If you have a 4WD and haven’t yet done any beach driving, then you should really give it a go. It’s not difficult to learn, and provides a lot of fun for the whole family.
It also opens up your options for fishing, snorkelling, camping and taking holidays. There are a number of things that you need to know before venturing onto a beach however, which I will try to cover below.
I have had to pull a number of people out of situations on the beach, mainly because of a lack of experience and knowledge. If you are not doing things the way they should be then you damage tracks, vehicles and even people.
Roll over’s happen on the beach all too often, usually because of too much speed or inexperienced driving. Accidents happen even to those who have done a lot of beach driving, so you can’t ever get lazy.
Prepare your 4WD for Beach Driving
The only problem with driving a car on the beach is the amount of salt which gets everywhere. This is especially the case if you choose to drive through salt water! This has to be one of the worst things you can do for your 4WD.
Find out more here – Driving your 4WD through salt water, and also here – 12 ways to wear your 4WD out faster.
Lanolin works well. You can buy this (basically just sheep oil) from Bunning’s, and Repco and spray it on the underneath of your car before you drive on the beach. Give it at least a day to drive, as it is sticky as. When you come back, be sure to hose everything off again.
4WD Vehicles that are not well cared for after being driven on the beach will rust quickly and cost a lot of money to fix.
What do you need?
Even before arriving at a beach, there are a few items that you should have access to, either in your own car or another car that is following. One of the most important pieces of equipment is a long handled shovel. If you ever get stuck, these are vital in removing sand from the wheels and from under the car.
Of course, you can use a small shovel or even your hands, but it’s much less effective. Everything that you need for Beach Driving can be purchased online, at your local auto store or 4WD store.
Maps and some basic knowledge of the tides
Knowing where you are driving is important, as there can be difficult sections that you may not know about. Knowing what the tide is doing is something that many people forget. The number of people who lose their cars each year because the tide comes up is simply incredible.
Before you put yourself that close to the water be sure that the tide is dropping. It’s easy to get to a narrow bit on the beach and be forced to get your car wet, or even worse, getting stuck. The sand near the water can be soft and sludgy, which is a good reason to avoid it.
Tyre Deflators are not something that you need to have, but it makes life a lot easier. Before I purchased one I used to just use a key or stick to let air out of the tyres, but this is slow and tedious.
You can either buy a set of staun tyre deflators which you simply screw onto the valve and watch the pressures drop to whatever you have them set at. They are not cheap, and don’t always last.
The ARB Ezy deflator is about $70 but works brilliantly. They screw onto the valve, and undo the core of the valve, allowing air to rush out much faster. They also have a gauge incorporated, which makes it easy to let your tyres down quickly to the exact pressure.
I would suggest that a compressor is a good idea. Of course, you can get away without one, but it depends on where you are going. If you are more than a few kilometres away from a petrol station, especially on main roads then having your own compressor is well worth it.
Running your tyres on the bitumen when they are deflated is not a good idea, especially at high speed and for long distances.
I purchased a bushranger supermax air compressor for about $400 dollars and about 10 years later its still going! You can mount 12v compressors under the bonnet, under your seats or in a Ute, depending on what you want.
Having tyres that are let down to different pressures can make beach driving difficult and dangerous. You can buy a cheap one for under $20, just to be safe.
These are important, so that you can set your tyres at the right pressure every time. Of course, the ARB deflator already has one mounted to it, and many compressors will too.
A snatch strap is a must. These are basically rated straps that are able to stretch a bit. A car can pull another car out very easily with one of these, but you need one that is rated according to how heavy the car is that you are pulling out.
A 4.5 tonne strap should only be used for small vehicles. The heavier the car, the stronger the snatch strap needs to be. A heavier car should be using at least 6 or 8 tonne snatch strap. These need to be attached to rated recovery points, and some shovelling should happen first!
Boards, Maxtrax, metal tracks or industrial shade cloth. Out of any of those choices the Maxtrax are by far the best. The idea behind them is to place them in front or behind of the stuck vehicle, and to drive onto them. They lift the car back on top of the sand and allow for it to drive off again.
