8 min read
Eyal Katz

Troubleshooting CrashLoopBackOff Errors in Kubernetes 

Learn how to tackle disruptive Kubernetes errors like CrashLoopBackOff effectively. Fixing these issues promptly is vital to ensure uninterrupted application performance and smooth business operations.

Troubleshooting CrashLoopBackOff Errors in Kubernetes

At first glance, the CrashLoopBackOff error in Kubernetes may seem like a straightforward roadblock. Upon closer inspection, it could leave you scratching your head. 

The seamless deployment and resource efficiency that Kubernetes brings to the table is irresistible to cloud-native businesses. Red Hat’s “State of Enterprise Open Source” report found that a staggering 68% of IT leaders are steering their organizations toward adopting containers. 

However, errors like CrashLoopBackOff can disrupt the very essence of Kubernetes-driven operations – unless you fix them quickly, any applications that depend on these relevant pods won’t run correctly and business processes can halt.

What is the CrashLoopBackOff error?

Contrary to its name, the CrashLoopBackOff isn’t an error in itself. Instead, it acts as a signal, indicating that an underlying issue is hindering the successful launch of a pod.

This error occurs when a Kubernetes pod attempts to start but encounters a problem that prevents it from reaching a stable, running state. It serves as a red flag, prompting Kubernetes to intervene by initiating a waiting period between restart attempts. This waiting period follows an increasing back-off time, allowing administrators and developers a window to diagnose and rectify the underlying issue.

What are the causes of the CrashLoopBackOff error?

CrashLoopBackOff errors can occur for many reasons, including:

  1. Resource constraints: Insufficient resources allocated to the container, leading to out-of-memory (OOM) or out-of-CPU errors. This is particularly common in Kubernetes multi-tenant environments
  2. Failed application startup: The application inside the container fails to start correctly, leading to immediate termination and triggering the CrashLoopBackOff state.
  1. Dependency issues: There are missing dependencies or incompatible libraries required by the application inside the container.
  2. Health check failures: Liveness or readiness probes are misconfigured and are incorrectly determining the health of the container, leading to restarts.

What happens in Kubernetes when a CrashLoopBackOff error happens?

Here’s an image of what CrashLoopBackOff looks like:

CrashLoopBackOff graph
CrashLoopBackOff output

The easiest way to see the state of your pod is by running the following kubectl command:

kubectl get pods <namespace>

You should see a similar output to the one below:

NAMESPACE   NAME                            READY   STATUS             RESTARTS   AGE
default     healthy-pod-1                   1/1     Running            0          2m
default     healthy-pod-2                   1/1     Running            0          1m
default     pod-with-crashloopbackoff       0/1     CrashLoopBackOff   5          3m
default     healthy-pod-3                   1/1     Running            0          4m

In the above example:

  • healthy-pod-1, healthy-pod-2, and healthy-pod-3 are running fine with no restarts.
  • pod-with-crashloopbackoff is the problematic pod with a CrashLoopBackOff status. The RESTARTS column indicates that it has restarted five times.

The STATUS column provides a quick overview of the pod’s health. A CrashLoopBackOff status indicates that the pod has encountered repeated failures and is being restarted, but it cannot recover successfully.

You can read this guide on kubectl restart pods for further context. To learn more about using other kubectl commands for managing and securing clusters, see our recent blog on how to create a Kubeconfig file for the AWS EKS cluster. 

How to fix the CrashLoopBackOff error

Let’s discuss some steps for identifying and fixing CrashLoopBackOff errors. 

1. Check pod status

Initiating your investigation by inspecting the current status of the Pod is a crucial first step. The kubectl get pods command provides an overview of all pods in the namespace, allowing you to identify if the problematic pods are stuck in a CrashLoopBackOff state. A non-functional pod will have a non-zero number of restarts, indicating the frequency of restart attempts.


kubectl get pods

Sample output:

NAME                           READY   STATUS             RESTARTS   AGE
pod-with-crashloopbackoff     0/1     CrashLoopBackOff   5          3m

2. Inspect container logs

Examining the logs of the problematic pod is essential for understanding why the container repeatedly fails to start. The kubectl logs command retrieves the container’s recent logs, including any error messages or stack traces that may indicate the root cause of the issue. Analyzing the logs provides insights into the application’s behavior and any errors encountered during startup.


kubectl logs pod-with-crashloopbackoff

Sample output:

[Timestamp] [Your Container Logs Here]

3. Check application startup order

Ensuring that dependencies like databases run before the application starts is vital to preventing connection failures. You should incorporate proper readiness probes in the pod definition and implement mechanisms within the application startup script to wait for dependent services to contribute to a smoother startup process.


