Trying to finding the best wacker plate compactor? We’ve done the research.
What is a wacker plate?
Also known as a vibratory compaction plate, it is a very heavy machine with a large flat plate base.
So, a wacker plate (or plate compactor) is usually petrol or diesel powered and allows layers of material to be compacted down until closely knitted and firm, to enable a good solid foundation for things such as patio’s, paths, driveways and even for turf laying.
The operator controls the plate by guiding it into the desired direction as it vibrates along the surface until all of the ground is firm and level.
What Can It Be Used On?
Most loose materials can be compacted down.
Construction firms and landscapers use these machines to press down the material so it becomes really strong and able to withstand the likes of building work on top of it -patio’s, pathways and so on.
Obviously there is a lot more to it than this, but that is the basic premise of a wacker plate.
Generally a builder would wacker or compact down a sub base material such as hardcore rubble (type 1 MOT grade, as it is commonly referred to) – see this wikipedia entry on sub-bases for more info)). This helps lock the material together making it much tougher and less likely to “move” under weight.
You can also use these machines on soil to help level the ground. Note though that this is not an ideal choice if the soil is heavy clay (i.e. sticky), or if the soil is exceptionally wet. A little bit of moisture is absolutely perfect.
Looking for other construction machinery? You might find this guide to the best cement mixers comes in really handy.
Depending on the engine power output (measured in horsepower (or hp)), the machine can compact the material down to various depths (for example typically 30cm deep).
If you are creating patios or paths around a property then you don’t necessarily need the biggest and best wacker plate there is out there (as generally it is just human traffic on them, and not too heavy), but for driveways and public highways where heavy vehicles will move, there is a need for better machinery than can compact quickly and down to decent depths.
These situations you will often see all manner of vehicles upon them from cars and HGV vehicles, so they need to be absolutely built on solid foundations. You’ll also need something that will compact the ground reliably.
- Wacker plates are by nature very heavy. They need to be. So often, two people are needed to move them in position (although some models do come with wheels that help manouvre the plate from your vehicle to the site).
- They vibrate. It’s what they do. This means fixings and nuts can come loose so it is commonly advised to apply a nut lock / thread lock paste to the nuts to help stop them rattling loose.
- Maintenance issues (things that need doing regularly) can be overlooked if the machine is not well cared for. Daily checks, daily cleaning and removal of dirt from your machine helps you to spot any issues such as nuts working loose, etc.
- Incorrect use of the plate by the operator can cause problems if it is not used in the designed manner – in other words you would be shortening the life of your expensive machine. This means that the way forward is to make sure you are properly trained, not just to move it, but to look after it and spot issues.
So, that out of the way, I want to show what we have found.
Our Top 10 Best Selling List
How did we reach these findings?
Simple. We tested them, either by ourselves, or we enlisted the help of companies who use wackers on a regular basis.
We sent out units for them to use for a month and then asked for their feedback.
Initially we sifted through many different plate compactor units and narrowed things down to what we scored as being the “very best whacker plate” of all of them, based on facts.
We tested on:
- Depth of compaction
- Robustness (is it well made or is it likely to break after a few jobs)
- How easy it was to manouvre the machine
and then we created an overall score you can trust.
OUR TOP PICK
- Large fuel tank.
- Large plate
- Travels at 15 meters per minute
- Foldable handles
“The unit ran well. We have used it daily for the past 3 weeks. In that time it has performed good and run reliably. For the price it is a fair investment of your money, even if it is a lesser known brand.“
Best wacker plate for getting into small tight areas. When only the best will do, choose a Belle machine. This PCX 12/36 plate compactor will work hard all year round.
This Belle is smaller, more compact and designed specifically to get into smaller areas.
Precision engineered, and extremely high quality give Belle machines the trust they have come to be accustomed to from consumers around the world.
- A reinforced centrifugal clutch that helps extend the life of the belt as well as make the belt easier to adjust.
- Foldable mounted guide handle offers superior manoeuvrability and can be lowered to operate under obstacles and close to form work.
- 4 HP Honda petrol engine (known for their superb reliability)
- 9.5 litre capacity water tank spray system. Angled holes help spray the full width preventing Asphalt pick up.
- Easy lifting points – a front lift cage to make moving it around a breeze.