Rated Recovery Points
You should never go off road in a 4WD without rated recovery points. If you get stuck, recovering your vehicle is likely to end up in serious and costly damage. You can buy a rear hitch receiver, and some hooks for the front. They are the most important accessory to add to your 4WD.
Long handled shovel
Despite the work involved when using a shovel, it is actually one of the fastest ways to get a bogged 4WD on the beach up and going again. The long handled ones are best as you can reach further under the vehicle.
Other obvious bits and pieces for beach driving include plenty of food and water, first aid kits, fishing gear (and anything else that you need), mobile phones, a UHF Radio and other emergency equipment. Letting someone know where you are going is important, so you can be found if something goes wrong.
What beaches can you drive on?
Generally the more used a beach is by swimmers the less likely you are able to drive on it. If it has obvious access, and no signage to say otherwise then there is a good chance driving is allowed.
Of course, checking with the local authorities is always a good idea! For more information, check out WA’s best beach driving.
Before you hit the beach you need to engage 4WD. This can be done in older cars by turning the front hubs around into the locked position.
Some newer cars can do this from inside the cab by pressing a button, but make sure all four wheels are driving or it will be very difficult to drive through any sand!
Lower your tyre pressure on the beach
This is probably the number one reason why people struggle with beach driving. The idea behind driving a car on the beach is to try and stay ‘on top’ of the sand, rather than digging down.
The best way to do this is to let air out of your tyres. This increases the surface area that is touching the sand, and hence you sit ‘on top’ of the sand more.
Some beaches are rock hard and may not need tyre deflation, whilst other beaches can get you fined if you DON’T drop your tyres down. For most sand, letting your tyres down to 15 – 20 PSI is a smart move.
If you get into trouble you can let them down even further, but make sure you pump them up again. How much air you let out depends on the weight of your car and how soft the sand is.
Have a read of the Best tyre pressure for beach driving, and make sure you consider how Heat changes tyre pressures.
Remember, the lower that you drop your tyres the easier they are to roll off the rim. This can happen if you corner too fast, and the tyre just moves to the side and pops off the rim. Fast cornering on sand is bound to get you in trouble anyway, so avoid it at all costs!
Letting your tyres down will reduce the stress on your car and make it easier to drive. Don’t be lazy and drive without your tyres deflated, as you are likely to damage your car, wreck the tracks and end up bogged.
Is your car suitable for beach driving?
Many modern 4×4 lack clearance and low range. Clearance can be a major issue if the sand is boggy, as the car will want to sit on the chassis at any chance possible, and will often belly out along tracks with deeper ruts.
An all wheel drive car can drive on a beach, but it won’t go as well as a true 4WD car, and may struggle in soft sand. It’s up to what you are comfortable with, but don’t push your vehicle beyond what it is capable of.
Low or High Range for Beach Driving?
Most 4WD’s have the option of high range or low range. Low range is used for maximum traction, and is very helpful when you get stuck. If your car can comfortably drive along a beach in high range, then use that. If it lacks the power then you can drive in low range, but you can’t go as fast!
My car get’s hot on the beach
Beach work is usually what will make a car get hot, if it is ever going to. Sand makes it harder to drive, and your engine will get worked harder than normal. If you find it is getting hot, dropping your pressures more (if safe to do so) can work miracles.
To cool the car down, turn the heater on full and open the windows. Of course, if it is getting too hot, stop and let it cool down before you proceed. Being stranded on the beach with a dead car is not something that you want to experience! Simply watching the temperature gauge is a good idea.
If you do a lot of beach driving, then fitting an aftermarket temperature gauge is well worth it.
Where do I drive on the beach?
On beaches that get driven on regularly, there will be a few prominent tracks. Usually there is one furthest away from the water line, and one closer to the water. Driving in the middle of the two can be soft, and hard work for your car.
In general, pick the best track and stick to it. This depends on how soft each track is and the angles that the tracks are at. Quite often the tracks further up a beach have slight angles, and you want to watch how fast you are travelling.
Quite often the tracks closer to the water are harder, but be sure to keep well away from the water.
