4 wheel driving on the beach.

Submitted: Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 09:43
ThreadID: 65037 Views:3481 Replies:14 FollowUps:3
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Hi all.

Ive only just bought our first 4wd and heard alot of different stories about how to attack soft deep sand on the beach. Some people tell me to use high 4 and other people tell me to use low 4. Can someone set me straight on this topic please.

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Reply By: Member - Tour Boy (Bororen) - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 09:52

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 09:52
Depends on the situation.
Lower your tyre pressures ..first and formost.

If the sand is really soft I go for low range as the motor and cooling system isn't working so hard.

It is easy to overheat the motor and transmission in soft sand if you aren't careful.

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Reply By: Ozhumvee - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 09:55

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 09:55
Depends on a few things, for starters, vehicle type and model, tyre type, sand conditions, vehicle load (pass and gear), tyre pressures, mods to vehicle etc.
Provide a bit more info re the above and you may get some more qualified answers
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Reply By: Willass4x4 - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 09:55

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 09:55
Depends on the conditions i.e soft, hard, wet, sloppy etc. If you have enough spacetake at reasonable speed (not flat out if) if not 4 low and use your gears. Remember to deflate tyres accordingly.
AnswerID: 343833

Reply By: ross - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 10:01

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 10:01
There are other things to think of as well.
Be careful of beaches that slope down sharply towards the water.
Tyre pressure is all important.
Make sure you can get off the beach as easily as you got on.

The best gear is the one that keeps you moving without straining the engine /driveline.
Its all experimentation and will vary from one 4wd to another due to weight ,tyres and gearing
AnswerID: 343835

Reply By: David and Justine Olsen's 4WD Tag-Alongs - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 10:36

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 10:36
Find a good 4WD course. You will learn not just sand driving but heaps of stuff. It will be the best money you spend on your 4WD.

To your direct question. I recommend you always lower tyre pressure BEFORE you hit sand. If the sand is soft as you say, then start with a 300 mm foot print (got to 350mmm if deep soft sand) and limit speed to max 50 kph, with no aggressive turning.

Start in Low Range, in all sand, and only move to high range if low seems too low. Ensure the centre diff is locked if you have full time 4WD. If running a high tech 4WD with traction control, ensure you understand how this works. ie. does the traction control switch off when engaging low range?

Know your car's systems, this is where a good 4wd course and instructor can help.

AnswerID: 343843

Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 11:04

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 11:04
I encourage beginners to use low range in soft sand. That way they are less likely to cook the clutch when taking off or if they get stuck. As you get more familiar and experienced, then high range can be used.
AnswerID: 343846

Reply By: WayneD - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 12:00

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 12:00
Sand driving is a lot of fun but can be dangerous if you do not take care.
As suggested I would do a course or join a 4WD club.
tyre pressure is important as is momemtum. Never attempt to turn around on the side of sand hills or you will get to the bottom a lot quicker than you think and not necessarily shiny side up.
Also it is not easy to judge contours in the sand so speed can also be an issue.
You may also need to use recovery gear and if you have not been instructed how to use such things as a snatch strap read up or talk with other 4WDrivers, most are happy to offer advice.

AnswerID: 343855

Reply By: get outmore - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 12:16

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 12:16
if im not going over about 30kph any terrain off road
including the beach i wack it in low range.
Why use high range 1st and 2nd when you can give yourself the flexibility of using all 4 gears

soft sand is low range 2-3. if you can tackle it in high range, its not soft sand
AnswerID: 343857

Reply By: hotfishez - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 14:10

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 14:10
simple rule of thumb, tyres to 18 - 20psi. if you cant change to second gear high range without the vehicle bogging down, use low range. there is no need to go into any higher gear than second high on the beach, too many variables such as soft spots etc.
AnswerID: 343873

Reply By: Member - Kiwi Kia - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 14:30

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 14:30
Hi Baby Grand,

You need torque not revs. !

What ever gear gives you the most torque is the one you should be using. As already noted momentum is also important. Lots of revs and little forward speed will simply dig yourself through to South America very quickly.

When travelling along a fairly smooth beach I use high third. If the sand / shingle starts getting real soft then I may use high second and get ready to slam it into first if I have to turn on the crest of a dune. As you see several people have given different views on which gear to use as it all depends on your vehicle, tyre pressure, terrain gradient and of course the driver. I drive a 2.8 Pajero and a Troopy.

Stay at a slow to medium speed, no sharp turns and DO NOT SWERVE or you could be rolling over.

