The beaches in town and some close to town are off limits for any type of motorized vehicle but once you get a little ways out, you can find miles of beaches where you can drive right down to the water – if you are prepared. Here are a few tips to help you avoid getting stuck:
-If the sand is soft, the first thing to do in any kind of vehicle is to let the air out of the tires. Drop the pressure to levels way, way too low to use on pavement. Twelve to 15 psi is good – less if you have narrow, high-profile tires. This increases the tire’s footprint, allowing it to float over the sand instead of digging a trench.
-Needless to say, as soon as you get back to terra firma, the first thing to do is to re-inflate. Even a couple of miles to the next gas station could peel a tire off a rim. Not to mention that your cornering and braking will be severely lacking. I keep a 12V tire pump as standard gear in my truck.
– When you’re driving on the sand, avoid sharp corners. Wheels trying to turn take a lot more to push through the sand than one’s going straight. If you start to get stuck, straighten the wheels out until you get going again. Then you can try and turn. If that means backing up, shoveling the trenches back in and trying again, fine.
– If you do lose forward motion, don’t spin the tires until you’ve dug halfway to New Zealand. Back gingerly out. A floor mat, some branches or even a chunk of chain-link fence can get you started again. If the soft patch is short and there’s water nearby, wetting down the path will make the sand grains stick together enough to lift the tire over instead of digging in. Don’t try this with your drinking water if you’re far from fresh water.
– Got a front-wheel-drive car? Stay home. The front wheels will dig in almost instantly on loose sand.
– Rear-drive cars do a little better-but there’s no substitute for 4WD.
– A proper part-time 4WD system with a low range and a locked center differential will get through almost any beach. If you’ve got a full-time AWD road car, you can do a limited amount of deep sand cruising, but there’s probably not a lot of ground clearance. More importantly, low gear isn’t really low enough, and you stand the chance of overheating the transmission by grunting along at low speeds.
When stopping on loose sand, back up a foot or so, so that when you pull off you don’t have any sand built up in front of tires. This will reduce the possibility of a wheel spinning and digging a hole. Try not to spin wheels as you pull away, but move fast enough to get some momentum built up.
If you do get stuck, don’t sit there and spin the wheels, you will only make it worse. Get out and think a minute about the best way of becoming “unstuck”. A piece of wood, carpet, or dead tree branches under the stuck wheel can sometimes help you get unstuck. A shovel and few minutes of digging in the right place can often work wonders too, especially if your rear axle is buried in the sand.
Water can also help getting unstuck on loose sand. Try pouring five gallons or so of water into the sand around the stuck wheel(s), let it soak in for a few minutes, then try again. Again, don’t use your drinking water.
Once you have planned your escape from the sand (whether it be digging, laying something down for traction, or just pressing the right buttons), drive slowly and don’t let a wheel spin and dig in (unless you are clearly becoming unstuck and gaining momentum).
The secret to getting quickly unstuck on sand is assess the situation as soon you become stuck. Do not spin your wheels if you are not making progress. A quick pull with a strap or winch will often get you moving again, unless you have dug yourself into a big hole by spinning your tires, then it becomes much difficult to get yourself free.
There are a multitude of products that you can purchase to help you get un-stuck if you plan on doing any serious driving “out in the middle of nowhere” on the sand. Just do a Google search and you’ll see how many options there are. Some are actually very creative (exhaust jack), (sand tracks), and others are basic common sense (folding shovel), (tow strap). Some even suggest carrying a (telescoping ladder) to put under the wheels to get unstuck.
Whatever you do, it is always best to be prepared if you will be on the beach away from people and help. Cell phone service is pretty good overall but don’t count on it. And, ALWAYS bring extra drinking water.
Final Tip: Do not drive below the high tide line if you think that there is any chance at all of getting stuck! Many people (see below) have lived to regret it. A vehicle will never be the same after a salt-water bath.
See you again next month. Until then, stay cool and enjoy the Summer. Saludos, Jim Ringquist
This article is brought to you by the Sonoran Resorts Sales Group, www.sonoranresorts.mx, Jim Ringquist, Director of Sales and Marketing.