It’s likely that at some stage you will come across people stopped on the beach fishing, surfing, diving or camping. You need to slow down and drive around them accordingly. You should never stop on the beach if you are blocking the main track off, as you will find people will not take to it so kindly!
Turning around on the beach
If you ever need to turn around on the beach, make sure you have a good look before you do so. If you only need to go back a little bit and the sand is soft you are most often best reversing.
The reason for this is that driving off the tracks in soft sand will likely end up with your vehicle struggling, and it has a lot more chance of getting stuck.
If you do want to turn around, you are best off going down the slope of the beach. Don’t drive too close to the water, but at the same time don’t turn your wheels too far or you will have a hard time pushing forwards.
A lot of people will attempt to turn up the slope and get stuck. It is hard enough for most cars to drive on a flat, soft beach let alone trying to drive up a slope at the same time.
Likewise, if you are close to the water and you want to get back up ‘the top’ where the track is, build up your momentum first, and then slowly cut across the beach. If you try to drive straight up the slope you can guarantee that you will struggle considerably.
How fast do you need to drive on the beach?
The basic rule for this is to drive for the conditions. The more momentum that you have the easier you will find it to drive, but at the same time the easier it is for something to go wrong. If there are washouts, multiple vehicles, people camping or people bogged, slow down!
Sand can make it difficult to judge depth, and as a result it is easy to go down a dip or over a little lip without seeing it.
Some beaches are very wide and safe to drive quickly along, but for most beaches you should not be exceeding 40km/h. In soft sand, anything in between 20km/h and 40km/h is safe. Also remember that most beaches are classed as roads, and some are limited to 40km/h. The police do occasionally fine people for going too quickly down a beach!
If you are driving behind a vehicle, allow plenty of space as you have to stop quickly at times. When travelling in a convoy it’s helpful to mention on the radio any upcoming hazards, so people can react accordingly. Above all, just drive safely.
Even if this means spending a few more minutes to get to your destination, it’s worth it. The alternative when something goes wrong can be costly to lives and vehicles.
What happens if you get stuck?
If you haven’t been stuck on a beach before, chances are you will at some stage. The most important thing to remember is just to take it slowly. The only exception is if you are stuck near the water with an incoming tide; then you need to move a bit quicker.
Of course, still do things safely. The main thing to remember if you start to sink is to reduce all possible wheel spin. All this does is dig you down deeper, and make it even more difficult for recovery!
Generally I will stop as soon as the vehicle starts to sink down. In most cases reversing back a few metres will be enough to give you another chance.
Make sure that you don’t spin the wheels though – the most common mistake that is regularly seen by new four wheel drivers is to put their foot down on the accelerator when they start to sink. This just makes you sink even faster, and makes your recovery much harder too.
Recovering a vehicle from the beach
If you get stuck, get out of the car and consider your options. Dig out any excess sand, lower your tyre pressures and try to drive out. Having people pushing can be very helpful. The use of maxtrax, wooden or metal boards or another vehicle to tow you out can also work.
Something which is too common these days is the over use of a snatch strap, or the incorrect use. Before using one, you need to remove a bit of sand.
This helps reduce stress on both cars significantly. Using rated recovery points is so simple, yet many people don’t do it. Towing off the tow ball with a snatch strap is deadly, and should never be done.
If you are really stuck, then you can let your tyres down a lot. Even if this means letting them down to 6PSI and crawling out, it may be required. Just pump the tyres back up and try not to get stuck again!
4WD recovery services usually start at around $150 dollars, and should be used only as a last reserve. As long as you take it slowly and think about it all properly you will have no issues recovering a vehicle that is stuck in sand.
Caring for your 4WD after beach driving
This is something that people tend to forget about. It’s all well and good to have a blast on the beach, but if you don’t care for your car afterwards your hip pocket will pay for it. Salt causes rust to occur very quickly, and a simple wash of the car will stop this considerably.
Make sure that you wash the underneath of the car as well as any little nooks and crannies that may hold sand. Spraying the underneath of your car with lanolin after a wash is a good idea, so that you are ready to go beach driving again next time.
