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10 Best Vibratory Plate Compactors – (Reviews & Buying Guide 2020)


best vibratory plate compactor

A vibratory plate compactor is one of the most indispensable tools you can have on any landscaping project. Many people think that creating driveways and patios is as simple as laying down the material. In reality, it takes a lot more work than that. You see, creating a hard outdoor surface is a lot like preparing the site for a building.

So, the question is why I need to buy plate compactor? The ground below you is made up of numerous minerals and a slew of organic matter. As a result, it’s constantly shifting and settling. Have you ever wondered why concrete slab foundations for homes and commercial buildings have to be so thick? It’s to create a safe and stable surface for the structure on top. Without that dense concrete underneath, the building would eventually become damaged as the soil shifts.

The same thing occurs when you do not compact the soil below a driveway, patio, or sidewalk. This can happen regardless of the material you end up using. Unfortunately, far too many people end up skipping this crucial step and end up with cracks, unevenness, and more.

Luckily, plate compactors are available to save you headaches in the future. The best vibratory plate compactor will be able to create a dense base that’s strong enough to support everything from gravel to concrete pavers. Whether you’re a contractor looking for gear to help you out on future jobs or a homeowner wanting a DIY-friendly tool for your next landscaping project, there are plenty of great plate compactors on the market.

In this in-depth guide, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about vibrating plate compactors. We’ll help you learn more about what this equipment has to offer and provide you with some valuable information that you can use on your search. In the end, we hope that you can use what you learn to find a good plate compactor that works for your needs.

 Vibratory Plate Compactor Reviews (Updated List) 

Vibratory Plate compactors are no small investment. We want you to make a purchasing decision that you can stand behind. So, we’ve rounded up the top rated plate compactors that money can buy and have done all of the research for you. Our goal is to provide you with valuable information about the best that this industry has to offer. We update our recommended picks regularly to reflect changes in the market, so make sure to check back often.

1. Multiquip MVC82VHW Honda GX160 Vibratory Plate Compactor

Bestseller No. 1
Multiquip MVC82VHW Honda GX160 Plate Compactor with Water Tank, 18" Wide - Black/orange
  • Anti-vibration handle, reduces vibration to the operator by 50%

Quick Features:

  • Steel curved plate
  • 8 horsepower engine
  • Anti-vibration handle
  • Built-in water tank
  • Centrifugal force of 3,080 pounds
  • Plate measures 18 inches wide
  • 5,600 VPM
  • Moves 72 feet per minute
  • One-year limited warranty

This vibratory plate compactor from Multiquip is a solidly built machine that can serve professional landscapers and homeowners alike. It has received our top spot because it checks off all the boxes. The compactor is made out of high strength steel. Not just on the plate, but also the box protecting the mechanics.

The plate is moderately sized and features curved edges. As a result, it’s a great device for most projects. You can move it around tight corners and curves without any issues. On top of all that, the plate compactor has an anti-vibration handle for comfort and a water tank for versatility.

In terms of performance, this compactor machine does not disappoint. It has a high centrifugal force rating of more than 3,000 pounds. Pair that with the frequency rating of 5,600 vibrations per minute and you’ll have no problem creating a strong foundation for your next project.

  • Heavy-duty construction
  • Handle reduces vibrations by up to 50 percent
  • Water tank holds almost 3 gallons
  • Low fuel consumption
  • Very maneuverable
  • Not reversible

2. Tomahawk Power TPC80H Honda Gas Powered Vibratory Plate Compactor

Bestseller No. 1

Quick Features:

  • Steel plate with curved edges
  • 5 horsepower engine
  • 3,000 pounds of centrifugal force
  • 6,400 VPM
  • Plate measures 17 inches wide
  • 5,600 VPM
  • Moves 79 feet per minute
  • Six-year limited warranty

One look at this model from Tomahawk and it’s obvious that this powerful plate compactor means business. It’s powered by a robust Honda engine that generates 5.5 horsepower. With all that power, the equipment is capable of producing some impressive results. It has a high-frequency rating of 6,400 VPM. For each of those vibrations, the ground is receiving 3,000 pounds of centrifugal force.

