Action Pinball Logo LED Tube Installation (Fluorescent Replacement) - Stern Games
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Stern Pinball Games - LED Tube Installation (Fluorescent Replacement)

Many of the Technical Articles on our site contain information and directions involving electronics and circuit board repair. They are authored with the assumption that the reader has adequate experience and knowledge required to do the work being described.

If you do not feel qualified, or are in any way uncomfortable doing any of the work described in any of the articles, then we strongly recommend enlisting the help of a qualified repair person or shop who can do the work for you. It may save you cost, time, and further repair work.

We (Action Pinball & Amusement, LLC) are not responsible for any damage to you, your game, or your property, from doing any work on your game related to any of the articles listed on this site.
  • Parts & Supplies: Free free to contact us if you have any questions about parts that we sell which are mentioned in any of our Technical Articles.

  • Technical Help & Questions: We do not provide remote assistance with diagnosing and repairing games. We are mainly a parts supplier and do not have the time or resources to provide such services. Here are some other options you can explore for help:

The instructions below are for installation of our part # FLUOR_24_LED into a later-model Stern Pinball game.

Installation of this part into an earlier Sega game is similar, but not specifically detailed here.

  1. Please read through the instructions below first, before attempting any of the work. If any of the steps look to be beyond your personal abilities, please enlist the help of a qualified helper or service person.
  2. Some differences between the instructions below and what you see in your actual game may be present, depending on the age of your game and variances in factory design. Please consult your game manual's schematic section (yellow pages) if you are unsure about any wires, and need help identifying them.
  3. High voltages are associated with the parts and wiring detailed here, so use caution and be sure your game is UNPLUGGED while doing the work.
  4. We are not responsible for any damage or injury to you or your game as a result of following or not following these instructions. All work is done at your own risk.
The LED tube kit we sell includes the following parts:
  • 24-inch LED tube (fluorescent replacement)
  • Wire nuts (2)
  • Warning tag
Tools Needed:
  • Wire cutters (dikes)
  • Wire strippers
General Instructions:

The original fluorescent starter and ballast are simply bypassed, which sends line voltage (~120 volts) directly to the RIGHT lamp holder socket for the fluorescent/LED tube, and back. The end of the LED tube marked "AC INPUT" will be installed in the right lamp holder socket in the game.

Factory routing of wiring, wire colors, and various connections can vary from game to game. Stern was not consistent with the wiring for the backbox lighting in their games over the years, so variances can be seen from game to game.

We recommend using the schematic diagram with instructions shown below to make the necessary wiring changes. Despite any variances your game may have, the actual circuitry for the backbox light should match the diagram below.

Step-by-step instructions with pictures are also listed further below, showing installation into an earlier Stern Elvis pinball.

As shown in the diagram above, the WHT (white) wire leading to Lamp Holder 1 is cut and connected to the BLK/WHT (black with white trace) wire leading away from the Starter Housing.

Then the 2 wires leading into the Ballast are cut and connected together.

These 2 modifications bypass the Starter and Ballast, and send line voltage directly to Lamp Holder 2.

Some variations in wire routing, wire colors, and exact component locations may be present from game to game. Some games may have additional wires and wire nuts to make necessary connections, but all wiring should essentially match the schematic diagram above. Use the diagram above to identify the correct wires and components in your game in order to make the correct changes. If you are unsure about any work, please enlist the help of a qualified service person to ensure the work is done correctly and safely.

Step-by-Step Instructions (With Pictures) for Installation in a Stern Elvis Pinball: (Other Stern games from the early 2000s may be similar. Later games may have some slight variances in wiring.)
(Click any image to enlarge)
Step 1:TURN POWER OFF. UNPLUG GAME. High voltages are present inside the game when plugged in, which can injure or kill. Leave power off, and game unplugged, until work is complete!
Step 2:Unlock backbox and remove backglass/translite to gain access to fluorescent tube and circuit boards inside. If you need help doing this, please consult your game manual.

If your game has not had the backglass/translite removed for an extended period of time, you may find that it will not slide upward after the lock has been unlocked. This is due to the foam rubber insulation behind the side edges of the backglass having become stuck/adhered to the plastic trim on the sides from sitting for so long. You may have to put a lot of effort into pushing upward on the glass to un-stick the foam rubber from the backglass. Use two people (one on each side of the game) using both hands and lifting up on the plastic lift channel at the bottom of the glass. A good amount of force and a little patience should get it to break free of the foam rubber.
Step 3:Remove old fluorescent tube from it's mounting sockets on either end of the tube. Older and newer model games may use slightly different clips to hold the fluorescent tube in place:

Some games may have thin brown fiber clips attached to the sockets on either end of the tube that need to be pushed up slightly (left) and down slightly (right) to release the tube pins, which allows the tube to pull straight out. If no clips are present, they may have been broken off. Or clips may have reinforced tape across them, in which case you can remove the tape.