Watch for driftwood and keep away from seaweed as it may be hiding a log or a rock.

Watch out for streams crossing or bubbling up through the beach. They often have an almost invisable drop into the water course. They can catch you unawares and try and throw you through the roof !

If you start to lose momentum and it looks like you will become bogged stop, select reverse and slowly move backwards in your own tracks.

When you want to exit the beach you will be moving up slope so try keeping the momentum up and do a gradual turn up the beach to the exit. Any tight turn will see your tyres acting like a snow plough and you are likely to lose momentum and become bogged.


AnswerID: 343878

Reply By: Wayne's 60 - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 15:23

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 15:23
Hi BG,
Some good answers above.

If you are that concerned, attend a training course or join a 4WD Club.
Tyre pressure is all important, 50% of road going pressure to start and to test if your pressure is correct …… put your foot on the clutch or select N for an automatic…… if the vehicle stops suddenly…….. your pressures are too high, regardless of being in High or Low Range. Reduce the pressure and test again, the vehicle should “float” across the sand for a distance. Flotation and momentum are the important combination and some vehicles will perform better in High Range, others in Low.

Recheck your pressures after a kilometer or so, as friction and heat from the sand can cause an increase ( 2-4 psi) which is the difference between doing it easy and straining the clutch or auto trans.

Hope this helps a little.


AnswerID: 343886

Reply By: Mrbrush - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 19:03

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 19:03
Small engine,poor horsepower Low Range gears, like me.
Big engine, Plenty horsepower high range gears.
towing a trailer might have to go to low range gears.
Two words, TRIAL AND ERROR !!
AnswerID: 343935

Reply By: Flywest - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 20:51

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 20:51
For really soft sand I've dropped pressues as low as 9 psi for anyone interested - 8 psi and you risk beaking the bead and poppng the tubleless tyre off the rim.

To get that accurate I use staun tyre deflators and set and test them to make sure I get it right beforehand.

Also learn about beach formation - the season (summer to winter and steep eroding winter beaches compared to flat summer deposition beaches).

Stay off the steep winter eroding beaches, and look for summer flat deposition beaches that are wide hard and compacted.

Stay out of the intertidal range of the beach - and know the tides so you don't get stuck.

Watch out for river creeks crssing the beach and thick weed mats that have been covered with sand deposition and hide deep rotten seaweed traps.

Keep outta the dunes vegetation.

Watch out for other beach users and use common sense and common courtesy.

Don't go if you haven't got 4wd company to help snatch you out and all the recovery gear.

If you need a 4wd course to drive on a beach IMHO you shouldn't be behind the wheel of a 4wd - most of it is just common sense.

AnswerID: 343972

Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 21:57

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 21:57
Well folks,

I disagree with using low range for normal beach driving as you risk spinning the wheels and burying yourself quicker due to the increased torque.

In softer sand high range will allow greater speed without revving the guts out of the engine and a higher speed is sometimes the best option.

Maybe it also depends on the type of transmission, manual or auto.
Mine is an auto.

PS. Got bogged down at Robe on the weekend and had to be extracted. There is a couple of beaches there where the sand is really soft and you shouldn't go below the high tide mark, as I found out the hard way.

Still learning:-))



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AnswerID: 343998

Follow Up By: get outmore - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 22:37

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 22:37
depends somewhat how much power you have but you will really struggle to drive a non turbo diesal through soft sand in high range.
Im not sure why you think youwould spin and get bogged. If that starts happening your pressuresare too high and you air down some more.

in low range you dont start off in 1st gear but second .

Trust me with probabally as much drivable beach as all the other states put together starting on the outskirts of perth north and south
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Follow Up By: ross - Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 00:01

Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 00:01
Sandman,it can get that soft that sometimes the only way the vehicle can move on is with low range.

I kniow I had to do this several times on the weekend east of Albany
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Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 09:44

Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 09:44
Tried low range and tyre pressures down to 9psi - Hopeless.

On Errington Beach in the Little Dip Conservation Park the sand is course and extremely soft.

Was advised by a local (after I became bogged) that on this beach you don't go below the high tide mark or you end up like I did.

Fortunately, with the help of another vehicle we were able to extract the Jack before the water reached us. Took a bloody long rope though so the other vehicle could remain on firmer sand.

I was following printed directions and it did state the sand was extremely soft. That is why I attempted "firmer" ground down toward the water. NO, not on this beach, or Evan's Cave beach closer to Robe. You need to stay up on the extreme high side of the beach, close to the dune line.



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