How to destroy a rear projection TV?
December 22, 2017 7:05 AM   Subscribe

How I destroy/break/sabotage a rear projection TV?

For *reasons, I need to destroy a rear projection tv in such a way that it's not immediately obvious that it was deliberately destroyed. No it is not for illegal purposes, it is my own TV. Please suggest the safest way for me to do this quickly.
posted by anonymous to Technology (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Glue down or disable the power button on the TV and cover the IR sensor so it cannot be turned on with the remote?
posted by Automocar at 7:09 AM on December 22, 2017

Remove the fuse, or snip the power cord and reattach (without connecting the wires) with electrical tape.
posted by supercres at 7:12 AM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Paint the screen matte black
posted by museum of fire ants at 7:15 AM on December 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

Open it up and smear a thin coat of vaseline on one of the CRT lenses.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:17 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

If the color wheel is easily accessible, you could paint it.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:31 AM on December 22, 2017

Just pull some random piece off the motherboard.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:37 AM on December 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

in such a way that it's not immediately obvious that it was deliberately destroyed

That's a nice high wall mount you have there. It would be a shame if that were to work itself loose some day.
posted by flabdablet at 7:38 AM on December 22, 2017 [12 favorites]

Just wait until the person who you're trying to convince is out, then disassemble it. Then they come home, and you say "The picture was funny, I think there's something wrong with the projector", and then spend several days reassembling and disassembling it, but it never actually works again, and even though it's technically your fault you had the best of intentions and were only trying to fix it, you most definitely did not engage in sabotage.

Or have you already agreed that as soon as this breaks you're not going to fix it, you're going to replace with something more modern, therefore the idea of you trying to fix it is already established as ludicrous?

Pull the bulb out, microwave it (amazing light show), the filament is now broken as if the bulb burned out naturally. If there's a new bulb available, it may require repeating this process few days after the new bulb is installed, but the death of a fairly new bulb would pretty easily convince most people that something mysterious has gone wrong and continuing to buy more bulbs would be a waste of money.
posted by aimedwander at 7:53 AM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Look up the bulb replacement procedure. UNPLUG THE TV. Try to turn it on while unplugged, which is probably useless cargo cult CRT stuff from the past, but do it anyway. Then blow some dust or maybe some pet hair into the projection chamber. Not a ton, you don't want to create a fire hazard. Seal it up and turn it back on, it should get all over the aperture and be pretty unwatchable.

This is a common enough end-of-life event for most projectors (rear projection TV or ceiling mounted PJs) that are long in the tooth. They accumulate enough dust or suck up a bit of something that gets into the light path and the picture starts to look bad and it's not worth the gamble trying to get old models cleaned up.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:14 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Alternatively, break off one of the power leads to the bulb mount at a solder point, if there is one you can get to and it's a plausible failure based on the build quality.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:17 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I recently had to break down an enormous and ancient rear projection TV - in order to end its reign of terror in my basement. If you just want it not to work anymore, open up the back panel and mostly-unseat the connector where the power goes in. Or if it is easier to get into the upper region, put some big fluffy dust on one of the sets of optics and the picture will be *terrible*.
Just watch out for the capacitors on the boards, and the flyback transformer -- it will be pretty hard to get super close to the back of the tube (where the danger is) by accident. I had to have the TV nearly entirely broken down before discharging the tubes was even possible (at which point I decided I didn't even need to because I could safely move the parts).
posted by janell at 8:22 AM on December 22, 2017

I'm just gonna be the guy who says that unless you are experienced with electronics, any device like this is a source of electricity (including stored charges in capacitors, etc.), heat, and potentially flame once you open this thing up. I've personally set a DVD player on fire while trying to self-repair something, and I thought I knew what I was doing, what with having an amateur radio license and having fooled about with some electronics in my day and all. If you're at the level of asking internet strangers how to make something appear to not work, I would respectfully suggest that you not open this thing up.

In the non-invasive techniques department, I like the idea of making the remote not work the best. If the person you're trying to fool is able-bodied enough to crawl around and check the thing out, frankly anything you try is going to be caught. If not, simply dabbing something on the remote's output lens or the receptor lens will make the remote function not work, and something tells me the attachment to this beast would soon cease.

If you legitimately own this TV and control the space it's in, I really feel that honesty is the best policy and you should tell the person you're worried about offending that you're buying a replacement, or whatever. If this is the hardest conversation you ever have with a parent or spouse you're a lucky person.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:34 AM on December 22, 2017 [20 favorites]

Last year we just decided like grownups that we didn't have to wait for our declining TV to die completely, and we bought a new one during a Black Friday sale. What's your time frame for this? The best prices of the year on some new TVs have already passed, since those sales are primarily Black Friday and the weekend or week following (but there will be more sales leading up to the Big Football Game™). You might have missed your best sale window for this year, sabotage or no, but it does depend on the new model you're looking at.

Our TV's visible symptoms when we decommissioned it were: distorted color (in the lingo of other owners of the same model, this was the notorious Yellow Stain), a much dimmer backlight that reduced contrast and made a lot of "moody" TV unwatchable without the brightness turned ALL THE WAY UP (which would then be a problem for other shows or movies), and occasional times when the backlight just didn't come on when we turned the TV on.

