Sound Advice Column: Beware extended warranties, fixing LCD burn-in (image retention)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Distributed By McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Q: Last year I bought a 42-inch Sharp Aquos LCD and have loved it. I recently noticed there is a dark half-inch vertical band that corresponds with the right edge of standard 4:3 TV images. Since we purchased the extended warranty we contacted Best Buy, which sent a tech from a third-party firm. He pronounced “burn-in, not covered” and left. When we contacted Best Buy a week later they informed us that our extended warranty did not cover “any picture quality issues.”

I understood that LCDs are not susceptible to burn-in like CRT and plasma sets, and the “persistence” issues of LCD pixels would go away when normal image viewing resumed. This has not happened and I am stuck with the dark band.

I’m very angry because the rep at the customer service counter convinced us we should get the extended warranty because it covered “everything” — except possibly my taking an ax to the screen. Am I out of luck here?

-Bill Brickley, State College

A: Your experience perfectly illustrates why I usually recommend readers shun extended warranties, especially on items such as flat-screen TVs. Not only are the warranties horrendously overpriced, but also in the event you actually need them, your problem may fall under a “not covered” loophole. As you see, not only have you wasted money, it makes you feel personally violated.

Best Buy is well within its rights, as I don’t know of any warranties that cover burn-in, though strictly speaking that is not what you are dealing with here. More damning is the fact that the tech could have done something about your situation, but didn’t even try. You may want to seek a refund of the unused portion of your warranty.

I have frequently discussed the benefits of independent retailers, so to compare I contacted Digital Visions of Pittsburgh, a television and home theater store that has its own repair technicians. They got back to me right away and said LCD image retention is uncommon, but when it does occur the following technique usually works for them and fixes it.

First, put your TV on the ANT (antenna) input and tune to a nonexistent channel so you have bright white “snow.” Turn the brightness up all the way and let the TV play the snow for four to five hours. You can rub the affected screen areas very softly with a microfiber cloth to help the unsticking process.

This may be enough to unstick the pixels for you, but it is unnecessary as I have some good news. I did a little extra research on your problem and found that whenever Sharp TV owners experience image retention, Sharp USA goes the extra mile to take care of them. Encouraged, I contacted Sharp’s PR department on your behalf and it put me in touch with its customer care department. Though you are out of the factory warranty, Sharp is going to send someone to replace your set free of charge and take away the old one. It should be in your living room by the time this hits your newspaper.

By the way, don’t think Sharp is doing this because a newspaper columnist contacted them. It seems to be their standard operating procedure. Hats off to Sharp!

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