Understanding Corrosion in Water Pipelines: A Guide for Pipeline Designers


Failure Mode

Last updated: December 1, 2014

What Does Failure Mode Mean?

A failure mode is a manner in which an equipment or machine failure can occur. It is the basic material behavior that results in failure. Typical failure modes are:

  • Premature operation
  • Failure to operate at the prescribed time
  • Failure to cease operation at the prescribed time
  • Failure during operation
  • Degraded or excessive operational capability

An example of a failure mode is corrosion, which might cause metal degradation and failure.


Corrosionpedia Explains Failure Mode

A failure mode is the specific characteristics of materials that result in the failure. It may generally describe the way the failure occurs. Examples of failure modes are:

  • Ductile fracture
  • Brittle fracture
  • Fatigue fracture
  • Corrosion
  • Erosion
  • Wear
  • Distortion

Evaluation of the materials’ behavior using standard failure analysis practices typically identifies the failure mode, and this information, on its own or in combination with other engineering evaluations, leads to determination of the root cause and liability. Visual, metallographic and scanning electron microscopic methods of examination of a failed sample can be useful in the identification of the failure mode.

A part failure mode is the way in which a component fails "functionally" on component level. Often a part has only a few failure modes.

It must be noted that there are differences between the failure mode and the failure cause. The mode is usually one of the various forms of corrosion, while the failure cause is the root reason for the actual occurrence of the failure. For example, the failure mode might be stress-corrosion cracking (SCC). Failure cause, however, might be chloride ions that were introduced into the system or residual stress in the component, which in turn made it susceptible to SCC.


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