IJ General Illumination Connector

This web-page is presently under construction. One of these days I'll be able to acquire the parts necessary for the replacement so that I can show photos and be a little more help. At this point, this page is only provided as a general outline of what is involved in replacing the GI connector.

This page is provided in response to emails I've received from 2 different IJ owners in December of 2001. Both owners indicated that they had a burnt GI connector at location J115 or J120 or J121 in the lower left corner area of the large power-driver board located in the backbox.

This is a somewhat common problem in Bally/Williams pinball machines of this vintage. First thing that you need to understand is how the wires are held in the plastic connectors. Take a good look at a nearby connector and you will see that the top of the connector has a small 'U' or 'V' shaped plastic where the wire is pressed in and there is a small 'V' of metal what basically cuts through the rubber insulation of the wire to make contact with the metal conducting portion of the wire. This 'V' metal that cuts into the wire goes through the plastic housing and forms the female portion of the connector which plugs into the pins on the board. There's not much to it, just a piece of wire squished into the 'V' in the plastic connector. Pretty simple.

Now that you understand that, let's point out the fact that there are a variety of ways to get that wire to squish into that 'V' portion of the plastic housing. There are 2 ways that I am familiar with:

  1. There is a special tool designed to crimp the wires into the plastic connector just right.
  2. You can just push the wire into the connector with the tip of a small flat screwdriver.


The cheaper thing to do is #2 above. I never used the official tool used in making the connectors crimp into wires. I always use the #2 method of forcing a good (unburnt) piece of wire into the connector and taking my time, and pushing the wire into the connector until I'm sure that it has good contact with the 'V' portion of the connector. I've replaced connectors many times this way without troubles.


<I'm getting ahead of myself, back to the original problem at hand>


Now that you understand how the wire fits into the plastic connector, lets examine why you opened up your backbox one day and the connector is burned to a crisp causing intermittent operation of your General Illumination. Depending on which connector is burnt, you may have ALL general illumination lights not working (or barely/sporadically working), or you may just have a single string of GI lights not working properly. There are 5 strings throughout the machine including the backbox lights and even a GI circuit for the coin-door lights and "light path of adventure" lights on the playfield are GI (as opposed to individually controlled lights).

Over time, a wire, or a group of wires decided it would be fun to wiggle out of the plastic connector. Maybe your machine is in an environment where it gets warm and cold enough that the thermal contraction and expansion of things caused the wire to wiggle out. Maybe somebody was rough or during a move it was bumped around. Doesn't matter why. Either way, the wire wiggled out just a teeny tiny bit. Now with this wire out just a tiny bit, the machine tries to turn on the lights that go to that wire. Electrical current is persistent and it tries very hard to compensate for the wire being wiggled out. The electrons jump over the teeny tiny gap between the metal 'V' in the connector to the wire that had wiggled out. When the electrons jump this gap, there is a super small arc of electricity. Sorta like super small bolt of lightening or like when you touch a metal doorknob after walking across carpet. In itself, this tiny arcing isn't too bad. You might not even be able to see it with your eye. But, over time, this arcing causes heat. After awhile this heat isn't that bad by itself, but the bad thing is this heat causes the wire to wiggle out of the connector just a tiny bit more (over time). So what we have here is an seemingly endless cycle of wire wiggling out of connector a little, arcing, heat, wire wiggling out of connector a little, arcing, heat… you get the picture. After awhile the arc gets relatively large and relatively warm. What we end up with is corrosion on the pins from the arcing, and we have a burnt black connector.

This means that BOTH the pins need replaced and the burnt connector needs replaced. Usually the burnt wires have enough slack in them that you can just cut the burnt part off and use the fresh, un-burnt part of the wire.

I have tried cleaning up the pins, tried to scrape the corrosion and make the pins look nice and neat, and just replacing the plastic connector. Every time I've tried this, I always ended up seeing the machine again in a few months and the connector is starting to turn brown from heat. I have learned that it is best to replace BOTH the pins on the circuit board, and the plastic connector.


Okay, now I have you convinced that you should replace the pins on the circuit board and the plastic connector. Now what?

Well, this is the hard part. I'm sure that there are plenty of sources for replacement pins and connectors. You need to do some research. I'm sure that somebody has talked about this before and if you use www.google.com to search the "groups" for somebody talking about this, I'm sure you'll find a source for these parts (probably Pinball Resource). I think if you searched the "rec.games.pinball" newsgroup for something like "General Illumination Connector replacement" or something similar, you will find something. THIS IS NOT INDIANA JONES SPECIFIC. You should NOT include "Indiana Jones" in your search. People have had this problem on many different pinball machines of this vintage so look around for somebody talking about replacing their pins and plastic connector and you should find a source for the parts.

At this time, this web-page will assume that you have done your research and have located somebody who can sell you the replacement pins and connector. I cannot research the topic at this time for you. There is an electronic shop in town. I made a special trip (just for this web-page) there to see if they could sell me some pins and connectors because I know they would have this sort of thing, but they are closed on weekends and I cannot get there during my work day. L


Also, at this time, let me stress that this is a generic repair that is really not Indiana Jones specific. This plastic connector is a pretty generic sort of part and the pins are the same. In no way is the plastic connector and pins specific to IJ. The engineering team at Williams probably had a big catalog of connectors and things and they just included this particular sort of connector in this design. The Williams assembly line probably had several different sources for this thing and they buy from the cheapest supplier.


