Wiring the Controls


Prep work

Before you get started wiring you should plan out how you are going to connect everything. What is going to be wired to what interface? Where should I mount the interfaces? Make sure the interface is mounted in a spot where it will have room for the wires to reach it and won’t interfere with anything when the control panel is mounted to the cabinet.

Then you need to decide which wiring technique to use. There are several ways to wire the controls together and it partly depends on the type of interface you bought. Some encoders may be screw in (simply strip part of the wire and screw down the screw) while others may require that you solder the wires. Make note of what your interface requires before continuing on. The two basic wiring techniques are:

  • Crimp-on connectionsBasically strip about a ¼” off the wire and then using a crimping tool crush the connector so the wire is stuck inside the connector. Try to pull the wire out, if it doesn’t move then you have successfully crimped the connection. The crimp-on connector is plugged into the micro switch while the other end of the wire is stripped and attached to your interface card.
  • Soldering – Soldering is used to create a more permanent connection as it is rather difficult to de-solder something. I don’t have much experience when it comes to soldering but the following guides should prove helpful.
  • - EPE Mag Basic Soldering Guide
    -Technick’s Basic Soldering Guide

I chose to use the crimp-on connectors as it seemed easy and rather simple but if you would rather solder then go right ahead.

After you’ve decided on the wiring technique you would like to use, the next step is getting the necessary tools and supplies.

  • Wire – Regardless of which method you chose, you need to purchase wire. I ended up using about 20 feet of wire for the ground and about another 50 feet of wire for the buttons and joysticks. Make sure the wire you buy is stranded and 18-22 gauge. I bought a pack of 20 gauge wire that came in three different rolls and totaled about 60 feet. Just make sure the wire you buy is not solid core as solid core wire becomes very weak when bent back and forth.
  • Crimp-on connections

    Crimping Tool – Used to strip the wire, cut the wire, and crimp the connectors.

    Needle Nosed Pliers – These will help when it comes to stripping the wire (if its too short to hold on to with your hand).


    Wiring Disconnects –These are the connectors that are used to connect the wires to the micro switches and are crushed around the wire. Be sure to buy the .187 inch female connectors as this is the standard size for arcade micro switches. However it is still a good idea to check your parts to see what the actual size needs to be.

  • Soldering – Basically all you need is solder (sold in coils like wire) and a soldering iron or a soldering gun. If you check the guides to soldering mentioned above you can learn about the different ways to solder and decide what to buy based on that.

Now that the interface cards are mounted, you know how you are going to wire everything and you have the necessary tools to do so, its time to get started wiring.



The first step is to lay what is called the ground wire. Most interface cards have a terminal for you to connect the ground wire to. But basically every switch will have a ground wire coming from it as well as its positive connection (so two wires are connected to every switch).

The way to wire the ground is to connect each micro switch to one another. The last button and the interface card are the start and end of the series. Before you begin, take a second to mentally lay out the order in which the buttons will be wired together.

Above is the IPac2 with the first ground wire connected to it.


Above is the player 3 controls and escape button (orange) grounded together. Coming in from the left of the picture is the wire connecting to the Ipac2. The ground then goes from switch to switch until finally coming to an end at the orange button. This is how you should wire the ground. As you can also see the ground is attached to the bottom of the micro switch which is also known as the common or COM connection. See picture below (modified from Happ Controls).

The COM is wired for the ground connection and the NO (normally open) is wired to connect each individual button to the interface. After the ground is completed, begin wiring (using separate pieces of wire for each micro switch) the NO (gets crimp on connector) to your interface card. I decided to use different colors for players 3 and 4 to keep things organized (player 1 and player 2 used the wires that came with the Ultrastik 360’s).

Make sure to test the connection after crimping by tugging on the wire, if done properly the wire shouldn’t move.


Picture above is everything wired except the trackball and spinner. Player 1 and 2 (blue and red buttons) are wired to the interface on the Ultrastik 360’s while players 3 and 4 (green and red wire) are connected to the IPac2.

To wire trackballs and spinners (or other controls) check the instructions provided by the manufacturer or vendor as it varies from product to product.

Once everything is wired double check all the connections, make sure every connector is in place and check that the wires are securely connected to the interface card. If you are able to I’d suggest temporarily mounting the control panel and hooking it up to the PC to make sure everything is working properly. If something goes wrong check out some of the common listed problems below.



  • Configuration – Before jumping right into the game and trying to play with your new arcade controls make sure the program you are using (ie. MAME) is configured to use the new controls. When you go to configure the controls something should change as you try to set the new control. If nothing happens then check the control panel-> game controllers or system devices to make sure there are no hardware issues. In MAME you may have to enable game pad and/or mouse input for certain devices to work.
  • Keyboard Encoder – If using a keyboard encoder such as an IPac, try opening up notepad and hitting some buttons. You should see characters displayed (note that some player 1 controls are administrative buttons like TAB, and CTRL so try hitting the player 2 buttons instead). If you don’t see any characters displayed consult the vendor as these interface cards (such as the IPac) have special error codes that can tell you what button is not working.

    One issue I had was that my PC wouldn’t check the keyboard PS2 port if it already detected a keyboard on USB. So I had to unplug my USB keyboard during boot up so it would detect the keyboard encoder that was plugged into the PS2 port. I haven’t found a work around other than leaving the USB keyboard unplugged during the boot up.

  • Connections – Check again to make sure everything is properly and securely plugged into the interface card and to the PC. Check to make sure no wire connectors fell off or that everything was soldered correctly.


Closing Notes

If you have multiple controls hooked up only try getting one working at a time. For example only boot up with one connected, make sure it works and then try the others.

However if your problem continues to persist try contacting the manufacturer and/or vendor for help. You could also contact me as I should respond within a day or two and if I can’t help I will at least point you in the right direction. Another option is to ask for help over at the Build Your Own Arcade Controls Forum, feel free to start a thread; my name over there is Stoli7188.

Once you have the control panel completed is time to chose the right display for your arcade machine.