- You can order an optional wheel kit
- Easily fitted and removed Life lubricated vibration bearings – for peace of mind
“It’s got a larger water tank spray system that stops stuff sticking to the bottom (hot asphalt for example)”
It would be so easy to simply state “go out and buy a Belle and forget the rest”. We wouldn’t be wrong in that statement, however the downsides to owning a Belle compactor plate are the high price tags when purchasing.
That’s why we went to these lengths to look at all wackers on the market.
This is the mid weight Belle PCLX 320 – 3.0HP Honda Petrol Driven Wacker Plate. A premium low vibration wacker plate compactor.
- It features a 320mm plate that achieves brilliant compaction levels across all materials.
- It performs to HAUC standards (Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee) so is guaranteed to get the job done to the right specifications.
- Professional users depend upon this.
- One of the safest machines in it’s class, the low vibration design means the operator can user it for longer periods without undue fatigue setting in.
- It’s also extremely well built and enjoys long periods of use in between planned services or maintenance needs.
- Great for small confined areas.
- Travels at 21.2 metres per minute
- Weighs 61.5 kg
It’s a little know fact, but we have it on good authority (and via testing of course) that the 3 most popular Belle compactor plates are this one the PCX 500 (a 500mm plate).. the PCX 450 (450mm plate) and the PCX 320 (a 320mm plate)… 3 of the best Belle wacker plates that money can buy. Being Belle, you get what you pay for.
Expect high 3 figures but for the money expect solid daily long term use without the drama.
So, this model is solid, robust and ultra reliable with a nice standfard plate size, oh and a reliable Honda engine too!
- Faster travel speed both forward and reverse – for improved productivity (HONDA GX160)
- Low hand-arm vibration – for operator health and safety and safer usage times
- Engine protection frame – also provides a lifting point
- Handle folds flat – compact size for transport and storage
- Option for water tank factory fitted
This is a 300mm wacker plate (12 inches width). Coupling it to the generous 2.8 horse power engine gives you a machine that starts up well (although we did have to let our unit run a few minutes from cold before using it for compacting)
It hasn’t failed to start up during the time we used it (for a pathway sub base).
Hyundai have been in existence since 1947 as an engineering and construction company before branching out into motoring and machinery. For their wacker plates they use a sole Uk based importer (Genpower Ltd), who trade as “Hyundai Power Equipment”.
- Will achieve 25 metres per minute coverage (so extremely useful)
- A sturdy 8mm steel plate compacts down to 200mm.
- The reliable Hyundai engine works hard and works well.
Ideal for compacting sand, soil, small aggregates it is the perfect, cost-effective plate compactor for DIY projects, patio & block paving preparation, small driveway work and tarmac repair.
The Neilsen C 60 petrol plate compactor packs a good solid punch thanks to it’s 5.5 horsepower engine.
It can run at between 20 and 25 metres each minute and has an impact force of 1030kg and can compact up to 150mm depth. Tackle your sub base woes easily.
It’s not the hardest hitting compactor, and won’t be good for heavby duty items but for the vast majority of applications it is just fine.
Just note that 150mm is pretty much the depth of compaction, so you’ll be compacting in slightly thinner layers which is fine for most things (especially for DIY projects and professional projects that you can take that bit longer on), but if you’re using it for business and time is of the essence you need to get a more powerful machine.
Highly rated in every other aspect.
Evolution Hulk offer low price affordable plate compactors in both electric and petrol driven models. This is the electric plate compactor and below this you will see our feedback for the petrol version.
- Reliable and quiet, high quality induction motor
- Low maintenance power unit
- No harmful fumes emitted, ideal for use in enclosed spaces
- Folding handle for convenient transportation
- 2 years warranty (only valid if purchased in the UK)
“The unit is pleasant and easy to operate. We used it to compact both the sub base and sand down for our block paving and I have to say it performed exceedingly well. The electric model is fine for any DIY’er but remember the cable is about 10 metres long so if you’re off up to the end of your drive you will need a decent extension cable.. and a dry day :)”
As with any smaller machine that has less power there are some obvious “operator issues” to get around.
For example if you are used to using high end £1000 Belle machines, you’d be used to getting jobs done quicker, compacting thicker stuff and dealing with bumps, however it is clearly better to rake off large bumps then proceed with your wacker plate.
