Shipping containers are incredibly durable and versatile. Their relative affordability means they can be found across the globe performing various duties with transporting goods as their primary job. Since they are giant steel boxes, they do this job very well. Unfortunately, shipping containers tend to be left exposed to the elements until needed again when that task is completed. Since they are giant boxes, some people think they can be left alone and remain in excellent functioning condition. That isn’t the case, though. Shipping containers do need regular maintenance to stay functional. Knowing the signs when shipping container maintenance is needed can help save the container keeping it sound for decades.

Keeping an eye on them for maintenance is easy enough, but it’s essential to know how to care for the containers to make them last. Some aspects are apparent, like keeping the paint up-to-date to prevent rust, but sometimes it can take a little extra knowledge to ensure the containers remain in usable shape.

Signs Maintenance is Needed


The most common and most obvious danger for a shipping container is rust. They are, after all, giant steel boxes. When manufactured, these boxes are treated with weatherproof and water-resistant paints, but time can wear those coatings away. So, ensuring the paint job remains in excellent condition is the first step in rust prevention. Then keeping standing water off the container and the bottom of the container dry completes this maintenance routine.

Sagging Roof or Walls

Along with potential rust, the roof can sag with time, especially if it is not correctly placed on a flat surface with even weight distribution. Keeping the roof clear of debris, excess weight, and water will help prevent warping or sagging.

Sticking Hinges

Rust and simple wear can affect the various hinges around a shipping container. Over time, metal scraping against metal can cause wear, remove paint, and result in squeaking, sticking, and, naturally, rust. Therefore, hinges should be checked regularly and maintained with new paint and lubricant.

Moldy Interior

Along with the outside, the inside needs to be regularly checked. This check is essential for containers with HVAC systems. Not only is there a risk of rust, but also mold or mildew. Keeping an eye on the heater or cooler and the walls for mold growth will help keep the container clean. Removing mold can be easy enough once it’s spotted. However, making sure it doesn’t come back might require HVAC repairs, so keep an eye on the system. Most likely, it’s a moisture issue from excessive humidity.

Buckled & Unlevel Flooring

The floor buckling or warping can happen if the container is not kept on a level surface for even weight distribution. Signs of warping or buckling are pretty easy to spot. Flat, hard surfaces are ideal for shipping container storage.

The importance of a flat, level surface has been mentioned several times now. However, the placement location of the containers can shift occasionally. If that is the case, the containers need to be re-leveled to prevent warping.

Frequent Maintenance Chores to Complete

Rust Prevention

As for the ever-present risk of rust, prevention can be achieved with thorough cleaning and drying of the container, especially the roof and inside. Dents picked up along the years are also potential rust points and should be scrutinized.

Lubricate Hinges

As for the hinges, regular lubrication and the occasional opening and closing to make sure everything is working correctly will help. First, open the right door and check carefully for rust, squeaking, or sticking when inspecting. Clean, lubricate, and repaint as needed. Repeat the same process for the left door.

Interior Cleaning

The inside of the container might seem safe, but the risk of rust and mold is still present, especially if an HVAC system is involved. Measuring humidity and checking for mold or wear in the system itself should be done regularly. If there are issues, they need to be addressed to prevent further damage. After all, no one wants to use a container filled with mold or vents clogged with debris.

Maintenance is Necessary

Some people tend to think that shipping container maintenance isn’t needed. While containers are durable and weatherproof to a massive extent, some damage will occur if they’re sitting in a lot for months or even years on end. Paint can get chipped or scratched off, water can accumulate, and the ground can settle in strange ways. Proper maintenance of shipping containers is needed to keep them in working order. Otherwise, they won’t be weather- or rust-resistant anymore, and that tends to defeat the purpose of shipping containers in the first place. Keeping them maintained ensures they can do what they do best when needed.

Carolina Containers

Is your business in need of shipping containers? Carolina Containers can help. We carry a large inventory of shipping containers in all sizes and can instruct you on proper shipping container maintenance. We can even do customized modifications to meet your needs. For more information, contact us at 919-562-9187.