Like our number one pick, the plate and box are made out of steel for durability. So, with all of this compactor’s power capabilities, why did it get our number two spot? Well, it falls short of our top-pick when it comes to comfort and convenience. There is no anti-vibration handle, which is a big deal-breaker for a lot of people looking for comfort features. Also, the vibratory compactor doesn’t have a water tank for asphalt work.

  • Does well on cohesive and granular soil
  • Multi-position handle
  • Moves relatively fast
  • Easy to turn
  • Not reversible
  • No water tank
  • Basic handle

3. WEN 56035T Construction Zone Compactor

Bestseller No. 1
WEN 56035T 7 HP 4500-Pound Compaction Force Plate Compactor, CARB Compliant, Black
  • Powerful: 212cc engine is larger than most in its class, producing 4, 496lbs of force at 5, 400 blows per minute

Quick Features:

  • Single-direction plate
  • Steel sled plate
  • 4,496 pounds of centrifugal force
  • 5,600 VPM
  • Plate measures 7.75 by 24 inches
  • Moves 82 feet per minute
  • Swinging handle
  • 7 horsepower engine
  • Three-year limited warranty

From WEN is the 56035T construction zone plate compactor. With one of the most powerful engines on our list, this compactor has what it takes to complete most jobs without breaking a sweat. The 7 horsepower engine provides 4,486 pounds of centrifugal force while the steel plate moves at 5,600 vibrations per minute.

One thing that stands out about this reliable plate compactor is vibration protection. WEN has included a couple of features to help you avoid fatigue. First, there are isolators between the plate and the engine. They help to cut back on the vibrations that travel up the handle. To dampen vibrations even further, the handles are covered in high-density foam.

  • Powder-coated finish for protection
  • Padded handle
  • Vibration isolation between plate and engine
  • Easy to turn
  • Low oil shutdown
  • Not reversible
  • No water tank

4. Tomahawk Power TPC80-P Kohler Vibratory Plate Compactor

Quick Features:

  • Single-direction curved plate
  • 6 horsepower engine
  • 3,000 pounds of centrifugal force
  • 6,400 VPM
  • Plate measures 7.75 by 21 inches
  • Moves 79 feet per minute
  • Anti-vibration handle
  • Three-year engine warranty

Looking for a vibrating plate compactor that can do it all? This Tomahawk machine may be for you. It performs well across the board thanks to its 6 horsepower engine. The compactor vibrates 6,400 times a minute at a force of 3,000 pounds. Not only that, but it moves pretty quickly too. You can cover 79 feet each minute.

While this gravel compactor may not have all of the fancy features as some of our other picks, it is quite comfortable to use. The anti-vibration handle reduces the effects of compacting quite a bit, which is a nice touch. Thanks to the handle, you can crank the machine up and work on a large area before fatigue starts to kick in.

  • Comfortable to use
  • Built-in lift handles
  • High maneuverability
  • Vibrates as deep as 22 inches
  • Comes with removable water tank
  • Not reversible

5. Yardmax YC0850 Compaction Force Vibrating Plate Compactor

YARDMAX YC1390 3000 lb. Compaction Force Plate Compactor, 6.5 hp, 208cc, 5500 BPM, Briggs & Stratton
  • Briggs & Stratton 6.5 HP OHV engine provides the precise amount of power while delivering cleaner, more fuel-efficient results.

Quick Features:

  • Folding design
  • 5 horsepower engine
  • Curved steel plate
  • 5,900 VPM
  • Plate measures 7.5 by 20 inches
  • Moves 75 feet per minute
  • 1,850 pounds of centrifugal force
  • Two-year residential warranty

Yardmax is one of the most prestigious outdoor equipment brands. This versatile plate compactor continuous the company’s legacy of excellence. It’s designed for home use, though it can still provide plenty of benefits for professionals.

One thing we like about this model is its small size. The plate is a bit smaller than some other options on this list. While that may seem like a detriment, it makes getting around tight spots much easier. When you’re not using the plate tamper, the handle folds down for storage. Plus, there are built-in wheels and lift handles so that you can take this tool with you on the go.

