You are here

Reactive Maintenance

Reactive maintenance follows a run-it-until-it-breaks strategy where no actions or efforts are taken to maintain equipment as intended by the manufacturer. Studies indicate this is still the predominant mode of maintenance for Federal facilities.


Reactive maintenance advantages are a double-edged sword. Federal agencies following a purely reactive maintenance strategy can expect little expenditures for manpower or system upkeep until something breaks. However, systems do break. With new equipment, Federal agencies can expect minimal incidents of failure. However, older equipment often experiences higher failure incidents and costlier repairs.

Other advantages of reactive maintenance are:

  • Low cost of ongoing maintenance
  • Less staff required.


Reactive maintenance may appear to be the lowest cost option, but Federal agencies following this approach generally spend more over the life of the system than with other maintenance strategies. This is because additional budget is often required due to:

  • More frequent system (or part) replacement due to shortened life cycle
  • More damage done due to lacking maintenance, requiring higher repair costs
  • Primary device failure causing additional system failures at the secondary device level
  • Downtime due to complete failure, avoidable with planned system replacement or maintenance
  • Overtime costs to get the system back online quickly.

These increased costs and downtime are avoidable with proper maintenance. However, reactive maintenance may be the best option depending on individual system and context parameters.

Other disadvantages of reactive maintenance are:

  • Increased labor cost
  • Inefficient use of staff resources.