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Build Your 4x4 Off Road Truck For Sand Dunes - Sand Blasting

Posted in Features on July 1, 2008
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Photographers: 4-Wheel & Off-Road archivesJay Kopycinski

At a very early age, we all became familiar with the gritty stuff in the playground sandbox. A few of us loved it and a few hated it. Sand lures some of us with a mystical force. If a dune appears in the distant horizon, our sense of adventure kicks in and our vehicles mysteriously steer towards it. Whether you occasionally wheel in sand or you're a full-time addict, you must prepare yourself and your vehicle for a day on the dunes.

Sand is an addiction for some enthusiasts just like rocky trails are for others. For those of you who rarely see sand, we are going to throw a few tips your way on how to negotiate the granular stuff, recover your vehicle if you get stuck, and keep it fun. Every year hundreds of thousands of people hit the sand dunes and sandy trails, many for the first time. The majority of these newbies have a great day, but unfortunately statistics show that some meet with disaster, and others spend a good portion of the day digging their vehicles out of soft sand.

A little common sense goes a long way. Carry the right gear, especially if you plan on traveling long distances off-highway and are too far out for roadside assistance.

We recommend that you carry plenty of water, recovery and pull straps, a Hi-Lift Jack, a good spare tire, gloves, a full- to medium-size shovel, and a CB or FRS radio. If you go prepared you will have a great time. Making the first tracks in sand can be just as exhilarating as making tracks in fresh snow.

Low tire pressure is the key to surefooted traction in the sand. Without going into the science of airing down your tires, we'll just say that running about half the tire's normal street pressure will dramatically increase its footprint. Finding your tires' air-down sweet spot is something you will have to experiment with. However, keep in mind that if you run too low a tire pressure it could damage them, and lowering pressure decreases the vehicle's ground clearance. Numerous specialty air sources from aftermarket companies are available to inflate tires. The cheapo 12-volt portable compressor will work, but it takes forever to inflate a tire. Last, but not least, if you are the guy that airs down your tires by removing the valve stem, make sure you have spares. If you have ever tried to find one in a sand dune after it's shot out of the tire stem, you can forget looking for it.

Lockers will help your vehicle's progress in the sand. We shouldn't have to tell you this, but basically, a locker will transfer power to both wheels of an axle. Mechanical, air, limited slip, and electric lockers all work well in the sand. The key is knowing how to use them. Keep even pressure on the skinny pedal and keep the lockers unlocked until you need them. This will improve your driving skills and make it easier to steer the vehicle. Front lockers, when engaged, can make it harder to steer the vehicle and may lessen the turning radius. If you find your vehicle in the initial phases of getting stuck, take your foot off the accelerator, engage the lockers, and then gently accelerate out of the predicament. Also, keep an eye on the terrain ahead of you. If you find an area that looks like it will give you trouble-like a steep hillclimb-engage the lockers before you approach it.

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K&N Engineering
Riverside, CA 92507

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