  • Folding handle
  • Flip-down wheels for easy transportation
  • Smaller plate
  • Plate made out of single piece of molded steel
  • Not reversible
  • No anti-vibration handle
  • Weaker compact force

6. Jumping Jack JXPC50H Vibratory Compactor for Soil and Asphalt

Quick Features:

  • 5 horsepower engine
  • Curved steel plate
  • 3,000 pounds of centrifugal force
  • 6,400 VPM
  • Moves 79 feet per minute
  • 1,850 pounds of centrifugal force
  • Three-year engine warranty

Like many of Tomahawk’s other products, the Jumping Jack compactor is versatile enough to be used in many different situations. The plate compacter is ideal for granular soil. However, it works quite well in dirt that contains a lot of clay. You can even use it on asphalt, though the paver compactor does not work with water tanks.

If that’s not a deal-breaker, you’ll love the machine’s solid construction. High-strength steel is used throughout. It’s used on the curved plate as well as the handle and frame. A simple protective shell is used to cover the engine block. This unique design helps to keep the equipment safe from harm in busy work sites.

  • Lift handles
  • Folding handle for storage
  • Durable construction
  • Not reversible
  • Basic handle
  • Can’t be used with water tank

7. Dirty Hand Tools 104001 Vibratory Plate Compactor

Dirty Hand Tools | 104001 | Vibratory Plate Compactor | 196CC 2,922 Lbs. Force | 21.26 x 16.54 Inch Plate Size...
  • POWERFUL | 196cc EPA/CARB approved engine for 50 state use; 0.63 quarts (0.6 liters) engine oil capacity; 3600 RPM operating speed

Quick Features:

  • 5 horsepower engine
  • Curved plate
  • 2,922 pounds of centrifugal force
  • 5,500 VPM
  • Moves 49 feet per minute
  • Removable rubber mat
  • Plate measures 16.5 inches wide
  • Two-year limited warranty

If you’re looking for something simple and cost-effective, consider the vibratory plate compactor from Dirty Hand Tools. It’s a smaller alternative to some of the beefier options on this list. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t get the job done. It can provide you with 5,500 vibrations per minute at 2,922 pounds of force. The plate is less than 17 inches wide, which improves maneuverability. Plus, there’s a thumb throttle for greater control as you work.

The stone compactor is designed to be very portable. Not only does it have wheels, but the handles fold down as well to save some space. The device also comes with a removable rubber pad. After you have compacted the soil and installed your pavers, the machine can be used with the rubber mat to lock everything in.

  • Adjustable throttle
  • Folding handle
  • Transport wheels
  • Can be used on top of pavers
  • Durable drive belt cover
  • Slower directional speed
  • Smaller fuel tank
  • Plate not made of steel

8. Stark USA 61006 Heavy-Duty Vibration Plate Compactor

Stark 6.5HP Gas Vibration Compaction Force Industry Plate Compactor Construction 4000Lbs Force Heavy Duty...
  • ★ Ideally used for finishing asphalt, sand, and sloped surfaces while working within narrow confined areas; Can be used in multiple jobs such as working on walkways,...

Quick Features:

  • Single curved plate
  • 5 horsepower engine
  • 4,000 pounds of centrifugal force
  • 3,600 VPM
  • Moves about 53 feet per minute
  • Removable rubber mat
  • Plate measures 18 inches wide by 25 inches long

Despite its simple design, this Stark USA plate compactor is a force to be reckoned with during any landscaping project. The powerful 6.5 horsepower motor applies 4,000 pounds of centrifugal force. That’s one of the highest ratings on our list. With all that force, you can compact the earth down to 790 inches.

To make things even better, the robust machine has a built-in water tank and sprinkler system. You can use it to prepare the work surface or to provide some protection whenever you’re working on asphalt. There are some notable downsides. Because the centrifugal force is so powerful, the plate compactor is a bit slower when it comes to vibration frequency and forward movement.

