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Deferred maintenance is maintenance which should be performed, but is not, for reasons ranging from budgetary constraints to staffing limitations. The concern with deferred maintenance is that while it may not have long term consequences in some cases because it will be attended to eventually, it can increase the risk of creating a safety hazard, a breakdown, or another problem which could cause a spike in costs. People who are trying to balance cost and staffing needs may see deferred maintenance as an option which can be used to address these needs, but it should be carefully weighed to think about the risks.
Maintenance can take a number of forms. Recommended and scheduled maintenance is designed to take place on a regular basis. Some examples include oil changes in the car, inspection of chimneys on houses, and servicing of mechanical equipment at a business. This type of maintenance is designed to keep things in top operating condition, reducing wear and tear and keeping things efficient. Maintenance can also be performed for repairs and updates, as when people replace a recalled part, fix something which is broken, or upgrade computer software to keep it current.
When maintenance is deferred, people opt not to do it at the time that it is scheduled. If a maintenance log is used to manage equipment and facilities care, the fact that a maintenance activity was deferred will be noted in the log. Another note may indicate an approximate time frame in which the activity should be completed to avoid future problems.
One issue with deferred maintenance is that it leads people to “let things go.” As people miss more and more points on a maintenance schedule, they may feel like it's impossible to keep up, and they may stop with routine inspections, repairs, and so forth. A classic example of deferred maintenance can be seen in some older homes where people stopped taking care of the home and it started to go into decline, leading them to continue putting off maintenance activities; why clean the chimney, for example, when the roof is sagging and in need of repair.
As a general rule, deferred maintenance should be avoided because it can put people and facilities at risk. If people do need to defer maintenance for reasons such as expense, they should make a point of getting back on schedule as quickly as possible. It's important to be aware of the long term costs of deferring maintenance activities. For example, not changing the oil may save someone the cost of an oil change, but it could cost someone an engine.