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The Ins and Outs of Shipping Container Maintenance

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While a container doesn’t require regular upkeep, there are several container maintenance practices you can do to ensure that your container will be in good working order. As a rule, you’ll want to examine your container 1-4 times a year for damaged areas and broken parts. This blog discusses the main areas that you’ll want to look at when evaluating container wear and tear. The following are a few things you can do to make sure that your container will remain a secure storage space far into the future.

General Corten Steel Maintenance

Shipping containers are made with Corten steel, a type of weathering steel that protects layers beneath the surface from degrading due to rust. The weathered look might be off-putting to those that don’t know about its weather-resistant qualities, but this type of steel will hold up longer than a container made of traditional steel.

Once the surface level of steel is rusted over, Corten steel will prevent further oxidation from exposure to moist air. Maintenance on your Corten steel container is simple.

  • Don’t use any cleaning agents on your Corten steel.
  • Always use rust-proof scrapers, files, and other tools when making physical contact with your container.
  • If you notice soiling on the outside of your container, you can lightly brush the surface to remove grime.
  • You can dissolve scale and grout spots with phosphoric acid. Rinse with water.

After the initial layer of Corten Steel has rusted, note any further rust buildup. Rust is still something to be aware of, even with Corten Steel. Ensure that water isn’t pooling in any areas, and you’ll be well prepared to give your container a long life.

Shipping containers awaiting maintenance in a southwest mobile storage container lot.
Don’t panic just because your container looks a little worn. While surface rust is generally not a problem because of Corten Steel’s protective patina, further rusting might be cause for alarm. Even with Corten Steel’s rust-resistant properties, protective coats of paint are the best first line of defense against container oxidation.

Storage Container Maintenance

When storing materials in shipping containers, you should ensure an even weight distribution. If the contents of your container are uneven, and weight is loaded on one side more than the other, it may cause problems when opening the door. Your container doors might even be stuck shut. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure that weight is evenly distributed across your container’s storage space.

In addition to this problem, you want to ensure that you keep your container level: that means your container is horizontal to the ground. A lot of confusion can exist around the terms flat and level, so here’s the difference:

  • Flat means that something is free of bumps or indents. A car on a graded hill would be flat but not level.
  • Level means that something is horizontal to the ground. If something is level, it should be flat. However, something can be flat, but not level, like the car in the previous example.

You can make your container level by making sure all four corners of your container are sitting on the same level ground. When selecting a foundation for your container, grassy or muddy areas should be avoided, along with tarmac. It might help to elevate your container on rail ties: treated wood that can ensure it maintains a level condition.

By making sure that your container is level and raised off the ground, you’re helping maintain the life of your container. This should lessen the likelihood of problems and expensive repairs and reduce the chance standing water entering your container.


Door and Hinge Maintenance

A shipping container diagram that showcases where the gaskets fit into the cargo doors.
Shipping containers gaskets can keep moisture out of your container, forming a barrier that blocks off the inside of the container.

Doors and hinges are two essential moving parts in any container. They are also a primary source of container problems. If a container isn’t well maintained and regularly lubricated, its doors might not open or may become still when opening.

The first place to look for door maintenance is the section above because unleveled containers can cause problems with container doors. When storage material is overloaded on one side, it can cause the frame of the container to twist, applying pressure on the doors of the container.

However, not every door problem is caused by containers without a solid foundation. Doors, pins, and hinges can become stuck with overuse and may require lubrication. Clean the doors with a commercial cleaner. Next, apply a lubricant like WD-40, Fluid Film or Armor All to the locking bars and other parts of the door that are stuck.

Gasket Maintenance

Gaskets are a crucial part of your container that you must regularly examine for wear and tear. These rubber seals line the doors of your container and prevent water from entering the container. These seals are very strong and can last as long as 10 years.

Additionally, they can serve as proof if someone attempts to break into your container. Gaskets make it difficult for thieves to get stored materials, sometimes requiring special tools for removal. If a thief wants to be in and out without leaving a trace, a quality gasket can make them think twice.

Your gaskets take care of your container, so take care of your gaskets by maintaining them. If gaskets are cracked or worn, it might be time to replace them.

Modified Container Maintenance

One of the most impressive qualities of shipping containers is that you can modify them for a wide variety of uses. From adding windows and doors to power systems and lighting, you can add a lot to a basic container. However, these modifications reveal new areas that need monitoring and maintenance.

When searching for rust and damage, make sure that you check that all modifications are working as intended. This might look different depending on the modifications your container has. A container with electrical wiring problems will require more intense maintenance than a container with a planning desk.

Talk with your sales representative about container maintenance care for your modified container.

Container Maintenance Summary

While containers are robust storage solutions that can endure a lot, they still need to be maintained like any other equipment. When you know what to look for, container maintenance isn’t difficult.

You save money by identifying potential problem areas and acting quickly before minor issues become bigger headaches.

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