LCD Lines: Common Causes

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LCD Lines: Common Causes

Back in April last year, Lionel blogged about a vertical line issue that could potentially affect customers who own 17" Inspiron 9200, 9300, and XPS Gen 2 notebook LCDs.

After engaging our engineering and product group teams, as well as the LCD manufacturer, to investigate and isolate the cause of this issue, we narrowed the problem down to a specific part within a certain date range. During that research, we found that the part may also affect the Inspiron 6000, 8600, Latitude D800, D810, and Precision Mobile Workstation M60 and M70 LCDs. That led to Lionel's second blog post on the topic.

We've taken steps to contact those who may be affected to offer a warranty replacement and also put in place measures to rectify any out of pocket expense incurred by out of warranty customers who replaced the affected screens in the past.

Since then, comments have hit our forums and blog site about other potentially affected systems and possible causes and fixes for them. We've gone back to our engineering and product group teams and verified that the part causing this issue:

  • has been purged from our production line, and
  • has not been used in any other system type

Both of these questions have been confirmed and no other system outside of the date range or listed system types are affected by this part.

That said, there are other variables that can lead to vertical and horizontal lines on other system types regardless of size or model. Lines on an LCD can appear sporadically, at random places on the screen, and for what appears to be for no reason at all. These lines can be caused by normal LCD failures brought on by a multitude of variables, which I'll try to cover here. Vertical lines tend to be a more common issue in notebooks, primarily because they are subjected to more wear and tear on a daily basis than a desktop LCD.

The most common cause of these lines is simply a loose connection. As notebook systems are carried around, no matter how careful we try to be, they have a tendency to be bumped, jarred, and even sometimes the heart stopping drop. Though  today's notebooks are designed to better absorb and dissipate small shocks, it can still have adverse affects on the notebook's internal components. A good bump or series of bumps and random movements can cause the LCD cable to become loose. The connection remains intact, but some breaks in the signal can lead to impurities in the reproduction of the image on the screen. Think of a loosely-fastened garden hose... water will still be directed and outputted through the end of the hose, but some water is lost at the connection. This is easily fixed by tightening the hose. Similarly, the LCD can usually be fixed by simply making sure the connection is secure. (Service manuals for Dell systems can be found here on support.dell.com.)

A golden rule of any seasoned technician when it comes to cable connections: don't just check the connection, reseat it. This applies to more then just cable connections (memory, wireless cards, hard drives, optical drives, etc...) There are a few reasons for this, the first being temperature. With so many components designed into such a small case, heat is inevitable. These temperature variations can lead to things like "chip creep" and oxidation. Removing the cable and firmly, but carefully reseating it should solve this problem by not only making sure that the connection is properly seated, but also that the pins are free from oxidation.

The second reason is debris. If you've ever opened up your notebook to clean the keyboard or for maintenance, you might see any number of things such as food particles, hair, paper, dirt and dust. Some of these objects are small enough to get into the connections and cause problems. This is one of the reasons that regular cleaning of your notebook and desktop PCs should be done. The problems caused by debris can usually be quickly cleared up by a can of compressed air and a little time and effort.

If these simple fixes don't seem to work, then we need to look at the actual failure possibilities. Vertical or horizontal lines that don't disappear after the basic troubleshooting are usually caused by circumstantial failures. The most common type of failure that leads to lines on the display is an open circuit connection between the driver IC (flexible circuit board) and LCD glass. This is usually caused by external stresses (mechanical, thermal, etc...), which causes the flex circuit to detach from the glass. The variables leading to the detachment are wide and are dependant on individual cases. With the amount of travel and various operating environments of a notebook, pinpointing the exact cause can be near impossible, unless of course the problem immediately follows a catastrophic event such as dropping the notebook or prolonged exposure to heat or cold, such as leaving the system in a car.

Investigations into technical problems, including which systems, batches, and date ranges are affected, are rigorous, and we strive for accuracy. Unfortunately, not every technical problem can be traced down to the root cause. But in every case, we try to proceed appropriately and in all fairness to affected customers.