  • Adjustable hand throttle
  • Can compact as deep as 790 inches
  • Comes with water tank and sprinkler
  • Foldable wheels
  • Padding on handle bars
  • No anti-vibration handle
  • Lower frequency rating
  • Slower forward movement
  • Can’t move in reverse

9. Dirty Hand Tools 104950 Vibratory Compactor

Dirty Hand Tools | 104950 | Vibratory Plate Compactor | 79CC 1,843 Lbs. Force | 19.5 x 12.6 Inch Plate Size
  • POWERFUL | 79cc EPA/CARB approved engine for 50 state use; 0.63 quarts (0.6 liters) engine oil capacity; 3600 RPM operating speed

Quick Features:

  • 1,843 pounds of centrifugal force
  • Curved steel plate
  • 5,500 VPM
  • Moves at 82 feet per minute
  • Plate measures 12.5 inches wide by 19.5 inches long
  • Two-year limited warranty

Like the other Dirty Hands tool on this list, this compacting option is quite portable. It has a smaller steel plate that’s only 12 and a half inches in width. When you factor in the folding handles and transport wheels, this is an excellent device for working on the go.

There are some things that we don’t like about this vibratory model. Its biggest flaw is the weak engine. It only produces 1,843 pounds of centrifugal force. While you can easily navigate tight spots, the weaker vibrations may require you make several passes before the ground is properly compacted. Luckily, the plate compactor moves relatively fast at 82 feet per minute.

  • Thumb throttle
  • Small footprint
  • Foldable wheels
  • Foldable handle with padding
  • Very easy to maneuver
  • Covers more ground in less time
  • No anti-vibration handle
  • Does not come with rubber pad or water tank
  • Confusing user manual
  • Can’t move in reverse
  • Weaker compact force

10. Cormac C95TH Honda Engine GX160 Plate Compactor

CORMAC C95TH plate compactor gasoline engine GX160 @ 5.5Hp & water tank
  • CORMAC C95TH forward plate compactor with 6.5Hp gasoline engine GX160 and water tank

Quick Features:

  • 5 horsepower engine
  • Built-in water tank
  • Curved steel base plate
  • 3,370 pounds of centrifugal force
  • Plate measures 18 inches wide by 23.6 inches long

Cormac is a lesser-known brand in this tamping machine industry, but the C95TH compactor has earned a positive reputation among DIYers. This small plate compactor features a powerful engine that can generate 3,370 pounds of compacting force. The curved plate is moderately sized, making it easy to move around as you work.

While the device does have a water tank, the way it sprays water isn’t the most effective. It sprays water in front of the compactor plate. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do much to address sticking issues with asphalt. However, it can be used to moisten and compact soil in one swift motion. Overall, this vibratory equipment does a great job with smaller projects. While it won’t be your go-to for daily work, it can handle most at-home tasks without any issues.

  • Self cleaning belt
  • Curved steel base plate
  • Vibration pad
  • Easy to move around
  • Fast forward speed
  • Adjustable throttle
  • Shoots water in front of plate
  • Can’t move in reverse
  • Doesn’t do well on big jobs

A Complete Buying Guide for Vibratory Plate Compactors

While plate compactors are flexible enough to assist you on a wide range of projects, they’re designed to perform one single task. As such, you want to make sure that your compactor does its job well and continue doing so for years to come. Quality can vary dramatically depending on price and brand. In this guide, we aim to help you distinguish between the good and the bad so that you can find a perfect plate compactor that works for you.

What is a Plate Compactor?

vibratory plate compactor reviews

At first glance, it’s easy to mistake a plate compactor for a push mower. They feature the same basic look and have a “walk-behind” design that you push with your hands. Plus, most equipment is gasoline-powered for convenience. However, compactors are engineered to serve a very different purpose.

The goal of a plate compactor is to create a dense foundation for any hard surface that you plan to put on top of the soil. It’s a crucial step for any outdoor surfacing project. The equipment can compact soil before you spread gravel and create a sturdy base for pavers. This is all done through a large vibrating plate.

Typically made of steel, this plate can treat a large surface area at once. The engine of the machine causes the plate to move up and down at a very rapid pace. In turn, the ground is vibrated. This process helps to eliminate small air pockets that could cause settling. As you work, you’ll notice the ground getting lower. This is a good thing. It means that the soil and aggregate are getting closer together. Ultimately, the ground will be able to support more weight and prevent water from causing any foundation issues in the future.

