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Skimming over sand!

2002-09-13 11:55

Following in previous tracks makes sand driving easier; it's also easier on the environment!

Johan de Villiers

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Providing of course, that you know what you?e doing. The number one rule to remember when driving over sand is Momentum. Once you have lost momentum on sand it is very difficult and in most cases, (especially soft sand), impossible to regain speed.

Secondly, it is important to remember that you want your vehicle's tyres to float or plane on top of the sand.

In order to maximise the surface area of your tyre, you will have to deflate them to about 1.5 bar or lower. As the tyre deflates it becomes more vulnerable to damage and in extreme cases, even physically rolling off the rim!

To prevent this from happening, never deflate to less than 0.8 bar.

There is also a danger of overheating owing to the friction caused by the flexing of the side walls so try to keep your maximum speed to 60 km/h or less, depending on the amount of deflation.

Remember, as the tyre deflates, traction improves, but the risk of damage increases. Bear in mind that you will need a proper electrical air compressor to re-inflate the tyres back on firm ground.

Do not bother with manual foot pumps. It will take you anything up to 40 minutes per tyre to inflate back to the proper pressure. They should only be used in an absolute emergency.

For normal sand driving, high range gearing should suffice, but for very sandy conditions, revert to your low range gearbox.

Pull away in second or third gear. Quick gear changing is allowed, provided that you do not lose momentum. To do this properly, ensure that the gear changes happen at moderately high revs.

Never lock your diffs on sand. This is probably one of the biggest mistakes a novice can make on sandy terrain. Not only will your turning circle become huge but also there is a very real risk of capsizing the vehicle in a sharp turn.

When driving on sand, always follow the tracks of previous vehicles to prevent damage to the environment. The vehicle will also benefit from driving on more compacted sand by driving on old tracks.

Try to ensure that your turns are as wide as possible to prevent the front wheels from acting as rudders or in some cases even braking the vehicle when turning.

Using your brakes while driving on sand should always be a last resort. Normally, allow the vehicle to simply coast to a stop when required. This prevents the front tyres from building up sand ridges that you then have to traverse over on the next pull-away.

When pulling away, ensure your front tyres are pointed straight ahead, otherwise they will dig into the soft sand as well!

Another useful tip on stopping is to ensure that the vehicle's nose is pointing downhill if at all possible. This will assist in pulling away.

If you get stuck and start encountering wheel spin while driving on sand, allow the vehicle to come to a rest, without using the brakes. Applying more power will simply dig the wheels in deeper.

Put the vehicle in reverse and gently back out for about 5 -10 metres on your own tracks. (Your own tracks are more compacted than the surrounding sand and therefore provide better traction, as mentioned before!) Retry the same obstacle until clear.

If the vehicle becomes completely bogged down, stop and deflate your tyres another 0.2 bar. Check to see that there is no build up of sand in front of any of the wheels and clear it if necessary, before attempting to reverse. Repeat this procedure until the vehicle is out of the sand trap.

If this still does not get you out of the sand, more advanced recovery becomes necessary. Use your winch or a kinetic strap if another vehicle is present.

Failing that, use your high-lift jack and provide artificial traction underneath the tyres, such as branches or stones.

When encountering steep dunes, always go straight up and down the dune. Never attempt to ascend or descend a dune at an angle as the downside wheels may dig in and the vehicle will roll over. At the same time, never attempt to make a U-turn on a sand dune either for the same reason.

If the vehicle stalls while attempting to ascend a dune, reverse back in gear. If the back of the vehicle starts sliding while descending a dune straight down, apply a gently amount of power to straighten the vehicle out.

Finally, please remember it is now illegal to drive on beaches or sand-dunes next to beaches.

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