Common Reasons for Printed Circuit Board Failure

Is your printed circuit board (PCB) malfunctioning or failing? It could be any number of problems, but we’ve put together the most common reasons for printed circuit board failure to give you ideas of the problem.

Physical Damage

Like anything else, if your PCB isn’t working as it should, physical damage is the most common cause. Perhaps a connection or component was severed and damaged when someone dropped the board or something dropped onto it.

Scrutinize the PCB for any signs of physical damage that could cause component failure. Sometimes it’s something as simple as someone handling the PCB too roughly, and a component gets knocked loose or damaged. 

Environmental Factors

Next to physical damage, the environment is a typical culprit for PCB failures and problems. If you live in a humid climate, the heat and humidity can cause expansion, warping, and corrosion in PCB components.

It’s not just the weather you have to worry about. Liquids are obviously a massive problem if they get in the PCB, but dust buildup, fibers, and even hair can all cause issues in a PCB. If you haven’t cleaned the PCB for a long time, the problem could be grime and dust!

Electromagnetic Interference

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) is something that all electronic devices have to deal with, especially PCBs. EMI is everywhere, and if your PCB isn’t adequately protected or shielded, it could cause significant problems.

Thankfully, there are numerous ways to reduce EMI in PCB designs, from enhanced shielding to tweaking the trace layout. Double-check your PCB’s design and ensure that it has the proper shielding from EMI.

Faulty Components

If the device fails to operate entirely or even power on, there’s a good chance there’s a faulty component or connection on the board. It’s one of the most common problems in PCBs, but it can be a relatively easy fix.

If a faulty connection with a component is simple, a replacement should do the trick and get it back to 100-percent functionality. But, if it’s the defective trace circuit, it will require much more extensive and complex repairs.


Overheating is always a primary concern for PCB designers, but even so, burnout can happen to components that render the entire board useless. Hopefully, it’s just one component you can replace, but don’t be surprised if the whole board needs replacement.

Burnt components can come from various sources: the board overheats, an exposed flame, or improper spacing in the layout. If parts burn out due to improper spacing, take it as a lesson for your next PCB board. 

These are some of the most common reasons for printed circuit board failure, but there are still many others. Failure is part of the learning process, so if your board malfunctions, use it as an opportunity to learn how to make your next one better!