Don’t let the look of a vibratory plate compactor intimidate you. These machines are quite easy to use. While there are some complex options out there, most equipment doesn’t have any confusing settings to deal with. They all serve the same purpose and can be used on many different types of soil.

While the vibrating plate is doing all of the hard work, an eccentric rotary shaft is also helping to propel the machine forward. As a result, you don’t have to use much force to move the compactor around your work area either.

Do I Need a Plate Compactor?

plate compactor reviewsIt can be tempting to forgo the compaction process. When you’re examining the area that you want to landscape, you won’t be able to see or feel the effects of air gaps in the soil. So, it’s very easy to think that the ground is already primed for pavers. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Pavers, concrete slabs, and any other type of hard surface require a strong foundation that’s made up of multiple layers. Before you can even start applying the surface, you need to excavate the ground and properly prepare it. This includes leveling and compacting. On top of all of that, you have to compact every additional layer that follows. Depending on your soil composition and local codes, this could include gravel, fine sand, and more.

Failing to compact all of those layers together can result in some unsightly problems in the future. As we mentioned earlier, the earth tends to shift and settle over time. This can be caused by several factors. The most obvious is the additional weight. Those tiny air pockets in the soil aren’t capable of supporting much weight. It’s why the ground sinks when you walk on it. Even when the earth feels solid, there are tiny pockets of air that could give out over time.

Even more issues can occur as the temperature changes. You see, loose soil leaves more room for moisture to accumulate. When the winter months come around, that moisture can wreak havoc on any surface that’s above it. As you may know, water expands when it freezes. This can lead to cracks in concrete and height issues in pavers. Even extreme heat can affect the water. As the soil dries out, it can shrink up and compact on its own, leading to the same types of aesthetic problems.

Finally, poorly compacted soil can make way for trees and plants to take over. While this may not seem like much of a bad thing in your backyard, it’s the areas that you can’t see that will be affected. Roots grow in the tiny spaces between soil particles. As they get longer and thicker, the roots will push the soil out of its way. This is a slow process, but it’s difficult to take care of once it starts. A plate compactor can help prevent roots from affecting your landscaping by eliminating those growth spots.

What are Other Cheap Alternatives?

plate compactor in action

As you can see, using a vibratory plate compactor is essential if you want to do your paving project right.

But what about cheaper alternatives? Manual hand tampers are available.

These tools are very basic in design, featuring a large steel plate attached to a long rod. In theory, these tools can achieve similar results to a powered plat compactor. But in practice, they’re not very efficient.

Hand tampers are manual tools that require a lot of force to use. You have to continually pick it up and pound it on the ground. Plate compactors do all of that for you.

Plus, they can do it more efficiently. Some models can perform up to 6,000 vibrations per minute.

No matter how strong you are, there’s no way that you can match that level of efficiency with a hand tool. When you factor in the multiple layers you’ll need to work on, hand tamping simply takes too long. The best plate compactor can the job done in only a fraction of the time.

Should I Purchase or Rent It?

plate compactor for saleUltimately, this all comes down to how often you plan on using the plate compactor. Contractors, craftsmen and landscaping professionals can benefit greatly from buying the plate compactor.

If it’s taken care of, a vibratory plate compactor can last for several years without any performance issues whatsoever. It beats paying steep rental fees each time you need it for a project.

Homeowners and DIY enthusiasts may also want to consider purchasing their own compaction machine.

Renting a plate compactor is fine for small projects that will only take a few hours to complete. However, if you’re thinking about doing more landscaping work in the future, it may be better to just buy the plate compactor once. Rental fees can get pretty expensive.

This is especially true if you run into any problems or cause any accidental damage. Having your own vibrating compactor eliminates those additional costs. Plus, it may be more cost-effective if you’re doing a bigger project. Long driveways or big patios with complex paver designs can take several weeks to finish up. When you add up the daily rental costs of a plate compactor, purchasing might be a more economical choice.

How Exactly Do They Work?

