Driving on the Sand

Friday, 27 September 2013

Driving on the sand is a great experience. However it is important to remember that the responsibilities you have for driving on the road apply equally to the beach. That means obeying the rules, which include:

A) Making sure that everyone in the car is wearing their seatbelt.
B) You are in a fit state to drive and not impaired in any way (drugs, alcohol and fatigue).
C) Driving below the speed limits

It also means driving to suit the conditions and trying look after the environment.

Like all driving, how well your vehicle performs will depend on the grip from the tyres. Moving from the road to the soft sand will mean you need to adapt a few things including the pressure of your tyres.

Tyre pressure will need to be reduced to better accommodate the loose surface. Just how much will depend on the conditions and the vehicle load. Generally speaking, somewhere around half of the normal road pressures would be a good starting point. Keep in mind that this is for sand driving only and you will need to re-inflate them when you return to the harder surface. Running under-inflated tyres on the road is dangerous and will affect the life of the tyre. So make sure that you have a good quality tyre gauge and a portable air compressor to pump them back up immediately. 

You’ll also need to plan your moves well in advance and not be too harsh with the controls. Be sure to look as far ahead as you can and keep a sharp lookout for potential obstacles that could cause you grief.

It’s never a good idea to go swimming alone and the same goes for four-wheel driving as well. Having another vehicle travelling with you is very wise. You can help each other out if something out of the ordinary happens along the way or if a vehicle gets bogged in the sand.

Vehicle recovery in itself is reasonably straightforward if you know the basics. However, done wrongly, it can be not only embarrassing but also potentially fatal. The following tips will help should you find yourself bogged on the beach and help keep you and the people around you safe:

• Assess the situation and determine the best recovery path.

• Clear the area around the vehicle and dig out the sand around the wheels to help improve the car’s exit capability.

• Be sure to use good quality equipment. It may be more expensive but it will last longer and is less likely to let you down. At the end of the day you get what you pay for.

• Recovery does require specific equipment, which includes proper snatch straps, shackles and recovery points on the vehicle itself. Never attach a snatch strap to the normal tow hooks, tow ball or bull bar. These can shear off and become dangerous projectiles. If the car isn’t fitted with a specific recovery point, it possible to have one fitted after-market. You’ll need to speak to your car manufacturer or a good off-road accessories supplier about what is best for your car.

• Attach the snatch strap to both vehicles and place the middle section on the ground in an “S” shape. It also wise to place a towel or a hessian bag over the strap. This will help to reduce the “whipping” effect should the strap break away inadvertently.

• Keep people well away from the area just in case something unexpected happens.

• Have a recovery discussion. Both drivers need to know what they are going to do and have a plan in place for the exercise.

• Be sure that both vehicles have engaged low range 4WD, free-wheeling hubs and diff locks if fitted. The vehicle being recovered needs to be ready with the hand brake off, clutch depressed, in first gear and the engine running.

• The recovery vehicle drives forward smoothly and progressively allowing the snatch strap to stretch. The stretching action builds up energy in the strap and helps to pull the bogged vehicle forward as the energy is released.

• Once the recovery is complete be sure to tidy up the site. Try not to leave the strap in the sand or drag it along rough surfaces. Always store the strap in a bag when not is use and wash it when required to keep it top condition.

The tips we’ve looked at here are general and will help get you through in most cases. However, every situation is different and you’ll need to base your actions on the specific needs of the job, the vehicle and the variables of the environment.

Enjoy Your Driving

Drive Safe – Think Safe – Stay Safe

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