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Care & Repair

Q: Why are some games that just have a different label more expensive than others?
A: It's just like trading cards. Some labels are rarer and collectors want them.

Q: Are the games worth as much as you sell them for or is that your own price? Are your prices based on rarity?
A: If we have more then a few of a variation the items are priced at market value. More it is priced at less, less it is priced more.

Q: Like ..., you are selling it for $20 how much is it really worth?
A: Check the "master list of atari 2600 carts". It is available here:
Also look for the "Auction Value" on each page.

Q: I have a joystick that doesn't turn to the right when you push it that way. How do i fix it?
A: Open it, cut off the contact, clean, tape it back down with clear packing tape.

Q: My Atari doesn't work. What's wrong with it?
1) Do you get a black screen or static?

BlackScreen-> The Atari should be plugged into the television's coax or antenna input. You may need an Cable/Modern television adapter
to hook it up.
If it is, Clean the cartridge port. Easiest way is upside down with fine grain sandpaper lightly on the contact. No dice? Out of luck...

Does the power supply work? Use a multimeter. Or a flashlight bulb. Or plug it into the atari in a dark room and you should see a small blue spark.
Try Channels 2, 3 and 4 on the TV.
Open the Atari by removing all the recessed screws, not the two in the middle on six switch Atari's. There are 4 screws on ataris with 4 silver switches on the front, and 8 screws (of which you remove 6) on ataris with 6 silver switches on the front. Now that it's open, check that the RCA cord (the one that comes out the back of the atari) is firmly attached to the motherboard. Check the silver box in the lower right of the motherboard (modulator). If it is all corroded, well, at least you know what's wrong. If it isn't all corroded, then you don't know what's wrong.
Probably what you need to do is open the atari and adjust the fine tuning and saturation. There is a large white circle, and some smaller potentiometers you'll need a mini screwdriver to adjust. Hook it up and turn it on and adjust these with a game in. Be careful not to shock yourself on the capacitors. Go very slow because if you turn the wrong one too far it can be difficult to find the correct setting again. The big white adjuster usually does the trick. Be careful not to turn too far because they're easy to break. Some of the adjusters may be under a metal cover directly under the cart port.

Q: So now I have an opened non working atari, and I can't resell to some other poor soul on ebay. How do I put it back together?
A: But, that's why I had you take it apart in the first place :)

Q: Where else can I look to fix my atari?
A: You can read the Atari 2600 VCS Field Service Manual (5 mb)
Q: What about my 5200?
A: You can read the Atari 5200 Field Service Manual. (7 mb).
Thanks to George Tedrick for adding bookmarks to the 2600 and 5200 service manual pdf's so you can click from the table of contents!

Q: What's a non-working Atari worth? Do you buy them?
A: They make nice waterfalls. We offer $3 each, you must pay shipping.

What makes good games go bad?
Atari games are surprisingly resilient, but whether its chips or labels your concerned with, the usual suspects should be avoided: heat, humidity, sulfuric acid, 2-year olds, and yes, oxygen. In addition, playing a game will encourage corrosion and slowly cause the electronic pathways in the chip to decay. If you'd like them to last a long time, try using our Cart storage bags and dessicant gel packs available in the store. Although it's pretty much sacrilegious to not play your games, if you want them to last forever, store them in a dark, cool, dry place (preferably in an argon atmosphere) and never play them.

For a game that isn't working:

First, try turning off the system, wiggling the cartridge, and turning the system back on. You might find that the game has to be sitting at a slight angle to work right. This is because the contacts are not aligned perfectly, or are dirty or corroded. (The contacts are the metal strips on the little circuit board of the game where it fits into the system). If after doing this several times, you're not still not getting any kind of discernable picture, you probably have only one course of action. Clean the contacts with a Q-tip and some Anhydrous (100% pure, water free) Isopropyl Alcohol. For some games (mostly by Atari), you'll need to slide back the protective cover of the cartridge to get to the contacts - you can do this by sticking a pencil into the hole in the back of the cartridge. Be sure to clean both sides of the cartridges contacts. If that still doesn't work, the chip is probably dead, and the game can not be salvaged. Before giving up completely, try it on a different atari console.

Protect your valuable games

Keep your games in a dry, dust free location. If you don't want the labels to fade, keep them out of the light. visit the store for protective bags for your Atari 2600 carts.

If the picture is rolling or offset

This is probably not really a problem. Chances are you have a game manufactured for a different country (read more). Using a different TV may fix the problem, especially if you can find a TV with vertical hold.

If your atari does not work, but the screen goes to black if turned on with no game inserted

You can try cleaning the contacts on your atari itself. Take a piece of 100 grain or finer sandpaper and cut off a square using scissors to fit the slot in the atari in the middle of the atari cartridge slot between the two prongs. Rub the edges and front of the sandpaper with your fingers to remove any loose grains of sand. Gently insert the sandpaper into the slot. Do not rub side to side, just in and out 4 or 5 times, then flip it over and do the contacts on the other side.

My paddles jitter, how can I fix them?

First, and I can't stress this one enough, DO NOT SPRAY THEM WITH WD-40! This might work, for about an hour... and I will hate you forever if I end up cleaning them.

