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OliverDennis52

Beach/Sand Driving

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Hey all

Planning a trip this summer in the northern outer banks (4x4 area) that is only accessible by driving about 10 miles up the beach.  This will be my first time on the sand and just trying to confirm a few things.  I've looked through a ton of youtube vids and have all the necessary recovery equipment that I hope I don't have to use, but I have a couple questions.  

 

2021 AT4 3.0

Local regulations require tires to be aired down to 20lbs for 1/2 ton pickups and 35lbs for 3/4 ton. Cold tire pressure on the Duratracs is 41 lbs.  Does 20 sound right?

I've looked through the owners manual to try to determine the best driving mode to use, and it looks like "Off Road Mode" would be the best?

Any other tips from those who have experience with "off roading" in the sand?  

 

Thanks.

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13 minutes ago, OliverDennis52 said:

Hey all

Planning a trip this summer in the northern outer banks (4x4 area) that is only accessible by driving about 10 miles up the beach.  This will be my first time on the sand and just trying to confirm a few things.  I've looked through a ton of youtube vids and have all the necessary recovery equipment that I hope I don't have to use, but I have a couple questions.  

 

2021 AT4 3.0

Local regulations require tires to be aired down to 20lbs for 1/2 ton pickups and 35lbs for 3/4 ton. Cold tire pressure on the Duratracs is 41 lbs.  Does 20 sound right?

I've looked through the owners manual to try to determine the best driving mode to use, and it looks like "Off Road Mode" would be the best?

Any other tips from those who have experience with "off roading" in the sand?  

 

Thanks.

I shoot for 15 but 20 should be fine.  Use the air down valves to speed it up and carry compressed air for getting up to speed quickly when you're done.

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I did the Outer Banks out past Corolla a few years ago in my old F150 EcoTurd and did just fine when I aired down my tires. Kept it in 4Hi and stayed out of the dunes. Had my cigarette lighter air compressor to pump up my tires when I got back to pavement. Took a little while, but that POS compressor was to blame. You should be fine in your truck. There are tons of people with crappier vehicles than you that drive that daily.

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So your driving mode is only going to affect your transmission shift points and possible shift firmness so I wouldn't worry so much about what selectable mode you are in, it will truly have little affect on your sand driving.  

 

Keys to Sand Driving (in MY order of importance):

 

1. Air Down.  There are many times that you will not need to air down and at the end of the day you will wish you hadn't, but do it anyways.  It only takes a split second to go from driving on solid sand, to resting the frame on the ground in sugary sand.  The elongated footprint makes a huge difference in soft sand and it's often that you will find you can get unstuck just by lowering your tire pressures significantly.  Worrying about airing up once you get off the sand is a much lighter worry than worrying about the ocean consuming your truck as the tide comes in.....air down.

 

2.  Keep your momentum up and keep a steady speed.  You want to be on top of the sand and not plowing through it, and the only way to do that is by keeping your speed up.  I don't mean doing 70 mph across the beach, I'm more specifically speaking to keeping enough speed and momentum that the tires aren't plowing through the sand but riding on top of it.  Depending on the type of sand (damp, compact, soft, sugary) that could be 1 mph or 15+ mph.  You will know almost immediately once you roll across the surface of the sand, but generally speaking, driving on the damp (not soaked) sand at low tide is pretty safe because it's usually compacted nicely.  Look at the sand in your rear view mirror as you drive over it and check to see if you are leaving treaded patterns in the sand, or furrows.  If your tires are leaving 8" ditches or furrows behind you, increase your speed.  If you can see your tread and your moving along nicely, maintain that speed

 

3.  Don't use your brakes in soft sand.  One thing I see quite often is people using their brakes to slow down in soft sand and it sometimes causes issues when they try to get going again.  When they apply their brakes in the soft sand, the weight of the vehicle transfers forward, the front wheels begin to plow slightly, and the tires create a small berm in front of them.  When they try to move forward again, they have to surmount the berm that they created when they initially slowed using their brakes and sometimes that alone is enough to require an extraction/recovery.  In deep or soft sand, the sand alone will slow you down rapidly so don't bother with braking, just roll to a stop.  If you find yourself in the position where you have created a berm in front of your vehicle and you are struggling to crest it, put the vehicle in reverse, back over your tracks in a straight line (further compressing the sand), and get a rolling start.  That is usually enough to get your up and out.

