How To Open And Close The Doors Of Your Shipping Containers

Written by Tami McDonald

Opening and closing shipping container doors aren’t as easy as it seems.  Unless you are buying a brand new container you will run into problems.

There are some good ways around this.

First, you’ll learn why the ground foundation is so important.  Next, you’ll learn the proper way to open and close the doors.

You’ll also learn what to do if the doors are stuck or hard to open.

Last, you’ll understand why all this is so important.

A Good Foundation

Why is the foundation of where your shipping container will sit so important?

Have you ever heard the old saying…if your foundation isn’t right then you might as well not build it?  Or something like that.  Well, it’s true!

Before you place your container on the ground you need to clear the land that it’s on.

It seems so obvious but many people neglect this step.  It’s more than moving some rocks and branches out of the way.  The ground itself needs to be level.


First of all, it helps to make sure you have secure container placement.  Next, it creates an even weight distribution.

If the weight distribution is not even nor level it can cause pinched doors.  Not to mention bent corners and other defects.

Let’s face it, if you have pinched doors and bent corners, how will you open and close the doors in the first place?

None of the following steps will matter or help to solve those problems if this is the case.

You don’t want to be in a position where you have to start all over again.

How To Open and Close Shipping Container Doors Properly

Step 1 – Opening the shipping container doors

Before you even consider opening any of the doors always start with the right door first.

If you try to open the left door first it won’t work.

Also, don’t even think about opening both of the doors at the same time either.  Why?  Because it binds in the middle and there’s no way you can pull both doors open because of it.


  • Start with the right hand door
  • Lift both latches above the handles
  • Pull both handles at the same time to release
  • Pull the door open
  • Left door, the same thing
  • Both latches up
  • Pull both handles at the same time to release the door

Step 2 – Closing the shipping container doors

Next, is closing the doors.

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Now you are going to do the opposite of what you did to open them.

To close the shipping container doors the right way you will always start with the left side door.


  • Close the left door first
  • Make sure the bars are straight and go inside the grooves
  • Close the handles then the latches
  • If they don’t close press down using your foot
  • Then repeat the same as above with the right door

What To Do if the Shipping Container Doors are Hard to Open or Close

Okay, you have a good foundation.  You followed the above steps to a T but you still find it hard to open and close those darn doors!

What do you do?

Depending if the climate is hot or cold, this could pose some problems opening and closing your doors.

Also, if you bought a used shipping container it may have some rust around the door hinges.

First, you could use your hands and try pushing the door inward.  It could help to move the door out of its locked position.

But let’s face it, you are going to need more help than inner strength.

Two things you can also try:

  1. WD-40
  2. A Blow Torch

WD-40 or something like it can help to lubricate the rusty door hinges. Spray or apply it to the hinges. Afterward, open and close the doors back and forth a few times to loosen them up.

WD-40 or something like it can help to lubricate the rusty door hinges.  Spray or apply it to the hinges.  Afterward, open and close the doors back and forth a few times to loosen them up.

Good ‘ole WD-40.  You can’t beat it!

Next, use a blow torch. No, I haven’t lost my mind. It actually works!

Next, use a blow torch.  No, I haven’t lost my mind.  It actually works!

Of course, be very careful and use protective face and hand gear before doing so.

Aim the blow torch on the door hinges and heat it up for a few minutes.  This will loosen up the metal and make it softer.  Then open and close the doors back and forth several times.

Keep repeating until you get the doors where they are easy to open and close for you.

I would stick with the WD-40 or another type of lubricant.  But hey, if you have a blow torch sitting around and are out of WD-40 then why not?

If the door is difficult to open, try pushing the door inward with your hand. This will help move the door out of its locked position.

Why You Should Learn to Open and Close Shipping Container Doors the Right Way

If you try to open and close the container doors any other way you may hurt yourself.  Injuries can and will happen.

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I don’t know about you but I don’t want to end up with a severe cut.

Then have to go to the emergency room for stitches and a tetanus shot.

All over trying to get into my shipping container to move some things around.  Yikes!

Besides following the steps above you should also keep this in mind as well.

Besides following the steps above you should also keep this in mind as well.

Remember that the handles of the container doors should be in front of you.  They should also be above your waist and below your shoulders.

Plus, use your leg muscles and not your back!

How?  You pull back using your whole body.

If you can’t open it then ask someone else to help out.  Or, you could call a professional to come out and inspect the container.  Then make any repairs that are necessary.

Last, if you’ve tried everying and you still can’t get the shipping container doors open then send it back!

The container may have been damaged in an accident that you didn’t know about.  Which is causing the problem in the first place.



If you didn’t buy a new shipping container you will have difficulties opening and closing the doors.

Rust on the door hinges usually is the problem of why you can’t open and close them.  Yet a poor foundation before you take delivery of your shipping container can also be a problem too.

Learning how to keep the door hinges loose is one preventive measure you can take.

Also, learning how to open and close the doors of your shipping container is another.  It will save your back and prevent a trip to the emergency room.

Call Used Conex for any questions you may have at 855-524-0888.  We’d be happy to help you at any time!

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