Finding old tires to use for prepper projects is easy – people discard them all over the place. Left lying around they can become a health hazard, retaining water, and allowing mosquitoes to breed.
Making them into something useful takes a bit of expertise, but there are many things they can be used for by preppers, saving money by re-purposing them into durable, useful objects.
There is a concern that tires can leach cadmium and other heavy metals into the soil as they are exposed to weathering. For this reason, if you are using tires to grow food, then you should replace them regularly before they degrade and possible leaching occurs.
In drier areas, the tires will not degrade as fast as they do in wetter areas, and leaching can be affected by the acidity of the soil. If you’re concerned, then read this article for details on studies carried out and advice on what to plant in tires and what to avoid.
Some plants, like root crops should be avoided, as they can take up the trace elements leached from degraded and crumbling tires. Fruit trees and plants with edible flowers are far less likely to take up contaminants according to the information given in the article.
From building an earth-ship home to a shooting range backstop, kids outdoor toys, retaining walls and steps, keeping dogs warm and busy, and a whole lot more practical ideas, there is plenty a prepper can do with tires.
The emphasis has been kept on practical rather than fancy uses. After all, tires are not light and hoisting one up as a light fitting or making one into an umbrella stand doesn’t seem a very practical application.
1. Build a Home
In New Mexico this man
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoAFJKLsnko&ab_channel=FLORB is constructing a home from tires filled with earth. These earth-ship homes are ambitious projects, but it just shows what you can do.
2. Make a tire shield
Old tires can be stacked like bricks to form an impenetrable barrier. It’s going to take plenty of tires, and lots of work to fill each tyre with earth and compact it either with a sledgehammer or a compacting machine which you can hire on a daily basis.
The tires and earth will form a bulletproof barrier if you have to leave your home during an attack, and need a place where you can make a stand.
3. Form a bulletproof barrier
Create a barrier wall around your shelter using the building principles outlined in the earthship building video under #1.
You don’t need reinforcing or cement. The weight of the tires and the earth will keep them firmly in position as long as the ground you are building on doesn’t shift or sink.
4. Shooting range or archery backstop
In SHTF situations, you’re going to need to be pretty accurate with your shooting in order to hunt for survival and for defense.
Filled with earth and stacked in the brick pattern, tires will create a solid backstop for your shooting range. Follow the system described in the video under #5 on creating a retaining wall.
5. To create a retaining wall
The principle for creating a tire retaining wall is explained in this video:
6. Tire stairway
Tired of slipping in the mud down steeper parts of the garden? Re-purpose tires into a stairway – see how to do it here:
Instead of leaving the filling as earth which can become muddy in wet weather cover with a layer of gravel or small pebbles for a non-slip surface.
7. Make sandals
In Africa, tire sandals are very common – they definitely don’t wear out like cheap imports, and provide defense against the numerous thorns from acacia trees.
For decades, local people have been making tire sandals and they have become quite a fashion statement for Africans, proud of their ingenuity and snapped up by tourists who enjoy something handmade and unique that is going to last and last.
Watch this video to see how the Masai in Kenya make tire sandals:
If you prefer to watch a slightly different method to create the same style in English then watch here to see how it’s done:
And if you didn’t like the style of the previous two tire sandals then here is a tutorial on how to make flip flop or beach thong style tire sandals:
8. Make a dog bed
You can go really simple, and stuff soft bedding into a tire without cutting any of the rubber.
The second method is to cut out the side wall of the tire to create a large area for them to lie in on a soft mattress placed into the hollow as seen in this video, where the maker paints them with the dog’s name and even puts on handles to make moving the beds easier:
When I made these beds for my dogs, I put in a loose base board before putting in the mattress.
9. Dog toys
Don’t throw away the side walls you cut out when making dog beds or flower planters – tie the circular piece onto a strong rope hanging from a tree branch and you will have a toy that will keep dogs entertained for hours – teething puppies in particular, that would otherwise be chewing on your shoes, rugs or furniture.
We gave our bull terrier a whole tire to tug on and play with… even when she was ten years old she was still swinging on that tire gripping with her teeth, feet off the ground.
We just made sure to replace them often and drill holes in the lower part of the tire so water could drain out when it rained – no breeding ground for mosquitoes!
10. Dog ramp
Larger dogs and older dogs that are not so agile anymore often have difficulty jumping up into a truck so create a ramp using a light but sturdy piece of board that can lean against the tail gate.
