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Data East Ball Auto-Launch Assembly Replacement/Upgrade
NOTICE: For some very important information, please read the Technical Article Notice and Disclaimer, found on our Technical Articles Index page before performing any of the work described below. The information given below assumes you have read the Notice and Disclaimer first.
About This Article:
This article deals with the replacement of the "Turbo Boost" ball auto-launch mechanism (Data East # 500-5304-00) on games that used the manual ball shooter (plunger) in conjunction with an auto-launcher. Some games that used this mechanism (or most likely used it) were Batman, Checkpoint(?), Hook, Phantom of the Opera, Playboy 35th Anniv., Simpsons, Star Trek, Time Machine(?), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Please check your game or your game manual to make sure your game uses this unit, before doing any of the work below. Let us know if you have any corrections to the above game list.
Note on Parts Availability: Some Data East parts that were unavailable for many years have recently been coming available again from aftermarket suppliers, so if you have a broken or worn-out original part, you may find a new replacement part on our General Parts & Supplies page. This may save you having to replace the entire assembly with later-model parts, as described below.
Note on Tommy Pinball: Tommy also used an auto-launch mechanism, but due to space restrictions under the playfield in this game, it was designed as a much different unit than the standard Turbo Boost auto-launcher found in other games. It may not be possible to replace the original unit in Tommy with the parts described in this article (we have not had the opportunity to try this on a Tommy game as yet). If you are working on a Tommy game and wish to try this modification, do so at your own risk, and bear in mind that we cannot take parts back on return that have been used or installed.
Note on Monday Night Football Pinball: It has been reported to us that the new auto-launch mechanism described below does not fit on MNF pinball due to space restrictions, so we do not advise using it for that game.
Note on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pinball: We advise against attempting this upgrade in a Turtles game. Too much custom cutting of the black plastic apron (score card holder) and shooter gauge are required for the parts to fit, and there is very little mounting area to secure the parts, especially if your playfield wood has stripped screw holes or is otherwise in poor shape due to wear/tear. Better off using new replacements for the original kicker arm and pivot (515-5350-00 and 515-5048-00), and replacing the coil with a stronger SG-23-750-DC unit.
Note on other games: This article does not apply to games that used a button or switch to launch the ball- having auto-launch but not using a manual ball-shooter- such as Guns 'n Roses, Last Action Hero, Lethal Weapon 3, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Star Wars, and Tales From the Crypt.
Level of Difficulty:
The procedure described in this article is recommended for persons with an 'Expert' skill level who have considerable experience working with pinball machines and parts. This procedure is not recommended for novice repair persons or other pinball owners who are not well experienced with working on their own games. If you are not comfortable doing the type of detailed work described in this article, we strongly suggest enlisting the help of a qualified repair person who can do the work for you. See our Game Service & Repair page for help with finding a qualified repair person in your area.
Original Data East Auto-Launch Assembly:
The original Turboboost kicker unit usually got a tremendous amount of use in most games that it was used in, and as a result, was frequently broken or non-functional, and chances are if you run across a game with one of these units in it nowadays, you'll see a unit that's either disabled, worn out and sloppy, or that's had a lot of previous "repair" work done to it to try and keep it working.
The image below shows the Turboboost kicker assembly with the 'striker' type kicker arm (515-5350-00) as used on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other games. Some games will use the 515-5044-01 kicker arm, which has a hole through the center of it for the ball plunger rod (Star Trek 25th Anniversary pinball and others).
Some Data East parts that were obsolete and unavailable for many years have started to come available recently in the aftermarket, so check our General Parts page for availability of individual replacement parts.
Original Data East Turboboost Kicker Assembly
In most cases, these old units just aren't healthy enough anymore to do the job reliably, and have to be replaced. The entire Turboboost kicker assembly was discontinued shortly before Data East went out of business in 1993/1994, so it is no longer available as a complete assembly. Individual parts may or may not be available depending on aftermarket parts availability. Check our General Parts & Supplies page for a listing of individual parts.
Modern Stern Auto-Launch Assembly:
The solution that we have come up with for replacing these old worn-out units with something reliable, is to use a modern Stern Pinball auto-launch mechanism, as used on such games as Lord of the Rings, Simpsons Pinball Party, and other modern games.
The modern Stern unit does the same job but has a slightly different design in the kicker arm. Looking at the two parts (old unit and new unit) side-by-side really shows the differences- the new unit is much more robust and heavy-duty, and will likely last a lifetime in any game in home use.
Modern Stern Auto-Launch Assembly
Installing the modern Stern unit in an older Data East game requires removing the old original unit (kicker mechanism & bracket, and coil & bracket) and positioning and installing the new unit. The new unit should be positioned so that it does not come in contact with the playfield wood (at bottom of shooter lane) when it kicks, and of course so that it doesn't interfere with any other playfield parts or wiring, and so that the playfield can be easily set back into the cabinet without the kicker hitting the side of the cabinet, etc.
Properly positioning and mounting the new kicker unit will usually require marking and drilling some new mounting screw holes.
In most cases, the original coil and coil mounting bracket can be re-used with the new kicker mechanism. Usually the coil and it's mounting bracket will have to be re-positioned as well, to accomodate the positioning of the kicker mechanism, so again, proper positioning and some marking/drilling of mounting screw holes may also be required here.
It's also possible that the ball trough release coil bracket and kicker arm (if used on your game) may have to be slightly repositioned to the left or right, to accomodate the auto-launch coil bracket. Anytime you move either of these types of units, be sure to position the coil bracket in proper alignment with the coil plunger, which is part of the kicker arm mechanism. These parts must fit and work properly together, when mounted to the playfield underside, and alignment must not be off, otherwise parts may jam/stick, or prematurely wear-out. Test the functionality of the parts during or after the repositioning, to be sure everything is going to work right when put back together. Some slight bending of the ball trough release kicker arm may be required if balls are ejected to the plunger lane improperly (don't kick out all the way, or kick out and bounce back in, etc.) A slight (very small) bend to the kicker arm- to the left or right- will change the trajectory of balls being released to the plunger lane.
You can also use the modern Stern auto-launch coil and mounting bracket to replace your old Data East unit, if you so desire. Both parts are very similar, but if you want all new parts, or anything is worn out or broken on your old coil/bracket, you can use the new Stern parts instead.
New Stern auto-launch assembly installed on a Data East 'Star Trek' game.
As most games have different hardware, and different mounting locations (positioning) of parts, there is no "step-by-step" walkthrough of exactly what must be done to replace your old Data East kicker with the new Stern parts, or exactly how or where to mount the parts. So doing this upgrade will require a slight bit of engineering on your part, or if you're uncomfortable doing this kind of work, check with your local pinball repair person or company- they may be able to help you.
We carry all the necessary parts for installing the new Stern kicker mechanism in your older Data East game. The following is a listing of items used, part numbers, and pages on our website where you can find and order these items. Location of some parts changes periodically on our website, so if you can't find an item, use our Search Feature at the top left of any page, or e-mail us: