Addams Family: Full LED Conversion

Honestly, there's not a whole lot to document here. After I brought home my Star Trek: The Next Generation machine--which had been converted from the original incandescent bulbs to LEDs, Addams Family looked a little...yellow...by comparison. I knew pretty much right away that I would be converting Addams to LEDs at some point in the near future.

There are a lot of choices when it comes to LED bulbs and suppliers. Almost too many. White LEDs in three different (warm, natural, and sunlight). Color LEDs. Different intensities. Bayonet and wedge-based bulbs (most machines need some of both). You can buy individual bulbs, mix packs with bulbs of different types, or pre-made sets that include every bulb you need

for a specific machine.

And of course, like pretty much everything else in the pinball world, if you search the forums for opinions on which supplier and which options are best, there are at least 100 opinions for every 96 pinball owners. 

After lots of online reading, I chose Comet Pinball's pre-made Addams Family LED kit. I decided to go with the kit because there are over 150 bulbs in this pinball machine, and there was no way I was going to the trouble of compiling a list of what I needed. I based my decision to go with Comet primarily on the company's good reputation among collectors and the fact that their kit included 6 LED spotlights that add light to the playfield. Addams has always been a dark machine, and the spotlights looked like they made a world of difference in the pictures. I also liked the fact that Comet's kit color-matched LEDs to the playfield inserts, but kept most of the general illumination white. (Some people love crazy color schemes...more power to 'em but I'm not one of those people.) The only color GI lighting in this kit are blue LEDs that go under the blue plastics around the top of the playfield.

Comet's kit doesn't come standard with LED flasher bulbs. On their website (which is a great source of basic LED info), they talk about how LED flashers are usually the reason that people think LEDs are too bright. I opted for the LED add-on. I can't say they're wrong...when the flashers really get going, they light up the whole basement.

When I looked at the website while writing this page, I noticed that they also offer an option for an OCD board--a board that controls the dimming of LEDs, especially in attract mode. This wasn't an option (or even a consideration) when I ordered my kit. All I can say is that my LEDs look fine without an OCD board. 

One customization I made color-wise was buying green LEDs for the G-R-E-E-D inserts. They're supposed to be white, but I saw someone online who had used green instead and it looked great.

Thats a lot of intro to a project that really has little in the way of a blow-by-blow description. When it comes down to it, what this project is about is changing 150 lightbulbs. It's tedious. It's time-consuming. But, for the most part, it's not particularly difficult. I started with the backbox, then systematically worked my way from the bottom of the playfield (the flipper end) to the top.

 

Here are some highlights and tips. Remember, these observations apply to The Addams Family. Your LED conversion might be easier (or harder). 

  • It takes longer than you think it will. Or, at least, it took longer than I thought it would. I figured, maybe, two hours. It took nine, over the course of two days. There were several reasons for this, but one of the biggest time sinks was matching bulb model numbers to their positions on the playfield. There are DOZENS of different types and colors of bulbs. The bulbs are all grouped with like bulbs in individual bags with labels, and there's a checklist of what goes where, but sorting through all of the tiny bags of bulbs to find the right bulb for each socket is tedious.

  • The backbox lights are EASY. That's where I started. Take off the translight and every bulb in the backbox is just right there, waiting to be changed.

  • MOST of the GI bulbs are fairly easy to get to. Most of the general illumination lights are accessible from the top of the playfield by removing a single plastic. These are bayonet bulbs that, once exposed, just need to be twisted, removed, and replaced. 

  • SOME of the GI bulbs are a BEAR to get to. The bulbs under the plastics around the back of the playfield would require large-scale playfield disassembly to get to from the top, and are difficult to get to from under the playfield because they're at the bottom (deep in the cabinet) when the playfield is in the raised position. Some of them are buried behind lots of wiring harnesses. There's also one bulb that's under a plastic to the left of the small flipper. This requires the removal of that entire plastic section, which also means the partial removal of the ramp assembly.

  • SOME of the insert bulbs are fairly easy to get to. Insert bulbs have to be accessed from under the playfield. On Addams family, about a third of those bulbs are on circuit boards, housed in sockets that simply twist off with a quarter-turn. They're a snap to replace. Remove the socket, pull out the bulb (mostly wedge bulbs), put in the LED bulb, screw the socket back in. Simple! For the pop-bumpers, it's even easier. Take the cap off the bumper (two screws), swap bulbs, put the cap back on the bumper. 

  • MANY of the insert bulbs are tedious (if not very difficult) to get to. The other two-thirds of the insert bulbs are in metal sockets that have to be removed in order to change the bulb. That means unscrewing the socket from the playfield, swapping the bulb, and screwing the socket back in place. Lather, rinse, repeat...about 100 times. Some sockets are easy to get to. Some aren't. PRO TIP: have something rigged to catch stray screws. Two of mine disappeared somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle tangle of wiring harnesses, never to be seen again.

  • Flasher replacement varies in difficulty from super-easy to impossible (without disassembling part of the playfield). Some of them have covers that twist off, allowing easy access to the bulb inside. Others are bolted to the plastics. You can only get to the bulb by removing the entire section they're mounted on. And one of them is on the ramp assembly. In the end, there was one flasher (in the back left corner) that I left incandescent because the effort to get to that thing was way beyond what I was willing to expend.

  • Yes. You have to remove the ramp assembly. I wanted to avoid it, and thought I might get away with it, too. Problem is, one of the pop bumpers is under the left ramp return. You can't change it without removing the ramp. The upsides: (1) you don't have to take it all the way off...just enough to move it out of the way, and (2) it gives you access to one of the flashers you can't otherwise get to, as well as a couple of GI bulbs that are REALLY buried and difficult to reach from under the playfield.

  • Where in the HELL does that last GI bulb go? When all was said and done, I one blue GI light remaining. And, even with the location described on Comet's installation sheet, I had no idea where it went. Turns out, it went under the blue plastic to the right of the Bookcase and Thing. And it's not immediately obvious how one can remove that plastic. It also wasn't obvious to me that a light should go there--mainly because, when I finally got to it, the socket was empty. In 15 years, there had NEVER been a light there. There is now.

  • Keep track of your progress. The lighting kit includes a playfield map showing the locations of the insert lights (although not the GI lights...that would have been helpful). As I worked my way through the parts list, I used a highlighter to mark the playfield location AND the bulb on the parts list as I completed each. That way, I never had to double-check whether I had changed out a bulb.

  • Double-check locations. Make sure you look at both sides of the playfield. It's not easy to tell which insert a socket is under from the bottom of the playfield. If you have a kit like the one I bought, you'll want to make sure you're not putting the wrong intensity/color of bulb in the wrong location.

It was a long weekend...but the end result was more than worth the effort. My Addams Family looks like a whole new game now.