When that last backlight issue started happening I said to my wife that I was going to start keeping an eye on prices, and then the TV I was looking at dropped in price so I said "I think I'm just going to buy this" and she said "uh, do we need it?" I said, "I don't think our TV is going to last until next year's sales," and she said "let me sleep on it." The next day the extra-special discount for Black Friday started like a week early and I ordered the new TV and told her she'd saved us another $200.

We mounted the new one on the wall and reclaimed like fifteen square feet of room where the old stand had been, and I think that's her favorite part of having a new TV.
posted by fedward at 8:45 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Take the bulb out, shake it, hard, shake it some more. Replace. Any older projection bulb likely has fragile filaments that will break either immediately or soon after.
posted by theora55 at 9:02 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Spray a salt water solution on the electronics and/or the bulb.
posted by nickggully at 9:49 AM on December 22, 2017

Get some clear matte nail polish.

Paint the ends of the power cable. Might take 2-3 coats. Make sure it's dry first.

Unless someone knows how the plug feels different, your goal is accomplished, reversible and invisible.
posted by filmgeek at 9:55 AM on December 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

Spray a salt water solution on the electronics and/or the bulb.

Or take a quick whiz in there and blame the cat.

Do unplug it from the wall first though.
posted by flabdablet at 10:06 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

With the caveat that you should read randomkeystrike's warnings and a reminder that there are parts inside a TV that remain electrically charged long after you've unplugged the power cord and can give you a nasty shock, and therefore (1) if you need to ask, you probably shouldn't do this and (2) if you do it anyway, only touch metal things that aren't part of the chasis with an insulated tool and never your hands. . .

If it's an old-school CRT model, taking a powerful magnet and moving it vigorously around the front and sides of the CRT tubes for a few minutes will probably cause permanent image problems (and wacky rainbow effects) with no visible sign of tampering. Anyone who's paid attention when visiting a science museum in the 80s or 90s might guess what happened, though.

For newer models, heating up a few close-together components on any circuit board until they blister with a lighter will probably look unintentional to most repair techs. Parts often overheat and leave smoky charred evidence behind when they fail. (Things that look similar to this are a good choice.) Make sure you stick around for half an hour and have a fire-extinguisher handy when you plug it in and turn it on, just in case you short something that causes a real fire.

If you have more time, covering every vent tightly with aluminum foil and running the thing until it over-heats might work and would be totally undetectable. Or, it might have a built-in over temperature protection that shuts it off before it breaks, in which case it will never work.
posted by eotvos at 11:02 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's probably got a fuse inside. Just remove the fuse and it won't work. Unplug it first. Then put it on Craigslist in the free section and you can get it picked up fairly easily. That way there's no waste and no hassle for you. I had one of these a few years ago and I sold it on Craigslist for $50. Pretty easy. Destroying this is really wasteful, and while I don't know the whole story here, it seems more sensible just to give it away.
posted by Slinga at 11:43 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

All the suggestions that involve messing with the power supply, the cord, connectors on the circuit boards that involve power, etc- all could create fire risks by way of arcing or resistance and thus heat.
posted by twoplussix at 12:48 PM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

If this is about convincing someone that it doesn't work and it's time for a new TV, I like Slinga's idea to remove the fuse and give it away on Craigslist. Most people who might try to get something like this working again are going to check the fuse first. It's basically recycling instead of sending it to the landfill.

Or take a quick whiz in there and blame the cat.

If you try this method you should record it in case you pee on the flyback transformer. Then either people will be able to figure out how you died, or you can put it on youtube so strangers can laugh at your pain and help fund your next TV with ad revenue.
posted by yohko at 1:32 PM on December 22, 2017 [9 favorites]

Any of these suggestions that involve water are incredibly bad ideas. Even if the TV has already been unplugged and idle for many months. Do not do them.
posted by ardgedee at 2:22 PM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

Yeah, don't pee in it... I wasn't kidding about people being able to figure out how you died.
posted by yohko at 4:01 PM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

When I was a kid, I got up one weekend morning, ate a clingstone peach, and set the gooey peach remains down on top of our TRS-80 computer. As I played away on it, it warmed up, and the peach juices trickled in to the vents, and, next time someone went to turn it on, it was quite dead.

This was actually a sort of useful incident for me decades later. My parents were pretty "accidents happen..." chill about it, and I vowed to not lose my shiz when my own kid destroyed something, and to expect it...

I like the matte nail polish idea a lot (look at the "top coats"; they now make a lot of top coats that are designed to go on clear and matte), but, if that didn't work, or something more irrreversible is needed, I think I would call one of what few electronics repair shops still exist and ask, given the safety concerns. Find a plausible but amusing story for why you need to do this and sound cheerful so they don't think you're up to no good -- actually, unless it was really far away, I'd probably go in in person because I'd feel too much like a person up to no good over the phone. People who wanted to do this for nefarious reasons would, I think, not ask in person.
posted by kmennie at 9:36 PM on December 22, 2017

If you're sneaky enough you could just give the cragslist buyer the fuse along with the "broken" tv and quietly tell them it's fine and just needs the fuse...
posted by sexyrobot at 1:57 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

If the TV uses a CRT and you can get a magnet close enough to it, you could probably get the picture to distort that way. Technically fixable using a degaussing wand, but if they aren't familiar with CRT technology, they may not know that.
posted by Aleyn at 8:20 PM on December 23, 2017

Just give the other person the new TV already.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:49 PM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

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