This process is pretty long, but it's how we clean them at AtariGuide, and they will last a long time.

A potentiometer (pot), has a ring of material with a fixed resistance. Contact is completed across a circuit, which involves going across a changing amount of the resistor based on the position of the shaft.
The pot is filled with some electrical contact goop. It has collected dust and now is not conducting properly. I have not experienced any problems without the goop. Basically, you remove the goop and your paddles are good as new. Quite a few paddles are full of wd-40 or similar which makes cleaning much messier.

You will need:

A phillips screw driver.
A small flat head screw driver.
A pair of slide nose pliers, a 3/8" deep socket, or monkey wrench.
Rubbing alcohol, the higher % alcohol the better, try to find 99%.
A small mostly lint free cloth or paper towel.
One small plastic container or bowl.
An old toothbrush.
A pair of jittery Atari 2600 second generation paddles (the most common ones).

Remove the large black knob from the top. Pull it straight up without wiggling.
TIP: You might want to start with the Player One paddle.
WARNING: It may take a bit of force to get it off, but don't try to use a screwdriver to pry it up, or you'll break the shaft on the potentiometer.
Remove (counter-clockwise, right-to-left on the top) the nut from around the shaft of the pot, using a monkey wrench to start it is easiest.
Open the paddles by removing the two screws in the rear.
Use a regular screwdriver, not an electric or gas powered one.

Carefully open the paddle and observe the orientation of the orange button.

Observe how the switch for the button is nestled with the connectors down, with a small plastic pin between the two connectors.

Observe the orientation of the circuit board protruding from the pot. It should be between two plastic pins on the bottom.
Observe the routing of the wires inside the paddle.
You will need to know how these are to put it back together. Fortunately they come in pairs, so if you should forget you can look at the other one.

Remove the orange button and small washer if present and place in small tray for safe keeping.
Remove the pot and the switch from the casing.

Now the tricky part.

Using the small screwdriver for an inappropriate task, undo the four (sometimes two or six) metal tabs holding the pot together.

The easiest way to do this is to use the metal shaft of the pot to leverage against the tab.

Warning: Please be careful not to injure yourself.

You should bend all four tabs to be about straight.
Warning: Don't bend them around too much or they'll break off and you're toast.

Remember the order and orientation of the parts as you remove them, look at how the circuit board sits on a certain side of the upper metal piece of the pot housing.

Remove the metal flange from the white or black pot shaft.
Sometimes there will be a small black spacer attached to the shaft which will need to be removed first, be careful it doesn't fly away (usually this stays in the knob when you take it off).
Remove the circuit board, leaving the wires attached.
Remove the shaft.

There's probably a lot of goop around at this point.

Dump the parts out of the small tray and fill it half way with rubbing alcohol.
Place the potentiometer in it and swirl it around a bit to soak the oil

Using your trusty toothbrush and ample amounts of rubbing alcohol, gently clean the goop off of the
potentiometer. Be careful not to bend or damage the springy contacts. Clean it all, even if it looks like it should be there.
Be careful around the six metal tips which protrude from the base of potentiometer shaft, you don't want to get these out of alignment.
They should be about 3/16-1/4" above the base of the shaft, bend them up a bit if they need it (this will give them a better contact).
Don't use a paper towel or it will get caught in the delicate parts

Clean the contact base for the potentiometer as well. You can use a paper towel damp with rubbing alcohol as well.
If there's a lot of goop on any of the metal parts be sure to get that too.
Pat everything dry, it doesn't have to be bone dry but it shouldn't be soaking we either.
Warning:Dispose of paper towel carefully, rubbing alcohol is extremely flamable.

Place plastic shaft thru the ciruit board, then the bottom piece onto the shaft, then the metal retainer onto the top.

Make sure the metal tabs on the back of the potentiometer are oriented as indicated (tab towards the top), so that the contacts
on the other side are not caught in the "dead zone" where there is no black contact strip on the potentiometer base.

Adjust the monkey wrench so it's only slightly smaller then the potentiometer diameter.

Use it to partially fold the tabs back over, using two squeezes on the opposite corner tabs.

Test that the shaft turns smoothly.

Adjust the monkey wrench to a smaller size and tighten the tabs nice and securely
At this point you can test the potentiometer to insure it's smooth on the screen. It may be a bit difficult to turn but that's ok. If it's not smooth, try opening and cleaning some more.
Remember you can't do this too often because eventually the tabs will give in to metal fatigue and break off.

Place the pot back into the top half of the paddle, remembering to orient the circuit board towards the bottom of the paddle, between the retaining pins.

Flip it over and attach the nut to the pot, being careful not to overtighten which may strip the nut or break the plastic.

Install the washer (if present) and firebutton, being sure to align the longer end of the firebutton downwards.
Route the cable so it doesn't interfere with operation and install in the cover with the flat piece of the cable restraint up to form a flat surface

Place the bottom cover on, being careful not to pinch any wires.
Insert and gently tighten the two plastic screws on the bottom.
Warning: Do not overtighten screws. It is very easy to break the mount.

Reattach the black spacer to the shaft if you removed it; check that it is in the knob otherwise.
Reattach the knob.

Repeat once and get ready for some new high scores!