Okay, so you have in your hand a row of pins and a plastic connector that plugs into the pins. For J115 you should have a row of 12 pins. For J120/J121 it should only have 11 pins in the row. You can buy only 12 pins rows and connectors and cut off the 12th pin and you can take the 12-pin plastic connector to a grinder and grind off the 12th pin very carefully.


Now you HAVE to have soldering experience before attempting to replace the pins. If you do not know what you're doing, then DON'T do it. It's easy to break a trace or something. I'm sure you can pull the board and take it to a local electronics repair shop (along with the replacement pins) and ask them to unsolder the old pins and solder in the new pins.


Now that you're sure you know what you're doing then here is what needs done… You need to remove the power driver board from the backbox and remove the burnt pins. This takes time and patience because these pins are connected to TRACES ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BOARD. More than once, I've been impatient and pulled off the traces after partially removing old solder only to find I pull up traces from the top-side of the board. After I accidentally pulled up the trace I had to do a lot of board repair to make sure I got it right. Once I didn't realize that I pulled up the trace on the top-side of the board, replaced the pins and connector, and found out some GI lights didn't work at all, turned out the trace on the top-side of the board was no longer making an electrical connection to the pins and I had to solder some jumper wire to make up for the broken trace.

Now you take your time, remove all old solder, remove the old burnt pins. Now clean up the board around the pins a little and make sure the traces are solid all the way up to the pin holes. Now, insert the new pins into the holes and solder them in! In regards to the traces on the top-side of the board…. it is not uncommon for the conductive hollow cylinder inside the hole in the board to fall out (break-off) during the pins-removal portion of this repair. Many times I've been impatient, and pulled out the old pins only to see I pulled out the small conductive hollow cylinders that are on the board at each hole. These are small things that basically conduct electrons from the bottom side to the top side of the solder pad on both sides of the board. If you accidentally removed this part, then you need to take extra precautions when installing the new pins to make sure that ALL traces on the top side of the board are making good soldered contact to the pins. Basically…. imagine you removed the conductive cylinder for a pin which has a good trace on the top side of the board. Now you put in the new pins and solder them in on the bottom side of the board…. now without that conductive cylinder in the board anymore, the trace on the top side of the board is not making good contact with the pin anymore. The cylinder provided the path of electrons from your new, fresh solder to the trace on the top side of the board. You need to keep this in mind when replacing and make sure the traces on the top side of the board get a good solid connection to the pins in one way or another.


You will notice that there is a "key pin" on each connector. The original pins had this key-pin removed and the associated pin-hole in the plastic connector plugged so it cannot accidentally be plugged into the wrong set of pins. You can choose to duplicate this key-pin idea, or just forget about it and make sure you don't accidentally use the key-pin when wiring the new plastic connector. I usually ignore the key-pin and don't worry about duplicating the key-pin setup in the replacement pins/connector. The key-pin is only to dummy-proof the machine to keep people from plugging a connector into the wrong spot.

Now you have a nice fresh set of pins soldered into your board! Now you need to replace the burnt connector inside the backbox. You are going to have to put pins back into the new connector just like how they were in the burnt connector so be careful to not mess things up so you can't determine which wires go where. If you get messed up, the manual has a nice reference for which wire-colors go where. You can also email me for any questions on what wires go where. You will notice that on J115 a lot of the wires loop back around and end up plugging into 2 adjacent pins.

At this point, I'm not sure how much more I need to say. You made it this far so you have pretty good mechanical skills. All I can say is that you need to cut off the burnt connector and burnt wires. There is usually enough slack in the wire to pull it a little to get more "fresh" wire. If there is no slack after cutting off the burnt wire, then you may need to solder some sort of extension wire to from the cut wire to a new piece which goes to the new connector. Now, you need to get the fresh wires into the new connector. I never had the actual tool designed for crimping the wires into the 'V' of the new connector. I always just took a small screwdriver and shoved the wires into the 'V' very carefully. It's easy to slip and have the tip of the small screwdriver in your fingertip. This takes time and patience.


I'll bet that there may even be a discussion on www.google.com in the rec.games.pinball newsgroup in regards to crimping the wires when replacing these connectors.


Once you have the new connector wired in, you just need to re-install the power driver board and plug everything in and power up!


I hope that this web page had provided some help to you. I am sorry that I cannot further detail the replacement at this time. If you're lucky, my GI connector will burn out and I'll have to build this page with photos when I replace my connector! Actually, I take preventative maintenance on my connectors to prevent the burnt connector problem. I'm sure I mention it on my web-page elsewhere, but it is good to go around the entire backbox and push in EVERY wire into the plastic connector with the tip of a small flat screwdriver. This helps prevent burnt connectors by reseating the wires into the 'V' and prevent micro-arcing which causes heat.

Be sure to email me with any concerns or questions regarding this. I just typed up this web page in a single sitting and I apologize if I missed anything or worded something in such a way as to leave you scratching your head wondering what I'm saying.


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