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Upgrade a Stern pinball with a LED tube

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LED tube installation instructions:

Stern pinball machines use a florescent tube to light the backbox. The tube requires a ballast and starter which are both common failing parts on location machines that have been on 24x7. In addition, the ballast generates a lot of heat and is located right beside the boards in the headbox. Instead of replacing a failed tube, starter or ballast, consider replacing the light with a LED tube. These LED based replacements don't require a starter or ballast, produce more light, and use less energy.

The replacement takes only about 10 minutes, requires only a minimum wiring change, and just a couple of tools (wire cutter and wire strippers).

The instructions below are for a specific product (DirectLED), but should work for most tubes - just check if the tube needs power at both ends, or if you can just hook up one end.

Before you start, buy the DirectLED FL 2' bulb at http://www.earthled.com/. Frosted bulbs are available in Cool White (5800K), Neutral White (4100K) and Warm White (3000K). I used warm white for Lord of the Rings, but chose the neutral white for Tron: LE.

Step 1: Turn off the pinball machine and remove the backglass:
Inside the backbox

Step 2: Remove the florescent starter:
Starter starter removed

Step 3 (optional): Use electrical tape to cover the socket for the starter (so a future owner doesn't try to insert one):
starter socket taped

Step 4: Remove the florescent tube:
tube removed

Step 5: Find the ballast (usually at the top of the backbox) and unhook the wires connecting to it from the wire holder:

Step 6: Cut the wires connecting the ballast to the light fixture. The ballast wires are connected by crimp connectors - cut them as close to the connectors as possible (to preserve the wiring):
ballast wires cut wires

Step 7 (optional): Remove the ballast from the cabinet (held in by 2 screws).

Step 8: Strip the two wires that used to be connected to the ballast and use a wire nut or crimp connector to connect them together:
wires connected

Step 9: Install the Direct FL bulb in place of the florescent tube:

Step 10: Turn the machine back on and marvel at the brightness of the new bulb:
new bulb lotr with new bulb

Buy the DirectLED FL bulb at http://www.earthled.com/. Use coupon code "arcadestash" to get 10% off your order.