Modifications to help with beach driving
There are a few modifications that you can do to help your car perform on the beach, but many standard cars will go just fine if you air down and drive carefully. A small lift helps to reduce any bottoming out, wider and taller tyres help to provide a bigger footprint and engine mods never go astray.
The more power you have the easier it is to drive on a beach! Other than that, you can throw on a few additions which are helpful including a rear drawer set up, roof racks, spotlights and rod holders.
Towing and beach driving
Many people like to tow a trailer, whether it is for camping, a boat or just some extra space for supplies. The same surface area rule applies in regards to airing down the trailer tyres. If you don’t, they will sink and make it hard for the vehicle to pull.
I have seen boats up to 2 tonne towed along a beach; as long as your vehicle is powerful enough, you let the tyres down and you are confident you shouldn’t have any problems. Of course, some beaches are not suitable for trailers as the sand is simply too soft; so ask around.
Some of the best beach driving within a few hours of Perth includes Lancelin, Wedge Island, Sandy Cape, Dunsborough, Ledge Point, Wilbinga, Hill River, Wagoe, Lake Jasper and Kalbarri.
Beach driving is great fun, and you are able to enjoy so many other sports once you get into it. All it really comes down to is a bit of common sense and some knowledge of how to un bog yourself and how to use recovery equipment safely.
If we look after our beaches then they will stay open for years to come; drive safe, take away your rubbish and most of all have a blast!
Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!
I am impressed with all this useful information. Was WAY more than I expected. I just cannot keep up with your posts. So much information to read about.
Hello. Great job, if I wasn’t so busy with my school work I read your full site. Thanks!
Thank you for the intelligent critique. Me and my neighbour were just preparing to do some research about this. I am very grateful to see such great information being shared freely out there.
Glad I could help
Thanks for the words.
I’m working on the search engine! Thanks 🙂
I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked your site to check out the new stuff you post.
incredibly good website, good do the job, wonderful to read.
Thanks; I hope you enjoyed it
Well done Aaron, what an informative site.
I was a regular to Wedge for about 8 years and yes I have been up to the axles and worried that the incomming tide was going to have me walking back to Lancelin without my beloved Patrol.
A site like this is very good for the novice, to get them to experiance the joys of 4×4 driving.
Absolutley brilliant, informative and interesting reading, son has just bought a hilux so have sent this to him. Tanks very much and keep up the good work.
Thanks for that :). I’m glad I could help.
Marvelous, thanks for posting!
Hello may I quote some of the insight found in this blog if I reference you with a link back to your site?
Thanks for the brilliant work. I rather enjoyed all of your posts. Very informative and instructive.
Just wondering what you would recommend for 4wd’ing?
Looking for something new, proper 4×4, with low range, and able to tow a 700 Kg trailer on sand. I am on a $45,000 budget, but want something reliable, that will last many years, with all the trimmings that I’m after. I’ve considered any extra mods already, and have the cash ready for such purchases.
If you have more than one recommendation, please include them, as I would really love to have a range to choose from.
Again, thanks heaps for all your work thus far, and hope to hear a reply.
First off, thanks for the comment.
Have you read my post on What 4wd? You are in a position to get almost anything that you want. What sort of four wheel driving do you do? If you are going after some of the harder tracks then you really want something with a solid front and rear axle. If not, an independent front axle vehicle would work well.
Are you going to use it for camping? How many people are going to sit in it? What modifications do you plan to do to it? Don’t be afraid to get an older diesel with a few kilometres on it, and save the money for fuel and more modifications. You would be able to do up an old GQ Patrol to tackle anything for under 20k, and it would still be super reliable.
Alternative, the 80 series land cruisers or 100 series are great cars. Consider whether you need the long fuel range that a diesel offers. Remember that by buying a common car parts are not hard to get a hold of when you are out in the bush.
My advice would be to make a list of what you want, and what you don’t and go from there.
Let me know some more information and I will keep helping 🙂
Thanks a bunch for your prompt reply.
Yes I have read “What 4wd?”, particularly to see which vehicles are most appropriate, and recommended.
I’m looking at having four or five people in it at any one time. I plan to use it in and around the suburbs more than anything, to get to work and back, primarily. But I do want to go 4WD’ing occasionally, to the beach, and to tow a medium sized trailer with up to 2 quad bikes on it, along with all the fishing gear.
