8 tips for driving your Toyota 4x4 in sand (without getting stuck!)
Here's a few things you should know
Sand is often the surface that new 4x4 owners tackle first, perhaps because it seems less intimidating that mud or rocks. But it can be an unforgiving medium, so before you take your new Prado to Mozambique, here are a few things you should know:
- Don’t think that driving on sand is going to be easy. Sand is soft and your Prado weighs almost 2.5 tons, so it will sink in given the slightest opportunity. Sand also saps power from your engine, and if you do things wrong you can slide, roll or get your vehicle bogged down.
- Carry a calibrated, good-quality tyre pressure gauge. The first thing you should do when driving in sand is lower your tyre pressures. This elongates the footprint of your tyre on the sand, spreading the weight of the vehicle and helping to keep the tyres from digging in. Lower tyre pressures BEFORE you get stuck, and start with pressures of about 1.5 bar, and drop them down to 1.2 bar if necessary.
- Keep momentum. Momentum doesn’t mean going fast, it just means try not to slow down too much. A key to this is to stay in the correct gear, because if you’re driving slowly and change gear, you can slow down to a speed where you get bogged down. Remember the golden rule of 4x4 driving: As slow as possible, as fast as necessary.
- Peak at the right time. We’re talking about sand dunes here. If you’re tackling a sand dune, slow down just before the top – you don’t want to go flying off the other side, especially if you don’t know what’s there.
- Don’t turn too sharply. Remember, your tyres have been deflated, which means that they’re more likely to come off the rims. Prevent this by driving gently, and turning as slowly as you can. If you turn sharply you can build up a wall of sand and either pop the tyre off a rim or even roll your car.
- Be gentle on your brakes. If possible, allow your vehicle to coast to a stop instead of using the brakes. Braking often causes the wheels to dig in, which makes pulling off again difficult.
- Go back to go forwards. A neat trick is to reverse a few metres after stopping, and then start going forward again. This gives you the chance to pull off on compacted sand and prevents you from getting stuck.
- Re-inflate as soon as possible. This is a big one! Don’t forget to re-inflate your tyres as soon as you can – you don’t want to forget and start driving 100km/h on a tar road with tyres at 1.2 bar! That could lead to a tyre flying off a rim, or a blowout, and a potential accident.
PS: Carry a spade!