When you add a four-wheel drive to the mix, it’s tempting to take your holiday off road. But for those unfamiliar with the finer points of towing a trailer across Australia’s abundance of sandy landscapes, that’s when the trouble often starts.
To the uninitiated, off road towing across sand can be a daunting prospect, but you have a much better chance of smooth sailing if you follow these basic guidelines.
Reduce tyre pressure
Sand towing can be made easier by releasing air from your tow vehicle and trailer’s tyres,. Decreasing the air pressure in your tyres when off road increases the area of tyre surface touching the ground. This displaces more of the sand, helping you ‘float’ across it instead of sink in to it. There are many opinions as to how low you should go, but 15 to 22 psi is usually a good range (depending on your load). When you’ve found the ideal pressure, measure how much tyre surface is in contact with the sand for future reference.
You’ll need to reinflate before returning to the road, so don’t forget to bring your tyre pressure gauge and 12-volt air compressor.
Match up the wheel tracks
Ideally, your towing vehicle and camper trailer will have the same wheel track (left-right distance to centre of tyres), so that your trailer is following in the same tracks as the vehicle. This makes towing easier because the trailer is riding in sand that’s already been compacted. Granted, this isn’t always possible, but it’s worth checking before you put a deposit on an off road camper trailer.
Keep up the pace
The third secret to successful towing in sand is maintaining sufficient forward momentum. This helps you ‘skim’ across the sand, reducing the chance of getting bogged. That’s not to say you should go as fast as possible, as you’ll come to grief as soon as you hit a ridge or hole. But once you are moving, try to maintain a smooth and steady pace.
Getting out of a rut
Tow a trailer through sand enough times and you’ll eventually get stuck. This doesn’t have to be a disaster if you follow some basic guidelines.
- Don’t spin the wheels of your tow vehicle: As soon as you know you’re bogged, ease off the accelerator as this will only dig you in further.
- Rocking motions: Drive back and forth as far as you can without slipping (while being careful not to damage the coupling – see more about caravan couplings that are suitable for off-road travel). After doing this a few times, the sand may be compacted enough to allow you to drive away.
- Use the tow vehicle’s handbrake: If you are having difficulty stopping your wheel from spinning during your recovery attempts, pulling gently on the handbrake can slow the wheels. – This is a technique that has been known to work well in mud.
- Use recovery gear: A snatch strap can be used if you have a buddy, although observers should stand well clear as they can be dangerous. Maxtrax recovery devices, which are wedged against the tyre tread to provide extra traction, are another option, although floor mats might also work if you need to improvise.
Towing in sand demands both skill and patience. To reduce the chance of getting stuck, it’s also worth learning how to reverse a caravan.