Top Four Reasons For Circuit Board Failure – What’s Up With Yours?

Circuit boards are the heart of the technologies we use every day. Cellphones, TVs, vehicles, streetlights, and a plethora of other items rely on circuit boards, which is why a failure may be highly disruptive. Circuit boards fail for a variety of reasons, and they are linked to common factors such as moisture, heat, and dirt. 

Understanding the reasons for circuit board failure allows you to avoid future failures, making your circuit board last longer. So if you are suspicious, even certain, that your circuit board is the problem, you may need some advice as well as circuit board repair or replacement.

Four Top Reasons for Circuit Board Failure and Tips to Identify The Problems & Causes

1. Discrete Component Failure. (Includes capacitors, resistors, Zener diodes, diodes, GALs, PALs, ICs, Microprocessors, and Driver Chips) Causes of failure: excessive heat, over or under voltage surges and sags, rises in ESR (equivalent series resistance) values, corrosion, and drying (esp. of electrolytic capacitors). These problems can sometimes be visible to the naked eye such as blown/burned components or obvious corrosion, but usually, these items need to be checked with meters.

2. Power Component Failure. (Includes transformers, transistors, IGBT modules, rectifiers).  Causes of failure: heat, over or under voltage, normal component aging. Some problems can be visible such as exploded components, or, more often, they could look perfectly good and require meter testing of each component.

3. Trace Damage. (These are the conductive pathways, tracks or signal traces etched from copper/silver coated sheets and laminated onto the non-conductive substrate) Causes of failure: power surges, lightning strikes, use of inappropriate acid core solder causing shorts, contamination such as metallic dust. Trace damage is often visible to the naked eye and can often, though not always, be repaired.

4. Physical damage – This is plain, old damage such as when your NASCAR-wannabe forklift driver skewers it like a sausage on a grill. Don’t think it doesn’t happen…we’ve seen it! This is sometimes repairable; replacement is often the only option.

While these are the primary causes of circuit failures, other secondary factors can contribute to the failure of a circuit board. These factors include:

Thermal Stress

Stress brought about by heat or humidity can be the reason why a circuit board fails. This is particularly true if different materials were used to create the circuit board. Since materials expand at different rates when subjected to thermal stress, a circuit board that is continually under such stress may weaken the solder connections, leading to damage to the components of the board. It is therefore important to allow electronic equipment to dissipate heat effectively to lower thermal stress. 


Over time, some parts of the circuit board will start to malfunction. For instance, a deteriorating capacitor can start to cause sporadic power problems. While it is hard to prevent problems brought about by aging, you may be able to keep expenses under control by replacing the older components with fresh ones. Fortunately, many problems brought about by aging can be resolved for a small portion of the cost of a new circuit board. It is cheaper to replace the worn-out components with more recent components than to produce and assemble a new circuit board. 

Manufacturing error

Although most circuit board failures occur after the manufacturing and assembly processes, they can occasionally occur throughout the process. Error during manufacturing can lead to a variety of issues, including poorly installed components, bad soldering, traces put too close together, an inadequate connection between board layers, and many more. These errors can then lead to circuit board failure later during the use of the circuit board. 

Reach Out to ACS Industrial Services For Your Electronic Repair Needs

Repairing printed circuit boards can be a bit like surgery: lots of testing, probing, and prepping followed by precise repair work and retesting before the patient is ready to go back to work. The good news is that your board is most likely repairable. 

If your piece of equipment has broken down due to the failure of a circuit board, ACS Industrial is here to help you with any electronic repair needs. Contact us today at 800-605-6419 to speak to one of our experts. Alternatively, you can fill out the RFA form for a free evaluation and no obligation quote within 48 hours.