fixes
The following list starts with the most common problem and works its way down to the least common. Please keep in mind that these are the statistics from only 51 of the 22,000 Addams Family games made and as such represent too small a sample to be representative. Still, it is suggestive of what to expect.
Balls get stuck under the table after Thing picks them up
Eight people reported this problem. In one case it was caused by a loose nut blocking the ball's path. In another it was caused by the table being out of level. The last reported case was from the protective cover to the Thing mechanism being installed incorrectly so that its out hole didn't mesh with the inlet to the swamp's channel guide. Most TAF owners mentioning this problem indicated they just lived with it.
Thing's Magnet Erratic
Six people reported this problem. In each case it was caused by one of the wires leading to the magnet breaking, most commonly at the solder joints.
Five said they'd had this problem. One said it was fixed by spraying WD40 on it (a dangerous fix because the TAF manual says the flippers are designed to run without lubricants), one said it was a broken wire, one figured the flipper was just too old and replaced it, one fixed the problem by tightening everything, and one said diode Q6 on the flipper controller malfunctioned.
Bookcase Stops Turning
Four people said they had this problem and in each case it was caused by the plastic crank arm breaking.
There were three reports of the game randomly restarting. One respondent traced the problem to the left outlane switch being jammed closed. When the swamp switch was triggered the combination caused a restart. Freeing the outlane switch fixed the problem. Another stated that bridge rectifiers C5, C6 and C7 malfunctioned. Replacing them fixed it. Finally, someone said that this problem is many times caused by the house's 120 line voltage being below the 117-volt limit for the Addams Family. In his case, installing an inexpensive Tripplite 1200 voltage regulator stopped his game from resetting.
Bookcase Optical Switch Failures
Three TAFs had this problem. One was fixed by cleaning the emitters (upper) and receivers (lower), one be resoldering a lead to one of the receivers, and the last by replacing the transmitter.
Dot Matrix Display Failed
Three reported that all or part of the DMD quit working. Two fixed it by replacing the entire unit, the third patched the existing unit using conductive epoxy.
Two people reported this problem. One stated that the leaking acid severely damaged the circuit board, which required many hours to fix.
Power Supply Failed
There were two reports of the power supply dying. One replaced it while the other fixed it by replacing the bridge rectifiers and capacitors.
The following problems were only reported once:
Wire ball switches jammed. Fixed by rebending the wires.
Vault switch stopped working
Magnet failed to energize. Replacing a burned out diode fixed it.
Grave jet bumpers work loose after 5-7 hours of play. Retighten to fix.
Electric chair came loose. Retightened.
All flash lamps stopped working. Replaced the bridge rectifiers to fix.
Ball feeder broke. Replaced.
Multiball would shut down. Problem noticed after TAF Gold chips installed. Switching back to regular TAF chips fixed.
Bumper post broke. Fixed with epoxy casting material.
Left ramp plastic cracked. Fixed with a metal protector.
I sincerely hope that you found the results of this survey helpful. As for myself, it convinced me that as complicated as they are pinball machine are remarkably reliable so I went ahead and purchased my very own Addams Family game. While it's had more problems than average machines, it's still been a worthwhile investment that I'll never regret.
(Click on main site to browse 70 other topics ranging from exotic kaleidoscope designs to the strange world of lucid dreaming. There you will also find several other pages dealing with the Addams Family pinball game.)