January 20, 2022 5:07 pm

Off-road driving: how to drive in the sand

When we decide to drive a vehicle in the sand or dunes, we must take into account some things. It is very important to have a lot of information about the vehicle, the tires and the type of terrain that we are going to travel.; In this way, with all this information, we will be able to adapt our behavior at the wheel correctly and make the best decisions.

Sand is a nice, fun surface and it seems that it does not have any risk, but I can tell you that sand can’t be disrespected: It is very hard, the dunes have steep inclines and although it is an ideal surface to learn 4×4 driving techniques, if you make a mistake you can pay dearly.

The good thing about sand, unlike other surfaces, is that it allows us to have a small margin of error; because It is ideal for learning and practicing 4×4 driving safety techniques., such as going up and down steep inclines and inclines to the side. That the sand allows us a small margin of error does not mean that we can do anything; in the sand you have to drive very carefully.

Inertia. Our maximum ally to circulate through the sand without getting stuck; you have to take advantage of the positive slopes and not dig too muchShutterstock

The first thing we have to do before entering this surface is correctly configure the inflation pressure of our tires. By lowering the pressure, the tire considerably increases the support surface on the ground; By lowering the tire pressure by only 25%, we increase the support surface of the tire with the ground by more than 200%. At the same time, the rubber softens and is less aggressive with the surface, digging less and achieving inertia faster.

The lower the tire pressure, the better the vehicle will perform on this surface., but this is proportionally linked to security. I always say: we must configure the pressure of our tires in such a way that they remain with the highest possible inflation that the terrain allows us, that is why we recommend going down little by little until we have the ideal inflation pressure.

To determine an ideal inflation pressure, we must take into account several elements:

It is important that before determining the inflation pressure, you have this information at hand; In this way, you can make the best decision. Off-road driving requires making decisions constantly, a good decision behind the wheel can be synonymous with overcoming an obstacle loosely; a bad decision can mean an accident. The best way to make good decisions when driving an ATV is to evaluate as much information as possible.

Tire pressure.  One of the most important keys to circulate safely in the sand
Tire pressure. One of the most important keys to circulate safely in the sand

Our main drawback when it comes to lowering the tires is that they soften and sway laterally when we make a turn, run over a drop or drive on a lateral incline; So, the sidewall of the tire suffers and is exposed to undercutting which can cause an accident. If we break the bead in a curve, the tire sticks in the sand abruptly, being able to overturn our 4×4, and we cannot allow that.

For these reasons, we recommend going downhill little by little, not looking for the best performance of the tire in the sand, but a good performance while maintaining a high level of safety. There is something very important to keep in mind: when lowering the tire pressure you must adapt your behavior at the wheel; if you lower the pressure, you cannot do violent maneuvers, you must circulate more slowly and with great care, and most importantly, never stop inflating again when leaving the arena. On the asphalt, the deflated tire suffers a lot, it can be damaged inside and cause an accident in the future when we are on the road.

A recommendation due to the high temperature in the sand when it is daytime and the heat is raging: the friction of the tires with the hot sand increases the volume of the air, raising the pressure, for this reason it is important to control it several times a day and be careful not to get too low if we are going to stay overnight, because when it gets dark, the temperature drops a lot and, when it gets colder, the air inside the tires contracts, losing volume, lowering the pressure; In some cases, if we go down a lot during the day, at night we are going to be on the rim, that is why we recommend checking them very frequently and, if necessary, adding air to them with the compressor as many times as necessary.

driving techniques

It is important to try walk over the sand, avoiding digging too much; That is why we recommend starting slowly and when we are walking, dose the power maintaining a medium-high revolution regime (engine rpm). This does not mean going fast, but circulate without dropping revolutions, in an agile and dynamic way without losing inertia; in the arena, inertia will be our ally to overcome obstacles and not get stuck.

Whenever we stop it is important to do it on a surface with a positive slope; that is, down. Never stop on a negative slope looking up, because when we want to move again, we are going to dig and it is likely that we will not be able to start the march. A good tip to quickly achieve inertia is to look for slopes that serve as a ramp, go backwards with the vehicle and raise the rear of our 4×4 as high as possible; start gear in second and 4L (low) and immediately change gears. In the arena, inertia is our friend, we must make every possible maneuver to achieve inertia quickly. Once the desired inertia has been achieved, we must maintain the speed regime with small accelerations.

Regime.  In the sand you have to keep the engine with the rpm in a medium-high range
Regime. In the sand you have to keep the engine with the rpm in a medium-high rangeShutterstock

It is important not to “renegade” when we have already lost traction, because if we continue digging it is likely that we will support the differentials in the sand, being left hanging and without the possibility of getting out by our own means. If we lose traction, it is advisable to try to go back along the same track without digging and take more inertia to overcome that soft part.

Many who claim to have experience in the sand recommend driving in 4×4 high (4H) to develop more inertia or speed; that can be fine if we are going to have a sporty driving. But, if we are out for a walk or we are going to do recreational or family driving, we always recommend 4×4 low (4L) because in low we have “engine-brake”, that will help us brake just by lifting our foot off the accelerator. I personally prefer to go in 4th. or 5th in low, than in 1st. or 2nd on top.

First rule of 4×4, “never go out alone”; if possible, take one or two other vans with you. When you go out to do 4×4, you never know what time you are going to return; We recommend that you always go out with a full fuel tank, enough water and elements to make a fire and spend the night. You should always have a sturdy sling (not a supermarket one) and two shackles in your truck, in case you need to be rescued from a jam. We recommend you consult with local people to better understand the characteristics of the place; You should always notify where you are going and what time you plan to return, so there will be people waiting for your departure in case it is necessary to go to rescue you.

If possible, in the sand it is good not to use the brake, but to brake with the box, with the engine-brake; In this way, you will avoid breaking the superficial layer of the sand, and when you try to resume the march, you will achieve inertia more quickly.

whenever you face a climb to a dune, do it in a straight line, not diagonally. If you do not reach the top, you must go back along the same trail, with the reverse gear properly engaged: never try to turn around!

whenever you face a descent of a dune, you must do it in a straight line, with the first gear well engaged, you must not brake or touch the clutch; In case the truck tends to go sideways, your instinct will ask you to brake, but you must do the opposite, a little acceleration will correct your course.

declines.  They should always be done in a straight line and in first gear to take advantage of the engine-braking effect.
declines. They should always be done in a straight line and in first gear to take advantage of the engine-braking effect.

You must not make violent maneuvers, such as braking hard or turning sharply, tires can go flat.

Whenever you find yourself in a difficult position on a slope, lTechnique is always facing down, never contradicting physics..

On an incline, the worst mistake is wanting to go up; when the weight is tilted to one side, we must accompany it with the steering and a little throttle, in this way we send weight to the wheels above, preventing them from lifting and causing an accident. The problem is with our instinct, which we must overcome and execute a maneuver against it., achieving a conditioned reflex that is neither more nor less than the opposite of an instinctive reflex.

It is very important that when driving in the sand or dunes, you take this information into account and remember: all the information you have when driving a 4×4 will make you less afraid and you can concentrate on what you have to do. Remember, fear is the worst enemy in off-road driving, because it makes us make instinctive maneuvers. The more information you have about the terrain, your vehicle and off-road driving safety techniques, the less fear you will have.

Don’t forget, off-road driving is really interesting, it will allow you to reach remote places, discover incredible landscapes with your family and friends, and it will give you a lot of satisfaction, but It must be carried out responsibly, safely and it must be a sustainable activity for the future. and that the new generations can enjoy just like us.

The author is director of X-Perience Tour; [email protected]


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