Beginner’s Guide to Kubernetes Troubleshooting

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What Is Kubernetes Troubleshooting? 

Kubernetes troubleshooting is a critical skill for developers and system administrators managing containerized applications. It involves diagnosing and resolving issues within a Kubernetes cluster, ensuring that applications run smoothly and efficiently. Troubleshooting can range from simple configuration errors to complex networking issues, requiring a deep understanding of Kubernetes architecture and components.

A key aspect of Kubernetes troubleshooting is identifying the root cause of a problem. This can involve examining logs, monitoring cluster resources, and understanding how different components interact within the cluster. Whether it’s a pod failing to start, a service that’s not accessible, or persistent storage issues, each problem presents unique challenges. 

Another important component is the proactive prevention of issues before they impact the system. This involves setting up monitoring and alerting systems, establishing best practices for deployment and configuration, and continuously updating and patching the Kubernetes environment. By anticipating potential problems and knowing common pitfalls, administrators can avoid many issues that would otherwise require troubleshooting.

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Setting Up for Effective Troubleshooting 

Familiarize Yourself with kubectl

kubectl is the command-line tool at the heart of Kubernetes interaction. Familiarity with kubectl commands is essential for effective troubleshooting. It allows users to inspect resources, view logs, and execute commands within containers. Understanding kubectl syntax and its various capabilities can significantly speed up the troubleshooting process.

Beyond basic commands, advanced kubectl usage involves filtering and formatting output to quickly locate issues, managing resources directly through edit or patch commands, and accessing the Kubernetes API for detailed information about cluster components. Mastery of kubectl provides a foundation for diagnosing and resolving a wide range of Kubernetes-related issues.

Here are a few kubectl commands that are useful for troubleshooting:

  • To view the logs of a specific pod:

kubectl logs <pod-name>

  • To get detailed information about a specific pod, including its status, events, and configuration, use:

kubectl describe pod <pod-name>

  • For an overview of the resources being used by pods (CPU, memory) in a namespace:

kubectl top pods -n <namespace>

  • To list all pods in a specific namespace that match a certain label:

kubectl get pods -n <namespace> -l <label>=<value>

  • To execute a command inside a container running in a pod:

kubectl exec <pod-name> — <command>

Using Kubernetes Dashboards

Kubernetes dashboards offer a graphical interface to the cluster, making it easier to monitor resources and manage applications. Dashboards like Kubernetes Dashboard or third-party options such as Grafana provide real-time data visualization, simplifying the detection of issues and improving the overall troubleshooting process. Through dashboards, users can quickly view the status of pods, deployments, and services, identify resource bottlenecks, and analyze performance trends.

Dashboards also facilitate access to logs and metrics, crucial for diagnosing problems. They offer an intuitive way to navigate through the cluster’s architecture. Customizing dashboards to highlight critical metrics or alerts can further streamline the troubleshooting workflow.

Leveraging Logging and Monitoring

Effective logging and monitoring are indispensable for Kubernetes troubleshooting. They provide visibility into the behavior of applications and the health of the cluster. Logging captures detailed information about events and errors, while monitoring tracks performance metrics and system state over time. Together, they enable the early detection of issues and facilitate root cause analysis.

Setting up comprehensive logging involves collecting logs from containers, nodes, and Kubernetes components. Tools like Fluentd, Elasticsearch, and Logstash can aggregate and index logs, making them searchable. Monitoring solutions, such as Prometheus and Grafana, offer real-time data collection and visualization, can help identify potential problems before they escalate. It’s important to integrate these tools with on-call alerting systems that can deliver alerts to relevant personnel.

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Common Kubernetes Troubleshooting Scenarios and How to Solve Them 

Pods Stuck in Pending State

Problem Description

Pods in Kubernetes may get stuck in a “Pending” state due to insufficient resources, scheduling constraints, or misconfigurations. When a pod is in this state, it means the Kubernetes scheduler is unable to assign it to a node for execution. This can hinder the deployment process and affect the availability of applications.


