Back to basics: How to open and close shipping container doors

First-time users often wonder how to open shipping container doors. Unless you’ve used a container before, you might not have realised just how complex the process can be. Of course, once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll wonder why you ever struggled in the first place.nn n

Step-by-step guide

nIf you’ve got your first big box and you’re finding your shipping container doors hard to open, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you:n


  • Make sure your container is placed on a flat, level surface before attempting to open or close the doors.
  • n

  • Concentrate on the right-hand door first. You will notice there are two handles, each with a custom catch attach. Flick both of these upwards.
  • n

  • The handles are connected to two lockrods which run from the top to the bottom of the container. At both ends of the lockrods, you’ll find a cam and a keeper. In order to unlock the door, you need to dis-engage these. Gently lift the handles and pull them out towards you.
  • n

  • To open, lightly tug the inner door handle and then the outer door handle, before pulling both at the same time. Be sure to pull with your legs, rather than your back, to prevent injury.
  • n

nFollowing this guide should make it easy to open the container doors. When it comes to closing the shipping container doors, work backwards, closing the left-hand door first and then the right.nn n

When your shipping container door is hard to open

nMost of the time, opening and closing the doors of your shipping container is a simple, straightforward process, but occasionally, doors can become stuck. Reaching for your nearest crowbar might seem like the only reasonable option, but this might lead to you damaging the container, and possibly yourself. Instead, you need to understand the mechanics behind the door system, in order to assess why the door is jammed.nnStarting with the hinges, you will notice there are usually four or five per door. In order for the door to operate smoothly, these must all be in alignment. Any hinges that are offset or out of place will create resistance and make it difficult to open the door. Most containers will be presented in a fit-for-purpose condition and without tampering, the hinges should all be in the correct place. If they are not, it might be a problem with the J-bar which can twist the hinges when damaged. If all the hinges appear to be in the right place, try applying a little oil to loosen them up.nnIf you are following the directions on how to open shipping container doors and your container is on a firm, flat base, then there may be another reason why the shipping container door is hard to open.nn n

Issues that can cause container doors to get stuck

nThe main reason behind a container door not opening or being stiff is due to it not being placed on level ground. This is due to the back end twisting or dropping. If the container has dropped you can simply look at the black seal on the door, if they are out of line then the container is not level. nnAnother problem could be that the door gasket has been damaged. This is a usually flexible part of the door that can become hard if mistreated, preventing the user from opening or closing the door properly.nnContainers that have travelled overseas can sometimes have issues with water damage. This can cause the hinge pins and blades to become corroded over time. Sometimes, water can get stuck between the doors and become frozen, especially in colder weather or when transporting freezing goods. If you think this might be the case, get in touch with the provider of your container, who can advise you on an alternative way of getting the container open. nnIf force is required, it is always best to take photos of the cause and inform the provider in advance, so that they don’t bill you for the damage. nnTake care when opening filled containers. The doors may seem heavy and difficult to open, but they are designed to keep the contents inside! If it has been a particularly bumpy journey and the container has not been well packed, you might find things fall out when you open it, so just be careful!nn nnHopefully we’ve answered any questions you may have had about opening shipping container doors. If you have any further queries or would like to buy or rent a container of your own, get in touch with the friendly Unit Hire team.nn 

Comments are closed.