Shipping containers are built to last. Notoriously sturdy and reliable, they can sustain harsh environments and be an invaluable investment if appropriately maintained.
Steel, along with aluminium and fibre-reinforced polymer, often make up shipping containers, providing them with the strength and durability they are known for. While they can withstand extreme conditions, this also means they are more likely exposed to wear and tear. Understandably, efficient maintenance is vital to keep their structural integrity intact.
Regular maintenance is imperative to the longevity of your shipping container for many reasons, including:
- To prevent damage to the stored contents,
- To prolong the life of the container,
- To decrease the need for costly repairs,
- To sustain the containers certification for transit, and
- To get your money’s worth.
Follow our comprehensive seven-step maintenance guide to ensure you preserve the life of your container and can avoid the costly frustration of significant repairs.
How to Maintain Your Shipping Container
Ultimately, the most efficient way to prevent the need for costly repairs is to purchase a high-quality shipping container in the first place. This means purchasing it from a company that uses proper loading, transportation and modification procedures to ensure it gets to you in optimal condition.
Seeking out experienced professionals to perform any repairs, modifications or maintenance you may require is the next best way to ensure your shipping container lasts a lifetime. However, there are a few maintenance tasks you can do yourself to keep things simple and cost-effective.
1. Treat damaged or rusted areas immediately
While shipping containers are generally rust-resistant, this doesn’t mean they are always rustproof. Corten steel exhibits higher corrosion-resistant properties compared to other steels, but again, it is not completely rustproof.
Once your container has suffered damage or rust, it is instantly more prone to corrosion and further damage, drastically depreciating its lifespan. This makes it extremely important that you examine both the interior and exterior of your container and look for areas that have been scratched, cut or are exhibiting rust. Steel is notoriously sensitive to salt air environments, so either avoid storing it in such a location or pay close attention to the condition of your container.
If you do come across any damaged or rusted elements in your inspection, treat these areas immediately. You can do this by sealing, painting and rustproofing them before they cause extreme corrosion and become a great detriment to your container’s structural integrity.
2. Lubricate hinges
Fortunately, shipping containers generally only have a few moving parts, which is extremely helpful for maintenance.
The container’s functionality relies heavily on door hinges and handles, meaning it is vital they receive regular cleaning and inspection. Specifically, if door hinges aren’t used for an extended period, the hinges have the potential to seize.
If the door handles won’t pull out to 90 degrees, it is likely there is an issue and a good chance the handles are ceased. This can make it difficult to access your storage and can even cause injury because of the required strain it will take to open the door.
Regularly applying grease to the door hinges will help keep the hinges and doors working smoothly. In addition, they can be more thoroughly cleaned and lubricated with a heavy-duty, anti-corrosion and anti-moisture lubricant.
3. Check container modifications
As an altered element to your shipping containers original structure, all modifications should be regularly checked to ensure they are still adequate and functioning correctly.
Shipping containers are commonly modified in various shapes and forms, often involving them being cut and welded back together to modify their size. While this is an adequate way to treat a shipping container, it can negatively affect its ability to resist corrosion, dirt and water.
Regularly look over your containers modified areas, specifically around the joints or metal areas, to confirm they are clean and free of corrosion. If any areas have collected dirt, debris or water, clean them out immediately and remove any rust and treat the area with anti-corrosive paint.
4. Keep it on a suitable surface
Adequately preparing a site for a shipping container is one of the most detrimental steps to guaranteeing the life of your container.
Flat hardy surfaces are the most optimal place to keep your shipping container. Alternatively, if you are in an area that regularly receives a lot of water or runoff, place containers on railroad ties or concrete blocks to keep them raised from the ground and on even setting. This will not only make it easier to avoid corrosion of puddles of water developing under the container, but it allows you to open the doors with ease.
However, we understand that one of the main appeals to shipping containers is their mobility. The ability to transport and place containers wherever, wherever, is extremely enticing. Whether you’re temporarily storing your container, or permanently structuring it, you must do the proper groundwork first.
5. Avoid excess weight on the roof
Standard shipping containers are designed to withstand a massive 192 ton of weight stacked on its corner posts. While this suggests that containers can support another six fully loaded 40ft containers, it is important to pay close attention to what you’re putting on top of your container.
If heavy and unsteady objects are placed on your container’s roof, it has the potential to create dents. These dents can then collect rainwater and cause nasty leaks, rust and corrosion. To avoid this from occurring, it is best to avoid placing such careless and heavy objects on your container.
However, if your container does end up suffering dents and damages, ensure they are repaired and treated immediately and accordingly with rust-proof paint to prevent corrosion.
6. Manage storage
While it can be easy to look at the external surface of your container with confidence, it is crucial not to forget the importance of internal integrity. Managing your storage and ensuring nothing inside is causing harm to your container is an often forgotten, yet important element of container maintenance.
It is highly recommended that you only store dry goods in your container to avoid condensation. In addition, avoid storing furniture, clothing or other sensitive goods against the walls where condensation is more likely to form.
Choosing a container with vents installed is a great way to ensure airflow and reduce condensation. However, you should also consider the external environment and not open the doors when rainy or extremely humid.
Ultimately, regularly cleaning out and managing your storage will not only ensure the safety of the contents but the integrity of your shipping container.
7. Repair the refrigeration unit
Reefers, or refrigerated shipping containers, are a popular type of shipping container. The additional features that this type of container acquires makes it important it is regularly serviced to avoid expensive repairs.
While it is best to seek the advice and assistance of a qualified technician to do the repairs for you, this shouldn’t stop you from regularly checking the system and equipment even if it has just been maintained. Technicians can diagnose any electrical or mechanical issues and ensure the container’s interior meets the intended refrigeration standards and requirements.
Maintenance never sounds fun or exciting. However, it is a lot more enticing than having to fork out cash to repair issues that could have been prevented.
Following these few simple steps can help keep your shipping container looking new and functioning accordingly.
As specialists in all things shipping containers, the friendly team at Tiger Containers is here to provide you with the information you didn’t even know you were looking for.