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How to prepare your 4WD for the beach

1. Get a grip

Getting bogged in the sand is not uncommon on a beach drive, but you can minimise your chances of getting stuck by ensuring your tyres are ready for the journey. The most effective tool for avoiding a beach recovery are your tyres – so long as they’re at the right pressure. Lowering your tyre pressures elongates your tyres’ footprints, making it easier for your vehicle to gain traction, keep momentum and avoid a recovery situation.

2. Go on all fours

The beach may not seem like the most rugged off-road terrain but it’s actually quite taxing on your vehicle’s mechanical componentry. Getting traction is not easy in soft sand, which means that your chances of getting stuck also increases. With this in mind, it’s easy to understand why it’s so important to engage four-wheel drive before driving on sand. Doing so makes it easier for your tyres to drive on top of the sand instead of burying into it – helping you to avoiding nasty recovery situations while taking unnecessary strain off your 4WD.

3. Know when to back off

The battle for tyre traction is a constant one when you’re driving off-road. This fact is amplified when you’re driving on sand, a place where traction is hard to come by and vehicle recovery is commonplace.

When you start losing traction and momentum on sand, the most popular response is to put your foot down and try to accelerate out of the situation. However, this often buries your tyres deeper and gets you properly bogged, ensuring you lose all traction while making your job of getting unstuck harder than it needs to be.

The best tonic for this problem is getting experience driving in the soft stuff, but for the uninitiated the best advice is to not panic and push too hard when you feel your 4WD losing momentum. After all, traction is about more than momentum, and traction is the key to keeping your adventure going.

4. Be prepared to help yourself

It’s often said that your best tool is the one you have, so it makes sense to have the right tools when you’re headed for a beach drive. In the context of sand driving, the right tools are the ones that allow you to recover yourself without another vehicle’s assistance. The simplest and perhaps most useful option are recovery boards, which function as individual ramps that offer your tyres traction in otherwise traction-less terrain. Easy to use and incredibly effective on the beach, in the mud or in the snow, having a set with you on the beach is an investment that will eventually pay dividends.

5. Be ready to help others

Part of beach driving culture is a willingness to assist others in strife, whether that’s with another set of helping hands or by offering up your own equipment to use in a recovery. Keeping a full recovery kit – or at least a snatch strap kit – in your 4WD will not only give you the confidence to travel further afield but will also equip you to be the recovery vehicle in vehicle-assisted recoveries.

The flipside of this is that if you need another vehicle’s assistance to get out of a bog and they don’t have all the right gear, you can guarantee that at least one of you is ready for anything.

6. Rate yourself

Rated recovery points are one of the most important accessories any 4x4 can have. Without them, snatch strap and various winch recoveries become dangerous and should be avoided as they create the potential for extensive damage and personal injury (or worse). A recovery point is a designated attachment point for winch cables and snatch straps, and recovery points that are properly rated have been designed and tested to handle the load demands that occur during vehicle recovery. Their importance in off-road situations for recovery and safety is such that the vast majority of TJM bull bars come with rated recovery points included.

7. Tread lightly

Most 4WD tracks are clearly defined trails that are distinct from the environment that surrounds them, but this is not the case on beach tracks. A beach ‘track’ is really anywhere between the ocean and the foreshore, which means there’s much more room for environmental disruption and driver error.

This means that, for the sake of the ecosystem you’re traversing, it’s essential that you always drive below the high tide mark. Not only will this ensure you’re not trampling the habitats of ground-nesting birds (or potentially turtles in some areas of Australia) or disrupting dune vegetation, but it will also save you from potential recoveries; the reason being that driving on hard sand greatly reduces your chance of getting bogged.

As part of this advice, remember to never drive on the beach in the two hours either side of high tide. Doing so is a recipe for getting bogged, and if you do so in the time before high tide you run the risk of losing your vehicle to the ocean completely.

8. Rinse and repeat

To ensure your 4WD is properly cared for and you’re ready for the next adventure, it’s important to press the reset button after your beach bash is over. The procedure for this differs for every four-wheel driver but the generic pattern is as follows: use an air compressor to air up your tyres for road driving, wash the exterior and underbody of your vehicle thoroughly and give the interior a detailed clean.

Cleaning your vehicle fastidiously after the beach is not just a good habit but is also completely necessary: if not dealt with quickly, residual salt will create rust wherever it can, quickly spreading and creating expensive damage. Avoiding this is as simple as getting plenty of fresh water into every crevice in an effort to dislodge as much salt and sand as possible.

Slava Yurthev Copyright