Other games may have plastic yellow clips that press in to the sockets on either end of the tube. Pull these straight out. If no clips are present, they may have already been removed and lost.

Pull the tube straight out.
Step 4:
Locate the factory wire nut near the fluorescent starter (left end of the original fluorescent tube). It will contain 1 thick black wire, 1 thin black wire (with white trace), and 1 thin white wire.

The thick black wire runs to one side of the starter socket. You can confirm you're working with the right wires by following this thick black wire to the starter socket.
Step 5:
Using wire cutters, cut the 2 thin wires (black w/ white trace, and white) leaving the thick black wire uncut and still connected inside the wire nut.

Tuck the wire nut away as it will no longer be used, and voltage will not be present inside it when the game is on.
Step 6:
Using wire strippers, strip the 2 thin wires (black w/ white trace, and white) back about 3/8 to 1/2 inch.
Step 7:
Twist the stripped ends of the 2 thin wires together (black w/ white trace, and white), then install one of the enclosed wire nuts over them to secure.

The fluorescent starter is now bypassed.
Step 8:
Locate the fluorescent ballast, which looks like a small enclosed transformer. It is usually white, or brass/light gold in color. The ballast is typically mounted on the top (ceiling) of the backbox interior, toward the right side. Some games may have the ballast mounted near the left side. Instructions for both mounting positions are the same.

The two wires coming out of the ballast will lead to two factory wire nuts, as pictured. Locate these.

Note that the wires from the ballast are SOLID (not easily bent), and are typically black in color.

Wires connecting to them from the game's wiring harness are STRANDED (easy to bend), and are typically black, and red.
Step 9:
Using wire cutters, cut the 2 wires going into each of the 2 factory wire nuts. Discard the wire nuts. Separate the 2 ballast wires (SOLID wires), and tuck them away- they will no longer be needed, and will not have any voltage in them when the game is on.
Step 10:
Using wire strippers, strip the 2 STRANDED wires back about 3/8 to 1/2 inch, each.
Step 11:
Twist the stripped ends of the STRANDED wires together, then install the other included wire nut over them to secure.

The fluorescent ballast is now bypassed.
Step 12:
Tie the loose string ends of the enclosed warning tag and slip over the LED tube as pictured. Install the LED tube into the mounting sockets so that the end marked "AC INPUT" is in the right side mounting socket, as pictured. Make sure the words "AC INPUT" are visible on the FRONT of the LED tube after installing, as pictured.

You may have to pull one of the sockets to the side a bit to allow the LED tube to be installed- the sockets tend to pinch on installed tubes, for a tight fit.
Step 13:Check your work, then plug game in and turn power on. LED tube should light up right away. If not, turn power off, unplug game, and double-check your work.

Now is a good time to check your batteries that connect to the MPU board. Factory location of these is the top right corner of the MPU board.

Batteries are AA alkaline (quantity 3) and should be changed every couple of years, and checked at least once a year for proper voltage, and for any signs of leakage.

When new, batteries will have about 4.5 volts charge. They should not go below 4 volts, otherwise the MPU board is at risk of losing it's memory (high scores, free play setting, etc.)

Use a voltmeter to check your battery voltage- black (negative) lead on any metal ground point in the backbox (circuit board mounting screw is good), and red (positive) lead on the "BATT" test point/loop just below and to the right of the battery holder.

Carefully change batteries WITH POWER ON to avoid losing any of your memory settings (high scores, free play setting, etc).

We recommend using good quality name-brand batteries (Energizer, Ray-O-Vac, Duracell). We recommend against cheap batteries (Costco/Kirkland, Harbor Freight, etc) as we have seen these leak prematurely (in as little as 6 weeks) and not hold a charge nearly as long as name-brand batteries. A few more nickels spent on name-brad batteries is cheap insurance.

On-board batteries that leak can get electrolyte battery fluid onto the circuit board and cause irreparable damage.

We recommend locating batteries off-board with a remote-mount battery holder to eliminate the potential risk of leaking batteries damaging your valuable MPU board. Again- cheap insurance.

As of this writing, replacement MPU boards for later-model Stern Pinball games (Whitestar board system- 2nd revision) have not been made in many years (no replacements available), so if you end up with a battery-damaged MPU board, you basically have a dead game.

Move your batteries off the valuable circuit board, and check them regularly!

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