From a mechanical standpoint, a lot is going on underneath the hood of a plate compactor. The entire device relies on the motions of a weighted shaft. The engine powers the shaft, making it spin rapidly within the exciter housing. This isn’t any ordinary shaft. It’s an eccentric shaft that is slightly offset from the center of the axle. This unique placement is paired with extra weight that’s strategically placed to produce vibrations.

Every time the shaft spins, centrifugal force causes the weight to move away from the center of the shaft. This is what makes the vibrations. The plate is connected to the eccentric shaft, moving it up and down on the ground.

Typically, manufacturers will use centrifugal force to represent how hard the compactor hits the ground. Most tools can achieve between 2,000 and 5,000 pounds of centrifugal force, though industrial plate compactors can go as high as 21,000 pounds.

How Can I Operate Plate Compactors for Perfect Compaction and Smooth Work?

best vibratory plate compactor

Using a vibratory plate compactor is not difficult at all. All you have to do is start the machine and grab onto the handle to maintain control. It will move slowly over the area you’re treating. Let the compactor do its thing. Don’t push it to go faster. Instead, use the handle to keep the compactor in a straight line. Once you’ve reached the end of the section, turn the machine around and go back the other direction.

Reversible plate compactors are available as well. They work the same way as standard single-plate tools. However, they have the added perk of being able to work in reverse with a flip of a switch. This can make things a bit easier if you’re working in a large area.

There may be some slight variation in how you use the plate compactor based on the soil you’re working with. The key to getting a properly smoothed and compacted foundation is to examine the soil’s composition. There are two basic categories of soil. Cohesive soil has high clay content. It gets soft and malleable when it’s wet but is very difficult to break up when it’s dry. For this type of soil, you should operate vibratory compactors with lower frequency ratings. For granular soil, the plate compactor needs to have more frequent vibrations. Granular soil has larger pieces of gravel and more sand. To properly compact this type of soil, your equipment should be powerful enough to penetrate deep in the earth.

Once you have the right settings in place, you also need to be aware of how compacted the soil is as you work. There’s a fine line between compacting too much and not enough. In most cases, the soil will need three to four passes to be fully compacted. However, it’s not an exact science. You need to use your best judgment to determine if the ground is ready for the next layer or not. Some vibratory machines have built-in sensors that do this job for you. The sensors can measure the ground’s response to impacts to gauge the density of the soil with each pass.

What to Look for When Buying a Good Plate Compactor

Now that you understand how these machines work, let’s go over what you should be looking for. There are many types of plate compactors out there to accommodate projects big and small. Keep the following factors in mind to choose one that’s right for you.

  • Budget

    As with any tool, you should always have a budget that you can stick to. Smaller plate compactors are relatively affordable. However, top-of-the-line models can set you back a pretty penny. Having a budget can help you narrow down your options to those that you can reasonably afford.

  • Build Quality and Design

    The last thing you want to deal with is a plate compactor that gives out in the middle of a job. Pay close attention to the overall build quality and design of the compactor you’re thinking about buying. Stick with models that are made out of durable materials and have a solid motor that lasts.

  • Types of Plate Compactors
    huge number of plate compactors

    There are a handful of designs that you might come across during your search. All plate compactors serve the same purpose. However, the type of compactor you get will affect how you use it and what types of soil you can work on.

    Single Plate Compactors
    : These are the most common compactors on the market. As the name would suggest, they feature one plate that’s capable of moving in one direction.

    Reversible Plate Compactors
    : A reversible compactor operates very similarly to a single plate model. The only difference is that it can be used in two directions.

    Heavy-Duty Plate Compactors
    : If you need to penetrate deeper into the ground to create a strong foundation, heavy-duty compactors are the way to go. They usually have more power and higher frequency ratings.

  • The Plate

    The quality of the plate itself is an important factor to consider. Plates can be made out of a variety of materials. The most common are steel and cast iron. Steel is primarily used on small compactors. The material does a great job in most situations. Cast iron plates take things to the next level. They’re heavier and considered to the best option if you need heavy-duty compaction.

    Another thing to keep in mind is the size of the plate. Most plates are between 15 and 25 inches wide. Wider plates have a large surface area to work with. But, they can be harder to maneuver.