 

4.  In deep, soft, sugar sand, utilize a higher gear in 4 low.  Driving through deep, soft, sugar sand can generate a lot of heat in your transmission.  If the sand is nice and compact, this isn't really an issue and you can stay in 4 hi, but if it's soft sugar sand it can really cause your transmission to heat up quickly causing damage that you might not see now but will definitely see in the future.  Since you have an AT4, you have a selectable 2 speed transfer case.  If you come across sugar sand, drop the transfer case into 4 low and proceed in L2 or L3.  Traversing the deep sand generates a lot of resistance on the drivetrain and by going into 4 low it helps to alleviate the strain on the transmission resulting in lower transmission fluid temps and a longer transmission life.  While on sand, I have my transmission temp displayed on the instrument cluster so that I can constantly monitor it.  When traversing hard packed sand with little resistance, I keep it in 4HI and the transmission temps usually stay around 180-185F.  Deep soft sand can see that fluctuate as much as 20-30 degree so I stay off the soft sand for the most part but go into 4 low (L2 or L3)when its inevitable.

 

5.  Always have recovery gear.  The best piece of recovery gear you can have when traversing sand is a set of traction boards.  Maxtrax, X-Bull, or any other Amazon brand traction board will save your butt and they are very easy to use.  Prices range from $50-$300, but in sand the $50 ones work exactly the same as the $300 ones.  For severe off-roading I would invest in the more expensive(durable) traction boards, but that is not needed in sand.  Go online, get a set of X-Bulls, and head to the sand knowing you are adequately prepared for a recovery if you need them. A second great piece of recovery equipment is a snatch strap, which is not the same as a tow strap.  Snatch straps have elasticity, generally around 20%, and work amazingly well in recovery situations.  Connect your vehicle to the other utilizing the snatch strap, leave about 10 feet of slack in the line, then have the pullout vehicle floor it and take off.  Once the snatch strap becomes taught, the potential energy then becomes kinetic and the snatch strap acts like a rubber band pulling the other vehicle out. 

PS.  When you are the one stuck, ALWAYS USE YOUR OWN RECOVERY GEAR, NEVER SOMEBODY ELSES.  You know the condition of your gear, use it and dont rely on Bubba Joe's worn out, ragged out, potentially lethal recovery gear.   Research and purchase the proper shackles, recovery hitches, etc. so that you don't have a busted connection point flying your way.  Though I have never experienced it personally, 2" tow balls will snap off their hitch and instantly become a lethal projectile, so never attach a strap to a tow ball.

 

5.  Take a camera.  All adventures, big and small, are awesome.  I know cell phones now double as cameras, so use it every chance you get and take lots of photos so you can come back here and share the story with us!

Edited by Gangly
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19 minutes ago, Gangly said:

So your driving mode is only going to affect your transmission shift points and possible shift firmness so I wouldn't worry so much about what selectable mode you are in, it will truly have little affect on your sand driving.  

 

Keys to Sand Driving (in MY order of importance):

 

1. Air Down.  There are many times that you will not need to air down and at the end of the day you will wish you hadn't, but do it anyways.  It only takes a split second to go from driving on solid sand, to resting the frame on the ground in sugary sand.  The elongated footprint makes a huge difference in soft sand and it's often that you will find you can get unstuck just by lowering your tire pressures significantly.  Worrying about airing up once you get off the sand is a much lighter worry than worrying about the ocean consuming your truck as the tide comes in.....air down.

 

2.  Keep your momentum up and keep a steady speed.  You want to be on top of the sand and not plowing through it, and the only way to do that is by keeping your speed up.  I don't mean doing 70 mph across the beach, I'm more specifically speaking to keeping enough speed and momentum that the tires aren't plowing through the sand but riding on top of it.  Depending on the type of sand (damp, compact, soft, sugary) that could be 1 mph or 15+ mph.  You will know almost immediately once you roll across the surface of the sand, but generally speaking, driving on the damp (not soaked) sand at low tide is pretty safe because it's usually compacted nicely.  Look at the sand in your rear view mirror as you drive over it and check to see if you are leaving treaded patterns in the sand, or furrows.  If your tires are leaving 8" ditches or furrows behind you, increase your speed.  If you can see your tread and your moving along nicely, maintain that speed

 

3.  Don't use your brakes in soft sand.  One thing I see quite often is people using their brakes to slow down in soft sand and it sometimes causes issues when they try to get going again.  When they apply their brakes in the soft sand, the weight of the vehicle transfers forward, the front wheels begin to plow slightly, and the tires create a small berm in front of them.  When they try to move forward again, they have to surmount the berm that they created when they initially slowed using their brakes and sometimes that alone is enough to require an extraction/recovery.  In deep or soft sand, the sand alone will slow you down rapidly so don't bother with braking, just roll to a stop.  If you find yourself in the position where you have created a berm in front of your vehicle and you are struggling to crest it, put the vehicle in reverse, back over your tracks in a straight line (further compressing the sand), and get a rolling start.  That is usually enough to get your up and out.

