When you switch on your air hockey table and realize that it’s not playing the way it normally does, the puck seems to barely move, and you’re having trouble just getting the puck to make it from one end of the table to the other, it can be pretty frustrating. But air hockey tables require a lot of TLC to keep them working correctly. In this air hockey table troubleshooting guide I’ll go over many of the common issues you’ll encounter, how to fix them, and what you need to do to keep your table running smoothly, the way it should.
Searching for the Problem
Routine maintenance is a must for the serious game table owner, but many of us are guilty of not taking care of our tables properly. Once we stop cleaning or inspecting an air hockey table, we notice that the table’s blower system may not work as efficiently, the puck moves slowly, or the surface of the table feels grimy and looks neglected. Fortunately, many of these problems can easily be fixed with a little elbow grease or by replacing a part or two.
If your table is having issues, whether the puck doesn’t glide across the table, the motor doesn’t seem to switch on at all, or the surface or the fans don’t seem to be working, you’ll need to first reference your user’s manual and head to the troubleshooting section, which can list some of the common problems many tables, and your model specifically, can encounter. If you’ve tried the recommendations for quick fixes found in the user’s manual with no success, then read on to learn about some easy fixes for common air hockey table problems.
Puck Replacement and Maintenance
Did you know that a puck can actually go bad? After using a puck for a certain period of time, it can lose its ability to float. If you’ve followed the tips I’ve included above with no results, try placing a new puck on the table. Fortunately, a new puck will only cost you a few bucks. Make sure you choose the right puck size for your table, since a puck that’s too light will easily fly off the table, while a puck that’s too heavy can really slow down your shots. Tables designed for home use often come with blowers that are not strong enough to support the same types of heavy pucks that arcade style and tournament quality tables use. Fortunately, lighter pucks are more affordable compared to heavier ones, so you can buy in bulk and keep extra pucks on hand in the event you lose yours or it breaks.
If you have a heavy arcade style puck and it’s compatible with your table, then the puck may be slowing down due to abrasions. If any part of the puck is even slightly uneven, then it can increase the chances of friction, which will significantly reduce how fast the puck glides.
You can use some extra-fine sandpaper to sand down any rough spots that you feel on the puck. This should be part of your regular table maintenance and will only take a few minutes to do.
Before you decide your air hockey table is broken, defective, or in need of serious repair, your first step will be checking the outlet itself. In some cases, the outlet will be the true culprit, so before you roll your sleeves up and play detective, try plugging the table into a different outlet. You should also conduct a voltage test. If the outlet isn’t working, head to your breaker and reset the electrical panel. A large flow of electricity can trip a breaker, especially if you have more than one large appliance or device plugged in the same outlet.
Clean Your Table
Did you know that when an air hockey table is dirty it can create friction, slowing down the puck? If you don’t know how to clean an air hockey table properly, then some of the holes in the table’s surface may have become clogged over time, which can significantly slow down the puck, or you may even notice that the table has dead spots.
Dead spots are places on the playing surface that do not receive air at all, so a puck will stop in its tracks when it hits one of these areas. This can be very frustrating for the new table owner, but those who have owned a table for years will immediately know that the table is in need of a serious deep clean.
Start by plugging in the table and listening to the motor. Does it sound like the motor is running? Check the fan system and see if you can feel any air blowing.
If the motor is running but you can’t feel any air coming out, then inspect the playing surface and look at the holes across the table to search for clogs.
Plug the table in to see if you can hear the motor running. Check to see if the blower is blowing. Clogs can happen if you never routinely clean the table, or if the table has been stored for a long time with no cover.
If you’ve run into this problem and your table is in desperate need of a deep clean, then click here to read my guide on how to make air hockey table slide better.
The motor is what powers the fan system. If the motor isn’t turning on, or the fan system seems unusually weak, then you’ll need to do a little investigating. Start by removing the motor/fan system from under the table. To do, you should only need a Phillip’s screwdriver to remove a few screws. Take a close look at the blades of the fan. Do they look dirty and caked with dust and debris? Clean off the fan carefully, using a damp cloth, then reinstall it.
A blower system is the most important part of any hockey table, unfortunately, it’s also the most expensive part to replace. Basically, it’s the table’s heart and soul and what allows the puck to fly quickly across the table by blowing air through the holes in the playing surface. The air that comes through these holes cause the puck to float, for a faster-paced game. If you’ve ever tried to play a match with the blower system off, then you probably noticed right away how slow the game was compared to when you play with the fan system on.
