Driving on sand dunes is one of the most exhilarating options for off-roading. But just as with any terrain you conquer, you’ll want to use the right driving methods. Avoid mishaps involving yourself and your vehicle by following these off-road techniques for driving through sand. Keep in mind, these directions apply to driving over desert sand rather than beaches.
Lower Your Tire Pressure
At their usual pressure, your tires will have a hard time gripping the surface of the soft and shifting sand. Improve traction by lowering your vehicle’s tire pressure; the lower the tire pressure, the greater the tire surface area touching the sand.
In general, you can drop your regular tire pressure of about 30 psi down to 20 psi. However, the exact amount depends on your vehicle, its weight, and the softness of the sand. Once you leave the sand, reinflate your tires to the recommended pressure.
The next key off-road technique for driving through sand is to maintain momentum. You don’t want to rapidly accelerate as this will cause your wheels to dig into the sand. Instead, apply slow and steady pressure to your gas pedal, then maintain that speed.
Gain speed before you go up a dune, and while you ascend, maintain your momentum. When you descend the slope, move slowly and use your engine brake. Gently accelerate at the end of the slope to avoid getting the front end of the car stuck.
Watch for Visual Cues
It might seem like you can take in all the visual cues of the desert easily. But don’t hesitate to step out of your vehicle every now and then to get a closer look at your surroundings.
If you see traces of other drivers’ tracks, it’s often a good idea to follow those paths. If you don’t see traces, stop at the top of a dune to check out which direction you should drive. Also, ensure you steer clear of obstacles such as wildlife and difficult dunes.
Make yourself more visible to other off-roaders by putting a sand flag on your Jeep—the flag has a long, whip-like pole that attaches to your vehicle. When you kick up sand, the flag will stay visible and help other drivers know where your vehicle is within the sand cloud.
Don’t Make Sharp Turns
Avoid turning your vehicle sharply. The low tire pressure means more weight and force are on your rig’s tires. Combining that with turning can cause tire damage, including the tires coming off the rims.
Turning the wheels on an incline, whether you’re ascending or descending, is particularly treacherous as you risk rolling over. Be sure to drive perpendicular to the dune, and if you need to turn around, reversing is the best choice.
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