November 3 2010
(Adapted from my latest TribLocal.com/Highland Park column)
Around my hometown, let's just say that "do it yourself" is not a common mantra. The service industry thrives. There are dog walkers and dog waste removal services, career coaches, college placement coaches, and "organizing services." Childproof your house for your newborn? No need, just hire an expert! Hang your own Christmas lights? Seriously, I recently received an advertisement for a holiday decorating service -- including burnt out bulb replacement within 24 hours!
Given the available options, it's not clear why I stubbornly insist on frequently going the do-it-yourself route. I'm not just talking lightbulbs and touch-up paint. I'll install light fixtures and timers for fun, hang shelves or window treatments, and paint, hammer, or sand my way through home improvement projects. Perhaps part of the reason for my can-do attitude is that today, through the magic of the Interwebs, anyone can summon the self-confidence to try anything.
DIY articles on the web or DIY videos on YouTube cover every conceivable topic. The good news is, sometimes a do-it-yourselfer will provide just enough encouragement through their web tutorials to encourage other would-be mister fix-its to join in the fun...or share in the pain.
A few weeks ago, I happened across just such a route to fixing my own problem, and saving money in the process. My HDTV, five years old, had started to sound like a jet engine on takeoff. The buzz was so loud that it was no longer comfortable to watch TV in the same room. After some Google searches on the subject, I learned that many Samsung HDTVs of similar vintage had problems with a defective color wheel. Samsung had even settled a class-action lawsuit on the matter, though apparently I missed out on the notification. Still, several DIY webpages existed as testimonial that replacing the color wheel was a DIY project -- no need to pay $400 for a service technician, just buy the replacement for $100 and follow the steps.
Despite a background in IT (including hardware in my early years) and a ham radio license that meant taking electronics apart and putting them together back in the day, I would never have attempted TV repair if not for the hundreds of comments on Jangro.com from other Samsung owners who replaced their own color wheels. After reading the instructions, and all the excited comments, I figured swapping out a single part would be easy enough. Well, in the end, it was -- I could replace a Samsung color wheel in about ten minutes now.
It wasn't a simple journey, though. Jangro's instructions covered a somewhat different model, and in his approach, you end up disconnecting and removing far more of the componentry than was necessary on my TV. His pictures aren't real helpful, either, since they show different parts and aren't really macro-close-up shots. Nonetheless, I figured deductive reasoning would get me there. When the $100 color wheel part arrived, I jumped in with both feet.
For a change, I documented everything I was doing, as Jangro.com suggested. Still, when I was done, something wasn't right. The ballast would fire but no picture. I tried undoing and redoing. I watched YouTube videos that were much more helpful than the written Jangro instructions. Still no success. Frustrated and about to leave town for a week, I reluctantly put the old jet-engine color wheel back in. That's when things went south. First, as I removed the new color wheel, a connector cracked and broke. So much for that replacement. Then, as I reinstalled the original part, I learned what I had done wrong with the replacement -- a ribbon cable inserted upside-down. Dang it.
Now I had to buy a replacement for the replacement. This time, I knew I didn't need Jangro's instructions, or the videos. It would all be smooth sailing. It took me about 15 minutes start to finish, and I had successfully installed the replacement color wheel. Unfortunately, the TV looked pretty odd, as if the colors were reversed. All that work and still, #fail. Worse yet I was going out of town again, so no time to dig into it. It turns out the last step was back on Jangro.com...many Samsungs have needed a small jumper removed in order for the replacement wheel to work. I got the needle-nose pliers and dug deep into the electronics, pulled the connector, and voila! Now the TV worked and was whisper-quiet again. Success!
Friends following my HDTV odyssey on Facebook pointed out that there are times when it is most appropriate to pay a professional to repair expensive equipment. Forgive me for being tenacious, but sometimes if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.