What Is Wrong With a TV if It Has Bars Going Down the Middle?


When you spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a television, it can be a real disappointment to find that it's showing signs of wear and tear. If your television is displaying bars down the middle or even the sides of the screen, it could be due to a number of factors. If the problem persists, cross your fingers and hope that you still have a warranty on the television; but before you call the manufacturer, you can review a few options for what the problem might be.

LCD Defect

  • A common problem reported by LCD television owners includes a black line or several bars going down the length of the television. This problem is often attributed to a defect in the soldering, a bad cable connection, or a broken LCD control board or panel. If you have an LCD television, this is not a cheap problem to fix; if you don't have a warranty, the repair could be almost as expensive as the television itself was. If you suspect this is the cause of your problem, contact the television's manufacturer to discuss warranty and repair options.


  • Depending on the life your television has lived thus far, you may be experiencing the bars down the middle because of television "burn-in," also called pixel damage, in which lines or other shapes are burned in to the television after that image has been on the screen for a long time. This is due to the phosphor contained in plasma and CRT televisions, and how it interacts with the light and electric signal of the television. While newer televisions are not as susceptible to burn-in, it does still occur.

Color Bars

  • In some cases, the bars you're seeing down the middle of your screen simply could be color bars, which are typically used in video and television production to set the proper colors for a television screen. If you're seeing them on your television and you have cable television, you may be on an empty cable channel, or you may have your cables connected to the wrong ports on your cable box or digital converter box. You may also see these types of bars at the beginning of a videotape.

Aspect Ratio

  • Even with widescreen televisions, there are times when you may see "wings" on going down the sides of your screen. When televisions began to be made in the widescreen 16x9 aspect ratio instead of 4x3, television stations had to start putting black "wings" on the sides of the 4x3 shows so they could be displayed on widescreen televisions. But some films are made in an even wider aspect ratio than 16x9, thus calling for the addition of horizontal "letterbox" bars on the top and bottom of the screen, even to widescreen shows. If you're seeing black bars on a particular show, you may be able to eliminate them if your TV has stretch or zoom features, but the adjustment will be at the cost of picture distortion or picture cropping.


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images
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