Take old tires, cut out the side walls, then cut strips from the remaining tire and screw onto the board at intervals of 3 inches apart, creating a non-skid surface for the dog. It gives them a better grip than slats of wood across the base board.
11. Kids swing
There are a number of different designs for tire swings for kids (and even adults) to play on. There is the tire leveled and suspended from three ropes which the child can hang onto to swing, stand on it or put their body through and get their legs off the ground as you see in this video:
What you can do is fasten a board cut to a circle over the top and place a cushion to make it comfier for smaller children – and hang it close to the ground for 2 to 4 year old’s.
Then in this video you will see how to construct the same type of swing as well as the usual tire suspended from one rope that kids can stand on or hang over – a cushion helps soften the tire edges for comfort:
12. Kids’ ladder from tires
Toddlers love to climb but the rungs on a conventional ladder can be difficult to negotiate but if you put two parallel planks fastened to a structure and screw on the tires the kids can climb the ‘ladder’.
See how to make one here.
13. Kids see-saw
A tire cut in half and fastened using wooden blocks to the board provides a sturdy base for this tire see-saw. You’ll need some board and paint to make this fun new toy for the kids:
14. Tire stools
Two tires bolted to each other with a board cut to a circle fixed on top and covered with fabric cushion create an attractive stool.
With a baseboard fitted it also creates storage space within the tire stool, and it is fitted with castors so it is easy to move around.
15. Stool on legs
These are pretty stylish, and don’t look like a tire.
Once the tire has been covered with batting and fabric, then the top and base are cut from wood, the top covered with foam and fabric, then the base attached to the tire, legs are finally attached and you have very stylish low stools or footstools.
16. Stools using rope lattice
Create stools using two tires fastened together and a rope lattice seat which are practical for outdoor use:
17. Feed bucket holders
You know how animals – especially goats, can mess with their food bowls – tipping them over and wasting the feed.
The simple solution is to find a tire that the feed bucket will fit into snugly and simply place the bucket in the tire opening. No more wasted and trampled food.
18. Goat gym
Keep the goats happy by putting a couple of large tires into their area. A large one, half buried in the ground will have them balancing on it, rubbing themselves on it, jumping over, and running through it.
19. Keep fit
Tires placed close together on their sides work as an obstacle course that adults and kids have to run through to keep fit.
Placed on their sides and partially buried in the ground at between 15 to 24 inches apart makes a good place for kids to practice their leopard crawl maneuvers.
20. Colorful planters
Painting the tires can transform them into cheerful solid planters that aren’t going to chip and crack like terracotta or plastic pots over time.
If you are concerned about traces of heavy metal leaching out then watch this where they explain that the metals are bonded into the rubber, and only when the rubber starts deteriorating will the metals start to leach:
Some people place the tires on the soil so the roots can reach through to the ground, but if using them on a patio fit boards across the bottom, with holes for drainage then plant into them.
You can also fasten legs onto the base board of the planters so they become three legged stool planters, raising them off the ground for people who may have difficulty stooping to attend to their plants.
See this video for lots of different ideas for tire planters:
21. Tire composter
This will be a physical workout plus a composter – you’ll need around 4 tires of the same size – large tires for a large composter on a homestead and smaller tires for an urban composter.
If you don’t feel like lifting lifting large tires, then make a few smaller composters on your plot, or do as suggested here, and just have one tire to act as your composter:
With the 4 tire stack, you need to remove both sidewalls from each tire using a sharp knife or a jig-saw, then place the first on the ground with a layer of straw.
Add composting material with straw in between until the tire is full then put on the next tire and add composting material and straw layers until you have used up all the tires and the composting ‘bin’ is full.
Now, to turn the compost after around 60 days, take off the top tire and place it alongside the original stack, shovel the compost that the top tire enclosed into the now empty tire – repeat by moving tires and creating a new stack filled with the composting material.
Let it mature for a year before taking out to use. You can have a few of these going to ensure continuity of compost production.
22. Grow bags of potatoes by adding tires
Don’t stop with just one tire – add more as the potato plant grows, adding more soil. Eventually when the tires are taken off you’ll have a bag of potatoes.
See how here:
23. Tire as a fishpond
Take an enormous tractor tire, put in sand to level the bottom, a plastic pool liner, taking up and over the edge. Conceal liner with flagstones or rocks.
Plant some water plants in pots, fill the tire with water, and wait for a couple of days before introducing fish. Plant around the pond with water loving plants banking the soil away from the pond.
Jeanie is an avid camper and a cook. She likes to do pioneer recipe sin particular, and any other type of survival food that our great-grandfathers loved.