Disclaimer: This article discusses how I fixed my television. It is not a recommendation on how you should fix your television. Fiddling with electronic gadgets is dangerous and can result in serious injury or death.
Bzzzzewwwwww, Bzzzzewwwwww, Bzzzzewwwwww
That was the sound my television decided to make one evening just as we were settling down to watch some old episodes of Bones. This would have been only mildly annoying, and probably less annoying than the pet bird who insists on chirping along to every theme song, but apparently it takes a lot of TV magic juice to make those sounds because it didn’t have any left for other important functions like showing a picture. Drawing upon my decades of IT experience, I of course unplugged it and plugged it back in. These things happen, I suppose. Sometimes dirty electrons sneak through the power grid and end up in your devices. Best to just disconnect and let them fall out the back and start over. Unfortunately, they had apparently rooted in deep. It was time to take more decisive action… so I bought a new LG 4K SmartTV on sale.
Okay, yes, I’m being slightly facetious. I’m not exactly a complete idiot when it comes to electronics. I have soldered some connections back together and rigged up some LED light strips, but when you start talking about resistance, amperage, and voltage, my eyes kind of glaze over. I know there was a time when I used to understand it (something about a garden hose analogy), but it’s gone the way of atomic weights and 18th-century Vice Presidents. Not that long ago, this was a problem for thrifty folks like me who wanted to fix their own electronics. In order to understand how to fix something, you had to understand how it worked. Otherwise, you were left poking around for something that looked “broken,” hoping you didn’t burn down the house or send 15A through your body*.
*This is where someone tells me it’s the 120V that kills you, not the amps… or is it the other way around?
The only recourse was to take your set down to the local “repair guy.” Usually portly, always smoking, and surrounded by voltmeters, multimeters, altimeters, oscilloscopes, periscopes, and dozens of other meters and scopes, the purpose of which you could only roughly guess at. You’d drop it off, and in just a few weeks, he’d return it at a fee of approximately 95% the cost of a new one under warranty, or he’d tell you it couldn’t be fixed.
Today, however, we have the collected knowledge of all those chain-smoking, circuit-poking, electronics gurus right at our fingertips. And, since I had already bought a new one, I had nothing to lose in trying to fix this TV myself. It was time to hit the internets and see what I could learn.
Search 1: Is fixing my television safe?
As I said before, and all evidence to the contrary aside, I am not a complete idiot. I do remember the old days, as well as the Robin Williams televangelist routine, so I have a healthy fear of the back of a television. My first step was to see if I could even do this kind of thing safely.
The capacitors in the LCD television will discharge rapidly after removing the power, usually on the order of a few seconds. Since my device had been sitting unplugged in the basement for several days before I endeavored to fix it, I felt confident that it was safe to do so. Just to be safe, though, I did discharge them first.
Search 2: Why did it stop working?
This is where the Google-fu comes in handy. This is also where years of creative writing finally served a practical purpose. How the heck do you even describe that noise it’s making? It’s not quite a squeal, and it’s definitely not a squeak. Bloop? Squawk? As it turns out, you call the noise of a malfunctioning Philips LCD television a “chirp.”
Searching for a chirping LCD television led me straight to http://www.badcaps.net/forum, an absolute treasure trove of electronics repair. Using their forums, I was able to determine that the likely culprit was a few bad capacitors and diodes. I also learned the different types of capacitors, where to source them, and how to be sure they are placed on the board correctly. Again, I didn’t understand the purpose of the diodes, and I only had a rough idea what the capacitor was for, but through the combined knowledge of others who did, I was able to accurately determine exactly which components among the hundreds in the television were the ones that needed replaced.
Search 3: How to solder electronics.
Like I said, I had done a bit of soldering in the past, but it’s always good to do your research before starting on something new. The beauty of the online DIY community is that I didn’t have to rely on someone’s description of how to solder – I could watch them do it, pausing whenever I needed to. Heck, I could watch 50 people do it in less than an hour and determine for myself which method is the best.
All told, I spent perhaps an hour on research and repair and, thanks to the power of community, here I stand, a computer programmer, amateur photographer, and occasional maker whose prior electronics repair knowledge was dropping blobs of solder onto an LED strip to connect it to another one, with a fully functional LCD television that I fixed myself for the grand total of about $5.00.
- (OK, maybe I cheated a little on the chirping noise)