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Take pressure off stress-free cruising

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Take pressure off stress-free cruising

With the weather warming up, BRUCE McMAHON suggests it’s time to head back to cruising, with care, along Queensland’s golden sands.

Beaches, from Stradbroke Island to the coloured sands of Rainbow Beach and through to Cape York, provide some of this state’s best four-wheel drive outings, fishing and camping.

And beaches are where extra care should be taken with both vehicle and driving habits.

Note that not all Sports Utility Vehicles are created equal – good ground clearance and a two-range transfer case are important. It’s easy to run down hard-packed sand, but not so easy to fight back through loose sand to escape an incoming tide.

The most important four-wheel drive tool when heading to the beach? Arguably it’s the humble tyre gauge.

Australian drivers, and four-wheel drivers in particular, ask a great deal from tyres.

Those four corners of rubber need to ride nice in the dry, hang on in the wet and corner at speedway speeds – then head off into the backblocks and clamber over ragged rocks and push on through hot sands.

Or plough through a snow drift and up a mud-soaked slope.

In many off-road situations it’s tyre pressures which can make the difference between looking like a hero or looking like a dunce.

Over-inflation is often the problem, whether running over Flinders Range gibbers or charging up the sands of Fraser Island.

Over sharp gravel, too much air can lead to tread damage; too much air pressure when beach driving will make for hard going and bogging.

(While some argue more air means better fuel economy and premium load-carrying, it’s best to start by sticking with the manufacturer’s recommendations, usually found on a placard inside the vehicle’s door. After all, the manufacturer worked out the rest of the engineering parameters.)

The better tyres for sand work are bog-standard highway terrain or all terrain tyres. The first are widespread on today’s SUVs.

All terrain tyres are a touch more aggressive and adventurous in tread patterns. Those more agro mud terrain tyres, with lumps and chunks in all directions, are better suited to mud and rocks.

And the better tyre pressures for sand? Most like to go for 18psi or about 1.24bar. This means there’s still scope for driving at posted speed limits on the beach while being able to deal with softer patches of sand.

The good thing is that it’s always possible to go lower if the going becomes extra difficult, down to say 15psi.

Still in trouble and now bogged to the axle? Take a little more air out but be extra careful once down around 12psi (or lower) and back on the hard stuff. It may not take too much of a hard turn to pop a tyre off the rim.

The effect of lowering tyre pressures isn’t to balloon out the tyre, rather it’s about lengthening the tread – the bit that does all the work that interfaces directly with the road and track conditions – for more contact with the surface.

Best to add a snatch strap, shovel and maybe a set of traction mats such as Queensland’s own MaxTrax for stress-free beach drives.

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