  • Centrifugal Force

    Centrifugal force refers to the amount of force that the plate compactor can apply. Generally, commercially available compactors can achieve up to 5,000 pounds. As a good rule of thumb, more impact force gives better results. With that being said, you don’t have to go with the highest ratings available. Most projects aren’t going to need the amount of force that professional-quality plate compactor offers.

  • Eccentric Frequency of Plate

    The eccentric frequency reflects the speed of the vibrations. Usually, this figure is represented as vibrations per minute. A higher rating is always good. However, having the ability to adjust the frequency is even better. If you plan on working with many different types of soil, look for models that have an adjustable engine throttle.

  • Shape and Geometry of Plate

    Subtle differences in the shape of the plate can have a big role in how you navigate this intense machine. Basic plates are flat and square. They do a pretty good job across the board, but you can always find better alternatives. Plates with slight curves do a much better job when you want to turn the machine.

    These curves are hardly noticeable at first but they make a noticeable difference. They’re also great for working in asphalt, as the edges won’t gouge the material. Ultimately, the unique shape of the plate can help you out in smaller work areas.

  • Water Tank

    If you’re working with asphalt, it pays to have a vibratory plate compactor with a built-in water tank. Asphalt is a unique substance that has to be heated up before pouring. When the cold surface of the metal plate makes contact with the hot asphalt mixture, it can create a very sticky mess. To avoid all of this, some plate compactors will spray water onto the asphalt. This creates a barrier and prevents unwanted sticking.

  • Types of Handles

    It might not seem like it would make a huge difference, but the design of the handle affects comfort levels. Remember, these compaction machines are producing thousands of vibrations per minute. With a standard handle, you’ll feel those vibrations in your bones after only a few minutes of work! Luckily, there are a few different types available.

    Anti-Vibration: Anti-vibration handles compensate for the movements the motor is making. They feel great in your hands and can reduce fatigue significantly. Some top notch plate compactors also incorporate isolators at the base of the handle to reduce vibrations even more.

    Central-Mounted: Rather than being mounted on both sides of the machine, a central handle is placed right in the middle. This has a couple of benefits. For one, the vibrations you feel won’t be as intense. Secondly, the position of the handle improves maneuverability. It’s ideal for working in tight spots.

    Swinging Handle: With a swinging handle, you’re given more flexibility in how you move the compacting machine. The handle rotates, so you can easily shift into reverse and move in the other direction without having to turn the entire tool around.

  • Forward Speed Per Minute

    There’s more to think about than just the vibrational speed! How fast the plate compactor physically moves will affect how long it takes to compact the work area. Obviously, fast speeds allow you to cover more ground in less time. Though, they may come at a sacrifice when it comes to compacting performance. Your best option would be to get a plate compactor with variable speeds. These tools give you greater control over how you work.

  • Comfort

    Many elements contribute to a compactor’s overall comfort levels. Vibratory plate compactors aren’t the most comfortable tools to work with due to the intense vibrations. However, a comfortable handle and variable throttle settings do make things more manageable. Choose a handle that’s designed to reduce vibrations. It should also be at a comfortable height that’s easy to manage. When it comes to controls, an adjustable throttle lets you increase or decrease vibration frequency as you see fit. Not only does this help with comfort, but it makes the device much more versatile.

  • Maintenance and Cleaning

    While most vibratory compactors are built to be durable, there are some maintenance tasks that you will need to complete. If you don’t take care of the plate compactor, you run the risk of damage. Plus, the machine could turn into a safety hazard. 
    One of the most important things you should do before every use is to check that all the components are tightened and secure. The vibrations can loosen bolts and cause parts to move out of position. Pay close attention to the spark plug, air filter, and belt.

    It’s also a good idea to clean the plate regularly. You can use a standard water hose to wash off the bottom of the plate after every use to prevent dirt from accumulating. Doing so can also keep the engine free of damage. Just be careful not to get any water into the engine itself.

    Finally, consider replacing fluids every once in a while. Check the quality of the hydraulic fluid and change it out if it’s discolored or opaque. Also, clean out the fuel tank periodically to keep it in good condition.

