What is a Tandem Roller?

A tandem roller is used when paving roads and parking lots.

A tandem roller is a machine part used in paving roads and parking lots. Commonly known as a steam roller, the tandem roller is made up of two very heavy, unequally sized steel rollers mounted on a chassis, which is powered by steam, gasoline, or diesel. The tandem roller is used to smooth and compact asphalt or asphalt before it cools and hardens. The steel drums or rollers on which the machine travels are often cooled with a jet of water to prevent the pavement from sticking to the rollers.

In addition to being heavy, many tandem roller units also contain a vibrating unit on board the machine. Vibrating rollers help to compact the pavement as the heavy tandem roller passes over it. Working at very low speeds, the tandem roller is a machine that requires operating skill to ensure that each pass slightly overlaps the previous one. By overlapping each pass, the roller operator is able to maintain an even thickness on the surface and prevent drops or high spots.

Early versions of the cylinder relied on a steam-powered engine to move large machines. This led to the roller’s common name being known as the steam roller. The name steam roller is often found associated with today’s machinery due in part to the steam that forms on the rollers as the equipment is being used. This steam is the result of the water that serves to cool and lubricate the rollers that come into contact with the very hot pavement. Steam is created by this contact and therefore the steam roller title remains intact.

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Although the steam propulsion system is very uncommon today, modern machines are mostly diesel powered. Some smaller units use gasoline engines and battery-powered versions are starting to appear on some construction sites. Many models use two separate power systems. A diesel powered tandem roller can also utilize a battery-powered vibrating motor.

While huge steel rollers are very heavy on their own, most tandem roller units use water to add weight to the rollers. Each roll is equipped with a threaded plug that can be removed. The water is then poured into the roller by placing a hose on the open lid. Once the cylinder is filled with water, the cap is replaced and the unit becomes operational. The weight of the water assists the roller on the pavement.

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