Why is my projector flickering?

We’ve all been there.  You sit down after a hard day’s work to enjoy your favorite TV show or movie.  The lighting is right.  You have a nice drink.  You may even have some popcorn by your side.  You then switch on your projector and then it begins to flicker.

Was it your eyes?  You wait.  It flickers again.  Then it constantly flickers.  You are left wondering why is my projector flickering?

Well, don’t worry because this article is going to explain not why your projector is flickering but also how to fix your flickering projector.  Let’s get into this…

Why is my projector flickering?

There are normally 8 reasons why your projector has developed a flicker. In this section, we will discuss each in depth.

Old or damaged bulb

The vast majority of projector flicker issues are caused by an old or damaged projector bulb.  The main cause of this is called arc wander or arc flare.  These two terms both stand for the same thing.

Inside a bulb are an anode and cathode.  Usually, the electrical current will pass between two specific points on the electrodes.  However is the anodes or cathodes become deformed, damaged, or misshapen over time, the electrical current will instead randomly pass between different points of the electrodes.

As the start and endpoints of this arcing are different, a different level of brightness will occur within the bulb.  These alternating levels of brightness cause flickering in the projector’s image.

Faulty cabling

Flickering in a projector image can be caused by the HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, or Composite cables running from your laptop, cable TV receiver, Blu-Ray player.

The cable may not be fully plugged in or terminated, into the projector input port or into the output port of the media player.  The slight mismatch in cable termination will cause the projector to fluctuate the image brightness or color match when playing your digital media content.

Your flickering projector image might also be caused by a damaged cable between the media player and the projector.  Swapping a cable out for another cable is an easy way of being able to check for this issue.

Electrical issue with projector

A flickering image on a projector can be caused by a less obvious reason for the sections above, and this is by the power source of the projector itself.  Your projector will likely be plugged into a plug socket either on a wall or a ceiling.

If the plug socket isn’t correctly terminated, then fluctuations in the voltage can occur. These fluctuations then translate to a flickering image on the projector screen.

Electrical issue with media player

A flickering image on a projector can be caused by a less obvious reason for the sections above, and this is by the power source of the media such as the laptop, cable TV receiver, Blu-Ray player.  The media player will likely be plugged directly into a plug socket either on a wall.

If the plug socket isn’t correctly grounded, then fluctuations in the voltage can occur. These fluctuations then translate to a flickering image on the projector screen.

This is a tricky issue to locate as usually, you would think that the issue must be with the projector itself.

Damaged Color Wheel

Not all projectors have color wheels inside the housing of the unit, however, if your projector does, then this can be a common cause of the flickering.  The flickering is caused by a buildup of dust on the color wheel mechanics.

As it is dust-related, and dust takes time to buildup in a projector, this issue will only occur on older color wheel projectors.  Check your manufacturer’s instructions to see if your projector contains a color wheel.

Refresh Rate

The refresh rate of the video source and projector might be another reason that your projector is now flickering.

Refresh rates are the number of times that a projector refreshes the image on screen per second.  This is measured in Hz (hertz).

If there is a mismatch between the output in Hz from the media player and the projector, then this can cause your movie or TV show to begin to flicker.

Frame Rate

A frame rate of a projector is a similar concept to the refresh rate however frame rates are the number of frames per second, measured in FPS, that the media source is trying to output to the projector.  

If there is a mismatch in terms of the number of frames that the media is trying to be played in compared to how many frames per second (FPS), the projector is currently running at, then this may cause occasional flickering in the image.

How to fix my projector if it begins to flicker

Now that we have identified the main reasons a projector will begin to flicker, we can now begin to look at the ways to resolve these issues in order to ensure that your picture quality is back to its best.

Fix the projector bulb

The vast majority of projector flicker issues are caused by an old or damaged projector bulb.  The main cause of this is called arc wander or arc flare.  These two terms both stand for the same thing.

Inside a bulb are an anode and cathode.  Usually, the electrical current will pass between two specific points on the electrodes.  However, if the anodes or cathodes become deformed, damaged, or misshapen over time, the electrical current will instead randomly pass between different points of the electrodes.

The simplest option to fix this problem is to replace the projector lamp with a new one.  To replace a projector lamp follow these steps:

  1. Switch off the projector at the mains.
  2. Unscrew the projector lamp housing cover and remove it to expose the projector lamp.
  3. Unscrew the projector lamp and pull it out of the projector unit.
  4. Insert the new projector lamp and screw it securely into the projector unit.
  5. Screw the projector lamp housing cover back into the projector.
  6. Turn the projector back on.
  7. From the projector’s menu, find the setting to reset the lamp hour counter.

Some projector lamps aren’t cheap so although this is the simplest solution to the arc flare issue, it isn’t the cheapest.

An alternative solution to replacing the projector bulb would be to alter the picture mode or brightness of the projector.