Include proper readiness probes in the pod definition.

    path: /healthz
    port: 8080

Ensure the application startup script incorporates mechanisms to wait for dependent services.

4. Check events for back story

Reviewing Kubernetes events can provide a back story of what occurred leading up to the CrashLoopBackOff state. The kubectl get events command, sorted by creation timestamp, displays a chronological sequence of events related to the problematic pod. Examining events helps you understand any scheduling issues, node unavailability, or other events that may have triggered the pod’s failures.


kubectl get events --sort-by='.metadata.creationTimestamp'

Sample output:

LAST SEEN   TYPE       REASON          OBJECT          MESSAGE
2m          Warning   FailedScheduling pod/pod-xyz   0/3 nodes are available: 3 node(s) had taint {node-role.kubernetes.io/master: }, that the pod didn't tolerate.
5m          Normal   Scheduled       pod/pod-zxy  Successfully assigned default/pod-with-crashloopbackoff to node-1

5. Check container image

Confirming that the specified container image is valid and accessible ensures the pod can pull the required image. The kubectl describe command for the pod displays information about the container image. Verifying the image details helps eliminate issues related to image unavailability or incorrect image names.


kubectl describe pod pod-with-crashloopbackoff | grep -i "image:"

6. Check environment variables

Incorrect environment variables can often lead to application crashes. Ensure that environment variables are correctly defined and match the expectations of the application. 

You can use the kubectl describe command to inspect the pod’s configuration and check the section related to environment variables. Verify the correctness of variable names, values, and their relevance to the application’s requirements. Misconfigured environment variables can result in application misbehavior during startup, contributing to the CrashLoopBackOff state.


kubectl describe pod pod-with-crashloopbackoff | grep -i "env"

Sample output:

  Variable1: value1
  Variable2: value2

Ensure that the displayed environment variables align with the expected configuration of your application, and update them as needed to address any discrepancies.

7. Ensure application configuration is correct

Validating the accuracy of the application’s configuration settings is crucial for eliminating potential misconfigurations that could lead to the CrashLoopBackOff state. Inspecting the application’s configuration file or deployment configuration helps identify syntax errors, misconfigured environment variables, or other issues affecting the application’s startup.

8. Review Kubernetes security 

The CrashLoopBackOff error is one piece in the huge jigsaw that is Kubernetes management. While CrashLoopBackOff is not a direct result of poor security practices, improving the overall stability and reliability of clusters can potentially reduce error states. Properly securing Kubernetes clusters with tools like Kubescape and integrating a web application firewall (WAF) into your Kubernetes environment can potentially prevent issues that might lead to a CrashLoopBackOff scenario. Plus, it never hurts to be more secure. 

Back up and avoid the loop

The unpredictable nature of the CrashLoopBackOff error underscores the importance of a proactive approach to workload management. Troubleshooting Kubernetes errors is complicated and time-consuming, but you can avoid the complexities associated with administrating your Kubernetes clusters from scratch with Control Plane’s all-in-one platform. 

Control Plane manages your workloads and allows you to deploy applications using a resilient, restriction-free, and easy-to-use combination of clouds and cloud resources. Our Internal Developer Platform (IDP) orchestrates an unlimited number of hardened, security-isolated clusters across all cloud providers and regions. 

You can use Control Plane without in-depth knowledge of Kubernetes and its associated technologies. Still, if you have already deployed your own clusters, Control Plane delivers a streamlined developer experience while augmenting and expanding your Kubernetes infrastructure.

Interested in checking out the platform? Schedule a demo with our team to talk about how Control Plane can address your business needs.