How To Drive A Jeep On The Beach: Fool-Proof Tips

Driving on beach sand with a Jeep is unlike any other vehicle. It is a much more exhilarating experience and way more fun. That’s because the Jeep is one of the last thorough-bred off-road vehicles around with a strong off-road pedigree. Jeeps are capable of driving in a variety of off-road conditions and have the ability to pretty much go anywhere.

If you would like to know how the Jeep Wrangler performs on beach sand and soft dunes, continue reading…

Check your Jeep model specifications first. Air down your Jeeps tires to around 16 psi to allow the lower tire pressure to spread the vehicle weight over a larger surface area allowing the vehicle to glide over the beach sand instead of digging in. Maintain steady momentum to ensure safe operating temperature and good traction.

Jeep Wrangler in Beach Sand

Many have witnessed the mighty Jeep wrangler icon getting stuck in deep soft sand while driving on the beach. This is mainly due to driver error and lack of good judgment. Your Jeep is not immune to the effects of sand and just like any other vehicle, if you do not abide by mother natures laws she does not allow you to play for very long without giving you some trouble. So like most vehicles, if you do not air down and spin your Jeeps tires too long in soft sand you will eventually end up on your axles. So don’t embarrass your fellow Jeep drivers in the dunes and familiarize yourself with the dos and don’ts of sand driving with your Jeep.

Beach driving can be a real joy and an exciting thing to do, however, it could also pose a few challenges to your Jeep. For the most part, you and your Jeep will be fine if you stick to the following three tips.

  1. Air down your tires
  2. Use common sense
  3. Maintain momentum

That is the secret formula for driving on beach sand irrelevant of the vehicle brand. There is however more to it. Read further as we delve I bit deeper into the art of sand driving and how you can have a stress-free day at the beach with your Jeep.

  1. Maintain a steady forward momentum and you will be surprised what size dunes your stock Jeep can climb up.
  2. Reducing tire pressure will have much less wear and tear on your Jeep components
  3. Slightly larger tires tend to do a bit better in soft beach sand as it has a wider and longer footprint that distributes weight over a larger surface area.
  4. Bigger footprints give you more traction and a more aggressive AT tire helps too. (read: fitting 35’s to a Wragler)
  5. If your tires are too aggressive the tread patters will result in the wheels digging into the sand instead of floating over the top.
  6. It is important to monitor your Jeeps engine temperature gauge after a few hours in the dunes as this is a high resistance terrain usually driven in high temperatures.
  7. Maintaining a steady pace ensures good operating temperature and better traction.
  8. There is always the potential risk of overheating your Jeep’s engine. Read: Why Your Jeep is Overheating at Idle
  9. After driving on the warm sand for a few hours, stop and re-check your tire pressures as the sand resistance builds up heat inside the tire fairly quickly thus re-inflating the tire again.
  10. Always try and aim for more densely packed or damp sand on the beaches. This is good for both the environment and vehicle stability.
  11. Do not decrease your tire pressure more than necessary, because if you unknowingly hit a sand ditch or mound, sand could easily get in between the tire bead and the rim and the rest of the air tends to leak out.
  12. Always scan sand terrain ahead as sand tracks can get really bumpy and uneven from dirt bikes and ATV’s churning up the sand.

Sand Dune driving tips

  1. To clear a decent size dune you will need speed and momentum on your side else you will not make the dune.
  2. Make sure you check out the bottom or base of the dune for a good approach ramp so you don’t nosedive straight into the dune and lose all your momentum from your run-up
  3. Nosediving into a steep dune doesn’t feel great at all and you risk seriously damaging yourself and your Jeep suspension. Read: Minimum Ground Clearance for Off-road
  4. Stay on the throttle till you reach the top of the dune and tap off just before the apex and let the momentum and light throttle carry you over gently
  5. To master this art takes some practice and you need to be able to judge where the top of the dune is to know when to tap off the gas.
  6. Tap off the gas too soon and you won’t make all the way up the dune. Tap off too late and you’ll go flying over the dune and nosediving over the other side.
  7. If you do not have visibility of what is on the other side of the dune then turn off to the side of the dune just before the apex and ride the top of the dune first.
  8. NB: If you don let-off before the dune apex you will get airborne and cause massive damage and injury to yourself and your precious Jeep. Read: How fast can You Drive in 4WD
  9. When your Jeep comes to a dead-stop midway up a dude, take your foot off the gas, pop it in reverse and drive out of the sand and retry the dune, this time, with more speed and momentum.
  10. Remember to always keep the vehicle straight when reversing down a high sand dune
  11. Always carry a recovery strap and shackles with you, especially if running beaches that are less traveled and secluded
  12. Have a driving buddy with you, if at all possible.

Jeep Wrangler tires for sand driving

Unless you are attempting to drive up massive beach dunes, the stock Jeep Wrangler tires will do fine if you air down enough. If you want to upgrade then try and fit the widest tire the Jeep can handle on the standard rim.

I found that BGF Goodrich AT tires are fantastic for sand and general off-road driving conditions with good on-road manners too. I just found them to be slightly slippery on the wet tarmac on rainy days, but that is easily cured by engaging 4H.

The best all-terrain Jeep tires must feature slightly larger tread patterns and have some advantages when it comes to dealing with the snow, sand, or light dirt terrain. This will give you confidence that it ensures a good amount of traction in looser terrain conditions such as gravel and sand. All-terrain tires, however, have a limit in terms of off-road ability.
Airing down your tires will give you more traction, better weight distribution, and allows your Wrangler to “float” on the sand.

Sand Recovery tips

Shovel
Most sand driving situations on the beach require a hand shovel to dig away excess sand around the wheels in order to regain traction and get you moving again.

Recovery strap
A recovery strap should never be confused with a “tow strap” as they look very similar but have totally different functions. Unlike a tow strap, A recovery strap has the ability to absorb kinetic energy and operate like an elastic or rubber band when being yanked.

Attach the recovery strap to a safe-rated recovery point of a second vehicle. Most aftermarket bumpers are equipped with built-in recovery points. If you have a harness then connect it to both recovery points to half the force that will be applied on the vehicle once the recovery takes place, minimizing damage.

NB: NEVER EVER attach a recovery strap to the tow hook or tow ball of your vehicle or the recovery vehicle. This is extremely dangerous as that tow hook is not rated to endure so much force to it and will easily become a dangerous projectile risking serious injury or death to bystanders or drivers. Never attach a recovery strap to the Jeep’s axle or looped around the bumper. You will cause major damage. Always only use rated recovery points for snatch rope recoveries. Do not use the tie-down points underneath your standard vehicle. These are not rated for serious recoveries.

Conclusion

The Jeep is not the most road-oriented vehicle around, but you probably didn’t purchase it for its amazing on-road manners, right. You bought it for its ability to go anywhere. Its an extension of your personality and a purpose-built lifestyle vehicle.
Before you venture onto any beach or sand dunes, first make 100% sure it is legal to drive where you are! Don’t assume all stretches of beach is legal because a few are. Do your homework first. Have a 4-wheel-drive permit, if required.

Happy 4 Wheeling and remember, Safety First!!!

Jade C.

4-Wheel drives and off-road driving techniques has been my passion for over 20 years. Here we strive to provide the most accurate, up-to-date, information about the functionality, common faults and latest technology built into most 4 Wheel Drives.

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