Most tables will use a centrifugal style fan that consists of internal angled blades that are designed to spin in order to pull in air, forcing the air out in a certain direction.
Different Styles of Blower Systems
When it comes to air hockey tables, the larger the blower system, the better. A more powerful blower system will move more air, which equals faster play.
A tournament-quality table may have a blower system that costs around three to four hundred dollars. For tables designed for home use, most manufacturers will cut down on the cost of the table by equipping it with a low-voltage motor, one that doesn’t have very large blades, so the blower system ends up moving less air. With this low airflow, the manufacturer will produce tables with a smaller playing surface in order to accommodate these weaker fan systems. These smaller tables measure in under the standard tournament size tables of eight feet in length. But this is because most manufacturers know that not every consumer wants to place a full-sized eight-foot-long air hockey table in their home. So, if you have a table designed for home use, you can expect a smaller, less powerful blower system. When a blower needs to be replaced on your table, make sure you buy the right motor size, so that the blower system produces the right amount of pressure under the puck. Otherwise, you may end up burning out the motor if it’s not powerful enough to push enough air through the surface of the table. Additionally, if you purchase a motor that’s too large for your table, you’ll have trouble controlling the puck.
Cleaning Out the Filter and Blower Systems
Aside from cleaning the surface of the table and ensuring that the holes have not become clogged with dirt and grime, you need to also check the blower itself to see if debris, dust, or dirt is around the motor, especially if you notice a dip in your fan’s performance and blowing power. Since the purpose of the motor is to power the fans to move the air, it accumulates dirt and debris often, as the air passes through. Some high-priced tables will come with blower systems that have air filters. These filters are designed to trap any dirt and debris before it reaches the fans. This helps to keep the entire system running more smoothly. The filters are removable, so you can easily clean out the filter and watch as the airflow instantly improves.
If your fan system doesn’t have a filter, then you can use a can of compressed air, or an air compressor to flush the dirt out of the motor. You can also use an air compressor or compressed air to clean out the filter if your motor has one. Another option is using a microfiber cloth to wipe down the motor to remove dirt. If your motor has a filter and it’s gray, even after it’s been cleaned, you can take it to a local home improvement or hardware store and find a replacement filter that’s the same dimensions and replace your old one.
The Motor Won’t Turn On
You’ve tried to turn the table on, but nothing. No sound, no humming at all, the table is completely dead. You’ve tested the outlet, cleaned the fan, and still nothing. So, now what? Some tables will have a safety feature in place that will shut the motor down if it begins to run too hot. The fan’s motor can overheat if the blades are dirty and unable to turn as fast as they should, due to the caked-on debris. After you’ve cleaned the fan, if the motor still won’t turn on, look for a reset button. This should be found on the underside of the motor. If the reset button has been triggered, then the table will power up right away once you push the button and reinstall the motor.
If you’ve hit the reset button, reinstalled the motor correctly, and still nothing, then the motor may need to be replaced. If that’s the case, then contact the table’s manufacturer. Remember, replacing the table’s motor is more affordable than replacing the entire table.
Remove the motor from the plastic covering. If the table’s motor has a belt, take a look a closer look at the motor and ensure that the belt is intact. If the belt is broken, then you’ll need to contact the manufacturer to order a replacement.
Test the Engine Power
You can try taking the motor to an auto parts store and see if they will test the motor to determine how much power it’s putting out, compared to how much power it should be. Like alternators and batteries, a motor on an air hockey table will die from time to time.
If your motor is struggling with power output, you can order the necessary replacement parts directly from the manufacturer’s website.
Replace the Scoreboard
The table’s electric scoreboard may be connected directly to the table’s power supply, while other models will feature a scoreboard that’s battery-powered. Depending on your table, you’ll want to take a look at the scoreboard’s wiring to ensure that nothing has burned out or come loose. If the scoreboard is battery-powered, then replace the batteries and see if that solves the problem of an inaccurate scoreboard or one that won’t turn on. If you don’t have a battery-powered scoreboard and the board won’t turn on or it’s not registering goals, then you may need to adjust the sensors. Scoreboards are equipped with infrared sensors that must be correctly aligned or they won’t function properly. In order to solve this problem, adjust the sensors so that they’re facing each other. Next, turn the table on and toss a puck into the goal to test the scoreboard and see if it’s back to normal. If it’s still not functioning properly, contact the table’s manufacturer.
