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Can You Drive An SUV On The Beach?

SUV on the beach
Your SUV with a 4 wheel drive system will conquer almost any beach.

The hype for beach driving this year is really high that it made me wonder if it’s a good idea to drive an SUV on the beach, so I did a little research.

Can you drive an SUV on the beach? You can drive your SUV on the beach given that it’s an AWD or 4WD with suitable ground clearance and you stay on hard, compacted sand. Also, be sure to follow existing tire tracks to avoid getting bogged on the beach.

Now, hold up! Before you pack your things and go on your way, make sure you’re bringing the right SUV. It might surprise you that 4WD and AWD won’t perform the same way on the sands. While you’re at it, check out some tips and tricks on how to drive your SUV on the beach with less trouble and more fun!

AWD vs. 4WD: Which is Better on Sand?

While AWD and 4WD can both drive all four wheels, these two have totally different system features like differential, drivetrain, and tires. These are what makes the performance of Full-Time 4WD, Part-Time 4WD (2WD), and AWD differ from each other. Which of these would be perfect for your beach getaway?

Full-Time 4WD

Differential: Supplies torque to all four wheels at all times that will help you turn to corners at different speeds. Once bogged on the beach, just straighten your wheels out until you get going again.

Drivetrain: Equipped with a high or low gear range to increase the speed of your climbing power. With its front and rear axles locked for maximum traction, you can easily drive your SUV out of the sands if ever you get stuck.

Tires: Geared with street tires ideal for the beach. Just let the air out and drop the pressure to 12 or 15 PSI to avoid digging a trench. Alternatively, you can slap on some TerraGrips Tire Chains for gripping the road better.

Performance: Cruise through the sand. With all the power you can put on all four wheels, you can drive easily through wet and dry sands.

2WD (Part-Time 4WD)

Differential: Sends engine power to two wheels, either front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. But if your car is an FWD, just stay home. Your SUV won’t make it. (Tsk!)

Drivetrain: Available with either mechanical lever or electronic switching. This has good traction between the front and rear axles which limits its use to only off-road courses.

Tires: Normally equipped with 33×12.50 oversized rear tires. Without an aggressive tread, you can air down your 2WD to 10 psi or so, allowing it to float over the sand.

Performance: Rear-wheel drive cars can manage. With its low range and locked centre differential, your proper 2WD system can get through almost any beach.

AWD

Differential: Constantly sends torque to all four wheels without the front and rear axles being locked. Its automatic CPU traction will force spinning wheels when driving on sand, and cause the vehicle to get bogged.

Drivetrain: Lacks a low range feature that makes it less effective and more fragile on a beach ride. With its low traction, you can limit halt between axles and direct up to 100% of torque to the front or rear axle.

Tires: Geared with tires of 4/32nds tread depth tolerance. With the air out, there should be around 1/8″ difference to minimize damage to the vehicle when used to off-road courses like the beach.

Performance: Limited deep sand cruising. Your full-time AWD probably don’t have an adequate ground clearance which will limit your sand cruising. Its low gear isn’t low enough which will result in transmission overheating when driving at low speeds.

As one off-roading adage goes, “If you’re not getting bogged, you’re not trying hard enough.” But still, it’s really troublesome to get stuck in the sand. So you have to make sure your SUV will survive your beach driving. What are the things you have to keep in mind, and on your trunk, to stay safe and avoid beach sandtraps?

Tips and Tricks on Beach Driving with Your SUV

  • Check beach regulations. Some beaches set boundaries as to how far on the beach you can drive on while others require a permit before you enter. It’s only appropriate to obey these rules for safety reasons.
SUV parked beside a beach regulations post
For safety reasons, be sure to follow the beach regulations.
  • Check the tides. Find out if there’s an incoming high tide so you don’t get bogged. If possible, start your travel on an outgoing high tide, as the sand will be firm.
  • Reduce tire pressure. Don’t forget to air down your tires to 15 psi or lower. Also, make sure you don’t turn too sharply on the sand as you may damage your tire!
  • Bring only the essentials. Lighten your load as much as possible before you leave. If your vehicle is heavy, it will sink easily on the sand. You’ll also have better clearance if the vehicle is lighter.
  • Avoid sharp corners. Making a turn on sands will take up a lot of power on your wheels, so avoid these at all costs. But, if you ever get stuck, shovel trenches back in, straighten your wheels and keep on driving until you get going again.

Beach Driving Essentials

  1. Permit. Some beaches require a permit, so be sure to bring yours before you leave.
  2. Sunglasses. You would need this to minimize the glare and see the gradations in the sand clearly. What sunglasses should you get? Ray-Bans of course! The New Wayfarer Sunglasses from Ray-Ban are the most appropriate for all occasions!
  3. Compressor. Bring a good one so you can reinflate your tires before you leave the beach. This Astro Portable Compressor is the best one in the market right now.
  4. Deflator. If you often go to the beach, might as well bring your own deflator for your convenience. These Tire Deflators from GODESON will do the job just right.
  5. Gallons of Water. Whether you take a 4WD or AWD, beach driving can put a strain on your engine. Make sure to bring gallons of water to prevent your SUV from overheating. Get this cool, plastic water can to keep your engine cool.
  6. Traction Aids. Examples of these are floor mats to put under your wheels when your wheels got stuck. Get a grip with Portable Tire Mats.
  7. Shovel. This is a must when you get bogged and need to dig. Looking for a good shovel? Get the SOG Folding Survival Shovel to get out of tight spots.
Man digging up his wheels stuck on sand
“If you’re not getting bogged, you’re not trying hard enough.”

Related Questions

Is it better to drive on wet or dry sand?
You can drive freely on wet sand as much as you want, unlike on dry sand. However, if you parked too long on wet sand, your tires will sink and you’ll find it hard to get out.

On the other hand, you have to turn your steering wheel as little as possible when driving through dry sand. If you go too fast, your wheels will spin too much and you will dig yourself into the ground. But, on the brighter side, you can stop anywhere and take some pictures without worrying about your wheels sinking.

Is driving on sand bad for your SUV?
If too much sand reached the internal parts of your car, your calipers, engine belt, and brake pads will take some damage. Also, your car sensors will give you false readings once sands get into it.

As much as possible, keep your SUV far away from sand to prevent these kinds of problems. But, if you can’t(and I know you won’t), schedule regular tune-ups with your mechanic to spot potential issues before they develop into serious problems.

What is the best beach to drive your SUV?
Daytona Beach, Florida is a favorite spot for beach driving because of its hard-packed sands. With just $20 pass, you can access its shore along with its neighboring beaches during the day. But if you prefer beaches with fewer people or more challenging sand dunes, check out this list for the one that suits you best.

The Auto Sunday is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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The Auto Sunday is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.