What Happens When the Samsung DLP Colorwheel Goes Bad?

By Elizabeth Mott

Unlike thin LCD and LED sets, DLP TVs feature a thicker profile that precludes wall mounting.
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Samsung's DLP TV-set technology predates the LCD, LED and OLED sets in the company's current product lineup. DLP also produces the image display in some data projectors. Along with a lamp that requires periodic replacement, a DLP set relies on a color wheel that can cause complete disruption of picture quality as it proceeds toward failure. To diagnose your DLP set and help determine if it needs a new color wheel, look -- and listen -- for some distinctive symptoms.

How It Works

Samsung's Digital Light Processing technology relies on a white light that passes through two sets of red, green and blue filters mounted on a rapidly spinning wheel, with an extra green segment to improve the sets' rendition of black. Tiny flashes of light filtered through the color wheel reach the surface of a device made up of more than a million tiny hinged mirrors. Roughly 20 percent of the thickness of a human hair, each of these mirrors tilts toward and away from the light source in concert with the color wheel, producing flashes of combinations of light colors that create the illusion of a moving image. One mirror produces one pixel's worth of the final image.

Bumps & Screams

A Samsung DLP TV in the throes of colorwheel failure makes odd noises that could sound right at home in the soundtrack of a horror movie: bumps and thumps, followed by a surging, whining buzz or hum that progresses into a scream over time. When you hear that banshee sound in the middle of Saturday morning cartoons, you're listening to friction in the dying bearings inside your color wheel. You also may see an indicator code on the front panel that reads "Lamp Replacement" regardless of whether you recently replaced the lamp.

Not a Pretty Picture

When the color wheel in your Samsung DLP set can't spin properly, it can't create an onscreen image with correctly rendered color that produces a fully formed picture. The color wheel's impending failure accentuates the flickering rainbow effect that can make a DLP image appear to break up into individual colors when you move your head or your eyes quickly across the field of view. Eventually, the color wheel shatters because of the effect of bad bearings on a device that spins at nearly 10,000 revolutions per minute.

Make It Stop

The only cure for a color wheel failure lies in replacing the part. A careful do-it-yourselfer with the ability to follow a relatively complex set of instructions for accessing the part, removing and replacing it may be able to work through the repair in two or three hours. If you're uncomfortable with the prospect of partially disassembling your set and replacing a part that can cost several hundred dollars, take your DLP TV to a technician for a service call.