There are two parts on a shipping container, turned into a storage container, which actually get touched and moved, these are the hinges and the cam locks. Because these two parts get moved and operated, any issues become evident quickly and they get more frustrating as the capability to use them declines. Doing a little a little research to see what people do to maintain the hinges on their storage containers I was surprised to find there seems to be no sure formula. Rather this research resulted in a potpourri of ideas, concoctions and philosophy on container hinge maintenance. Honestly the most effective idea I learned was the most straight forward but we’ll get to that later.
The things which ought to occur in hinge maintenance are two-fold; the first is to get the crud out. The crud buildup is what binds the door and causes it to be hard to move. The second thing needed is to lubricate the two hinge surfaces that rub together to maintain easy operation and to keep crud from building up. If both of these things happen you will have a smooth operating door. I located a discussion thread indicating people have used mixtures of; muriatic acid and liquid soap, diesel fuel and motor oil, paint thinner and brake fluid, three parts penetrating oil and one part automatic transmission fluid, and automatic transmission fluid and acetone to mention a few. I’m uncertain which one worked better than others but each of these had one thing in common, one of the mixture parts broke down or forced out the gunk and the other part of the mixture offered some form of oiling to the hinge.
Two over the counter products that people have had success with are “Fluid Film” which is available at Grainger Supply and “Rust Check,” Rust Check is available in Canada however I don’t believe it can found in the States. From reading product literature, these products both flushed the crud out of the hinge and offered some lubrication.
The straight forward plan I spoke of earlier would be to clean out the container hinges with penetrating fluid or paint thinner then drill a hole, tap it and install a zerk fitting in each hinge and fill them with grease once or twice a year. The grease will both lubricate for easy action and will keep crud from entering into the hinge causing the door to bind up again.
This topic of shipping container hinge maintenance seems to be one of those with several different solutions instead of one or two techniques. Many of us have some combination of these products on the shelf somewhere so rather than running to the auto parts retailer for transmission fluid and the gas station for diesel fuel simply go to the kitchen for some liquid soap and to the container for some paint thinner, mix it up try it on the hinges and let us know how it works.