Reactive maintenance is done after equipment has stopped working correctly. It is often contrasted with preventative maintenance, which is done according to a set schedule.
While reactive maintenance may seem somewhat negligent, it is common for some equipment. If a piece of equipment has a low risk of failure and the cost of failure is not too high, experts may recommend relying solely on reactive maintenance. For certain items, however, this may not be an option.
A combination of preventative and reactive maintenance is popular for a wide range of items. Cars, for example, need preventative maintenance at regular intervals. Oil changes are common, and most cars need to have their timing belts changed after approximately 75,000 miles. However, car owners tend to spend more money on reactive maintenance. When a component of a car causes problems, owners typically take it in to have the faulty part replaced, which is a form of reactive maintenance.
Airplanes receive a considerable amount of preventative maintenance. Since problems that occur during flight are likely impossible to solve, companies invest a significant amount of money ensuring that routine inspections uncover them. However, reactive maintenance is more common than many realize. Avionics equipment, in particular, malfunctions regularly.