If you are experiencing any problem with lines on your LCD and your system is not one of the potentially affected units, or in the date range outlined in Lionel's earlier posts, please contact technical support to troubleshoot and identify possible fixes. See below for details on how to do that.

For customers in the United States:

  • U.S. Inspiron Technical Support: 1-800-624-9896
  • Say "Technical Support"
  • Enter your Express Service Code or say, "I don't have it"
  • Is your system for Personal or Business use?
  • Say "Notebook"
  • Is your system an Inspiron, XPS, Latitude or Precision

For customers outside the United States:

Go to support.dell.com

  • Choose your country or region from the drop-down list
  • Choose Contact Us
  • Choose Technical Support
  • Choose Call Technical Support

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  • Thanks for your timely post. I'm currently in the throes of communicating with Dell about vertical lines on my (15.4" ;) Inspiron 6000, and while it doesn't seem like my system is affected by the recall, this is some useful information about loose connections of the LCD screen. I'll be sure to test it!
  • I don't have this issue, but I have a newer XPS M1710 (purchased mid-December 2006) and I'm on my 2nd LCD. The first was replaced after about 3-4 months due to dust INSIDE of the LCD. On this LCD, I have the same problem... again, after about 3 months. I've just lived with it this time.

    Now, I am pretty OCD about keeping my laptop very clean. I use Klear Screen screen cleaner/polish regularly, and dust out everything probably weekly. I simply don't get how dust is getting in my LCDs besides the edges not being sealed tightly.

    I called to get a CompleteCare replacement LCD sent out and they insisted that tech be dispatched to do it, when the first time I did the replacement myself just fine. They said the first time was a "favor". Umm, aren't I doing the favor by doing the work myself? I've seen dispatched techs do work and some are pretty sloppy. And slow.


    I simply wish that if I asked to have part-only dispatched for myself to do the work, that they would do just that. 

  • Nick,

    As a Dell technician maybe I can answer your question.  If we send a part directly to the customer and that does not appear to resolve the issue, we usually try to convince the customer to allow an on-site technician replace it the next time,  It is no reflection on your skills, but sometimes it helps to have that second pair of eyes on the problem.  As far as I know it isn't a Dell policy, but it is what any good technician should try.

    To your specific issue, LCD panels are made up of a lot of layers of material and it may be possible that dust could be trapped between the top layers, but if you can see it, it is above the actual working parts of the screen and should not cause the screen to fail.

  •  Yes DELL contacted me by phone on November 2007 to (quote): 'put in place measures to rectify any out of pocket expense incurred by out of warranty customers who replaced the affected screens in the past'  but then nothing happened.

     How long should I have to wait ?

  • I have an Inspiron 9300 17" notebook and I am experiencing the "vertical line" issue, and there are currently 7 1-pixel vertical lines on my screen. My warranty is expired, and I am having difficulty getting in contact with Dell and haven't received anything in the mail regarding this issue.

    As suggested above, I tried calling the technical support number (from within the US), and before I was able to speak with a techniction, I was informed that there would be a charge for the technical support and was asked to get my credit card ready (by the canned phone system voice).

    I also tried sending email (support ticket) and was not able to open a support ticked due to my expired warranty.

    Does anyone know how I can contact Dell about this issue without having to pay for out-of-warrant service?

    Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.

  • I too am having the Inspiron 9300 monitor issue. I am so stressed out with this monitor. I was told by a rep. on Tech Support chat that my monitor part number does not fall in the bunch to be replaced. It is ironic that I got this PC in January 2006, which is within the allotted timeframe. Maybe it is time to update the parts that should be recalled because there are many people complaining that their part number isnt in the batch but still they have the problem. I live in Jamaica, and it would be hard for me to buy a new monitor. I tried calling the Jamaica line, and I got a busy signal everytime. I don't know what else to do. I am very frustrated and disappointed at this point because I have 3 white large lines down my screen, and I can't see anything...

