Lamp Overheating Issue

Compiled by Steve Linke
Last updated 5/18/2012

Between 2002 and 2007, Sony Electronics Inc. manufactured numerous large-screen high-definition rear-projection TV models based on liquid crystal microdisplay technology.
These TVs contain a high-intensity mercury vapor arc lamp to produce the image. All of the 2003 models and some of the 2004 models (all "WE" and "XBR950" models) contain a design defect that makes them susceptible to being warped, melted, cracked, scorched, and/or burnt by an overheated projection lamp, which may be associated with a smell of burning plastic and/or heat damage outside of the TV. Sony claims that they have internally evaluated the problem, and that it does not pose a safety risk, but many of the pictures are disturbing.

Photos of a KF-60WE610 lamp area, lamp access door, and burnt lamp power wires (from left to right) courtesy of GeorgeTerry (click for larger version):

Sony issued four warranty extensions for the lamp overheating issue, which they restricted to arguably obscure notices on their support web site. The fourth and final notice, which was released in March of 2011, extended the coverage through 3/31/2012. This notice was removed immediately upon expiration of the coverage, and there are no longer any references to the problem on Sony's web site, including the support pages for the affected models.

The projection lamp is a user-replaceable part that is located in the lower-front area of the TV. Beneath the main viewing screen, there is a removable plastic trim panel. Behind the trim panel, there is a removable plastic door (the "lamp access door") used to access the lamp for replacement. Warping of this door is often the first evidence of the overheating issue. However, heat damage to the door is usually not evident unless the aforementioned trim piece is removed (e.g., during a lamp replacement). In addition, even if damage to the door is minor or not detectable, other parts adjacent to the lamp on the inside of the TV could be warped, melted, cracked, scorched, and/or burned.

I encourage everyone with "WE" or "XBR950" TVs to check their lamp access door and other areas surrounding the lamp for signs of heat-related damage. To do this, go through the "Replacing the Lamp" procedure contained in the Operating Instructions that came with your TV, including removing the lamp. Follow Sony's procedure carefully so as not to damage your TV. If you no longer have your Operating Instructions, they can be accessed at the links in the table below.

If you find evidence of heat damage and feel that the problem could be a safety issue (potential injury or property damage), I encourage you to file a Consumer Product Incident Report with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Sony does not actively inform all customers of the problem, but the CPSC could compel Sony to issue a recall with mandatory notification, if it is determined to be a safety issue. Incident reports from customers are essential to this process.

In responses to CPSC incident reports by consumers, Sony consistently provides the following statement: "Sony has determined that product in question does not create an unreasonable risk of injury or contain a defect which could pose a substantial product hazard. Sony engineers have previously identified this service issue and determined that the limited amount of heat produced by the lamp was incapable of igniting the fire-resistant plastic used in the television cabinet. These analyses have been reviewed by and confirmed by Sony’s Director of Corporate Product Safety."

History of warranty extensions

In their extended warranty notices, Sony referred to the defect as "warping of the lamp access door," and they claimed that damage to other components is rare, and that "...this issue has been evaluated extensively and...there are no product safety concerns." However, pictures I have seen do not seem to be consistent with these claims. Damage to components other than the lamp access door seem common, which is not surprising since the lamp and reflector actually face away from the door. Some pictures show relatively extensive damage to the interior of the TV, including burnt wires, as well as damage to a TV stand directly under the lamp area. In addition, many customers report a persistent smell of burning plastic, and, to the best of my knowledge, the potential toxicity of this exposure has not been assessed.

Sony's warranty extension stated: "Sony will repair the lamp access door and any other components damaged as a result at no charge for any of the covered televisions." When the issue was first identified, a repair kit was apparently provided by Sony to repair technicians, which reportedly included a replacement lamp access door, three replacement fans (presumably for enhanced cooling), and a revised thermal switch (presumably to shut down the TV at a lower overheat temperature).

Unfortunately, in apparent contradiction to their own warranty, federal warranty law, and other laws requiring availability of replacement parts (see details below), beginning around October of 2009 or earlier, Sony began telling at least some customers that they would not or could not repair their TVs, and that they should pay Sony for a discounted replacement TV instead.
Interestingly, the alert on the Sony Canada web site only refers to getting a discount off another Sony TV.