 

4.  In deep, soft, sugar sand, utilize a higher gear in 4 low.  Driving through deep, soft, sugar sand can generate a lot of heat in your transmission.  If the sand is nice and compact, this isn't really an issue and you can stay in 4 hi, but if it's soft sugar sand it can really cause your transmission to heat up quickly causing damage that you might not see now but will definitely see in the future.  Since you have an AT4, you have a selectable 2 speed transfer case.  If you come across sugar sand, drop the transfer case into 4 low and proceed in L2 or L3.  Traversing the deep sand generates a lot of resistance on the drivetrain and by going into 4 low it helps to alleviate the strain on the transmission resulting in lower transmission fluid temps and a longer transmission life.  While on sand, I have my transmission temp displayed on the instrument cluster so that I can constantly monitor it.  When traversing hard packed sand with little resistance, I keep it in 4HI and the transmission temps usually stay around 180-185F.  Deep soft sand can see that fluctuate as much as 20-30 degree so I stay off the soft sand for the most part but go into 4 low (L2 or L3)when its inevitable.

 

good points ,  any opinion or running a less agressive tread if not bald tire in sand to keep from digging in and making a rut?

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Good write up Gangly you hit everything on the spot. One other thing is DONT go out there and make high speed turns slinging sand up in the air as that sand will get in every nook and cranny in your brake calibers, suspension parts and in-between your tire rim beads causing leaks at the bead, seen it happen. Also if using your truck go fishing etc dont  park out on a point on the beach close to the water as I saw a guy fishing out on the point and not paying attention to the tides and as the tide came in his truck more or less looked like it was out on a island, the spot he came in at was covered with water no way out he was done, tide came in and swallowed his truck. 

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Definitely not bald.  You need tread to grip the sand, but its easier to stay on top of the sand with a larger foot print and more tread. 

 

There are TONS of internet arguments regarding MT vs AT tires in the sand and which one is best.  The generally consensus between the two is that surface area matters the most and therefore aggressive patterned AT's are better for staying on top of the sand while MT's don't stay on top of the sand as well but do a better job of getting you out of the sand when stuck.  Its a trade off, but I prefer a more aggressive pattern in case I get stuck, and just keep my speed up to avoid getting stuck.  Sand really isn't hard to drive in at all, you just need to make sure you keep your speed up and don't come to a stop in soft sand.  If you find yourself starting to get stuck, most times backing out before it gets to bad is all you need to do.  If that doesnt work, take a shovel and simply clear out the sand in front of or behind your tires and start again.  Just don't floor it, spin the tires, and blast all the sand out resulting in your truck sitting its frame on the ground.  Smooth and steady wins the day when driving in sand.

 

Some beach driving along Padre Island just south of Corpus Christi, Texas.  That's my father giving the thumbs up, ha.

20210123_083929.jpg

Edited by Gangly

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A quick video on traction boards:

 

A quick video on snatch straps with Ronny Dahl, an excellent Off Road and Overland guru from Australia who has has some excellent content:

 

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Thanks everyone.  Snatch strap and the appropriate shackles are on their way, but I'm going to have to go with a portable compressor.  There are air stations when I get back to the paved roads, but I'd like to have my own just in case.  Also, I'll be loaded down pretty full with gear/passengers on the way in so space will be a premium.  Any good recommendations on a portable compressor that doesn't take up too much space and doesn't cost and arm and a leg?

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5 minutes ago, OliverDennis52 said:

Thanks everyone.  Snatch strap and the appropriate shackles are on their way, but I'm going to have to go with a portable compressor.  There are air stations when I get back to the paved roads, but I'd like to have my own just in case.  Also, I'll be loaded down pretty full with gear/passengers on the way in so space will be a premium.  Any good recommendations on a portable compressor that doesn't take up too much space and doesn't cost and arm and a leg?

How much is an arm or leg?  For about 100 you can get a nice compressor that clips onto the battery with a long hose to reach all 4 wheels.

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Compressors that plug into your DC outlet will work fine ($50), but they will take what seems like FOREVER to pump a single tire up.  My suggestion would be to purchase a compressor that runs directly off your battery so you aren't so limited in amperage.  You can find these for $100 easy.

 

Battery hookup air compressors will run you more money but they are worth it so that you aren't spending 25 minutes on the side of the road airing 4 tires while your wife tries to convince you that you shouldn't have aired down the tires to begin with and how she could already be at the restaurant sipping on a margarita by now.

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I have two of these (different chuck on each one), they work well, just make sure to keep the engine running while using it.

 

See the source image

Edited by JimCost2014
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Bought one of these, have not used it yet. Have the 12V version also, which does a good job on smaller thing.

 

See the source image

 

 

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56 minutes ago, JimCost2014 said:

Bought one of these, have not used it yet. Have the 12V version also, which does a good job on smaller thing.

 

See the source image

 

 

I've never seen one before, that's an intriguing tool that would be excellent for blowing up beach/pool equipment.  Alright, I'm off to the Milwaukee site (big fan of the red tools) to see what they have!

Edited by Gangly

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