I definitely dont want an AWD, or a permanent 4×4, seing as though they have several issues in their transfer cases from what I can remember, and have heard. I want to be able to drive 2WD through and around the city and switch to 4WD (low and high ranges) when the track gets near. I would prefer something in the compact SUV range, similar to something along the lines of the Mitsubishi Outlander, in terms of style and availability. Larger 4×4’s are less preferrable, as they are thirstier and often less maneouverable around suburban areas.
I have no preference when it comes to fuel type.
I won’t be doing anything more than simple beach driving, and maybe a little bit of off-roading. The sands that I wish to traverse are very soft (eg, Kalbarri sands and Lancelin).
Preferrably I would love to buy something new (so that I can put some of the luxuries that I would want in the city. Like an in dash communication system, audio upgrades, and others, and have the benefit of 0 Km’s and New Car Warranty). Though I am willing to go down a couple of years and buy a 2nd hand car or demo model. No earlier than 2007, though. I have been keenly interested in the Landcruiser Prado, but a bit frightened by their price.
I definitely don’t want the Pathfinder, Patrol, Landcruiser or any Hyundai’s.
In terms of upgrades, I would be lifting the suspension, adding an aftermarket Bull Bar, Tow bar with alloy bumper bar, side steps, roof racks, and a 2nd set of tyres and rims. I have roughly $10,000 for those upgrades, but some can and will be delayed temporarily.
I guess what I’m asking is, can you recommend any NEW cars for less than $45K, with my particular specifications?
And if not, can you recommend any used cars, less than 4 years old at the same price with the same specifications?
Thank you Aaron for your previous reply and for the future replies.
The biggest problem with a ‘small four wheel drive’ is that they usually lack clearance, which even for sand driving is very important. I would suggest looking into a Mitsubishi Challenger, Pajero or a Toyota Prado. You can pick up a Prado thats a few years old in a diesel which will do very well. The Mitsubishi Pajero is a great vehicle for driving on sand, even in stock form, and it will tow comfortably. They are also great to drive around the city. You should pick up one that’s only a few yeas old for 45k.
Alternatively, you could look at getting a dual cab ute, like a Izuzu Dmax, or a Mazda BT-50. Both are capable enough for what you want, economical and great cars all round.
As all ways, make sure you look at a number of vehicles so you know what the right market value is for each model, and thus prevent getting ripped off by a car dealership!
Let me know your thoughts.
Thank you Aaron,
I kinda had a feeling you were going to say that.
I am highly tendant towards the Challenger. I have been 4WD’ing in one lately, and it performed extremely well in Kalbarri, so that was one of my options. Apart from that, the Prado seems to rate really well, so I might have to shop around a bit.
I was also looking at the dual cab Triton’s and Hilux’s. Would you recommend either of these? I am leaning towards the triton, but have higher faith in Toyota and their overall quality.
I haven’t yet thought about the Mazda BT-50.
I have also been considering the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and the Suzuki Grand Vitara.
I know the Wrangler is excellent for off-roading, but I’m not too sure about it’s city capacities. And I’ve heard many good reviews about the Vitara, but otherwise haven’t researched it.
Do you have any thoughts on these?
Again great article, thanks for your effort, will pass word of your site to fellow sandgroppers
Thanks mate, I would appreciate that 😀
hey, love all that i have read of yours, will be bookmarking for future reference.
i have just bought a 91 surf, and will be experiencing beach driving for the first time this weekend, so it was excellent to stumble upon your site today.
just wanted to say, well done, thanks heaps and keep up the great work.
Thanks Clare. Surfs are great vehicles; you will have a lot of fun with it. Enjoy yourself on the beach!
