If you’re renting a 4WD in Australia, the thought of becoming bogged in beach sand can be a little intimidating, especially if you’ve never driven off road before. With so many beautiful Australian beaches to visit, you don’t want to miss out on the views. Thankfully, you can avoid most problems by following a few simple tips.
Check the Signs – Are 4WDs Allowed?
Before you take your 4WD onto an Australian beach, check that 4WDs are permitted to access that particular area. Most Australian beaches will be well sign-posted to indicate whether or not you can drive your vehicle on the shore. If signs clearly indicate that 4wd access is not allowed, don’t be tempted to ignore them. The signs are there not just to protect the beach, but also to protect you. In all likelihood, the beach is unsafe for four wheel driving and you may become easily bogged. On the other hand, if 4wd access is allowed, you’re free to enter; but proceed with caution.
Make Sure It’s Low Tide
It’s not only embarrassing to be caught by incoming water, it is also very dangerous. Your rental vehicle may become bogged or even submerged. A good rule of thumb is to only drive on the beach 2 hours before or after LOW tide – and only during daylight hours. Check your vehicle rental agreement to read the restricted times you may drive along any beach.
You should allow enough time to travel and return during the low tide window.
Remember that the beach will change as the tide changes. That means sometimes the sand will be softer than other times. You will also have a better driving width along the shoreline when the tide is low.
If you’re unsure whether it’s safe to drive along a beach, it’s a good idea to check with the locals. You can ask the local caravan park manager, a service station attendant or other local business operators. And remember, always adhere to the conditions in your 4WD rental agreement!
Reduce Tyre Pressure
Letting air out of the tyres to reduce tyre pressure helps your 4wd gain better traction on the soft sand. The usual recommended tyre pressure for 4wd beach driving is 18-20 PSI, but you will find instructions regarding the correct tyre pressure inside your rental 4wd vehicle, so be sure to read it properly.
Don’t Drive Too Fast… or Too Slow
If you’ve never driven through sand before, you’ll be surprised to notice that vehicle steering response is delayed. That’s because your tyres are soft and the surface is also soft. To prevent accidents, you must not drive too fast, avoiding the need to brake suddenly or swerve too sharply. If you hit a puddle of water, or particularly soft patch of sand, and you’re driving too fast, you can easily lose control of your steering… and the vehicle.
While you must never drive too fast on the beach, you should also avoid driving too slowly. That’s because you need momentum to carry the heavy vehicle over the soft sand. If you don’t have enough momentum, you are more likely to get bogged.
Take Extra Care
As mentioned earlier, when you reduce the tyre pressure on your rental 4wd, the performance of the vehicle will change.You should avoid sharp turns and aggressive braking. If you drive recklessly with low-pressure tyres, you risk separating the tyre from the wheel rim. This can damage the vehicle and take hours to fix, no doubt ruining your holiday.
Drive on Hard Sand
You will be less likely to become bogged if you drive on the hard sand. The hardest sand is usually closer to the water – between the water’s edge and the high-tide mark. Any sand that hasn’t been recently covered by water will be powdery, soft and very easy to become bogged into. In addition, you should never drive into the water, unless it is specifically signed as an access point.
Do You Need a Permit?
Some Australian beaches only allow permit-holders to drive along the beach. The best way to find out whether or not you need a permit is to ask the locals. Of course, if you’re a tourist to Australia, it is best to find out this information in advance. To avoid disappointment, when you are planning your holiday, simply call the tourism centre of the local town. You will be able to ask for advice on which beaches allow 4WD access and whether you will require a permit. If a permit is required, remember to ask where you can obtain one.
Always Re-Inflate Your Tyres
When you’ve finished your 4WD beach adventure, remember to re-inflate your tyres. Your rental vehicle should be equipped with a pressure gauge and tyre pump so you can get the pressure correct for on-road travel.