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How to Compact Asphalt With a Plate Compactor DIY

Updated April 07, 2017

In road building, long stretches of asphalt are compacted with heavy equipment. For smaller jobs, such as filling potholes or resurfacing driveways, asphalt is usually compacted with a machine called a plate compactor or a hand tool called a tamper. Asphalt is compacted to force the aggregates in the paving material closer together and flatten the surface. Plate compactors made for use on asphalt have ductile iron compacting plates.

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  1. Shovel asphalt over the surface you want to pave. Position the plate compactor at one end of the uncompacted asphalt layer. Fill the water tank if your plate compactor is equipped with a water tank.

  2. Unlock the plate compactor handle according to the instructions for your compactor. This is usually done by pulling a pin. Lower the handle to a comfortable operating position, and relock the handle.

  3. Start the engine according the compactor's instructions. Most plate compactors have a gasoline engine that starts with a pull-cord, similar to a lawnmower engine. Allow the engine to run at low speed for five minutes.

  4. Open the throttle on your compactor all the way according to the instructions for your compactor. Fully opening the throttle will make the compactor vibrate.

  5. Control the direction of the compactor, but allow the machine to move on its own. Steer the machine by pushing the handle to the right to go left and pushing it left to go right.

  6. Turn off the compactor, according to the instructions, when the area is fully compacted.

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Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Instructions for your compactor
  • Water (if required)

About the Author

Don Davis has been a professional writer since 1977. He has had numerous writing jobs, including writing news and features for the "Metrowest Daily News" and "Los Angeles Herald-Examiner." Davis has a Bachelor of Arts in English and history from Indiana State University.

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