To diagnose pods stuck in a Pending state, start by checking for scheduling errors using the kubectl describe pod <pod-name> command. This will provide detailed information about why the pod cannot be scheduled. Common reasons include insufficient CPU or memory on any of the nodes, taints on nodes that prevent scheduling, or affinity/anti-affinity rules that cannot be satisfied.

How to Solve

Solving this issue may involve several steps depending on the root cause:

  • If the issue is due to resource constraints, consider scaling up the cluster or optimizing the resource requests and limits of your pods.
  • For taints and tolerations, ensure that your pods have the appropriate tolerations for the taints present on your nodes.
  • Review and adjust pod affinity and anti-affinity rules to ensure they are not too restrictive.
  • Check for any node health issues or maintenance activities that may affect scheduling.

CrashLoopBackOff Errors

Problem Description

The CrashLoopBackOff status indicates that a pod is repeatedly crashing after starting and Kubernetes is backing off before trying to restart it again. This often occurs due to application faults, configuration errors, or dependencies not being met.


Begin by inspecting the logs of the crashing container with kubectl logs <pod-name>. This can provide insights into any errors or misconfigurations causing the crash. Additionally, use kubectl describe pod <pod-name> to check for events that might indicate problems at the pod or container level.

How to Solve

Addressing CrashLoopBackOff errors usually involves:

  • Fixing application errors or misconfigurations identified in the logs.
  • Ensuring all required environment variables and configuration files are correctly set up.
  • Checking for any external dependencies (like databases or APIs) that might be unavailable or misconfigured.

PersistentVolumeClaims (PVCs) Not Binding

Problem Description

PVCs not binding is a common issue where a PersistentVolumeClaim remains in a “Pending” state because it cannot find a suitable PersistentVolume (PV) to bind to. This can occur due to size mismatches, access mode incompatibilities, or storage class misconfigurations.


Use kubectl describe pvc <pvc-name> to check for reasons the PVC is not binding. Look for issues in the events section that might indicate a mismatch between the PVC requirements and available PVs or storage classes.

How to Solve

Resolving PVC binding issues may involve:

  • Ensuring that a PersistentVolume with matching capacity, access modes, and labels exists.
  • Checking that the storage class specified in the PVC is correctly configured and available.
  • Creating a new PV that matches the PVC’s requirements, if necessary.

Failed Liveness or Readiness Probes

Problem Description

Liveness and readiness probes are used by Kubernetes to determine the health and availability of a container. Failed probes can lead to pods being restarted or becoming inaccessible, impacting service reliability.


Investigate failed probes by reviewing the pod’s events with kubectl describe pod <pod-name>. Check the configuration of the probes in the pod specification for any misconfigurations or incorrect endpoints.

How to Solve

Addressing failed probes typically involves:

  • Adjusting the probe settings, such as increasing timeouts or the initial delay, to allow more time for the application to start or respond.
  • Ensuring the application endpoints used by the probes are correctly configured and responding as expected.
  • Reviewing application logs to identify any internal issues causing the health checks to fail.

Service Discovery and Networking Issues

Problem Description

Kubernetes service discovery and networking issues can manifest as services being unable to communicate with each other, resulting in timeouts or connection errors. These issues can stem from misconfigured network policies, DNS problems, or issues with the ingress controller.


To diagnose, inspect the network policies with kubectl get networkpolicy, check service configurations, and verify DNS resolution within the cluster. Additionally, use kubectl describe commands on the affected services and ingress resources to identify any misconfigurations or errors.

How to Solve

Solving networking issues may require:

  • Correcting network policy rules to ensure pods can communicate as intended.
  • Verifying that service selectors match the labels of the intended pods.
  • Checking the configuration of the ingress controller and any associated rules.
  • Ensuring internal DNS names are correctly resolved within the cluster.


Troubleshooting Kubernetes effectively requires a deep understanding of its components and the interactions between them. By methodically diagnosing and addressing issues, you can ensure the reliability and efficiency of your containerized applications. 

Whether you’re dealing with stuck pods, networking woes, or persistent storage challenges, the key is to approach each problem with a clear strategy and the right tools. Through practice, patience, and continuous learning, you can become proficient in navigating and resolving the complexities of Kubernetes troubleshooting.

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