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Driving on Sand … the basics


Driving on sand is not a common feature of the UK.

As much as we’d like to see a beach and throw our 4×4’s into action it would require a lot of ‘selective blindness’ to get past the DO NOT signs. When we do get a chance though, be aware of whether the tide is coming or going before you bury yourself axel deep with the sea threatening to wash the rubbers and double check you have your snatch strap to hand not sat in the boot buried under the beach mats, wind breaks and food remains.



Whilst sand is dry it’s soft and once you position your two tonne truck on it there’s a tendency to get that sinking feeling. To help prevent burying the tyres take some air pressure out of them to spread the tread wider and therefore the grip and weight of the truck. Use a tyre gauge where possible, yes you can guess by eye in the case of an emergency but it’s always preferable to know your running at the ideal pressure, which is between 15 to 18psi for sand. Of course this is adaptable pending on how much weight you have packed into and onto your vehicle, if your in the middle of nowhere then just keep reducing the tyre air pressure until you gain grip. The more powdery the sand the less air you’ll need, if you have beadlocks fitted then you can risk even less air as the beadlocks will hold the tyre rim in place on the wheel but remember the less air in the tyres the less handling ability you have, so once your off of the soft stuff get some air back in the rubbers to avoid risk of losing a tyre or even a rollover.


Sand requires a driving technique of its own, try to keep a slow and steady momentum, sand will sap your power, this is when an automatic 4×4 comes into its own for keeping up the reves but a manual gearbox will need constant adjusting. If your driving at 20mph then try to keep it in 3rd gear so there is extra power available at an instant. Better still apply the low range gear and your Diff locks so power is low and consistent. Stopping will risk sinking so if you have a choice stop on a down hill to give you that extra pull of gravity when its time to get going again. Keep turns wide not sharp and be gentle on the brakes to avoid burying your nose in the dirt.

Sand dunes are just big mounds asking to be climbed and conquered, and with a straight line, a bit of ‘welly’ on the accelerator, that brief moment of sky gazing when all else is hidden from view and with any luck you’re on top, slow down now to judge the new terrain, any rocks, cars, sunbathers or worse a big drop off? Again choose a straight line down a dune because to come up or down with one side of the 4×4 lower then the other could risk a rollover if the sand shifts from underneath the lower side, especially as our trucks are usually high and top heavy and for the same reason avoid turning.


If you are a regular driver on sand or planning an overlanding trip, then sand ladders or waffle board type recovery aids are well advised to carry as a piece of your self-recovery kit. These items can be adapted and used in varying situations not just sand recovery, such as bridging short voids or ramps to assist obstacle crossings.

Wet sand is a different beast all together so try to avoid wet areas. The movement of the tyres across a boggy surface will pull water up and away from the ground making what remains a heavier denser terrain with added risk of sinking rather then staying on surface. If you start to sink then accelerate quickly because if you stop the only way you’ll be driving is further down into the mud.

Sand Ladders/Mats


With the above tips taken in, the rest is like life, down to practice and experience, so get out there and have some fun practicing . . .

Videos to check out ;





Sand Recovery techniques;




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