Here is the petrol variant of the Evolution hulk wacker plate. Nicely priced and less hassle organizing electric cables and hoping for dry days. This can be used whenever and without the fuss.
- Powerful 2.4hp motor
- Low frequency & high amplitude for better soil compaction
- Easy fold handle for storage and transportation
- Thick, durable base plate and vibration damper system increases user comfort
- 2 Year Warranty (only valid if purchased in the UK)
The Scheppach HP 1100 plate compactor. A beast of a machine. Our secret favourite!
Look at the specifications
- Dimensions lxwxh: 700 x 400 x 480 mm
- Motor power 4 kW / 5.5 hp
- Plate size: 530 x 350 mm
- Compaction force: 11000 N
- Weight: 63.0 kg
- Compaction depth: 25 – 30 cm
- Travel speed: 25 m/min
This is our favourite wacker plate here. Build quality and ability is brilliant. Nice and agile thanks to it’s plate size.
HUGE compaction depths, compaction force and ability to travel as fast as most other machines.
The price is competitive too, so offers REALLY GOOD value. Take a look for yourself.
High power, solid performance and way less than the price of high end machines.
For those smaller areas, this hand held mini wacker plate is just perfect. Packs a punch, takes up little room and does what is needed. The Ruttli 250W plate compactor is just the ticket.
Powered by electric motor. The base plate on this machine is made using stable lacquered sheet steel.
“Small but mighty. We trialled this for 2 weeks for a pathway going from our front door, down the side of the house and to mary up to our patio at the back. No problems reported. Did what was needed. Compacted our hardcore, sand and then was made ready for the pavers.“
First time using a plate compactor?
There’s a few things to remember before you go off out and begin wackering away.
The basics of a wacker plate:
- Know how to turn the machine on, and also off. Most will have an on/off switch, then you will need to pull start the engine, much like starting a mower engine. A press on the primer and good to go.
- Wear the right PPE – obviously gloves and safety boots (and keeping them well clear of the machine during use), and also safety goggles and ear protection.
- Avoid loose fitting clothing or jewellery when using the machine.
- Knowing how to use the machine.
- Knowing how to fill up with fuel
- knowing how to safely remove the compactor plate from your vehicle to the area being compacted (without breaking your back)
- Giving a visual inspection to make sure all the nuts and bolts are as tight as they should be.
- Read and understand the entire user manual before you begin. Long term it will help keep you safer, more informed, and be able to identify any issues if thery arise.
- If the motors speed can be adjusted look for the throttle lever and adjust to suit.. start it off small and on low revs when you first begin.
How to use:
If your plate compactor is an electric model then simply plug it in and pull on the lever or press the on/off switch to start compacting.
If your machine is petrol then follow the steps below.
Assuming you are wearing the correct PPE and have done all the necessary safety checks then proceed as below.
On the side of the engine you should see two levers – one is for fuel, and one is the choke.
Starting Your Wacker Plate
- Move the fuel slider to the right fully. This can be left like this most of the day and turned off at night.
- For a cold engine start, also slide the choke slider to the right.
- If your engine has recently been running then you may not need the choke fully on or even on at all.
- Turn the engine’s “on/off” switch to the on position (usually a “1”)
- Grab the recoil puller. This is usually a small Black plastic handle attached to rope that goes inside the engine.
- Hold the machine firmly with one hand and pull right back on the pull cord. The machine should set into life.
- After a short moment you can push the choke lever fully off to the left.
A wacker plate really is a simple device.
To begin using it, you need to increase the revs (throttle). The machine uses a centrifugal clutch which will engage when the revs are high enough, forcing the compactor into motion. Simply use your hands to guide, along with a bit of force, to ensure it goes in the direction you are travelling.
Ideally you would move up and down in strips until the entire area has been tampered down.
When you are finished
Assuming no machinery issues, reduce the revs right down and let it run for a minute or two to cool down, just ticking over somewhere safe out of your way, then you can turn the power on/off switch to the off position (usually a “0”).
For additional safety, slide the fuel lever to the left (off position).
Please do comment below and we will do our best to help.
A wacker plate is not a cheap investment but it is an important investment so hopefully our little guide here has helped you discover the best wacker plate for your needs!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use a Wacker Plate in the Rain?
