Counting the pennies

In Features On
- Updated

One of my customers summed up the present situation well in the shop the other day: ‘If ninety per cent of my income is committed, a 5% overall rise in bills halves my spending power’ he said. It’s true, isn’t it? Our trade is more vulnerable than many to the current downturn.
Effects
From where I’m sitting the main effects of this monetary crisis – apart from its dire effect on sales – are threefold. The decline in TV and video rentals (yes, we still do rentals, and quite a lot of them) has been almost arrested, with new installations almost matching the number of terminations, a situation unprecedented in many years. Secondly, we have noticed an upturn in interest in Freeview, and particularly the new Freesat broadcasting platform. The cost of Sky subscriptions has been steadily creeping up over the years, and a ‘free’ drop-in replacement service is welcome to hard-pressed viewers who are not too deeply into sport and movies, and who already have a satellite dish up and running. The potential 200 channels scheduled to come on stream by the end of this year beats anything that Freeview could conceivably do, and Freesat has the further attractions of almost total geographical coverage, and free high-definition viewing for a receiver-box premium of about £100, so long as you’ve got (bought, perhaps, in more prosperous times) an HD-ready TV with an HDMI port. The third effect is an increase in the throughput of our repair department, mainly in terms of large-screen TV, both CRT types and thin ones. Typical repair bills for these may respectively be 10% and 25% of the cost of a new 32-37inch LCD screen. Suddenly repair seems much more worthwhile than before in the eyes of hard-pushed customers.
Servicing in 2008
How welcome at the repair bench are our old friends the CRT TV sets, especially those by manufacturers with integrity and reputations. The service data and spares are still available, the diagnosis is usually relatively easy, and a pleasure to do, even though carrying the buggers between the van, the shop and the repair bench can be difficult. It’s more common now to be presented with thin-screen TVs for repair, with LCD TVs being in the majority. Regular readers may remember my lamentations in previous columns (e.g. last February’s issue, page 42) about the dearth of after-sales service, in the way of spares, data and advice, to UK dealers and repairers, for cheap and obscure makes of LCD television.
Well, this situation is gradually getting better in some respects. A very common failing of LCD screens is the demise of backlight ‘invertor’ modules and cold-cathode fluorescent tubes. An excellent specialist in these components is Charles Hyde and Sons at http://www.charleshyde.co.uk/. Set out on that website are over 300 listings with clear photos and identification numbers in the most comprehensive and detailed coverage I’ve found so far. CHS also sell PSU modules for LCD sets, and a fluorescent tube tester. Another supplier of spares is Grandata (0208 839 8821, www.grandata.co.uk) which list over 100 types of invertor boards at prices from £16 to £250, along with a plasma TV repair kit, projection lamp and other bits. The Turkish company Vestel manufacture TV sets and chassis for many brands, and a repair service for some of their power-supply modules is offered by Monitech on 01604 812549.
Training
The well-established TV manufacturers and brands usually require special registration and approval before allowing dealers to have access to spares, service data and technical advice on thin-screen TV products. The qualification for this is generally a training course, and they are available, in most cases, in the form of distance-learning packages over the Internet: well worth participating in if you can. Finally, general engineering training courses and material are offered by technical guru Fawzi Ibrahim at KFI Consultancy and Training. Enquiries for this can be made to Fawzi@talktalk.net
Meanwhile if any of our readers can add to the pool of knowledge relating to service data, components, training, fault listings or anything else relating to thin-screen TV servicing, please get in touch with me via the magazine: addresses are on page 3. 

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