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Driving on Sand Without Getting Stuck

For those who consider themselves off-road enthusiasts, a key part of this is experiencing various terrains, with one of the most commonly sought out kind being sandy shorelines—complete with fresh air moving through the car like you’re flying through the sky. While the job seems simple enough, driving on sand calls for a little extra know-how because one wrong move could roll you sideways, sink you into the sand, or get you swept off by the tide. Given that sandy terrains are always changing, they come with a number of challenges, so make sure to adhere to the following tips to ensure you don’t get stuck and that you stay afloat.

Tires for Driving on Sand

Without question, one of the most important things to take care of before driving on sand is procuring a solid set of tires. Driving over dunes with especially thin, old, or bald tires won’t get a person far, and it could lead to blow outs. If you plan to drive over dunes and sand regularly, it may not hurt to upgrade your tires to a more specialized set, such as P285/70 R17 Nitto Ridge Grapplers for anyone driving anything about the size of a Jeep Cherokee. With a setup like this, you can go places your old tires wouldn’t have been able to take you.

Air Down the Tires

Once you’ve reached the sand, let some air out from your tires immediately. The lower your psi, the greater the tire’s print, allowing the car to sort of “float” over the sandy terrain rather than dig itself into trenches. You might consider dropping the pressure between 5-20 psi, though it depends on the softness of the sand and your tire/wheel combination. For the bottom side of the scale, beadlocks could be necessary. On that same note, you need to immediately re-inflate your tires once you hit solid ground again. If you have no air compressor with you, consider that whenever you’re airing down—just a few miles to a gas station can peel tires right off the rim.

Remain Aware and Safe

When driving on sand, be on the lookout for other vehicles, especially less visible dirt bikes and ATVs. Also, whenever you drive off-road, keep your thumbs on the outside of your steering wheel, especially if you’re not in a power-assisted vehicle. If your wheels strike something beneath the sand, you’ll likely be surprised by a forceful, sudden jerk in the steering wheel. Sand and dunes are constantly changing and moving, which can cause drop-offs you didn’t see the week prior, so try to learn what’s on a dune’s other side, even if you need to stop and walk around to check. If possible, try to stay in the ruts of other vehicles and follow their path.

While Driving on Sand

Once you get going, keep your momentum going, especially when going uphill, but don’t overdo it and damage the vehicle. Avoid changing gears or rapid throttling while moving through sand, and you’ll want to slow your speed around corners and then accelerate out so as to prevent understeer. If you accelerate too much too early, your turn will end up being wider than you intended. If you notice you’re about to get stuck, try straightening out the wheels to start rolling and then try again. This could call for backing up and then refilling the trenches you just made, which is why it wouldn’t hurt to have a shovel on hand.

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Copyright: karelnoppe / 123RF Stock Photo