4WD Adventures: A Guide To Driving on the Beach with your 4x4
If you've never driven off-road before, it can be daunting to engage 4WD for the first time and head off the beaten track to explore the beautiful beaches Australia has to offer. Luckily though, there are a few basic principles that apply to all sand driving situations that will help you confidently adventure onto the beach, hassle free.
Before You Set Off
The most critical part of beach four wheel driving happens before you leave home, and that's making sure that you have all the essential gear packed. You'll need a tyre deflator to let your tyres down, and a reliable compressor to pump your tyres back up afterwards for the drive home.
You should also expect the unexpected when heading off-road, so it's important to pack recovery gear. Recovery tracks (or recovery boards as some people call them) are essential for beach driving as they provide a reliable way to recover your own vehicle from boggy situations, and a snatch strap allows others to assist in recovering your vehicle.
Getting Your Car Beach-Ready
Once you've made your way down to the beach, use your tyre deflator to lower your tyre pressures to an appropriate level (also check out our guide on tyre pressures if you need more info). This will vary from beach to beach, so don't be afraid to ask a fellow four wheel driver what they recommend, but if no-one's around, drop your tyres to somewhere between 15 to 18 psi. This is suitable for most beaches around Australia, however if you find the beach has particularly soft sand and your vehicle is struggling, you can drop your tyres further; but avoid making sharp turns when your tyre pressures are low. The next step is to engage 4WD, but only do this when you're close to the sand as driving on bitumen in 4WD can damage your vehicle. High range 4WD is suitable for most beaches, but use low range if the beach is boggy or you find your vehicle is constantly getting stuck.
Driving On The Beach
Driving on the beach is different to driving on the road, and there's a few things to keep in mind to ensure your adventure is trouble-free. If your vehicle is a manual, keep the revs higher than you would on the road - this will ensure your vehicle has the power it needs to drive through boggy patches of sand (if your vehicle is automatic, selecting sport mode will achieve a similar result).
If the beach has pre-existing tracks, it's a good idea to stick to these tracks as the sand will be firmer, and there's less chance of running into unexpected obstacles. If there's no obvious tracks, it's a good idea to stay away from the water's edge, that way if you get stuck, you'll have more time to recover your vehicle without having to worry about the tide.
Most importantly, make sure you have fun while on the beach and be courteous to other drivers (a friendly wave goes a long way!).
When it's time to head home, don't forget to put your vehicle back into 2WD and re-inflate your tyres to road pressure with your handy compressor. The correct tyre pressure for your vehicle can normally be found inside your door sill or manual, but if you're running upgraded tyres, make a note of what they were prior to deflating and pump them back up to the same level.
Follow this guide and you'll be able to confidently explore the beautiful beaches Australia has to offer.