How Do I Fix My Broken Projector?
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My projector is having an issue. It is...(fill in your specific problem: no video; flashing warning lights on the projector; no lights or power from the projector; strange colors, et.al)
From: Multiple readers, repeatedly
Questions of this nature are some of the most common which come into the Projector Central Forums and other projector websites that I have taken part in. The sender asks how to make some specific correction or fix for a specific projector. Most often it is related to having no image, or a slightly distorted image, but it might be speckling, issues with color shift, or a primary color going out.
Unfortunately, the answer is almost always the same: contact the manufacturer.
Projectors aren’t like home computers, or even like laptops. They are far more similar to a computer monitor, or the flat-panel television hanging on your wall. They are custom built by manufacturers with very specific parts inside of them. Yes, these parts can be the same between some projectors, but the surrounding electronics are all over the place.
This means that if your lamp won’t light on the projector, for example, it could be that the lamp is dead and needs to be replaced. It could just as easily mean that the ballast that controls the lamp is bad, or the power supply that feeds the lamp is dead. Guess what? The ballast and power supply for your projector is not at all likely to be the same as the power supply for any other make or model of projector on the market. There are even custom power supplies that are made for one specific model of projector, then are not produced again.
This flies in the face of those of you who have built a computer from scratch and are very familiar with the concept of standardizing on connectivity and the ability to swap parts as you choose. While this may be a headache, it remains the case that projectors simply don’t have any consistency of design and you can’t buy a lens from one company and stick it on the projector of another manufacturer. You can’t buy a lamp that fits in one projector and stick it in another projector. It is also very rare that you can even get parts from a manufacturer or a service manual from a manufacturer. Even for the technically savvy, this means you can’t take apart your projector and just call up and get a replacement part sent to your door.
So, if you are a projector owner who is experiencing an issue, the first thing you should do is check your warranty period and sales receipt to find out if you are covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, then give that manufacturer a call. If it is likely just the lamp that needs to be replaced, be aware that this is not typically covered by warranty, and new lamps are almost always a user-replaceable part.
Let’s say your projector is a bit older. It is definitely out of warranty, and the issue is definitely not the lamp. You are also someone who likes to get their hands into the nitty gritty of the do-it-yourself world. Unfortunately, I have yet to come across any forums where people get very deep into projector repair on a consistent basis. But what I have found is that Google sometimes leads the way in validating the existence of common issues which some manufacturers have had over the years, which can help you if you want to make a case with them directly. As well, YouTube has some excellent videos with electronics repair experts. Notably, FixItFrank has repairs of projectors from major manufacturers that give a first-person view of how tightly everything is packed together and how complex a projector build actually is. If it is just a bad fan, then these videos can help you muster the courage to open things up yourself and get inside. Just be fully aware that the second you open up the case, it may never go back together and work at all ever again.
For a situation where a projector is outside of warranty and not holding a ton of value anymore, but you're still not budgeted for a new replacement model, the DIY approach is a great way to learn more about the electronics that we all love and enjoy. But, while the forums can help direct you towards some possible causes, they can’t fix the issue. This is best left to professionals which the manufacturer can direct you towards. Then, if you aren’t willing to go down that road, you can take the chance and dive into the internals yourself to see if you can solve the problem...knowing that you may spend a couple hundred dollars on specific replacement parts that don’t fix the issue. Enter at your own risk.
Paul Vail has been a professional audiovisual engineer since 1999. He works day-to-day for a commercial integrator and runs his own residential installation company, AV Integrated, out of Chantilly, VA, covering the greater Washington D.C. area. He has been the moderator of the ProjectorCentral Big Screen Forums from their inception more than ten years ago and has installed hundreds of projectors over the years, from entry level basement setups to 4K simulation systems using the latest in 3-chip DLP technology. He enjoys helping others learn about how to get the most value for their money, and setting realistic expectations and goals for the setup they are working toward. You can submit your question for Paul and ProjectorCentral Q&A by clicking here.