Summertime Beach Camping!

PS: For the latest on HWFS Hatteras Wave Jam Summer Edition
The OBX Summer Beach Camp is a unique experience for local and visiting vacationers who own a 4WD vehicle and take it onto the sand. Though, there are a number of beach closures during the summer months, the areas which remain open pack with vehicles and beach campers enjoying the warm inviting sand and water. I have always enjoyed the beach camping experience as it allows the freedom to bring everything out onto the sand for an enjoyable summer day. Though with the closures, the areas which remain open do pack up, especially on the northern side of Oregon Inlet.

With all the visiting summer vacationers, many drive onto the sand for the first time. Often vehicles get stuck as unfamiliar drivers dig their wheels deep into the sand until their underside bottoms out. Also, many attempt to drive on the sand with 2WD vehicles and are often stuck soon after leaving the pavement. Its a common site during the summer months.

If you are new to beach driving, note the following:
- Do not spin the tires! If you wheels start to slip, immediately stop and try reversing. If you spin, you will dig and soon be stuck with your axles resting on the sand.

- Use 4WD Low The Low option allows for better torque from the transmission to prevent strain while running though soft sand. This is especially the case for manual transmission vehicles. Often we smell the scent of burning transmissions when drivers attempt to drive across soft sand.

- Air the Tires Down to 15 PSI Initially, all sand drivers should air down to 20 PSI, especially for standard road tires. Though if you get stuck in exceptionally soft sand, take them down to 15 PSI for added traction. Lowering tire PSI also helps avoid burning the transmission as the soft tires "float" better on the sand. Once back on the pavement, most "local" gas stations provide free air services for refilling back to recommended road pressure.

- Use the Parking Brake If you get stuck, especially while stopping to check the surf at S-Turns, a nifty trick is use of the parking brake. Set the parking break, and reverse out of the stuck position in the sand. The brake helps prevent tire spin allowing the vehicle to climb out of the stuck position. This technique works very well with automatic transmissions.

Ahhhhh, OBX Summer Time....


At 6:59 AM, Blogger PeconicPuffin said...

First time my sailing buddy and I tried 4-wheeling an OBX beach without airing down, we barely got out of there alive! Meanwhile I love the photo of the presumably stuck car...looks like something I would have tried years ago with my Subaru. "What do you mean All Wheel Drive isn't the same as 4WD?"

At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Ken K said...

Thanks for the reminders Bill. 20+ yrs of OBX driving and I still let myself get into dodgy situations by not letting enough air out. For my vehicles, dropping from 35# to 25# really does just about nothing. But when I get down to about 20# the buttery, floaty feeling kicks in and stress and engine heat turn into a delightful roll on the beach! Except for that red gravelly sand stuff which always stinks!

At 8:40 PM, Anonymous Dan said...

Bill, Thanks for the pointers on how to get through the sand

At 9:23 AM, Blogger apophasis said...

Great advice, except for one thing:

Do NOT use 4LOW. What you want in beach driving is more traction, not torque, and sustained use of 4LOW is hell on your drivetrain. The only time I ever use 4LOW is when I'm pulling someone out, and I've been driving on the beach (OBX, CB, and Fort Fisher) and never needed assistance. Well, once, but that was in a 2WD minivan pulling over on the side of 12 on Ocracoke to check the waves!

Air down, be smart, and everything should go smoothly.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Well, I have to disagree with not using 4 LOW, especially with a manual transmission. I have personal experience burning out a clutch using 4 HIGH, and now I always use 4 LOW on the beach in my 4runner. Note, I usually drive in 2nd or 3rd, even 4th gear on the sand, but always in 4 LOW.

As for automatics, perhaps do not use 4 LOW, but with manual transmission, definitely use it. Especially when starting to roll in soft sand. 4 LOW helps prevent "riding the clutch."


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