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Pump Haven :: Purchasing a PIU Machine: With Swearing!
12:07AM CST :: 5/23/08


Purchasing a PIU Machine: With Swearing!

article by Yeehaw McKickass


Since I started playing dance games of all sorts back in 2003, I’d always had an intense desire to understand the upkeep on not only Pump, but DDR as well. Like many, I started out on DDR, and was completely confused the first time I saw a SX Pump machine at Dennis’ Place for Games in Chicago, IL. What was this odd game with 5 panels? Why did it have two sets of coin doors? Where were the buttons on the cabinet?

Two jobs, countless plays, and almost five years have passed since walking into Dennis’ after an event and trying Pump for the first time. I now sit here armed with not just the knowledge and skills to repair most problems in any arcade game; I sit here armed with that SX I first set foot on in 2003.

Flash to early May 2008. I had a full day planned with my girlfriend. We were supposed to go on a double date with her friends after I finished doing general maintenance on the campus arcade (including a PIU GX). After doing my work, I called to confirm everything, only to find out that the double date was off due to a birth. After some discussion, my girlfriend and I decided to make it a standard date, and took off for the fine Chicago pizza chain Giordano’s’.

Pump was the last thing on my mind during dinner. General conversation and planning for my girlfriend’s post-graduation career and needs were the topic of the night. The number one item on her list was a Mac of some sort, so I suggested we go to the Apple store in the nearby mall.

Long aside short, we walked out of the mall after closing with a 20” iMac and new printer for her. An early graduation present from her parents and myself.

After getting the computer back to her house, setting it up, submitting a rebate form, and taking some pictures, I headed home still not thinking of anything Pump related. I was satisfied knowing that I’d basically put a giant dent in my finances and turned my girlfriend into happily squealing mush.

How quickly things change.

After getting to my laptop I was quickly accosted by my girlfriend over AIM. She was still giddy over the iMac purchase and sending streams of thank you and other such messages of thanks. During this whole string of messages, PH member and Pump machine owner Kuhazan messaged me asking if I’d been able to check private messages, then saying something roughly equivalent of, “Don’t bother, here’s what the PM was about”.

He had sent me a link to an eBay auction for an original version SX Pump machine. It was located in the greater Chicago land area, particularly an extremely rich northwestern suburb. The astounding part was the price, which was far lower than what I had expected.


For a year or two previous to this, I had been watching the market to try to find an SX, SD (DDR styled PIU cabinet), or GX for pump club and personal use, or even just to buy and try to find a location to do a revenue split. DX was out of the question due to size and known issues, and FX was out of the question because of expense. All I’d managed to find were overpriced SD and DX cabinets with old versions like Perfect Collection, or I wouldn’t have the money available for use when a good GX or SX would show up on eBay or other markets.

But when this one came up money was available, the price was right, it came with NX installed, and was local. After some discussion with both my girlfriend and some other people, I decided I needed to pounce.

And pounce I did.

I mentioned earlier that I already had the knowledge and skills to repair most problems with arcade games. What I didn’t mention was that I also had the knowledge and some of the equipment related to moving arcade games around, particularly huge cabinets like a Pump machine.

After a short nights rest, I started working on the hardest part of purchasing a machine: Getting it home. Renting a truck for this is always a pain, especially on as short of notice as I was working with. I called around to get a one-way rental of a 17-foot truck with a ramp available for pick up extremely late the next day. U-Haul, being the only option decided to give me a truck 15 miles beyond where I’d be picking up the machine, and listed the pick up time as 11:00am instead of my requested 4:30-5:00pm.

Getting a ride up to the U-Haul place almost proved to be a major problem. Eventually Wolfen came through and we made plans to head up to the pick up after a sorely needed dental appointment.

Murphy’s Law states that, “anything that can go wrong will”. But hey, at least I had a Friday afternoon off for a post lunch dental appointment.

Did Murphy’s Law ever slap me across the face on pick up day. First, my dental appointment went long, then Wolfen was late getting to my area, then we got stuck in the beginnings of rush hour traffic. The real back breaker was that once we got through the only decent sized town on our path, the two lane road we were traveling was reduced to one lane at a fairly major intersection. This created a 20-40 minute delay.

I spent half the trip swearing at traffic and the other half on the phone with the place I had the U-Haul rental from and the guy who sold me the machine. We weren’t going to make it until after closing time, so the seller and I managed to reach a deal with the U-Haul guy where he’d stick around until I got there for a case of Corona from the liquor store across the street.

