How to Fix the “502 Bad Gateway” Error in WordPress

If you’re a site owner, few things make your stomach drop like trying to load your website only to receive a cryptic error message. You’re probably familiar with the 404 Page Not Found error, but what about the 502 Bad Gateway issue?

Fortunately, the 502 error is usually easy to fix. Once you’ve found the source of the problem, resolving it is something most WordPress users can do on their own, without advanced technical knowledge.

In this article, we’ll cover the different causes of a 502 error. Then, we’ll show you how to isolate and resolve the issue.

What causes the “502 Bad Gateway” error in WordPress?

The 500 series error codes, also known as HTTP status codes, are used to diagnose communication errors between a web browser and website server. Essentially, when a browser tries to connect to a website, it contacts the website’s server to request access. If this request cannot be fulfilled, then a 500 series error is usually returned, explaining what went wrong. 

Error 502 indicates a bad gateway. This is when a server attempts to access another server but is unable to complete the request. 

Usually the error is not with the website itself, but the server being accessed. The website is simply behaving as a middleman, or “gateway,” but is unable to deliver the requested data. 

If your WordPress site is being affected by a persistent 502 error, it may be a server error outside of your immediate control. This error can make your site inaccessible to visitors. It can also negatively impact your search rankings, as search engines may be unable to access your site.

While this is normally an issue with your host’s servers rather than your website, there are still some things you can do to fix the problem. In this next section, we’ll cover some possible solutions.

How to fix the “502 Bad Gateway” issue in WordPress

Before reaching out to your host to see if they can resolve the 502 Bad Gateway error, there are some troubleshooting steps you can take to rule out an issue on your end. If these actions help you fix the error, you might want to keep an eye out for repeat issues. If your site is frequently plagued by the 502 Bad Gateway error, you may want to consider upgrading your hosting services.

1. Refresh the page

As with most server issues, simply refreshing the page is always worth a try. If the error was very temporary or just a fluke, it might go away with a refresh. 

A temporary blip or loss of service from an upstream server might resolve itself, allowing for the connection to complete on the next attempt. Sometimes a spike in traffic or loss of connection at the target server can also cause issues. As you’re troubleshooting, you may want to refresh every so often to see if the error persists. 

If refreshing the page solves the problem, it’s safe to assume that the source of the cause was your host. These issues usually resolve themselves quickly.

2. Clear your cache and DNS

On rare occasions, a full cache on the client’s end can simulate server errors, as it’s unable to receive new data as requested. While this is unlikely to return a 502 Bad Gateway error, clearing the cache is a quick and easy fix that can help you rule out the issue. 

Let’s look at how to clear the cache in Google Chrome. Most other browsers will follow a similar process.

First, click on the three-dot icon in the top right corner of the browser window and select Settings. Then, navigate to Security and Privacy on the left.

security and privacy settings in Chrome

Here, select Clear browsing data. A popup window will appear. You’ll want to select All time as the time range, and check the box for Cached images and files.

options for clearing your browser cache in Chrome

Then, just click on the Clear data button and your cache will be emptied. This will free up space for new data.

You may also want to check your Domain Name System (DNS). Like your browser cache, clearing your DNS could be a quick fix if there’s an issue with an IP address.

To clear your DNS, simply open the command prompt and type in the following command:

C:/Users/example>
C:/Users/example>ipconfig /flushdns
command prompt for clearing DNS

After clearing your cache and DNS, try refreshing the page to see if the problem has been resolved. If it’s still there, you can move on to the next method. 

3. Deactivate your plugins and theme

If the 502 Bad Gateway error cropped up after installing a new theme or plugin, it’s possible that one of these programs could be the culprit. A poorly coded or incompatible plugin could cause a conflict that results in a server being slow or unable to communicate.

To find out if this is the case, you’ll need to deactivate your plugins. If you still have access to your site, go to your admin dashboard and navigate to Plugins. Then, select and deactivate any new plugins you’ve installed:

deactivating WordPress plugins

Alternatively, you can deactivate all of your plugins at once to see if the issue resolves itself. If it does, you’ll have to reactivate your plugins one at a time in order to see which one is acting up.

If you’re unable to access your WordPress admin dashboard, you’ll need to go through a backdoor to manually deactivate your plugins. You have two options: connect to your website via the File Manager in your hosting account, or use a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client like FileZilla.

We’ll be using FileZilla to show you how to connect to your site’s back end and deactivate your plugins. You’ll need to enter your credentials, including username and server address. You can obtain this information from your hosting account.

Once you’ve connected to your site, you’ll need to navigate to the root folder. This contains all of your site’s files, and is normally called www, public, or public_html

Then, open your wp-content folder and locate the plugins folder.

wp-content/plugins folder via FTP

Next, rename the folder from plugins to something else, like plugins_old. This will break the pathway and all plugins on your site will be deactivated. 

Now, try to refresh your page. If the issue hasn’t been resolved, then your plugins are not the culprit and you can rename the folder back to plugins to reestablish the pathway. 

If deactivating the plugins resolves the issue, you’ll need to find out which one is at fault. To do this, rename the plugins folder back to its original name. Then, rename the folders for the individual plugins and keep refreshing the page until you find which one is causing the error.

renaming a plugin folder in FileZilla

Renaming each individual folder will break the pathway to just one plugin, rather than all of the plugins at once. Once you have identified the faulty plugin, you can access your WordPress admin dashboard to address it accordingly. For instance, you might decide to delete the plugin and install an alternative.

