All you need to know about driving in sand

Posted by: Cal on 14/07/2014

Category: General

Got that perfect pair of 4x4 tyres but not yet the confidence to head down to the beach? Follow these top tips to make the most of your beach experience.

Follow the rules

Before heading out to breathe in the sea air, make sure you understand all the restrictions and requirements of off-roading so that you stay out of trouble.

For instance, it is important to stay off sand dunes except when you are using designated crossing points.

You will also need to be careful of wildlife in the area, any disturbances can affect their survival.

Check your car's vehicle mechanics

When you are planning to have an outdoor adventure, it is essential to ensure your car is mechanically sound so that it will not be damaged in any way by the experience so you can get the most out of it.

Reduce tyre pressure

While driving on tarseal or paved roads requires you to have your tyres pumped up to the recommended pressure, you may want to release some of this air if you are heading down sandy shores or areas.

This will prevent your tyre from digging a trench and allow your vehicle to glide more easily over the sand.

You should still aim to keep the tyre pressure within the manufacturer's specification, however. 

However, once back on firm ground, it is important to reinflate so that your tyre performance isn't hindered by your fun experience.

David Wilson, who runs Adventure 4WD training school, told Cars Guide's Stuart Innes you should maintain a low speed when you are heading to the servo to pump your tyres back up.

"At 15 psi you wouldn't want to be going any faster than 25km/h".

Carry the essentials

When you head outdoors, particularly to a more rural location, it is important to alert someone where you have gone or take a friend.

Keep your fully-charged mobile phone handy in case of an emergency, or even if you just get stuck and need a tow.

Other essential items to carry include a fully-stocked emergency kit as well as a tyre gauge and air pump.

If you are travelling far from civilisation it may pay to also take water, food and spare fuel with you as well as a spare tyre or two, just in case. 

Consider also carrying a shovel, as this may come in handy when you least expect. Strong ropes may also come in handy.

Remove the extras

A heavy load can increase the risk of rollovers. If you have any additional weight, particularly on the roof rack, remove it before heading to the beach.

Avoid sharp cornering

While on the sand, avoid taking sharp turns as your wheels will require more effort to turn than to go straight.

If you do run into difficulty, simply straighten your wheels out until you can get going again. Then you can try and turn again.

Remember, any sudden moves on the steering wheel can cause your 4X4 to topple as a result of its high centre of gravity.

Aim to keep your steering as straight as possible. Allow wide arcs when turning or use existing wheel tracks where the sand will already be padded down to give firmer grip.

What to do if you get stuck

Eventually you will get bogged down in soft sand. However, this is nothing to panic about as there are a few simple steps you can take to remove yourself.

Firstly, take a few deep breaths and don't do anything in a hurry.

Reduce your car tyre pressure if possible as this may help you to better float on the sand.

Try to reverse out rather than driving forward as your car tyres would have already packed down the sand. Then, take a different route to get to your destination.

Alternatively, you can slowly drive forwards and backwards over he same track to compact the sand.

Failing the above, get out that shovel and start digging! Make sure you clear the space under your axles as well as the undercarriage,