Why is my Projector Flickering? (Causes & Solutions)

The family is gathered, you got your popcorn and drinks all set to watch a movie. You turn on your projector and the movie starts. All of a sudden the projector starts to flicker. 

Now what in the world, you think, why is my projector flickering? 

There are several causes of a flicking projector. Today we are going to look at each reason and explain how to fix those issues. 

Here are several reasons for a flickering projector:

  • It could be the bulb 
  • There could be damaged components inside 
  • Electric surges 
  • Refresh rate 
  • Frame rate 

Reasons Why Your Projector May Be Flickering:

1. Damaged or Worn Bulb 

The bulb or project lamp is usually the best place to start troubleshooting the issue. The bulb can be damaged or worn. Bulbs have extremely thin wires in them that the electricity goes through. When they are new the wire looks bright and has no thin spots in it. 

But like all light bulbs, over time it will become worn and begin to dim. The wire inside will become thin. When the wire thins the electricity begins to arc and becomes unstable. This can cause the flashing you are seeing. 

How do you fix this issue? Change the bulb to a new one. If that does not stop the issue, move on to the next step. 

How to test your projector light 

Over time your projector light, like the lightbulbs in your house, will eventually burn out. So, how do you test your projector bulb? 

What are the signs that you have a bulb problem? The following are all signs that you could have an issue with your projector bulb: 

  • Loss of image. When you turn on the project and have no picture, or the pictures dim and brighten, or fading of the print, first, make sure that your project bulb is powering up when you turn on the projector. If it is not, replace the bulb. 
  • A flickering image may mean that your bulb is getting ready to die. Pull the bulb and look at the tips of the anodes and compare it to new bulbs anodes. If you notice a flattening of the anodes on the bulb from your projector, insert the new bulb and check to see if the flickering has stopped. 
  • Your projector may or may not have an indicator. Many of the new ones do have an indicator that will alert you when your bulb is going bad. Check your owner’s manual to see if your projector has an indicator, where it is located, and what the indicator is; it could be a bulb, yellow light, or red light on the screen. If you have an indicator and it shows a bad bulb replace the bulb. 
  • Loss of color or colors that look less vibrant or muddy may indicate that your bulb is going bad. 

Those four symptoms can tell you that your bulb is in need of replacing. 

How long does a projector bulb typically last? The average is 1,500 to 2000 hours. At that point the bulb can and will decline by 70%. This 70% decline can cause many of the issues we have discussed concerning flickering 

2. Damaged Components 

The projector works when the components of mirrors and prisms reflect and split the light from the bulb into colors. Your projector light shines on the image through another mirror and then passes through the projector’s lens, putting the image on a screen or wall. 

If any one of the mirrors or prisms is damaged, they will not show the colors correctly, causing wavering. You will need to replace those damaged components to fix this problem. Depending on your projector, you may need to hire someone to do this for you, or you may have a hard time finding the proper parts. 

However, once the damaged parts are replaced the flashing should stop. If not move on the next step. 

3. Electrical surges

Electrical surges could be causing the flicking. The electrical surge can happen due to two things; a faulty wall outlet or line voltage fluctuations. 

To see if it is the wall outlet you can test your wall outlet by plugging your project into a different outlet in the room on a different wall.  Also, try it in other rooms. If this stops the flicker, you know you need to repair the wall outlet. If you do not understand how electrical wiring in your home or office works, it is best to hire a professional. 

 If, after testing several outlets in several rooms and it still flickers – have you checked your bulb? 

If you have checked your bulb and it still seems to be an electrical issue, chances are your lines have fluctuations in them; call a professional. Do not try to fix electrical problems on your own. Most cities require electrical to be inspected and passed. If you do the work and have an electrical fire, your homeowner’s insurance may not cover it. So always get a professional inspection done after the job. 

4. Refresh Rate 

Reason four is that your refresh rate could be too low. The refresh rate is the rate of an image measured in seconds (hertz), so if your refresh rate is set at 60, your image regenerates 60 times per second. With a low refresh rate, your movie will flicker during the showing. 

5. The Frame Rate 

And last, reason five is the frame rate. The higher the frame rate is, the less flickering you will have. 

If the movie is a digital copy of, say, a home movie and you see flickering, you can reset the frame rate of your project and camera to match. Resetting frame rates on both should reduce the flickering. 

Some other reasons your image may flicker 

There are some other reasons your image may flicker. 

One of which is cables. If you are connecting your projector to a desktop computer monitor, it could be a bad VGA cable, or the projector could be incompatible with that type of monitor. 

Check to make sure your cables are snuggly in place and securely connected. 

Check your video card on the computer. Is it up to the task? Are the drivers up to date? What is the refresh rate of the video card? 

Try another input such as HDMI.  If you are using HDMI and it flickers, try VGA or other component cables to see if it stops or reduces the flickering. It will depend on the projector you have, which component cable is best suited for the job. Older projectors may not be able to handle HDMI components. 

If none of these fix the problem of flickering and you have checked the projection bulb and components but still have flickering, it may be time to take your projector to a professional for a diagnostic and repair. But first, check the troubleshooting list in your owner’s manual. 

Before taking your projector to a professional for repair, check the warranty. If it is still under warranty, you may have to take it to a specific shop for the contract to cover it. Each warranty is different, so always check with the warranty department before you do significant repairs beyond replacing the bulb. 

Some warranty companies will say that work you did beyond the bulb replacement could void your warranty. 

Newer projectors may vary slightly from older projects in size and shape as well as the medium they will use. Such as digital mediums instead of reels of the film; however, the lamps, lighting components of mirrors, and prisms are still basically the same. 

Cables on the new projectors over the past couple of decades may have evolved slightly. Still, again depending on your model and age of projector, you should be able to come up with a solution to your flickering problem. 

If none of these solutions fix the problem and your projector is older than 15 or 20 years, it may be time to purchase a new projector. We recommend that you try to diagnose and fix any of the issues that are known to cause flickering before junking that older projector, though. 

Let’s recap what we have learned 

We have provided the main reasons your projector could be flickering and what to do to test and fix those flickering. The first and foremost reason for this issue is usually your projector bulb, followed by the projector’s lighting components. 

We also have discussed the ins and outs of electrical work, and cables that could cause flickering. You also know how and what to do when it comes to fixing electrical issues the correct way without worry of future fire damage or insurance problems. 

If you follow the advice given here, you should be able to figure out what issue is causing the flickering with your projector and fix it. 

Steven Carr

Steven is a certified IT professional and gaming enthusiast. He has been working in the tech industry for over 10 years, and specializes in all things Tech-related. When he's not geeking out over the latest hardware or software release, he can be found testing out the latest video game.

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