Yes, I paid in beer to ensure I got the truck I needed.

By the time we got to the U-Haul place it was 5:30 pm. I stopped in to show that I was there, and promptly ran across the street and bought the guy two cases of Corona instead of the agreed one. I signed all the forms where I was told to, paid, and was informed that the truck I was getting wasn’t a 17-footer, it was a 26-footer. Oh, and it was extremely low on gas.

At least there was a gas station nearby to fill up at. But it’s not fun trying to drive a huge U-Haul when there’s a score of compact cars and SUV’s trying to get into the same gas station as you. Especially when you have to do a lot of backing in and out of pumps because half of them are broken.

After paying through the nose for a third of a tank we finally started heading to the house we’d be picking the machine up from. I was really loathing the extra sized U-Haul, thanks to the tiny, winding, and hilly roads we traveled. But we finally made it to the house!

Only to find out it had a double uphill horseshoe driveway I was supposed to back the monstrosity up. Again, Murphy’s Law reared its ugly head. The cars in the caravan had gone up the less steep side of the driveway, and for some reason decided to back down, leaving me to back out of the driveway again. From there, I was misdirected over to the even more steep side of the driveway and attempted to scale it. I managed to get the truck simultaneously stuck in the mulch around the driveway and embed the tow hitch into the road.

After lots of swearing and futile attempts to get to truck to dislodge itself under its own power, a neighbor came over with a pickup truck and a heavy duty strap. After attaching the strap to his tow point and the tow hitch on the truck he pulled until I regained traction. Damage to the U-haul consisted of a couple of scrapes on the tow hitch. The street was left with a four foot long, two inch deep gouge.

After that, we wisely decided to leave the U-Haul on the roadside, and just roll or carry everything else down. Note that I hadn’t even looked at the machine in person at this point.

There had been some discussion amongst myself and the old Dennis’ regulars as to whether or not the machine was the one in that location. Marking, damage, and issues listed all seemed to corroborate the assertion that it was, in fact, the Dennis’ machine; But the then-current owners thought they had purchased it before Dennis’ closed.

Regardless of this, it appeared to be the Dennis’ machine. But there wasn’t time for any investigation. After a quick check to make sure things were at least in working order, and to find out that I was getting Zero and Exceed along with NX, we split everything apart and began rolling the cabinet down the driveway.

While time consuming, rolling the cabinet down wasn’t difficult. Getting it up the ramp was a bit of a different story. The angle of the provided ramp was too steep, so we used some wood to decrease it. Problem was we forgot to take the marquee off, so we had to do that when the machine was near the top of the ramp.

After getting the cabinet in, Wolfen and I just decided to carry the pads down the hill. If we’d been thinking, we could have just stacked one on top of the other and rolled it down, but we were tired and just wanted to get things done. I strapped the cabinet down, yelled at Wolfen to stop humping it, put the marquee in the cab with me, and left the coin buckets and external wires in Wolfen’s car.

It was loaded and ready to roll. The drive home was rather uneventful. Wolfen made a wrong turn and I stopped for gas. At least we had some extra hands waiting for us to help get everything off. Again, the cabinet got a bit stuck at the bottom of the ramp, but it a little muscle took care of that and we loaded everything into the garage and loosely linked everything together. We also commented on just how much we thought it was the Dennis’ machine. By this point it was after midnight, and we were far too hungry and tired to play.

No work happened the day after, due to obligations with family, friends, and being sick from all the work the day before. The first player pad was playable, so it did see some play from relatives. But real work began the Sunday after picking it up.

I needed to assess what work needed to be done to get this thing up to tip-top shape. Many of the major external problems had been taken care of by the seller. The second player bar had been welded back into shape, both bars had been repainted nicely, numerous bolts had been replaced temporarily, and the wiring from the cabinet to the pad had been labeled and fed through a new shop-vac tube. Anyone who’s tried to feed wires through a tube like that knows how difficult it is. I got to scratch those off the list.

I was left with a lot of work and no specific starting point, so I went right to the place I figured would need the most work: The pads. In particular the second player pad was reporting a stuck sensor.

The process for cleaning pads out has been covered extensively, but suffice it to say that it looked like the second player side hadn’t been shown any love in quite some time. After that point, I started writing out a list of what would need to be done to get the machine location ready. It read something like the following:

Pads -> 100%.
Bars, wobble a bit, check bolts.
Screws missing for back panels, wrong bolts for pad ties.
Stuck/stripped screws in pad – resolve.
Why does this thing have a MK5 in it?
Coin bezel on left side gone.
Pad leg (stopper) missing, replace.
Got locks, but no keys. Need to replace.
Single caster missing, replace, but not priority.

