I read on the Intarwebs that when a Tommy can’t kick the balls with the auto fire kicker, it means the mechanism is worn out. DE had a couple different mechanisms and Tommy. The original parts are NLA but you can retrofit the newfangled mech from modern Stern (or Sega) games. Pinball Life had them cheap so I bought one months ago and procrastinated installing it. Even though the 1994 mechanism is pretty bad, I didn’t relish adding a bunch of new holes to the playfield, and I had been putting it off.
But I looked carefully at my original mech today and it had only a little wear, but lots of dirt, so I just cleaned it instead. Now it kicks quite well!
This mechanism on my game has two different pivot points with a lot of metal-on-metal contact, so naturally it got some much needed oil as well.
Your mileage may vary, but it’s worth checking. The link above mentions the design is bad, and it isL DE went though a bunch of different autofire kickers before finding one where the shooter rod doesn’t plunge into the mechanism. So the swap will be necessary––eventually.
Now to figure out why I’m bad at the game.