Breakdown maintenance, also known as run-to-failure maintenance, is a reactive strategy employed to address equipment failures as they occur. It involves repairing or replacing assets only after they have broken down unexpectedly. Despite its disruptive nature, breakdown maintenance can be the most cost-effective option in certain scenarios.

Definition of Breakdown Maintenance

Breakdown maintenance is performed in response to equipment failure. It is triggered when assets cease to function as intended, necessitating immediate attention to restore their functionality. Unlike preventive maintenance, which is carried out at predetermined intervals, breakdown maintenance occurs reactively and is contingent upon the occurrence of failures. The primary objective of breakdown maintenance is to swiftly rectify issues and resume normal operations.

Types of Breakdown Maintenance

Unplanned (Emergency)

Unplanned breakdown maintenance occurs when equipment failure transpires unexpectedly, disrupting normal operations. In such cases, the priority is to expedite repairs to minimize downtime and mitigate any adverse impacts on productivity. Typically, emergency breakdown maintenance involves implementing temporary solutions to address the immediate issue and restore functionality temporarily. While these fixes are effective in the short term, they may not provide a long-term solution.


Planned breakdown maintenance, on the other hand, involves deliberately allowing equipment to operate until an anticipated failure occurs. Maintenance teams anticipate potential issues based on factors such as equipment age, usage patterns, and historical failure data. By proactively planning for equipment failures, organizations can ensure that maintenance personnel are adequately prepared to address issues promptly when they arise. Planned breakdown maintenance often entails more comprehensive and permanent repairs compared to emergency interventions.

Examples of Assets Suited to Breakdown Maintenance

Low-Cost or Expendable Assets

Assets with low replacement costs or those deemed expendable are well-suited to breakdown maintenance strategies. Examples include light bulbs, fuses, gaskets, and other inexpensive components. Rather than investing in preventive maintenance for these assets, organizations opt to replace them outright when they fail, as the cost of maintenance may outweigh the cost of replacement.

Backup Redundant Systems

Backup redundant systems, such as failover servers and spare pumps, are critical for maintaining continuity in operations. In scenarios where redundancy is built into the infrastructure, breakdown maintenance may be a viable strategy. Should a primary system fail, the redundant backup system seamlessly takes over, ensuring minimal disruption to operations. However, it is essential to regularly monitor and maintain these backup systems to verify their reliability and effectiveness.


Breakdown maintenance serves as a reactive approach to addressing equipment failures, with its effectiveness contingent upon the nature of the assets involved. While it can be a cost-effective strategy for low-cost or redundant assets, it may not be suitable for critical systems where downtime carries significant consequences. In such cases, preventive maintenance strategies are typically preferred to minimize the risk of unexpected failures. By understanding the nuances of breakdown maintenance and its applications, organizations can develop tailored maintenance strategies to optimize asset performance and minimize operational disruptions.

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