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

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What Are the Causes of a Dead Line in a Plasma TV?
Black lines on plasma televisions indicate a malfunction. (Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Plasma televisions normally offer beautiful high definition images, made even more impressive by the thin chassis of the sets. As with all technologies, problems can develop. Some of these issues manifest from user error or abuse, while others are simply design flaws or malfunctions. Black lines in plasma televisions are not only unsightly, they make the set unwatchable and typically indicate a larger problem.


Falling under the category of user error, burn-in is the result of leaving a high-contrast static image on the screen. As a result, the phosphors in the television leave a line that is either significantly darker or lighter than the rest of the image. This is very common with televisions used in commercial environments, running sports or news ticker bars along the bottom. Vertical lines on the sides from black bars can become permanent for the same reason.

Dead Driver

Plasma televisions have anywhere from 24 to 40 drivers that control the individual rows of pixels comprising the screen. Should any of those drivers fail, the screen will display a 2 or 3-inch black vertical line, and probably shift the image to one side or the other. Driver failure is considered a manufacturing defect, and is not preventable by the owner.

Stuck Pixels

Pixels become "stuck" due a failure to turn on from its standby state. Occasionally, these pixels die in rows, spanning the full height or width of the screen, or be only a few inches long. These "dead" pixels can turn on randomly, or stay a different colour other than black. This is an issue caused from the wire filaments inside the panel failing, or an offshoot from a driver failure. Impact to the screen can cause a row to stick as well, even if there is little to no external indication of damage.

Underscanned Image

Television stations on occasion underscan their broadcasts, causing a black line at the top or bottom. These lines are usually accompanied by flickering white time code lines. Although this does not indicate malfunction, you may choose to enter the television's menu and select a zoom or overscan mode to push those lines off the screen.

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