Check the playing surface to make sure it’s perfectly level. If the playing surface has been exposed to water, then there may be some warped areas. If you run your hand over the playing surface and it feels uneven, you can order a new playing surface from the manufacturer, or you can purchase a vinyl poly plastic board of the same size, at your local home improvement store. For a quick fix, measure the board, cut, and drill one hundred pencil tip-sized holes on each side of the board for the airflow.
Warranty and Repairs
When you notice a dip in your table’s performance and you’ve tried everything to get your table up and running, the next step is looking at warranty information. If the table is still covered by a warranty, but you’re not sure what’s going on with your table and whether or not the warranty will cover the problem, contact customer support. If the table is covered, the customer service rep will discuss how to package and ship the table, or they may even send someone out who is certified to work on your table. If you have to ship the table back to the manufacturer for repairs or a replacement, keep in mind, many manufacturers will require you to cover the cost of shipping, although there are some that do not.
You can also look at the manufacturer’s website to look for any recalls that have been issued, in which case, the manufacturer may cover the cost of shipping. They will request warranty information as proof of purchase and may even send you replacement parts or a new table, without requesting that the parts or table be shipped.
Resurfacing Your Air Hockey Table
Many people will attempt to resurface their air hockey table when it becomes damaged, but this is something that most pros strongly recommend not doing. If you attempt to remove the laminated surface from the table, then you can end up doing more harm than good and may need to replace the entire playing surface.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t repair a damaged section of the playing surface, just avoid trying to resurface the whole board.
Below, you’ll find some tips on how to repair a damaged portion of your table.
- When you resurface an area on the table, some of the air holes will get blocked, so use a drill to unclog them after the repairs have been made.
- In order to prevent the larger air funnels in the playing surface from getting clogged when you’re repairing a section of the table, insert some plastic straws in the openings.
- If you’re dealing with a dent, use some clear epoxy, fill the dent in until it’s level with the rest of the playing surface. Allow the epoxy to set and dry. Once it has dried, use extra-fine sandpaper to sand the table’s surface smooth. You’ll need to re-drill any holes that have become clogged with the epoxy.
- If you spill food or drinks on your table, avoid turning the table off. If you shut the table off, then the air channels and holes may get clogged, which will make cleaning up the table difficult. Additionally, with the blower on, you can wipe up a mess or spill much faster. Don’t stop cleaning up the table until the food and beverages has been removed.
- Some pros recommend using rubbing alcohol on tough stains on the table’s surface. This can be very effective with older stains.
- When drilling new holes in the playing surface, be careful with the amount of pressure that you use. Thinner drill bits tend to break rather easily, especially when you’re drilling through really tough material, such as arborite.
- If there is pitting in the table’s surface, you may be able to fix it using some air hockey table polish or wax. The key will be to use only a little and to avoid clogging up the hole’s in the table’s surface with the polish or wax. For basic resurfacing tasks, using a good wax or a little polish can go a long way in ensuring that the puck slides the way it’s supposed to.
Technically, it’s possible to successfully resurface a playing surface, but it may not be very practical. If there’s extensive damage, then replacing the playing surface may be the best option. Doing so is much cheaper and won’t be as time-consuming.
If your table’s warranty has expired and if none of these tips and tricks have repaired your damaged table, then it may be time to replace the table. In most cases, if you’ve cleaned your table, repaired or replaced the table, then the problem lies with the blower system. While you can try to fix the blower, it may not be worth the trouble if your table is over five years old and on its last leg. If you’re tired of dealing with your outdated table, and you want to upgrade, then click here to read my buyer’s guide on the leading round air hockey tables.
None of the methods that are included in this air hockey table troubleshooting guide will harm your table. However, I strongly recommend checking the warranty before you replace any of the table’s components, since some manufacturers may try to sneak out of their warranty obligations if you don’t use replacement parts that come directly from the manufacturer. Unfortunately, you never know when a company will try to use an excuse to not honor their warranty, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. If the table you own has an expired warranty or was not covered by a warranty at all, then you can go ahead and get started working on your table and replace parts as needed.