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How To Transport A Pinball Machine

Pinball machines are big and heavy, and they can break fairly easily if they’re not transported correctly. Whether you’re moving pinball machines around in your own arcade, or if you’re looking to buy or sell one that needs shipped, you need to know how to transport a pinball machine correctly.

You can transport a pinball machine yourself by car, or you can use a shipping company to do it for you. Regardless of which option you choose to use, you need to make sure you pack everything up properly so that your pinball machine doesn’t get damaged during transportation.

Below, we’ll go into more detail about the kinds of things you should be aware of when transporting a pinball machine. We’ll go through the important things you should be doing and checking before you transport your machine, and the right way to do it so you don’t damage the machine.

Packaging A Pinball Machine For Transport

If you just bought a machine and you’re going to drive it to your house, you might want to measure your vehicle first. If you have a van or a big SUV or some kind of truck you shouldn’t have any problems. But if not, a lot of cars can still fit a pinball machine if the seats fold down. These will mainly be hatchbacks or cars that you can access the trunk without putting your seats down.

Knowing the size of the machine you’re moving and the size of vehicle you have to work with will help you avoid getting stuck with no way to bring it home. You can check PinWiki, they have a list of cars that will fit average-sized tables and even some larger machines too.

Make Sure It Fits!

You’ll also want to make sure that the machine will fit through any doorways, stairways or other areas of your property so you can actually get it where you want it to go. After you have decided to buy a machine and know it will fit into your car, you are going to want to start protecting it, so it doesn’t get damaged during transport.  

You’ll want to start by removing the balls. You may need to get into the glass of the cabinet to access them. Then you’ll either take the backbox off or fold it down onto the cabinet. You want to make sure you have some blanket or cardboard in between the backbox and the cabinet. This will help protect the backglass and the cabinet glass from cracking or breaking.

If the machine is an old EM machine, you may need to disconnect wires from the cabinet to the backbox to take the head off. You can access these wires through the backbox door that’s opened with a key. Once the head is lying on the cabinet or off the machine completely, you can start wrapping the machine. Using a ratchet strap or plastic wrap will help keep the backbox lying down on the cabinet.

Wrap Everything Up Carefully

Cardboard and even wood pieces can be wrapped around the machine with the plastic wrap to keep them in place. Take care when wrapping the plunger handle. Since it sticks out of the cabinet it will need to be wrapped up especially carefully.

After the machine has protective wrapping around it you can start taking off the legs. Using a chair or a hydraulic lift can help avoid the machine from falling while removing the legs. You’ll want to start with the back ones and then move to the front ones.

You can use plastic wrap and some cardboard to package up the legs. You want to avoid taping the legs together as the tape can take off any paint and the chrome coating on the legs. You should put the balls into a Ziploc bag, and then you’re ready to get moving.

Transporting A Pinball Machine By Car

Next, you’ll move your machine – with the help of at least one other person – to your vehicle. When placing the machine inside your vehicle you’ll want to make sure you have some sort of padding on the floor, and perhaps on the sides of the box to keep things safe if there’s the potential of it moving around during transport.

These foam flooring tiles could work pretty well to ensure you protect the underside of the machine. Alternatively, you can stack some cardboard, blankets and Styrofoam underneath to avoid damage to the bottom of the machine. This is especially true when using a cargo van, truck bed or small trailer since they have little to no protection on the floor.

Keep Everything In Place

You can then use rope or a strap to tie your machine to the car. Placing wood and cardboard around the base of the machine will also help to minimize room for movement. When driving, take it slow and avoid any potholes or abrupt turning. Once you get home use a hand truck or the help of a friend to wiggle your way around to the desired destination and start unpacking the machine.

Hand trucks are very useful if you’re attempting to move a pinball machine around by yourself. A lot of people will use hydraulic hand trucks that can make moving your pinball machine around even easier.

Transporting A Pinball Machine With A Shipping Company

Shipping a pinball machine can be a lot of work, which is why a lot of sellers choose to sell locally. But if you don’t have this option, transporting the machine using a shipping company will be your best bet, and you will still want to make sure that everything is secure before it ships off.

You’re going to want to use a pallet, as this will help the company move the machine around on a forklift, and it will give you something to strap the machine to. You’ll want to do the same thing as before by taking out the balls and either folding the backbox down or removing it completely.

The Backglass

To make sure the backglass is secure you might want to stuff some Styrofoam or cardboard in the back box slot. The backglass can break pretty easily, as it’s quite thin and unable to handle a lot of movement. Translite on the other hand will be a little harder to break, but you can still do this for extra safety.

Once the backbox is on the cabinet with the blanket/cardboard pieces protecting it, you can start wrapping it in plastic wrap. You’ll want to repeat putting cardboard, Styrofoam, then more cardboard around the machine. This will give the machine a double-layered box around it. After taking off the legs you’ll want to separate the machine and pallet from each other by adding more cardboard.

Once the machine is sitting on the pallet, you’ll want to use a ratchet strap to tighten it against the pallet. If your backbox can be taken off, you’ll want to follow the same process as above and place it behind the machine.

You’ll want to wrap legs, balls, keys, manuals and anything else you might have for the machine together. Put keys and balls into a Ziploc and plastic wrap them all together. Add some Styrofoam and cardboard to keep them safe, and since this will be a longer box you can put this on top the machine taped down and strapped in securely.

NAVL

NAVL (North American Van Lines) is a company that will ship your machine on a truck. This makes it easy to ship from your house to another person’s house with their door-to-door service. They also offer a packaging service where they will handle the wrapping of your machine for an extra fee. This fee may be more than $100 for a pinball machine, so it may not be worth it for you.

They have real time tracking that will show you where your package is at any time and give you an estimate on what the price will be before you place any orders. There are no hidden fees and they’re transparent about costs. You can get a quote directly on their website.

STI Movers

STI Movers, based around Chicago, is another highly rated moving company. They offer the same features as NAVL, like online estimates, door-to-door service and real time tracking. For local moves they’ll charge a $50 deposit, while long distance will need $200. Whichever service you use, you pay half upfront and half when the item is received.

It’s not unheard of for everything to go seemingly smoothly during the move but for the machine not to be working when it arrives at its new home. This is common and is usually just an issue with a loose wire or fuse that got knocked out of place while moving.

Take Some Reference Pictures

In any case, you’ll probably need to get into your cabinet and backbox to ensure everything is connected properly. This is also why it’s a good idea to take pictures of everything around the machine before the move to use as a reference of what the machine should look like.

If you don’t figure out the issue you may need to find a manual (if it didn’t come with one) on the internet. There are a few websites on our reference page that give you access to databases of many digitized manuals.

Final Thoughts

Transporting a pinball machine can be a daunting process if you don’t know what you’re doing. Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can follow to make sure your pinball machine stays in one piece when you’re moving it around. If you’re moving it over a long distance, a reputable shipping company is probably the way to go.