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How to Drive on the Beach (and Not Get Stuck)

Driving on the beach is a hoot. Getting stuck in the sand – not so much. Keep moving forward with these tips.

Instructions

  • : Only drive on the beach where it is legal, and contact the local municipality or police department to obtain any necessary permits.
  • Step 1: Go at low tide Plan your drive within two hours, either way, of low tide.
  • TIP: Look in your local paper to the find the exact time of low tide, or consult a tide table on the web site for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ("noaa.gov":http://www.noaa.gov).
  • Step 2: Rearrange cargo Rearrange whatever you have in the car so that the weight is balanced.
  • Step 3: Reduce tire pressure Increase stability by reducing your tire pressure. Measure with your tire gauge; the new pressure should be between 15 and 20 psi.
  • Step 4: Put your car in 4WD Put your car in four-wheel drive. Make sure your tires are facing forward when you first take off on the sand.
  • Step 5: Stay on harder sand Drive on areas where the sand is hardest -- between the waterline and the high-tide mark. If there are tracks from other cars, drive in them.
  • TIP: If the sand is soft, put the vehicle in a low gear.
  • Step 6: Drive slowly and carefully Drive slowly -- stay under 25 miles per hour. Maintain a steady speed and avoid sudden breaking. Make turns as wide as possible and only when you have some momentum.
  • Step 7: Steer clear of washouts Steer clear of pools of water and washouts, or ditches in the sand created by the surf. You don't want to get stuck in salt water.
  • Step 8: Coast to a stop When stopping, plan ahead so you can coast to a stop. Try to stop on a downward incline to make starting easier.
  • TIP: If you can't make it up a sand dune, put the car in reverse and back down it. Don't attempt to coast backwards or turn around.
  • Step 9: Never accelerate if you’re stuck If you get stuck, don't floor the gas or you'll just dig yourself in further. Instead, try going in reverse. If that's possible, try to drive forward a bit before reversing again, and keep going back and forth so you can create some traction.
  • TIP: You can also dig out buried tires with a small shovel, put wooden boards under your tires for traction, or use a towing chain or strap if another car is around to pull you out.
  • Step 10: Reinflate tires When you're back on solid ground, re-inflate your tires to their proper pressure with the help of your tire gauge and an air pump.
  • TIP: Proper pressure is your vehicle's weight, in pounds, divided by 100, plus 2 psi in front and 4 psi in the rear.
  • Step 11: Wash off sand and salt As soon as possible, wash the sand and salt off your car, especially from the undercarriage.
  • FACT: The highest tides in the world are found at the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, where the water level rises by 50 feet during high tide.

You Will Need

  • A vehicle with four-wheel drive
  • A tire gauge
  • A tire air pump
  • A local newspaper (optional) (optional) (optional)
  • A small shovel (optional) (optional) (optional)
  • Wooden boards (optional) (optional) (optional)
  • A towing chain or strap (optional) (optional) (optional)

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