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TV Troubleshooting


TVs and computer or video monitors are among the more dangerous of consumer
electronic equipment when it comes to servicing. (Microwave ovens are probably the
most hazardous due to high voltage at high power.)

There are two areas which have particularly nasty electrical dangers: the non-isolated
line power supply and the CRT high voltage.

Major parts of nearly all modern TVs and many computer monitors are directly
connected to the AC line - there is no power transformer to provide the essential
barrier for safety and to minimize the risk of equipment damage. In the majority of
designs, the live parts of the TV or monitor are limited to the AC input and line filter,
degauss circuit, bridge rectifier and main filter capacitor(s), low voltage (B+)
regulator (if any), horizontal output transistor and primary side of the flyback (LOPT)
transformer, and parts of the startup circuit and standby power supply. The flyback
generates most of the other voltages used in the unit and provides an isolation barrier
so that the signal circuits are not line connected and safer.

Since a bridge rectifier is generally used in the power supply, both directions of the
polarized plug result in dangerous conditions and an isolation transformer really
should be used - to protect you, your test equipment, and the TV, from serious
damage. Some TVs do not have any isolation barrier whatsoever - the entire chassis is
live. These are particularly nasty.

The high voltage to the CRT, while 200 times greater than the line input, is not nearly
as dangerous for several reasons. First, it is present in a very limited area of the TV or
monitor - from the output of the flyback to the CRT anode via the fat HV wire and
suction cup connector. If you don't need to remove the mainboard or replace the
flyback or CRT, then leave it alone and it should not bite. Furthermore, while the
shock from the HV can be quite painful due to the capacitance of the CRT envelope, it
is not nearly as likely to be lethal since the current available from the line connected
power supply is much greater.

Safety guidelines

These guidelines are to protect you from potentially deadly electrical shock hazards as
well as the equipment from accidental damage.
Note that the danger to you is not only in your body providing a conducting path,
particularly through your heart. Any involuntary muscle contractions caused by a
shock, while perhaps harmless in themselves, may cause collateral damage - there are
many sharp edges inside this type of equipment as well as other electrically live parts
you may contact accidentally.

The purpose of this set of guidelines is not to frighten you but rather to make you
aware of the appropriate precautions. Repair of TVs, monitors, microwave ovens, and
other consumer and industrial equipment can be both rewarding and economical. Just
be sure that it is also safe!

 Don't work alone - in the event of an emergency another person's presence may
be essential.
 Always keep one hand in your pocket when anywhere around a powered line-
connected or high voltage system.
 Wear rubber bottom shoes or sneakers.
 Don't wear any jewelry or other articles that could accidentally contact circuitry
and conduct current, or get caught in moving parts.
 Set up your work area away from possible grounds that you may accidentally
 Know your equipment: TVs and monitors may use parts of the metal chassis as
ground return yet the chassis may be electrically live with respect to the earth
ground of the AC line. Microwave ovens use the chassis as ground return for
the high voltage. In addition, do not assume that the chassis is a suitable ground
for your test equipment!
 If circuit boards need to be removed from their mountings, put insulating
material between the boards and anything they may short to. Hold them in
place with string or electrical tape. Prop them up with insulation sticks - plastic
or wood.
 If you need to probe, solder, or otherwise touch circuits with power off,
discharge (across) large power supply filter capacitors with a 2 W or greater
resistor of 100 to 500 ohms/V approximate value (e.g., for a 200 V capacitor,
use a 20K to 100K ohm resistor). Monitor while discharging and verify that
there is no residual charge with a suitable voltmeter. In a TV or monitor, if you
are removing the high voltage connection to the CRT (to replace the flyback
transformer for example) first discharge the CRT contact (under the suction cup
at the end of the fat HV wire). Use a 1M to 10M ohm 5 W or greater wattage
(for its voltage holdoff capability, not power dissipation) resistor on the end of
an insulating stick or the probe of a high voltage meter. Discharge to the metal
frame which is connected to the outside of the CRT.
 For TVs and monitors in particular, there is the additional danger of CRT
implosion - take care not to bang the CRT envelope with your tools. An
implosion will scatter shards of glass at high velocity in every direction. There
are several tons of force attempting to crush the typical CRT. While implosion
is not really likely even with modest abuse, why take chances? However, the
CRT neck is relatively thin and fragile and breaking it would be very
embarrassing and costly. Always wear eye protection when working around the
back side of a CRT.
 Connect/disconnect any test leads with the equipment unpowered and
unplugged. Use clip leads or solder temporary wires to reach cramped locations
or difficult to access locations.
 If you must probe live, put electrical tape over all but the last 1/16" of the test
probes to avoid the possibility of an accidental short which could cause damage
to various components. Clip the reference end of the meter or scope to the
appropriate ground return so that you need to only probe with one hand.
 Perform as many tests as possible with power off and the equipment
unplugged. For example, the semiconductors in the power supply section of a
TV or monitor can be tested for short circuits with an ohmmeter.
 Use an isolation transformer if there is any chance of contacting line connected
circuits. A Variac(tm) is not an isolation transformer! The use of a GFCI
(Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protected outlet is a good idea but will not
protect you from shock from many points in a line connected TV or monitor, or
the high voltage side of a microwave oven, for example. (Note however, that, a
GFCI may nuisanse trip at power-on or at other random times due to leakage
paths (like your scope probe ground) or the highly capacitive or inductive input
characteristics of line powered equipment.) A fuse or circuit breaker is too slow
and insensitive to provide any protection for you or in many cases, your
equipment. However, these devices may save your scope probe ground wire
should you accidentally connect it to a live chassis.
 Don't attempt repair work when you are tired. Not only will you be more
careless, but your primary diagnostic tool - deductive reasoning - will not be
operating at full capacity.
 Finally, never assume anything without checking it out for yourself! Don't take

