Very few Sea-Bird instruments completely fail due to component malfunction or manufacturing defects. However, we see a reasonably large number that require repairs of some sort. Most of these are simply due to the user breaking the equipment through rough handling, accidents, or lack of maintenance. It always best to plan for the worst case.
Parts most likely to be damaged are cables, connectors, and sensors (specifically the conductivity cell). Cables and connectors are easily replaced and spares should always be carried. After a sensor is replaced, the instrument must be re-calibrated, so it is really not practical to carry spare cells or temperature probes. If you start carrying many spare boards and sensors you are better off (both in cost and efficiency) having whole spare instruments on board.
Carrying at least 1 complete set of spares, with 3 sets of cables, connectors and dummy plugs, is recommended. How fast you can get spares from shore to the ship should dictate how many spare systems you need to have on board.
Note: See spares recommendations specific to the SBE 9plus.