Since that Sunday, time spent on the machine has been divided between playing it and working on the list.

I don’t realistically expect the pads to ever be 100% again, but the goal is to get as close as possible. Work done on the pads between purchase and writing has taken the once awful second player side and made it highly playable, even with Exceed in. There are some lamps burning out, and one broken one I had to throw away, but the pads function beautifully.

I’ve checked the bars as thoroughly as possible, but until I can tap a new thread into the bar bracket, they’re going to wobble. Wobble is minimal, and will improve with more new hex cap bolts. This same problem applies with the Pad ties; at least 4 sets of threads have burrs that prevent bolts from going in. Replacements have already been purchased, but I need more. The back panel screws have already been replaced.

Stuck and stripped screws in a pad are almost always a result of someone using a really powerful drill to take out or put in screws, or because so much dirt has accumulated in the screw head that the bit being used doesn’t fit properly. This was the case with a large portion of the screws that seemed to be stuck on my pad. Using an electric drill and a tiny drill bit, I managed to grind the dirt out of every screw, and then loosen all the ones that weren’t stripped.

For the stripped screws, I used a tapper (for lack of a better term) do drive down on the head of the screw and force more metal towards the hex opening. This can allows you to jam a hex key or bit in and remove the screw, but it can only be done once. Exact replacements are difficult to find, but decent looking metric Phillips head screws are readily available. Just make sure you work from the outsides in with these.

Cleaning the insides and other parts mainly consisted of the same thing. The monitor and inside monitor bezel needed to be cleaned off, so I did that. I did some checking around in the coin door areas and found a whole bunch of stuff. The original SX manual, a bag with four extra sensors in it, and something I’d never expected to see again.

Inside the right hand coin door on the bottom of the open area was a bunch of tokens. I fished a whole bunch of them out, cleaned them, and found proof positive that this machine was at Dennis’ Place for Games. 21 Dennis’ tokens can’t lie.

I found out about the “Why does this have a MK5?” issue before I began cleaning, but I had a feeling that it needed to be blown or vacuumed out. My god was I ever right. Using an air compressor in the garage I gave the backside (inside of the MK5 included) a whole bunch of shots of compressed air. With StarianDolphin as my witness, the first shot of air into the MK5 blasted out so much dust we had to re-open the garage door to let it all go somewhere. If I had to equate it to something, it would be like a volcano erupting and spraying ash everywhere.

Speaking of the MK5, I do know the reason why it was still running on one. It’s a really simple answer too: Dennis’ was really cheap when it came to upkeep and upgrading. I’m surprised NX worked at all on the thing. As it stood, it reset itself fairly regularly and lagged in menus. This left me in a mad dash for a MK6 to enable playing of NX2, but calls to distributors about getting a MK6 box left me frustrated enough to just table the idea, for now. No, NX2 absolutely WILL NOT WORK in anything but a MK6 or 7.

Another one of those head scratchers is the “why is the left coin bezel gone”. Apparently it was kicked off the machine during one of its last days at Dennis’. This isn’t a hard part to get a hold of, but isn’t a priority.

What I am placing a priority on is the missing leg for the first player pad. In the instruction manual this is called a stopper. It’s the leg you unscrew down to get the pad off of its casters. If your rear ties are strong enough, you can get away without having this for a while, but it absolutely has to be replaced or you’ll strip the tie threads. For the interim, I used some chunks of wood sitting around the garage to ease the stress on the pad ties.

Most of the time when an arcade closes, they keep their locks so they can be sold to someone else. Not this time. I ended up with four locks stuck in the unlocked position with no keys to turn them to locked. While not a big deal in the short term, new locks need to be purchased in order to put the machine in a location. It’s a higher priority than most, but not absolutely necessary.

There’s a caster missing on the one player pad, but suitable replacements are readily available. It’s more a matter of me finding the time to quit tweaking pad performance and figuring out what size caster I need.

The machine stands in my garage now, teetering on the edge of “really awesome home machine” and “really awesome public machine”. Even before I’d done more to the pads than just clean them out a bit, some old Dennis’ regulars came to my place to try it out and found the pads far more responsive than they had been in a long time.

I see a little more elbow grease, a little more time, and a lot of Pump playing in my future.

But I still haven’t figured out why there are two sets of coin doors.

P.S. I promised swearing. Here it is in video format: