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When troubleshooting cert-manager your best friend is kubectl describe, this will give you information on the resources as well as recent events. It is not advised to use the logs as these are quite verbose and only should be looked at if the following steps do not provide help.

cert-manager consists of multiple custom resources that live inside your Kubernetes cluster, these resources are linked together and are often created by one another. When such an event happens it will be reflected in a Kubernetes event, you can see these per-namespace using kubectl get event, or in the output of kubectl describe when looking at a single resource.

Troubleshooting a failed certificate request

There are several resources that are involved in requesting a certificate.

( +---------+ )
( | Ingress | ) Optional ACME Only!
( +---------+ )
| |
| +-------------+ +--------------------+ | +-------+ +-----------+
|-> | Certificate |----> | CertificateRequest | ----> | | Order | ----> | Challenge |
+-------------+ +--------------------+ | +-------+ +-----------+

The cert-manager flow all starts at a Certificate resource, you can create this yourself or your Ingress resource will do this for you if you have the correct annotations set.

1. Checking the Certificate resource

First we have to check if we have a Certificate resource created in our namespace. We can get these using kubectl get certificate.

$ kubectl get certificate
example-com-tls False 1h

If none is present and you plan to use the ingress-shim: check the ingress annotations more about that is in the ingress troubleshooting guide. If you are not using the ingress-shim: check the output of the command you used to create the certificate.

If you see one with ready status False you can get more info using kubectl describe certificate, if the status is True that means that cert-manager has successfully issued a certificate.

$ kubectl describe certificate <certificate-name>
Last Transition Time: 2020-05-15T21:45:22Z
Message: Issuing certificate as Secret does not exist
Reason: DoesNotExist
Status: False
Type: Ready
Next Private Key Secret Name: example-tls-wtlww
Type Reason Age From Message
---- ------ ---- ---- -------
Normal Issuing 105s cert-manager Issuing certificate as Secret does not exist
Normal Generated 105s cert-manager Stored new private key in temporary Secret resource "example-tls-wtlww"
Normal Requested 104s cert-manager Created new CertificateRequest resource "example-tls-bw5t9"

Here you will find more info about the current certificate status under Status as well as detailed information about what happened to it under Events. Both will help you determine the current state of the certificate. The last status is Created new CertificateRequest resource, it is worth taking a look at in which state CertificateRequest is to get more info on why our Certificate isn't getting issued.

2. Checking the CertificateRequest

The CertificateRequest resource represents a CSR in cert-manager and passes this CSR on onto the issuer. You can find the name of the CertificateRequest in the Certificate event log or using kubectl get certificaterequest

To get more info we again run kubectl describe:

$ kubectl describe certificaterequest <CertificateRequest name>
API Version:
Kind: CertificateRequest
Request: [...]
Issuer Ref:
Kind: ClusterIssuer
Name: letencrypt-production
Last Transition Time: 2020-05-15T21:45:36Z
Message: Waiting on certificate issuance from order example-tls-fqtfg-1165244518: "pending"
Reason: Pending
Status: False
Type: Ready
Type Reason Age From Message
---- ------ ---- ---- -------
Normal OrderCreated 8m20s cert-manager Created Order resource example-tls-fqtfg-1165244518

Here we will see any issue regarding the Issuer configuration as well as Issuer responses.

3. Check the issuer state

If in the above steps you saw an issuer not ready error you can do the same steps again for (cluster)issuer resources:

$ kubectl describe issuer <Issuer name>
$ kubectl describe clusterissuer <ClusterIssuer name>

These will allow you to get any error messages regarding accounts or network issues with your issuer. Troubleshooting ACME issuers is described in more detail in Troubleshooting Issuing ACME Certificates.

4. ACME Troubleshooting

ACME (e.g. Let's Encrypt) issuers have 2 additional resources inside cert-manager: Orders and Challenges. Troubleshooting these is described in Troubleshooting Issuing ACME Certificates.