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3 Tips for Off-Roading in Sand

Leaving paved roads to forge your own path and spend time in an expansive wilderness is uniquely exhilarating. You have complete freedom to go and do as you please. That said, with great freedom comes great responsibility. You need to know how to react when driving in certain conditions. While snow, mud, and water are all difficult enough obstacles, sand poses specific challenges to off-roaders. To learn more, here are some tips for off-roading in sand.

Choose the Right Tires

Your first step is to choose proper tires. While there are several basic tips for picking off-road tires, if you know you’ll drive in sand often, there are certain qualities you want to look for in a tire. For example, your overall goal when off-roading in sand is making maximum contact with the ground. This increases your chance of gaining a grip without gouging the sand beneath you. When you have little tread contact and deep, wide voids between tread blocks, a common feature for mud tires, your vehicle tends to dig into the sand rather than grip it from the surface.

Mud tires do this because digging is advantageous for removing slippery mud and gripping solid ground beneath. When you’re on beaches and other heavily-sanded areas, digging never reaches a solid bottom and just wastes energy and jeopardizes your safety. This is why all-terrain tires, which have more surface area than mud tires, are likely a better option.

Air Down for Max Surface Area

Another tip for off-roading in sand is to air down your tires before entering sandy areas. Airing down tires is a common off-roading technique that further increases tread contact with the ground. You can air them down to around 15 psi or even lower if your tire has special bead locks to keep your tire in place when it’s at a low pressure. Keep in mind—the more you air down your tires for traction, the slower you should drive. And when you head back for the road, don’t forget to re-up your tire pressure to avoid wearing them out quickly on the drive home.

Be Careful Where You Stop

When you off-road in deep sand, you never really want to be at a stand-still. When stopped, your vehicle’s forward momentum ceases and you sink a bit into the uneven ground. The real issue comes when you start back up, as accelerating from a stop can be nigh impossible. You end up churning through sand and going nowhere. To avoid these episodes, mind where you park. If there are no spots of solid ground, choose a landing spot that allows you to face downhill. That way, you can better regain momentum when you start driving again.

Written by Kevin O'Neill

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