The Scourge of Bad Connections

Burnt connectors or pins are the scourge of the arcade industry. In this article I will attempt to explain why this happens and how you can detect these problems before they become serious.

Why does this happen. Burnt connectors begin as small amounts of resistance in a connection designed to handle large amounts of current or an overloaded connector.

In the first case of small amounts of resistance. This happens because of some contamination that has affected the connection. Some of the causes are moisture, and or temperature over time. It begins with a small amount of resistance in that joint causing it to become slightly warm.  This heat promotes oxidation of the metals used to make the connection then overtime that oxidation will compound the problem creating more resistance and more heat eventually leading to a substantial voltage drop and your game behaving badly. At the first signs of this kind of problem most people will remove and reconnect the connector and all will seem well. But you did not solve the issue, it is still there lurking and it will come back to haunt you. The best thing to do is at the first sign of this issue change out the pin in the connector.  

In the second case of an overloaded connector it is usually due to multiple pins in a connector designed to deliver the same voltage you can see this on the 5 volt power connectors allot. If one of the connectors fails the other wire will have to take up the load causing more current than that connector can handle burning up one of the contacts. The false impression at this point is the burn connector was at fault but actually the one that is in good shape is not delivering the power it should. So both connectors need repaired to restore proper function.

Early diagnosis may not be as straight forward as you think because these same symptoms can also have other causes. Some of the main symptoms will be dim light bulbs, flickering led’s or leds that won’t come on but there is power to the socket, warm connectors are also a sign, game freeze up. These symptoms may not appear right away and there can be other symptoms not listed here. You might have to leave your game running for a day or two to see some of these early signs of a problem.

The cure is simple if you catch it early. Most all connectors used in the arcade industry can be repined. You can extract the old pin and crimp on a new pin into the existing connector.  I wanted to mention this because I have seen some terrible repairs where instead of fixing the failing pin they will solder the wire directly to the board. –Please don’t do this. Fix it right or get help to fix your connection issues correctly.

If you wait and you smoke a connection, the repair is complex and ugly.  In all cases do not solder harness wires directly to the board. Come up with a connector solution that will minimize the need to alter the wiring harness and allow easy removal of the board.

If you are dealing with a burned up edge connector with missing pins on the board side, they can be replaced with flat copper tape cut to the right size to refurbish the pin. Resist the urge to solder directly to the broken pin.  

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