Warning about disconnecting CRT neck board

Some manufacturers warn against powering a TV or monitor CRT without the CRT
neck board connected. Apparently, without something - anything - to drain the charge
resulting from the current flow due to residual gas ions inside the CRT, the shortest
path may be through the glass neck of the tube to the yoke or from the pins outside the
CRT to whatever is nearby. There aren't many ions in a modern CRT but I suppose a
few here, a few there, and eventually they add up to enough to cause a major disaster
at least on some CRTs.

This is probably not a problem on small CRTs but for large ones with high high
voltages and high deflection angles where the glass of the neck is very thin to allow
for maximum deflection sensitivity, the potential does exist for arcing through the
glass to the yoke to occur, destroying the CRT.

There is really no way to know which models will self destruct but it should be
possible to avoid such a disaster by providing a temporary return path to the DAG
ground of the CRT (NOT SIGNAL GROUND!!) via the focus or G2 pins preferably
through a high value high voltage rated resistor just in case one of these is shorted.

This probably applies mostly to large direct-view TVs since they use high deflection
angle CRTs but it won't hurt to take appropriate precautions with video and computer
monitors as well.

Troubleshooting tips

Many problems have simple solutions. Don't immediately assume that your problem
is some combination of esoteric complex convoluted failures. For a TV, it may just be
a bad connection or blown fuse. Remember that the problems with the most
catastrophic impact on operation like a dead TV usually have the simplest solutions.
The kind of problems we would like to avoid at all costs are the ones that are
intermittent or difficult to reproduce: the occasional interference or a TV that refuses
to play 'StarTrek Voyager'.

If you get stuck, sleep on it. Sometimes, just letting the problem bounce around in
your head will lead to a different more successful approach or solution. Don't work
when you are really tired - it is both dangerous (especially with respect to TVs) and
mostly non-productive (or possibly destructive).

Whenever working on precision equipment, make copious notes and diagrams. You
will be eternally grateful when the time comes to reassemble the unit. Most
connectors are keyed against incorrect insertion or interchange of cables, but not
always. Apparently identical screws may be of differing lengths or have slightly
different thread types. Little parts may fit in more than one place or orientation. Etc.
Pill bottles, film canisters, and plastic ice cube trays come in handy for sorting and
storing screws and other small parts after disassembly. This is particularly true if you
have repairs on multiple pieces of equipment under way simultaneously.

Select a work area which is wide open, well lighted, and where dropped parts can be
located - not on a deep pile shag rug. The best location will also be relatively dust free
and allow you to suspend your troubleshooting to eat or sleep or think without having
to pile everything into a cardboard box for storage.

Another consideration is ESD - Electro-Static Discharge. Some components (like ICs)

in a TV are vulnerable to ESD. There is no need to go overboard but taking
reasonable precautions such as getting into the habit of touching a **safe** ground
point first.

WARNING: even with an isolation transformer, a live chassis should **not** be

considered a safe ground point. When the set is unplugged, the tuner shield or other
signal ground points should be safe and effective.

A basic set of precision hand tools will be all you need to disassemble a TV and
perform most adjustments. These do not need to be really expensive but poor quality
tools are worse than useless and can cause damage. Needed tools include a selection
of Philips and straight blade screwdrivers, socket drivers, needlenose pliers, wire
cutters, tweezers, and dental picks. For adjustments, a miniature (1/16" blade)
screwdriver with a non-metallic tip is desirable both to prevent the presence of metal
from altering the electrical properties of the circuit and to minimize the possibility of
shorting something from accidental contact with the circuitry. A set of plastic
alignment tools will be useful for making adjustments to coils and RF transformers.

A low power (e.g., 25 W) fine tip soldering iron and fine rosin core solder will be
needed if you should need to disconnect any soldered wires (on purpose or by
accident) or replace soldered components. A higher power iron or small soldering gun
will be needed for dealing with larger components.

CAUTION: You can easily turn a simple repair (e.g., bad solder connections) into an
expensive mess if you use inappropriate soldering equipment and/or lack the soldering
skills to go along with it. If in doubt, find someone else to do the soldering or at least
practice, practice, practice, soldering and desoldering on a junk circuit board first

For thermal or warmup problems, a can of 'cold spray' or 'circuit chiller' (they are the
same) and a heat gun or blow dryer come in handy to identify components whose
characteristics may be drifting with temperature. Using the extension tube of the spray
can or making a cardboard nozzle for the heat gun can provide very precise control of
which components you are affecting.