  • Warranty and Customer Support

    Not all companies are going to provide you with the quality support that you would expect after purchasing a high-ticket item. Plate compactors are more expensive than normal tools, so you should go with brands that will continue to support you after you have made the investment. Read the fine print of the company’s warranty policy and make sure that parts and repairs are covered for at least a year. Also, see what types of customer support the brand has. Having the ability to call or email someone when issues come up can make all the difference when things go south.

 Safety Tips to Follow When Using Plate Compactors 

Even the best vibratory plate compactor is capable of doing some damage if it’s not used properly. To stay safe, keep the following tips in mind.

  • Read up on the user manual to understand every aspect of the machine before you use it.
  • Do some practice runs in a clear area to get a better feel for the machine before you start a project
  • Clear the work surface of branches, large rocks, and other debris.
  • If you’re working on the side of a slope, steer the compactor towards the top to prevent unwanted sliding.
  • Don’t use the plate compactor on hardened concrete, asphalt, stone, or any other surface that will not flex.
  • Keep your hands and feet away from the bottom of the compactor when it is moving.
  • Wear protective glasses to keep dust out of your eyes
  • Only add fuel to the tank when the machine is turned off and cooled.

 Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. How to start my plate compactor?

    Starting a plate compactor is like starting a self-propelled lawn mower. First, make sure that there’s adequate fuel. Move the choke in the closed position and pull on the recoil start. It may take a few pulls to get the engine moving. Once it’s running, open the choke and you’re good to go.

  2. What I need to do before starting to compact?

    What you’ll need to do before you start compacting will depend on the project. In most cases, you’ll have to do some light excavation and dig down several inches. This is to accommodate the thickness of the material you’re installing. It’s also important to remove debris and clear your path so that you can finish the job in as few sessions as possible. Some contractors recommend that you go over the area with a rake prior to starting as well. This raking will act as a final check. If you find any issues, such as large rocks or roots, you can take care of them before you start compacting.

  3. My plate compactor engine does not start? How I can fix it?

    There are several reasons as to why the engine won’t start. You’ll need to perform a full inspection and take care of any issues that you find. Take a look at the oil levels and examine the filter. If you don’t have enough oil, the engine could be damaged. Also, check fuel levels and make sure that every component is properly secured. If you’re still having problems, check the spark plug.

  4. My compactor engine starts but does not compact?

    When the plate is not moving, this usually indicates that there is a problem with the eccentric shaft or box that’s housing it. This is an issue that will need to be fixed by the manufacturer or a service professional. So, check your warranty policy and contact the company to make a claim.

  5. What size of plate compactor is perfect for my needs?

    To determine which size will work best for your needs, take a look at your project. Large patios and long driveways can benefit from a wider plate compactor that covers more surface area. With that being said, the large size won’t do you any favors when it comes to versatility. If you want to use the compactor for future projects, stick with a small or moderately sized plate that’s adaptable to different work areas.

  6. What kind of soil I can use with my plate compactor?

    Vibratory plate compactors work best on granular soils that have a lot of aggregate. They can be used on cohesive soils with a lot of clay, too. However, you’ll need to be mindful of the vibration frequency to avoid damage.

  7. What kind of options and accessories can I add with my plate compactor?

    Accessories can open up a world of possibilities in how you use your plate compactor. Some of the most useful accessories include water tanks and pads. The water tank helps to prevent sticking whenever you’re working on asphalt. A soft pad helps to take away some of that hardness from the plate. As a result, you’ll be able to use the compactor on top of pavers without having to worry about damage.

Wrap Up

The key to having a beautiful driveway or patio that lasts is proper preparation. Failing to compact the soil underneath your new outdoor surface can lead to a lot of headaches down the line. Why take the risk? Vibratory plate compactors may be a big investment, but they can save you a lot in repair and replacement costs in the future. Plus, these machines are versatile enough to be used on all kinds of different landscaping projects. By getting the best plate compactor that money can buy, you’re ensuring that your property remains safe, functional, and aesthetically pleasing for years to come.

Paul Hickman

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