Arc flaring or arc wandering often occurs when the projector is running in a lower brightness mode or Eco mode.  Therefore a simple solution to this is to change the mode to a brighter mode from the projector’s menu.

Fix a faulty cable

Flickering in a projector image can be caused by the HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, or Composite cables running from your laptop, cable TV receiver, Blu-Ray player.

The cable may not be fully plugged in or terminated, into the projector input port or into the output port of the media player.  The slight mismatch in cable termination could cause the projector to fluctuate the image brightness or color match when playing your digital media content.

The simplest resolution to this issue is to simply take the cable out of the back of the projector and media player, and then reseat the cables firmly.  This will prevent any flickering from occurring.

Your flickering projector image might also be caused by a damaged cable between the media player and the projector.  Swapping a cable out for another cable is an easy way of being able to check for this issue.

A simple way of diagnosing if this is the issue is to try using a different cable whether it be HDMI, DisplayPort, or VGA, etc.  If the issue goes away, then you know it is the cable at fault.

Another way of identifying a fault with the cable is to use a different type of cable altogether.  If you were using HDMI when you noticed the flickering, try a DisplayPort cable and change the source on the projector.

Essentially, you can rule cabling out of the equation for a flickering projector by either simply reseating the cable or by replacing it completely with a known good cable.

Fix an electrical issue with the projector

A flickering image on a projector can be caused by a less obvious reason for the sections above, and this is by the power source of the projector itself.  Your projector will likely be plugged into a plug socket either on a wall or a ceiling.

If the plug socket isn’t correctly terminated, then fluctuations in the voltage can occur. These fluctuations then translate to a flickering image on the projector screen.

The recommended way of resolving this problem would be by asking a qualified electrician to check all of the cabling, wall sockets, etc.  Do not try to resolve these issues yourself unless you really know what you are doing.

We can however safely diagnose the issue as you could try moving the projector to a different power outlet using an extension cable.  If the flickering stops, then you know that the problem is something to do with the electrical outlet that the projector is using.

Fix an electrical issue with the media player

A flickering image on a projector can be caused by a less obvious reason for the sections above, and this is by the power source of the media such as the laptop, cable TV receiver, Blu-Ray player.  The media player will likely be plugged directly into a plug socket either on a wall.

If the plug socket isn’t correctly grounded, then fluctuations in the voltage can occur. These fluctuations then translate to a flickering image on the projector screen.

The recommended way of resolving this problem would be by asking a qualified electrician to check all of the cabling, wall sockets, etc.  Do not try to resolve these issues yourself unless you really know what you are doing.

We can however safely diagnose the issue as you could try moving the media player to a different power outlet using an extension cable.  If the flickering stops, then you know that the problem is something to do with the electrical outlet that the media player is using.

Fixing a Damaged Color Wheel

Not all projectors have color wheels inside the housing of the unit, however, if your projector does, then this can be a common cause of the flickering.  The flickering is caused by a buildup of dust on the color wheel mechanics.

As it is dust-related, and dust takes time to buildup in a projector, this issue will only occur on older color wheel projectors.  Check your manufacturer’s instructions to see if your projector contains a color wheel.

When it comes to fixing a projector color wheel, we wouldn’t recommend trying to do this yourself unless you really know what you are doing.

The color wheels usually require removing many other parts to the projector including the optical housing and lens.  There is a high chance that you could make matters worse by introducing new issues to the projector when trying to clean a color wheel.

Instead, ask a professional projector repair shop to take a look at this issue.

Fixing the Refresh Rate

The refresh rate of the video source and projector might be another reason that your projector is now flickering.

Refresh rates are the number of times that a projector refreshes the image on screen per second.  This is measured in Hz (hertz).

If there is a mismatch between the output in Hz from the media player and the projector, then this can cause your movie or TV show to begin to flicker.

To resolve a refresh rate issue, try adjusting the refresh rate on your projector by using the projector’s inbuilt menu.  Try multiple settings to try and find the correct settings.

Alternatively, try adjusting the refresh rate from your media player whether it be your laptop, Blu-Ray player, etc.

Fixing the Frame Rate

A frame rate of a projector is a similar concept to the refresh rate however frame rates are the number of frames per second, measured in FPS, that the media source is trying to output to the projector.  

If there is a mismatch in terms of the number of frames that the media is trying to be played in compared to how many frames per second (FPS), the projector is currently running at, then this may cause occasional flickering in the image.

To resolve a frame rate issue, try adjusting the frame rate on your projector by using the projector’s inbuilt menu.  Try multiple settings to try and find the correct settings.

Alternatively, try adjusting the frame rate from your media player whether it be your laptop, Blu-Ray player, etc.

In conclusion

As we have seen, there are many reasons why your projector may be flickering.  Some are fairly straight forward to diagnose and resolve, whereas others are less easy to diagnose and may require spending some money to fully resolve.

Either way, by following the steps above, you should be back to enjoying your projector, your favorite TV show or movie in no time.