     Will someone PLEASE help??

    Thanks.
     

  • Luigi: I'm sorry for the delay, and will ask someone from Customer Care to contact you;

  • Jo-Ann and Doug: I've asked someone from our Tech Support teams to contact both of you. My apologies for the frustration.

  •  I am one of the many individuals affected by the Dell Vertical Line issue on my laptop, an Inspiron 9300.  Initially, I was very well taken care of, as a box was provided to return my laptop within a day, and the return of my laptop from repairs within two days.
    When I opened my box to my disappointment, I realized that I had been down-graded to a non-glare screen.  Upon calling Dell, I was told by Nisha (010122340) that I could have a glossy screen.  However, because this was a one-time replacement and the initial issue with these screens HAS NOT yet been resolved (Even though you are still charging $150+ for these screens new), it was not suggested that I choose this route.  Being an understanding customer I agreed with this logic, but when I asked for a refund on the original costs of the upgrade, I was only offered a $50 coupon!
    I would additionally like to point out that I have had three other issues with this same laptop in the short less than three years that I've owned it.
    Please tell me that my business means more to Dell by refunding the full amount of my original Truelife LCD upgrade.  And for future customers, Dell should be more upfront.

  • I use my laptop (510m) basically as just a desktop computer. I never take it anywhere and it always sits on my desk. As I have a wireless keyboard and mouse, the only time I ever even touch it is to press the ON button or to clean it. (I turn it off with a button on my wireless keyboard). So I don't really buy that the vertical line problem is caused by knocks, heat, or rough handling, as I have 13 vertical lines which have all appeared in the last few months and it has never left its current position on my desk. I've had to hook up an external monitor just so I don't get driven insane by the lines. Anyway I'm not interested in a replacement or anything any more, I just wanted to share my story.

  • @Mario: Heat is definitely a possibility if your computer remains on your desk. The fan and hard drive both ventilate on the bottom.

  •  This is for Lionel Menchaca Digital Manager:..I recently sent my Dell Inspiron 6000 Notebook for repair at one of the Repair Depot for rainbow line effect in red on my laptop screen. It is out of warranty and I was charged $527.00 to get it fixed. Waited about a week, got it back and turned it on, and to my surprise the problem still exist. The Corrective Repair Action Form says LCD Display. The problem still exist. Called again and I was given a round a round in 6 different departments and the whole time I was explaining the problem and that all I wanted is another box to send it back to get fixed since I can tell that the technician who ever handled it, did not put much effort on fixing it. Also no one had called us to rectify the out of pocket cost for if you have this problem and if you are out of warranty. Im still trying to get a box from Dell and right now I just got tired of dealing with the call center..I shall try again, maybe I will get lucky and get someone who knows where to send me..I sure hope to get a reply from you...

  • Maria Rose: Sorry for the trouble trying to get your notebook repaired. I will ask someone from Tech Support to contact you directly.

  • Joe: Sorry to see this happened to you. I will ask someone from Customer Care to follow up with you.

  •  Thank you for your response Mr. Menchaca. I braved it today and called Dell again, got hold of the right person, but his attitude is by far less to be desired. I have red an article posted in this site that "More System Now Part of Vertical Line Issue" updated issue January 16,2008. I was told by the technician at the out of warranty department that my pc is not part of that, but it clearly states it on the article that any systems shipped between December 2004 and December 2006 are potentially affected. Bought my laptop July 2005. Now in your opinion do I have to pay the labor charges of 199.00 and for the parts of 299.00. Dell is sending me another box to ship my laptop back to get fixed (hopefully this second time ). I just wonder after buying four computers with Dell, would Dell step up to the plate and get my laptop into working condition again and would they compensate for something that clearly states in the article is a defective part? I greatly appreciate your time in responding on our concerns here in this site. It is nice to know that someone takes the time to do so..thanks again.