Four Wheeling in the Sand: Salty Advice for Beach Driving

Written by a Guest Blogger

You’re heading out on the beaches of Australia. This is awesome, but how do you manage it in your vehicle? If you’re not careful, the rocks will defeat you. So, before you head out, take some tips from the pros.

Check Your Tyre Pressure

When you’re out on the paved roads in your 4×4 truck, you want optimal tyre pressure. That means making sure your tyres are inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications. But, in the sand, you actually want to reduce pressure, since this will spread the weight of your truck out across a greater surface area. You’re essentially increasing the contact patch of your tyre.

You wouldn’t do this on normal roads because it increases wear while decreasing gas mileage. It also increases your risk for a blowout. In sand, however, it means that you’ll get more traction and reduce your risk of getting stuck.

Use Momentum To Your Advantage

Think of your truck like you would a boat in water. When you slow down, the boat sinks a little and the motor has to work harder. It’s the same in the sand. When you’re moving slower, you have to use more petrol and your engine has to work much harder to get you over the dunes.

Use momentum – keep your speed up, when appropriate, and keep moving. This will help you stay higher up on the sand. It’s also a lot of fun avoiding the brakes.

The one thing you have to be careful of are the drop-offs. Bright sunshine will make these harder to see, and driving too close to the edge may cause the sand to give way, pulling you down into water or over a steep cliff. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Never drive too fast. Never take sharp turns (it could separate the bead of the tyre from your wheel, causing the wheel to deflate). Always try to avoid getting bogged down. It’s easier to avoid a bog than it is to dig yourself out of one.

Make Sure Your Vehicle Has Good Clearance

If you’re going out into the wild yellow (or white) sand, make sure your vehicle has enough clearance. Ditto for rocks. Rocks present a special challenge. If your vehicle isn’t high enough off the ground, you might end up smashing up the fuel lines, undercarriage, and other important stuff, like the oil pan and fuel tank.

A small dent in the oil pan will probably damage the oil pickup – a pump that pulls oil through your engine and lubricates it. You’ll never know until your engine seizes up on you one day. Of course, you’ll probably feel a small bump under your vehicle. When in doubt, avoid rocks.

Don’t Use Traction Control

Traction control is usually a good thing. When one of your drive wheels starts slipping, the traction control mechanism sends power from the wheels that are slipping to the wheels that still have grip.

It does this through a computerised program. However, on the sand, you don’t necessarily want to have this feature engaged. Why not?

It can get you bogged down in the sand. The traction control’s job it to increase torque at the drive wheels based on how much traction you have at any given moment. But, in the sand, you’re going to slip on a regular basis. The problem is that the traction control will slow you down to try to gain traction. But, momentum is your friend in the sand. So, keeping it on is a recipe for disaster.

Bring a Winch and a Friend

It’s a good idea to bring a friend along with you in another vehicle, if possible. Getting stuck is part of the fun – sometimes. It’s also a reality. At some point, it’s going to happen. Bringing a winch and another truck that can haul you out of a sand trap will make sure that the whole trip doesn’t become a disaster.

About the Blogger

Anthony Meudell is an avid outdoorsman and writer. When he’s not travelling the Australian highways and byways, he’s writing about them. Read his posts on various websites, including travel and outdoor living.

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Mike has roots in the automotive service industry. He began diagnosing and fixing cars at a young age in his family’s service station. He has worked in automotive parts supply stores, towing companies, and service facilities. After graduating from St. Cloud State University (MN) with a Bachelor’s degree, he implemented and taught a basic car care program at the high school level. During work on his Master’s degree at Illinois State University (IL), he was a curriculum specialist on a National Science Foundation project where he co-authored ten integrated mathematics, science, and technology books designed for team teaching. Mike has also supervised teachers in Career and Technology Education as a school system administrator.

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