Spent alot of years fishing beaches, am quite experienced in sand driving, best tip I can pass on to people, Take your time after all whats the rush?. Tyre pressure is the most important aspect. start at 20 psi,see how you go. You can always go lower, thats the secret. Have a think about the poor bloke comming behind you after you have chewed the access up. There is no need. Steady better on the vehicle, Dont be frightened to use low range till you get more confident. Dont expect your vehicle to do what it cant. If you get stuck, clear the sand away from the front of the tyres, drop your tyre pressure down another 5 psi, low range 2nd gear, you will drive straight out, thats the way to do it, done it for years never failed me, I run my tyres at 15psi on the beach and can only recall once having to go lower,because i got stuck by someone chewing up the access.Take your time, it wont be long till you get experience and realise what your vehicle can do. please be safe
Cheers for the comments – all great advice.
Have a good one
I wish I had found your sight a while ago but hey ho. I’ve just moved to Perth from Scotland and one thing I was keen to do is go beach camping. I looked at a lot of vehichles but I ended up pulling back on my offroading ambitions and ended up with a Subaru Outback as I felt this would be good for the long distances, bit of city and it seemed to have reasonable off roading ability (i.e. not rock hopping or dunes but should get me places). Would you say that I can take a Subaru AWD down the beach or would I just be asking for trouble? Can you provide any advice on where I could take my new toy for some family camping or have i bought entirely the wrong car?
Cheers and keep up the excellent site!
To be honest I don’t know too much about the Subaru Outbacks; what year is it? They aren’t the most popular beach driving vehicle, but they seem to go fine providing you let your tyres down properly, and you avoid anything with big ruts. The biggest issue you will have is a lack of clearance (like the Forester, Rav 4, X Trail, Outlander etc) – a small lift kit would probably help. Have a look around for a Subaru forum – you should get some very specific answers there.
I wouldn’t rule out beach driving, but you do need to pick the conditions and know where the limit is for your vehicle. Most tracks your vehicle will be fine in, but you want to avoid the very boggy beaches that WA can have at times!
PS – a set of Maxtrax goes a long way!
Mate awesome site,
I’ve gone and bought a 98 GU turbo diesel Patrol, duel batteries aswell in it, she’s a beauty 154k on her so she’s just run in lol. Been running it around outskirts of the city but am heading up to Kalbarri soon with my young fella just the two of us, bit of Dad and Son time :), done a fair bit of 4×4 driving in the past. Have been trying to track down some fishing rod holders for the bullbar and have been told they’re illegal to sell now in WA, do you know how true this is mate?
Thanks for the comment. It sounds like you are off to a great start. You will have a blast in Kalbarri – check out Lucky Bay and Wagoe if you get time. In regards to the fishing rod holders, I don’t know whether they are illegal to buy, but I know they are illegal to use on road. I’ve been pulled over by the police regarding them. You aren’t allowed anything in front of the vehicle that could cause damage to pedestrians.
Have an awesome trip
Hi, I bought a new Prado .Where do I find beach drive close to perth to go with my family and few 4wd tracks
Planing to go down to Busselton on school holydays could u find moderate 4wd way to busselton
Hi Jo Jo,
The closest place going north is Wilbinga. Further north you can do Lancelin and Wedge Island. Going south, White Hills in Mandurah is the first option, which runs all the way down to near Bunbury if you want it to!
Hi Jo Jo,
There is a small beach at Busselton that you can drive on, but it is very basic. The only other four wheel driving in the area is the 3 bears track and a few places around Hamelin Bay.
Thanks for your valueble comment .Iwill let you know about my expierences.
Aaron ,How do i find track in willbanga? Is there any spot name I can start from. Sorry I don’t know much places in perth.Does it have any GPS way points.
Hi Jo Jo,
It’s on your left as you leave Perth, on Wanneroo Road. Check this out – https://maps.google.com.au/maps?q=wilbinga&hl=en&ll=-31.437689,115.667582&spn=0.01591,0.033023&hnear=Wilbinga+Western+Australia&t=h&z=16. There are heaps of different tracks in the area – just drive around and find them!
Incredibly helpful with tons of information. You saved us from getting stuck.
Thanks for the comment – glad you learned something
Take it easy
11 years old this article & still current.
I’m learning heaps from it!
Just purchased our first 4wD so I’m reading majority of your write-ups.
Appreciate the time & effort you have put into sharing knowledge, thank you Bro!!!
Cheers mate. Yep, things don’t change much in the beach driving front!
Have a ball on the beach!