You can follow a similar procedure to check your themes. These are located in the themes folder within wp-content

If the problem persists after deactivating your plugins and theme, you can rule out bad code as the cause. Let’s look at a few other possible solutions. 

4. Check your updates

WordPress developers are constantly updating plugins and themes to fix bugs, improve features, and solve security issues. It’s crucial to keep your site updated not only for security, but also to avoid compatibility issues.

Some themes and plugins are only designed to be compatible with certain versions of WordPress. When installing a new tool, you’ll want to check the required WordPress version.

In the example below, you can see that a WordPress version older than 5.0 or newer than 5.9.1 may not be compatible with the plugin.

Akismet plugin page showing WordPres requirements

This could lead to unexpected behavior from the plugin. Incompatibility issues can cause crashes, long loading times, and time outs that could result in the 502 error.

You can check your current version of WordPress by navigating to Home → Updates in your dashboard.

available WordPress updates

While you’re here, you can run any necessary updates. You might also want to go to your Plugins page to make sure that all of your software is up to date. 

5. Disable the CDN or firewall

If you’re using a content delivery network (CDN) for WordPress, this may increase the chance of a 502 Bad Gateway error as data is being transmitted from and through multiple servers. If there’s a problem with any of these gateways, it could result in an error.

To rule this out, you can disable your CDN to see if there are any changes. If you’re using a plugin to integrate a CDN, simply deactivate that plugin as shown above. If your CDN comes with its own page on your dashboard, there’s likely a setting that allows you to disable it directly.

Security services like firewalls can also cause the 502 Bad Gateway error. These extra layers of security often rely on additional gateways which can fail or delay the request long enough to time out and cause an error. Turning off your firewall temporarily can help you rule out this as a cause.

6. Contact your hosting provider

If none of the above solutions seem to solve the problem, it’s likely that the cause is coming from a hosting server. Try contacting your hosting provider to see if they’re aware of any issues or outages that could be affecting your site. It may be as simple as a server overload or scheduled maintenance. Additionally, a power outage may temporarily affect the service. 

Remember that the 502 Bad Gateway error can shut down traffic and negatively impact your site’s search engine rankings. If the source of the problem is your host, and the issue occurs often or for extended periods of time, you may want to consider more reliable hosting options to avoid future problems. 

7. Restore a backup

In the event that you can’t find a solution or your host is unable to identify any issues on their end, you can try restoring a backup of your website. If the backup does solve the problem, you’ll need to do some detective work to find out what’s causing the error. This means you’ll need to track any changes you’ve made since the last backup.  

As you can imagine, this may be a little time-consuming. Fortunately, you can use a powerful tool like Jetpack Backup to streamline the process. This user-friendly plugin automatically creates backups that you can revert to for any reason. 

Moreover, Jetpack comes with an activity log that tracks every change you make to your site. This way, you can easily identify any recent changes that may have caused the 502 Bad Gateway error.

How to avoid the 502 status error in the future

As we have seen, the 502 status error can make your site inaccessible, which can harm your search rankings and conversions. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent bad gateway errors in the future. Let’s look at some effective precautions. 

1. Vet new plugins and themes

Whenever you add a new plugin or theme to your site, you’ll want to vet it for quality and compatibility. It’s important to make sure that any code you’re adding to your site is coming from a reputable source. You may also want to check the reviews for any known issues. 

Some themes and plugins are only compatible with certain versions of WordPress. Ideally, you’ll only install plugins that are regularly updated.

Keeping your WordPress core, plugins, and themes up to date is also important. Updates usually fix bugs and gaps in security that can cause a number of issues. 

Outdated plugins may lose compatibility with newer versions of WordPress, which can lead to errors on your site. Therefore, you may want to enable auto-updates on your site to avoid issues in the future. 

2. Upgrade to a more powerful hosting solution

One of the most important things you can do to prevent the 502 Bad Gateway error is to ensure that you have adequate resources for your site. 

If your growing website is receiving more and more traffic every day, you may need to upgrade your tier of service to meet these demands. If your hosting server or allocation on that server is overloaded, requests are much more likely to time out and cause the 502 Bad Gateway error. 

Therefore, you might want to upgrade to a more advanced tier. Alternatively, you might consider switching to a different hosting plan, like dedicated or Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting. 

3. Check your WordPress error logs

If you encounter the 502 Bad Gateway error intermittently and have not been able to nail down the cause of the problem, checking your error logs may help give you some clues. For example, if the error occurs at your highest traffic times, it’s likely that these spikes are overloading the server. 

You can find your error logs in the same directory as your themes and plugins. Connect to your site via FTP or the File Manager in your hosting account, and open the wp-content folder. Here, you’ll see a file called debug.log

finding the WordPress debug log

If you can’t find this file, you may need to activate your log errors. You can then open the file to find and fix the error.

By practicing safe habits and being aware of changes to your site, you can prevent many connection errors. As always, regular backups offer peace of mind and enable you to rule out errors on your end. Having a suitable host is also important for handling all of your traffic and maintaining quick load times.

There’s no such thing as being too prepared

As we’ve seen, the 502 Bad Gateway error can have a negative impact on your site’s SEO and availability. Therefore, it’s important that you know how to diagnose it and prevent future issues.

Whenever you encounter this error, you may want to try refreshing the page and clearing your browser cache. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, you might need to deactivate your plugins, disable your CDN, or contact your host for assistance. 

Alternatively, you could restore a backup of your site. By using a service like Jetpack Backup, you can easily restore previous versions of your content. If the error goes away, then the cause was likely a change made since the time of that backup. You can then use Jetpack’s activity log to track these changes and resolve the issue.

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