Driving over sand and dunes in a 4×4

By 4th Dec 2017 Sep 21st, 2018 Terrain Crossing
Driving over sand and dunes in a 4×4

Driving over sand and dunes in a 4×4


Driving over sand and dunes in your 4×4 can sometimes result in the need for a recovery, but when done right it is an exhilarating experience. Here are some useful tips that will help you make the most out of sand and dunes.


  • Before attempting to drive across sand, it’s important to ‘read the line’, and check if the sand is dry, damp or wet.
  • High-range is suited to most sandy conditions as it allows you sufficient forward momentum, which gives your vehicle flotation over the sand.
  • The key to flotation is deflation! (± 50% of the recommended pressure for tar) – gear selection is also critical.
  • Hot, dry sand disperses quickly and is more difficult to get across. In the early morning and late afternoon the sand will be cooler and easier to cross.
  • Damp sand offers the most traction. Sand is generally damp early in the morning and later in the afternoon or after rain. It binds together which allows better flotation.
  • You can easily spot wet sand as it has a shimmer – avoid these patches as you could easily get stuck.
  • Salt flats can be treacherous if you break through it’s crust – you can get bogged down.
  • Small dunes tend to be unstable and are best avoided – drive around them.
  • Larger dunes may allow sufficient space to ‘attack’ them correctly, learn the correct technique to crest a dune by attending one of our driving courses. Decelerate just before going over; remember that momentum and selecting the correct gear is critical.
  • On sickle dunes, stop just before going over the crest as there is no back face to drive on to and you may flip your vehicle.
  • Select a gear that is appropriate for your vehicle and the terrain. The most important thing to remember here is to avoid wheel-spin. Changing gears while driving will break your momentum and could get you stuck!
  • It’s always a good idea to follow existing tracks.
  • If you need to stop, allow your vehicle to simply decelerate to a halt. Hard raking will get you stuck.
  • Always be aware of other vehicles and pedestrians as the terrain may prevent you from being able to stop quickly.
  • If you are driving in existing tracks and need to leave them, aim in the desired direction  and accelerate to ‘power out’ of the grooves.

Remember that driving on beaches is strictly forbidden in South Africa. Please be Eco Aware.

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