Stiff swinging, hard to open doors on a used shipping container can be a frustrating problem. Many people buy a shipping container for some type of storage, and they are going to be in and out of the unit on a regular basis. One thing they don’t want is to cringe in fear of a full body workout every time they need to open the doors. Luckily, the problem of stiff doors can be quick to diagnose and relatively easy to fix.
Potential Cause #1: The first reaction to stiff doors is naturally "apply grease", but that’s not the place to start. The first thing you’ll want to do is close both doors and check that the top and bottom corners of each door are in line with each other. If they’re not, the container probably isn’t level and that’s the cause of the stiff doors.
Potential Cause #2: The lack of good lubrication. If the container has been in the depot for any amount of time, the wind and rain may have washed off some of the grease that’s on the bolts, hinges, and locking arms of the container.
Solution 2: Apply a liberal coat of heavy duty grease (not WD-40, the kind from a grease gun) and work the hinges regularly until them move freely. It may not happen overnight, but with some persistence you will win out over the doors.
Potential Cause #3: Those heavy duty door seals can prevent the door from opening easily. Shipping containers are designed to withstand heavy rain, wind, sand storms, and anything else mother nature can throw at them. One of the ways they do this is through a heavy duty seal around the doors. This seal can be so that when a container is lost overboard it floats just below the surface of the water. In a normal, residential or commercial storage application, those seals may be overkill.
Solution #3: This solution is a last resort, but has been known to work in the past. Most doors on the container have both a very thick rubber seal, and a rubber flap that covers and openings (you might have similar flaps on a screen or storm door in your house). If you remove the thick seal and leave the flap the container will usually still do a great job keeping out wind, rain, and rodents. The thick rubber seal makes it harder for the doors to close, but does seal them up tightly. The thick seal can be cut out with a utility knife.
Naturally, everyone would like to purchase an affordable used shipping container that looks like, and operates like a new shipping container. However, the prices between the two can vary greatly. And truth be told, if the container isn’t level it won’t matter if it’s new or used, the doors will always be stiff. If your storage or shipping container is suffering from stiff doors, be sure and investigate the cause of the problem before you start greasing the hinges and shimming the corners. A little time spent investigating the cause of the problem can save you both time and money.