Wacker Plates are ideal for compacting soil, especially if you need to flatten and even out the land, but using this method in the rain might not be the best use of your time.
The answer to this question will majorly depend on how bad the rain is, and what surface you are trying to compact. If it is just lightly drizzling outside, then you can probably get away with using your wacker plate in the rain.
However, if it is torrentially raining outside, then it is probably best to leave this task to another day. This is because boggy soil will make it much more difficult to get the job done. It is also likely to take much longer to complete the job if the rain is really heavy.
You will also need to be aware of the tools and equipment that you are using outside, and whether or not they are waterproof. While the wacker plate itself might be, you will need to make sure that the cables and plugs are protected against the rain to avoid any unwanted accidents.
The last thing you want is to damage your equipment, especially if it has been rented.
Can You Use a Wacker Plate on Grass/Soil?
One of the best ways to compact your soil surface is to use a wacker plate, as it would be much more effective and less time-consuming than trying to level the ground without it.
A wacker plate will help you to be able to complete the job in less time, and it would also be much more efficient than if you were to do it by hand, as it is able to apply larger amounts of pressure.
Usually, you will need an area that is roughly even before you go in with a wacker plate, as it will only compact the soil, not distribute it, and there is only so far that you can compact it.
While you could technically use a wacker plate or grassy areas, it wouldn’t be as effective as using it on normal ground.
Typically, you will find that the area needs to be dug up in order to be able to roughly distribute the land that you are trying to flatten, and so you probably won’t get great results if you go straight in with the wacker plate.
You should also be aware that this method would probably ruin the grass, and you would likely have to replant it anyway.
How Much Is It To Hire?
There are lots of reputable companies that offer wacker plate hire services, and at places like HSS, you can expect to pay around £25 to £40 for the standard wacker plate hires for one day.
There are different types of wacker plates that you can hire, depending on the job that you need to complete, and they offer different levels of vibrations to get the job done.
For smaller jobs, you can get a light wacker plate from HSS for £31.80 a day, or for more demanding tasks, you can hire a medium vibrating plate for £38.88.
The amount that you will have to pay for this service will also depend on how long you want to hire the wacker plate. The longer you need the wacker plate, the most expensive the overall cost will be.
Some companies that hire out wacker plates will have discounts for those who hire them for multiple days, which can be a great way to save money.
Another cost to be aware of is the fact that you may need to pay for fuel if it runs out while you are using it. They usually come with a full tank of fuel, but this can run out quickly for big jobs.
Can You Wacker Gravel?
You can actually use a wacker plate on loose gravel so that you can compact it on the surface that you are creating. Wacker plates can be used to compact a variety of different materials, and they are very efficient at doing their job.
More often than not, gravel will be used at some point in a construction project, and it is typically one of the first steps to creating a compact and solid base for a variety of purposes.
This is the reason why they are designed to be used on many different surfaces because there is more than one base material that will be used for the foundation that you are trying to create.
It is actually recommended to use a wacker plate when you are compacting an area of gravel during the first stages of the foundation for the task at hand, as it will complete the job efficiently, saving you time and energy in the long run.
If you do not compact the gravel properly, it can lead to the gravel sinking, which causes the structure to fail, meaning that you will have to start from scratch again. This is why it is so important to use a wacker plate.
How Do Wacker Plates Work?
A wacker plate works by vibrating or driving a flat metal plate against the ground in quick succession.
By doing this, it compresses uneven ground surfaces (such as loose dirt or gravel) and forces everything to bind together into a perfectly smooth, solid surface that’s easy to walk on.
A wacker plate can also be used to drive materials further into the ground and create an even surface that can be used to lay paving on top of. It works in the same way to achieve this, by quickly driving the metal plate into the ground.
Wacker plates come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but their main purpose remains the same. Depending on the surface you’re using a wacker plate for, the level of vibration can be adjusted to help bind stronger materials together.
Due to their design, wacker plates work best on granular soil, sand, and bound gravel. A little extra care and attention needs to be paid to the ground before you start using a wacker plate, and you’ll need to clear away any large rocks.
Accidentally hitting one of these with your wacker plate can result in damage to the plate, and this can be a costly mistake to make!