Like your online anonymity? Don’t want to be ‘Instafamous’ for being bogged up to your chassis in front of the Fraser Island ferry? This one’s for you.
Social media is rife with carnage from the Cape, Fraser Island, and Inskip Point these days. Chances are, if you screw the pooch as you’re lining up for the Fraser Island ferry, sink to your diffs, and need four 4WDs, a tractor and a front-end loader to pull you out, you’re gonna be famous … for all the wrong reasons. So let’s take a look at how you can safely traverse Inskip Point, and well, any soft sand for that matter, without getting bogged or becoming famous.
WHAT’S THE RIGHT TYRE PRESSURE?
The big one: tyre pressures. Certain publications will have you believe that 25psi on sand is the perfect pressure for any sand driving. Let’s set the record straight – there is no such thing as a perfect pressure. Unless you’re only driving on the hard-packed, bitumen-esque sand of Fraser Island’s eastern beach, even 25psi is still too high for the absolute vast majority of sand driving around this magic country of ours.
Inskip Point, specifically, is generally soft as hell, and if you wander out onto the sand at the point with 25psi in your tyres, you’re going to have a bad time. I’d be starting somewhere closer to 16-18psi and going from there. Hell, even go lower if it’s not rained for months on end. I grew up on Stockton Beach, that has some of the softest and most unforgiving sand driving in the country (when we could drive on all of it). It’s not uncommon to need to be down to 10 or 12psi to be able to head down to the water for a fish. There are, however, some rather important points you need to keep in mind when you’re down that low…
6 TIPS FOR BEACH DRIVING ON LOW PRESSURES
Take it easy turbo!
If you’re spinning your wheels, you’re heading south quickly. You don’t want to dig through the sand, so much as roll across the top of it. Not to mention you’re drastically increasing the chances of rolling a tyre off your bead. Next time you’re out on a beach, pay attention to the old-as-the-hills fisho idling out to the beach on 12psi, then the idiot city slicker bouncing off rev limiter doing 2km/h on 35psi.
Brakes work like anchors on sand…
Unless you really need to stop in a hurry, stay away from the brakes. They’ll push sand in front of your tyres and bury themselves real quick; often in an attempt to eject you and anyone else in the four-wheel drive through the windscreen. Wherever you can, it’s always better to roll to a stop on sand.
Point the nose down!
Speaking of stopping on sand, wherever you can, try to pull up with your nose facing slightly downhill. When you decide to get moving again, gravity is your friend. It’ll get you moving easier, and you won’t have to take off with as much gusto.
Straight up driving…
If you find yourself a beach where you’re allowed to drive on the big rear dune systems (like the southern end of Stocko), make sure you’re driving up and down the dunes square and straight. Angles on dunes are all bad. Heading down a dune on an angle, your weight will shift to the front wheel closest to the bottom, dig in, and most likely try to humpty-dump your 4WD. Same goes for the rear on your way up. Keep it straight!
Local weather is important
Believe it or not, knowing what the local weather has been doing over the past week or so is important. The vast majority of dune systems along the coast of Australia generally run east to west, and the beaches on the east coast generally run north to south. This means, if there have been southerlies for the past week, the southern side of the dune will be a nice gradual incline, but on the northern side, it’ll be a rather steep drop off from the sand blowing over the top – so approach with caution! Nearly all the dunes should be pushed the same way, with one side steep and one side nice and gradual, so once you know what the dunes are doing, you’re pretty well right.
Video Credit: Geoff Jones
Take the path MOST travelled
Despite our best efforts to forever take the path least travelled, as the innate explorers we are, when you’re on the beach, try to stick in someone else’s tracks. Couple of good reasons: one, the sand will already be compacted from the last bloke to drive it, so you should roll through easier; and two, chances are if someone has taken a bad run into quicksand, you’ll find a bogged 4X4 you can help recover, or see where they’ve been stuck, and know not to go further.
BUT WHAT DOES AIRING DOWN EVEN DO?
There’s a good chance I’m going to break your brain here but stay with me. When letting your tyres down, specifically for sand driving, a lot of folks look at side wall “bagging”, and judge pressures and tyres too, on how well they bag out when you let them down.
What if I told you you’re looking at the tyre wrong. *cue stunned silence* Yep, true story. Don’t get me wrong, the side walls bagging out helps a touch in increasing the width, and therefore the weight distribution across a greater area, but the most important part, is increasing the front to rear area, not side to side.
When you let your tyres down (and have a gander at the pics here), you’re turning your tyre from essentially a rock-hard wheel, into what more closely resembles an army tank track. The track (read: tread) hits the ground and stays stationary while the sidewall flexes and the wheel rolls over the stationary tread. Imagine putting 500 recovery boards down to drive along on the beach; it becomes a nice stationary solid track for your wheel to roll over. By letting your tyres down, you’re doing the same thing, but your tread becomes the stationary mass on top of the sand.
Worth keeping in mind, despite the fact that 2psi doesn’t sound like much, 2psi at 10psi is a hell of a lot more than 2psi at 40. Think of it as a percentage as opposed to a number. 2psi at 10psi is 20% of the air you’re letting out. 2psi at 40psi, is only 5%, so 2psi can make a HUGE difference.
So when you’re driving on soft sand, get down to 18psi, and work it out from there. Chances are you’re going to have a different ‘perfect’ pressure for the local beach haunt, depending on the beach, so you’ll need to work it out for yourself. But just remember, when you are down at 10psi, don’t corner hard, or accelerate hard either – you shouldn’t need to, and you’re just about guaranteed to roll a bead if you do!