What Are the Causes of a Dead Line in a Plasma TV?

By Erica Kasper

Black lines on plasma televisions indicate a malfunction.
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Plasma TVs can sometimes develop issues such as dead lines that cut across the screen and disrupt the picture. Some causes of dead lines are more easily correctable, such as image burn-in that you can fix by changing channels. Others, like a bad control board, indicate a more significant problem that requires professional service or replacement.

When Good Drivers Go Bad

A common source of dead lines on a plasma TV is a dead driver. A plasma screen has anywhere from 26 to 40 drivers that pass electronic signals between the TV circuit boards and the display. When one or more of these drivers goes bad, a line of empty or black space can appear across the screen. This is usually a defect direct from the factory, not something that occurs over time, and if your TV is still under warranty, you may be able to get a replacement to correct the defect.

Plasma Control Board Malfunction

Sometimes, dead vertical lines on a plasma screen are caused by a malfunction of a key circuit board called the plasma control board. When the control board stops working correctly, the result can be one or several colorful or black lines running vertically down the screen. If the problem is a control board issue, it’s time to find a repair person to help you fix or replace the damaged part, or you can consider replacing the TV entirely.

Burn-In not Always Permanent

Burn-in, or image persistence, is an additional cause of dead lines on a plasma TV. Over time, plasma TVs can begin to retain faint images from previous viewings, and these “ghosts” of TV shows past can cause dead or discolored areas on your screen. If you frequently watch news or sports channels that have tickers that run across the top or bottom of the image, for example, the lines from those tickers can gradually burn into the screen. This sort of damage is rare in modern plasma TVs, and it’s also reversible when it occurs, provided that you haven’t left the same image paused and frozen on the screen for days at a time. To reduce burn-in and get your screen back to normal, simply watch different TV shows (no ticker lines or letterboxes that can increase the image persistence), and the burned-in images will eventually fade.

Living With Dead Pixels

Dead pixels are individual pixels on a plasma screen that can malfunction and end up always on, creating a bright speck of light or color that doesn’t change, or always off, creating a dark speck that doesn’t light up at all. As plasma TVs age, pixels may begin to die off in greater numbers, leading to distracting lines and spots on the display. There's no easy fix for dead pixels, although some manufacturers offer repair or replacement if too many pixels die off during the warranty period. While the definition of “too many” dead pixels varies by manufacturer, a few TV makers are beginning to incorporate a zero bad pixel warranty that ensures you don’t have to suffer with any dead pixels on your plasma screen.