Tips for driving on the beach

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Cover from a pulp novel of the 1950s. The book is “Hot Rod,” and the artist's drawing depicts young people in their jalopies, racing down a sandy road.

Slow it down for sand, hot rodders. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/James Vaughan/Flickr)

Summer is here, and for those of us who want to hop in the little deuce coupe and head for the beach, some driving on sand may be required. Hard-packed sand is a snap, but what if your tires have to take on loose, fluffy sand on a beach or in the desert? Here are some general tips to help with your sand driving.

Air out your tires

Popular Mechanics suggests keeping tire psi at 12 to 15 for loose sand driving. That’s much too low for paved roads, but it creates the necessary footprint for sand. You’ll skim the surface more easily, rather than digging in and becoming stuck. Reinflate as soon as you’re back on solid ground, however. If you go even a couple of miles before finding an air pump, the tires could peel off the rims. At the very least, you’ll have great difficulty cornering and braking.

Don’t be too sharp

Sharp turns on sand will cause your tires to dig in deeper, which you don’t want to do. Driving in sand should be kept as straight as possible. If you must back up or use a shovel to fill in holes, do so. If you do get stuck, don’t continue to spin the tires. Use floor mats, tree branches or a chunk of chain link fence to help gain traction. Even wetting down the path to make the sand grains stick together helps.

Do not attempt with front-wheel drive

If you are planning to drive in sand, don’t do it with a front-wheel drive car. You’ll become stuck almost immediately. Rear-wheel drive is an improvement, but 4WD is ideal. Part-time 4WD low and a locked center differential, which helps to maintain sufficient torque at low speeds, are great for driving on sand. Full-time AWD also works on sand, but the lessened ground clearance and lack of the lowest gears can cause problems over time.

Two affordable vehicles good for beach or desert driving

Both of these vehicles can be had in the low- to mid-$20,000 range:

  1. Jeep Wrangler – A fun convertible with the off-road capability to conquer and dry sand environment.
  2. Audi A4 Avant Quattro – An AWD wagon with storage for surfboards and a 2.0-liter turbo engine with serious torque to take on the sand.

The desert demands patience and concentration


Audi A4 Avant Quattro

Jeep Wrangler

Popular Mechanics

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