This article briefly introduces the concepts of failure analysis and root cause analysis (RCA), and the role of failure analysis as a general engineering tool for enhancing product quality and failure prevention. It reviews four fundamental categories of physical root causes, namely, design deficiencies, material defects, manufacturing/installation defects, and service life anomalies, with examples. The article describes several common charting methods that may be useful in performing an RCA. It also discusses other failure analysis tools, including review of all sources of input and information, people interviews, laboratory investigations, stress analysis, and fracture mechanics analysis. The article concludes with information on the categories of failure and failure prevention.