Can the TV be fixed?
In most cases, the answer is yes, the TV can be fixed.
The hard truth is, whether you have an LCD, LED or plasma TV, a cracked or shattered TV screen cannot actually be repaired - it can only be replaced. Fortunately, replacement panels can be ordered from many TV parts suppliers, depending on the make and model. To find out where you can buy a replacement LED, LCD or plasma display panel, see TV Replacement Parts. If you decide that you want to try replacing the panel yourself, read How To Replace Plasma Display Panels, or How To Replace LCD and LED Panels.
Is it worth fixing?
Most people would assume that the whole TV is ruined and would simply replace it with another TV. But if you really like the TV, and you want to keep it, replacing the panel might be a viable option. You will need to weigh the cost of a new TV against the cost of a replacement panel plus the amount of time and effort it would take to order and replace it. There is money to be saved by replacing the yourself. For more things to consider, read Is My TV Worth Fixing?
How do I know if the screen is cracked?
Sometimes it is obvious, and sometimes it is not. One way to know is to observe what happens when you turn on the television. If you have an LCD TV or an LED TV, a shattered screen will usually display a kaleidoscope of disturbing, multicolored, orthogonal lines and shapes where the damage occurred. The rest of the screen could display either perfectly fine video, dim video, or no video at all.
A damaged plasma display panel can have a more diverse look and behavior. Some will seem to work just fine with cracks in them. Others won't even light up. Some TVs will produce a loud buzzing noise. And some TVs just won't turn on at all.
A common misconception about plasma TVs is that when looking at the screen with the TV turned off, if the screen has no visible sign of being cracked or scratched, then it must not have been damaged by an external force, but instead must have an internal defect. This is not necessarily true. The plasma screen has a protective outer surface. It is made of a durable, scratch-resistant material and can withstand a physical impact without producing a visible scratch. Yet beneath this outer surface there are very fragile layers that can easily be damaged by the same physical impact and may not be seen with the TV turned off. You can read Plasma TVs - Myths vs. Realities? for more information on that.
If you decide that the panel needs to be replaced, but you would rather have someone else replace it for you, then schedule a service call and have a TV service technician come to your home and give you a free cost estimate.
Probable Causes / Warranty Coverage
A stress fracture is characterized by a major crack starting from the edge and extending across the screen. It can be caused by vibration during shipment, mechanical stress from twisting during unpacking, or any kind of physical force that would flex or bend the unit.
Sometimes a stress fracture will occur days after the television has been in delivered. These cases are generally not covered under a warranty offered by the store from which it was purchased, but may be covered by the manufacturer's warranty. You will need to contact the TV manufacturer's customer service department to find out.
As a general rule, no warranty will cover cracked plasma panels. Most technicians would tell you that there’s nothing they can do, aside from giving you an estimate for the cost of the repair. But for stress fractures, if the TV is still under manufacturer's warranty and the crack has not grown into a widespread shatter, there is a chance that the TV could be exchanged by the manufacturer, especially if you can prove that the damage occurred while the TV was being shipped to your home. This is why it is very important that you test the TV by turning it on as soon as it arrives to your home, to be sure that it is in good working order. It is more believable when you report shipping damage to the store within 24 hours of the purchase. If the TV is being delivered to your home, that you test the TV before the delivery people leave the scene.
When dealing with the manufacturer concerning a defective product, be prepared to thoroughly plead your case because it is more difficult to prove that the cause was not your fault. It would be a good idea to call a service technician because they can do the leg work of contacting the manufacturer for you. Otherwise, you’ll have to correspond with the manufacturer yourself by sending them an email with your name, address, date of purchase, place of purchase, model number, serial number with attached pictures and sales receipt. You should take pictures of the crack(s), the front cabinet showing the crack and the manufacturer’s insignia, and the back of unit showing the product sticker. Whether you do it yourself or have a technician take care of it for you, be careful not to physically move the TV. Any movement might cause the fracture to grow worse before the photos are taken. The cracks may end up looking more like they were caused by deliberate physical damage, at which point the financial burden of replacing the panel may be on you.
Could a TV screen crack all by itself?
It is conceivable that a TV screen can crack without having had any external blunt force applied to it. There have been rare cases where these strange cracks would mysteriously appear. The crack would have from three to several veins extending an inch or two (2.5 to 5 cm) from one single point, resembling a starburst, a cross, or spokes of a wheel. This kind of crack allegedly occurs without any external cause. The forums and blogs call them "spider cracks".
As of yet there is no official information from any manufacturer about this phenomenon. Even though consumers claim that spider cracks happen on their own, it's a hard argument to prove to the manufacturer. The conspicuous central point in the appearance of the crack argues that a physical impact may have been the cause. Therefore, manufacturers will generally deduce that the damage was caused by physical abuse, and so the repair will not be covered under the manufacturer's warranty. Even so, it is still worth a service call because some companies will replace the panel or exchange the unit if it is still under manufacturer's warranty or an extended warranty contract, if a technician dutifully reports that the damage was not caused by abuse. The following paragraph gives a plausible, technical explanation for how a spider crack could be caused by a manufacturing defect.
Cause of Spider Cracks
Many bloggers and publishers have written about this issue saying that spider cracks are caused by excessive heat generated by the panel. But why? All plasma panels typically generate a small amount of heat. But what if there was a single pixel (or a small cluster of them) that sustained some kind of flaw or may have gotten contaminated during the manufacturing process? Furthermore, let's say that this defect causes that point on the panel to get excessively hot. Now, consider that while the TV is turned on the panel warms up and undergoes normal thermal expansion, and then when the TV is off the panel cools down and normal thermal contraction takes place. The theory is that this cycling of the temperature due to normal use could exacerbate the defect. Over the course of time the heating up and cooling down could cause the glass layer of the screen to expand and contract much more at the point of the defect than over the rest of the panel. Eventually this uneven expansion and contraction could cause the glass in the panel to "pop" and fracture. And there you have it! - our explanation of the cause of the spider crack.
If you want to learn more about plasma display panels, read Plasma TVs - Myths vs. Realities?.