How to Diagnose and Fix '504 Gateway Timeout' Errors in Nginx

A Comprehensive Guide for DevOps and SRE Professionals

Encountering a ‘504 Gateway Timeout’ error in Nginx can be frustrating, especially when it disrupts the availability of your web applications. This error indicates that the server, while acting as a gateway or proxy, did not receive a timely response from the upstream server. This guide will help DevOps and Site Reliability Engineers (SRE) diagnose and fix these errors efficiently.

Understanding the ‘504 Gateway Timeout’ Error

The ‘504 Gateway Timeout’ error typically occurs in Nginx when:

  • The upstream server (such as an application server, database server, or another web server) takes too long to respond.
  • There are network connectivity issues between Nginx and the upstream server.
  • The upstream server is down or experiencing high load. Understanding these causes is the first step in troubleshooting and resolving the issue.

Diagnosing the Error

Step 1: Check Nginx and Upstream Server Logs Logs are invaluable for diagnosing ‘504 Gateway Timeout’ errors. Start by checking the Nginx error log and the logs of the upstream server. Nginx Error Log:

sudo tail -f /var/log/nginx/error.log

Look for entries related to timeouts or connectivity issues.

Upstream Server Logs:

Access the logs of your upstream server to identify any issues that might be causing delays.

Step 2: Test Upstream Server Response Time

Ensure the upstream server is responsive and within acceptable latency limits. Use tools like curl to measure response time.

curl -w "@curl-format.txt" -o /dev/null -s http://upstream_server_address

Create a curl-format.txt file with the following content to measure response time:

time_namelookup: %{time_namelookup}\n
 time_connect: %{time_connect}\n
 time_starttransfer: %{time_starttransfer}\n
 time_total: %{time_total}\n

Step 3: Check Network Connectivity Verify the network connectivity between Nginx and the upstream server. Use tools like ping, traceroute, or mtr to diagnose network issues.

ping upstream_server_address
traceroute upstream_server_address
mtr upstream_server_address

Step 4: Review Nginx and Upstream Server Configuration

Review both Nginx and upstream server configurations to ensure there are no misconfigurations causing the timeout.

Fixing the ‘504 Gateway Timeout’ Error

Solution 1: Increase Nginx Timeout Settings Adjust Nginx timeout settings to allow more time for the upstream server to respond.

Nginx Configuration:

http {
 proxy_connect_timeout 60s;
 proxy_send_timeout 60s;
 proxy_read_timeout 60s;
 send_timeout 60s;

Reload the Nginx configuration to apply changes:

sudo systemctl reload nginx

Solution 2: Optimize Upstream Server Performance

If the upstream server is slow, optimize its performance by:

  • Scaling Resources: Add more CPU, memory, or disk resources.
  • Database Optimization: Ensure database queries are optimized.
  • Load Balancing: Distribute the load across multiple servers.

Solution 3: Improve Network Stability

Address network issues by:

  • Checking Firewall Rules: Ensure firewalls are not blocking necessary traffic.
  • Upgrading Network Hardware: Replace faulty or outdated network hardware.
  • Using Reliable Network Providers: Switch to more reliable network service providers if needed.

Solution 4: Implement Caching

Implement caching to reduce the load on the upstream server and improve response times. Nginx Caching Configuration:

http {
 proxy_cache_path /var/cache/nginx levels=1:2 keys_zone=my_cache:10m inactive=60m;
 proxy_cache_key "$scheme$request_method$host$request_uri";

 server {
 location / {
 proxy_cache my_cache;
 proxy_pass http://upstream_server;


Diagnosing and fixing ‘504 Gateway Timeout’ errors in Nginx involves a systematic approach to check logs, test server response times, and ensure network connectivity. By adjusting timeout settings, optimizing upstream server performance, improving network stability, and implementing caching, you can significantly reduce the occurrence of these errors. For further exploration, consider delving into Nginx’s official documentation and performance tuning guides.