Off Roading Playa Style
1. Know your vehicle well. A true 4x4 with selectable high and low gear ranges is the best option for any off-roading and highly recommended. You should not attempt to drive in sand or on the beach with a 2-wheel drive vehicle and should be very careful if using an AWD (all wheel drive) vehicle. AWD is not the same as 4x4. 2. Be prepared and do not go at it alone. Pack tow straps and go driving on the sand with friends in another well equip vehicle. A small shovel or trowel can be very useful for digging out a path for your tires should you get stuck. Also have a proper jack/lift and a large enough piece of wood on which to stabilize it if you should need to use it.
3. Tire pressure is key. Lowering your tire pressure creates more surface area, making it easier for the tires to get traction in soft sand. Carrying a tire gauge will help tremendously with this. Lowering your tire pressure by half is a good start, tire pressure can be as low as 15psi safely in sand. Be sure to re-inflate your tires as soon as possible when driving on pavement again. Sharp turns with low psi on pavement can cause the tires to come off the rim.
4. Keep your momentum. Start in second gear low and maintain a steady speed. Try not to shift if you do not have to. Shifting can cause you to loose power to the wheels just long enough for you to get bogged down. If you have an automatic transmission it should keep you in the appropriate gear but do not exceed recommended speed as it can cause the transmission to overheat from excessive shifting.
5. Use your brakes sparingly. To slow down take your foot off the accelerator, do not brake. Using the brakes will cause your tires to dig into the sand and create unwanted sand accumulation in front of your tires.
6. Make slow and steady turns. Hard turns create more resistance as you are attempting to drive through more sand than when driving in a straight line. This is more important when driving up or down a grade, as sharp turns on downgrades can cause your vehicle to roll and sharp turns on upgrades can cause you to loose momentum and get stuck.
7. If you do get stuck, hop out and take a look. Digging out around your tires to clear the excess sand build up is a good first step. Attempting to go in reverse first as the sand behind your tires is pre-packed at this point and can allow you to build some speed before attempting to go forwards again.
8. Know what the tide is doing! Be aware of the tide schedule and plan your trip accordingly. The tide can come up quickly, making beach driving a dangerous game. It is important to know the area you are driving, and once you reach your destination, to leave enough time to get back. With all this in mind, enjoy those place less traveled!