Seismic instruments are highly sensitive and capable of recording a large range of different Earth signals. The high sensitivity of these instruments also makes them prone to various failures. Although many failures are very obvious, such as a dead channel, there are other more subtle failures that easily go unnoticed by both network operators and data users. This work documents several different types of failure modes in which the instrument is no longer faithfully recording ground‐motion data. Although some of these failure modes make the data completely unusable, there are also a number of failures in which the data can still be used for certain applications. Of course, the ideal situation is to identify as soon as possible when data become compromised and to have the network operator fix the station. However, knowing how the data became compromised can also help data users to identify if the data can still be used for their particular application. This work in no way attempts to exhaustively document recording failures but rather to communicate examples and equip the reader with ways of identifying failure modes.