LizyPoundstone reports from the field: How to properly fill a tire

Today I decide to learn about tire pounding from a first-hand perspective. With  some gentle urging, and plenty of shaming, the Long Way Home crew convinces me to give tire pounding a try.

Tire pounding is the process of filling a tire with material other than air. And just as there is an optimal air inflation for tires, there is  an optimal earth-pack compaction when filling a tire with earth.

In an earlier post (“The Tests reveal..) I discussed the lab test used to determine the optimal tire compaction. In this post I will describe the procedure and technique for packing tires.

Climbing up to the fourth tire course I do my first filling, tapping and tamping and discover several facts, including the knowledge that tire pounding is hard work. After only 3 minutes I am definitely fatigued.

Also, there is a procedure to the process. I recommend being trained by a professional to avoid acquiring bad habits from the get-go.

Step one: Fill the tire with several buckets of loose dirt. Do not overfill the tire. At all stages, the tire must be filled in small increments, a few shovel-fulls or a bucketful at a time.

Liz notes that many novices and hourly workers will attempt to use too much dirt which results in a “false fill.” This is when the tire has the  appearance of fullness without being truly packed. The false fill is usually discovered after the tire is completed and the quality control officer pokes the top of the tire and finds that there is give or “squishy” spots.

Step two: After putting a few shove-fulls into the center of the tire use hands to pack the sides full with dirt.

Tamping down in the center is the second stage of tire filling.

Step three: Using the sledgehammer in a clockwise rotation starting at 12 o’clock work the dirt into the sidewalls with hard driving horizontal pounds.

Step four: Add a few more bucketfuls of dirt to the sides again using hands.

Step five: Continuing in the clockwise rotation pound the dirt horizontally into the sides with the sledgehammer. Repeat this process until the walls are well packed and no squishy areas are present.

Step six: Add three shovelfuls into the center and give 30 good tamps straight down with the tamping tool.

Step seven: Continue adding three shovelfuls after each set of 30 tamps. Continue the tamping until the tire is full.

Step eight: Use the guide line above to measure the level of the tire. When consistent with the other tires in that course the filling for that tire is done.

Liz measures from the guideline to the center of the tire to check the level of the tire for consistency of fill.

The Long Way Home staff are working from 6:30 am until 4 or 5 pm everyday. Yesterday they didn’t break for lunch until 2:30. Needless to say, they have my admiration.

When they pound they definitely make some noise. I can hear the pound, pound, pound from my office indoors!

The level shows the difference between the unfilled tire to the left and the earth- filled tire to the right.


6 Responses to “LizyPoundstone reports from the field: How to properly fill a tire”

  1. Joe Hull Says:

    Nice description. I think I could do it with some professional guidance now. Sounds like back-breaking work but good excercise. You looked good in the pictures!

  2. adam Says:

    Pound pound pound and tamp tamp tamp. We’ll try to keep the noise down.

  3. Leslie Colvin Says:

    I will totally second what Joe writes. I hear it definitely strengthens your back the more tires you fill. And yes, pictures of you look great!

  4. Deb Carey Says:

    Plus who can’t do with loosing a few pounds! Pun intended. And yes it becomes you!!

  5. JoEllen Bokar Says:

    Yes, you look georgeous and the narrative was fantastic and very informative. Any updates and pictures?

  6. rose Says:


    Did you ever finish the garage, please send pictures.

    J.P. Routhier & Sons inc

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