In some cases, Sony claimed that they were out of the repair kits. In other cases, Sony claimed that the heat damage was too severe to repair. In many cases, customers have both an optical block problem and the melting issue, which is not surprising since heat is a contributing factor to optical block failure. Adding insult to injury, in some of these latter cases, Sony apparently justified their position that the TV was not repairable by citing the optical block problem, as opposed to physical heat damage to parts.

Regardless of any of the above claims,
I believe US laws required that, if Sony was unwilling or unable to repair the TV free of charge during the extended warranty period, they had to replace it with another reasonably equivalent TV free of charge (e.g., equivalent size and features, although it could be a refurbished model). See the legal information below for reference.

On April 15, 2010, a class action lawsuit was filed in US District Court, Southern District of California for the lamp overheating issue that affects the 2003-2004 3LCD models WE and XBR950.

Lamp overheating issue table

If your model number is listed, it is covered, even if it was manufactured and/or purchased in a different year than its model year.

 TV family and models  Original warranty
 Sony warranty extension alert  Original alert date (link to form)  Expiration date
 Operating Instructions
 Class action lawsuit
 2003 3LCD models      
   
      KF-42WE610 1 year
 Warped lamp door 4/17/2008
 3/31/2012* Pages 13-16
 Pending
      KF-50WE610  "  "  "  "  "  "
      KF-60WE610  "  "  "  "  "  "
      KDF-60XBR950  1 year
 "  "  "  Pages 13-16
 "
      KDF-70XBR950  "  "  "  "  "  "
 2004 3LCD models  
 
   
      KF-42WE620 1 year
Warped lamp door**
 NA   3/31/2012*  Pages 15-19
 No
      KF-50WE620  "  "  "  "  "  "
      KDF-42WE655 1 year
Warped lamp door  4/17/2008  "  Pages 16-19
 Pending
      KDF-50WE655  "  "  "  "  "  "
*Around April or May of 2009, Sony extended the expiration date from the original 3/31/2009 to 3/31/2010. On March 25, 2010, Sony further extended the expiration date from 3/31/2010 to 3/31/2011. In March of 2011, Sony further extended the expiration date to 3/31/2012.
**The WE620 models are exclusive to Canada, so the links are to Sony Canada and apply to any Canadian model. Also, Sony Canada does not consider the coverage for the problem a "warranty extension," and they are only offering discounts off replacement TVs.

Warranty law overview (US)

  • California law (Civil Code Section 1793.03) requires manufacturers of any electronic or appliance product that retails for $100 or more to maintain functional parts for repair for a minimum of seven years.
  • The federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (Title 15 of the United States Code, Sections 2301-2312) states the following:
    • Section 2304(a)(1): "{S}uch warrantor must as a minimum remedy such consumer product within a reasonable time and without charge, in the case of a defect, malfunction, or failure to conform with such written warranty..."
    • Section 2301(11): "The term 'replacement' means furnishing a new consumer product which is identical or reasonably equivalent to the warranted consumer product."
    • Section 2304(d): "Remedy without charge. For purposes of this section and of section 2302(c) of this title, the term 'without charge' means that the warrantor may not assess the consumer for any costs the warrantor or his representatives incur in connection with the required remedy of a warranted consumer product..."
    • Section 2304(a)(4): "{I}f the product (or a component part thereof) contains a defect or malfunction after a reasonable number of attempts by the warrantor to remedy defects or malfunctions in such product, such warrantor must permit the consumer to elect either a refund for, or replacement without charge of, such product or part (as the case may be)..."

Lamp overheating pictures

Photos of KF-50WE610 lamp access door (left) and the TV stand (right) courtesy of Kristy Craver Gamet. Note the damage to the part of the TV stand that was directly below the lamp area of the TV:



Photo of KF-50WE610 lamp access door by
dep3523 posted on an Agoraquest forum:

Interior of a KF-42WE610 adjacent to the lamp by "Dayclone" on AVS Forum:

KDF-42WE655 lamp access door and area adjacent to lamp by "Jeff Drums"

Area adjacent to lamp and wiring by Adam Secunda in the eCoustics forum







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