This is a very common question for new pinball owners, especially if you have an older pinball machine. In fact, an even more common question is:
Can I use WD-40 on my pinball machine?
The answer? NO. Under no circumstances should you use WD-40, for a couple reasons. One is that WD-40 turns gunky after a couple weeks, so while initially making the problem better, it will then make it even worse. Worse than that though is the fact that WD-40 is flammable, so any sparks might start it on fire, which would be a disaster.
Some people also like to use contact cleaner. That’s also a definite no-no.
Before you go to the sections below, if you’re looking for help cleaning your pinball machine in general, go to my Best Pinball Playfield Cleaner page.
Lubricant for Modern Pinball Machines
For modern games (1978 and newer) with digital scoreboards and electronics, no lubricant should ever be used. If something isn’t working smoothly, it’s almost always because it:
a) needs cleaning
b) needs a new coil sleeve
c) part is worn out
That covers almost all of the issues. Like if your flippers are sluggish and not working like they should, they typically need a rebuild kit to get back to normal. The rebuild kit replaces the coil sleeve, the plunger, the coil stop, and the flipper bushing. All of those things are critical in order to get full power.
How do you clean the metal parts? Typically just with a paper tower to wipe off all the dust and dirt. Usually all the dust will be black in nature and stick to about everything.
Lubricant for older EM machines
Like the digital machines of 1978 and after, typically lubricant isn’t needed for EM machines. However, there are exceptions to this as sometimes there are a lot of metal on metal action going on and sometimes a little lubricant is needed.
The recommended lubricant is Teflon based oil, simple #10 oil, or Williams CoinOp lube.
Something like this below via my affiliate link would probably work:
If you want some more in depth repair and conditioning for EM pinball machines, go to Clay’s guide.
Shooter Rod Lubrication
About the only spot where where you might consider lube on a modern game is the shooter rod. While cleaning is the best method, if you’re unable to do that then a little bit of the same Teflon lube from above should do the job. Typically they’re stuck because someone spilled a pop on it 20 years ago and it eventually turned to muck. Also common for the shooter rod is for the sleeve in there to crack or be missing, causing a lot of friction.