Driving in sand is quite risky. Your car tyres might get stuck in sand at any moment. If you encounter any sandy terrain, slow down or stop to assess whether moving ahead would put you in deeper trouble. If there are no other way around the sandy stretch, stop the car before entering; shift down to first or second gear and move with adequate steady power without any fluctuation. Try not to shift gears beyond second to ensure the engine power does not drop and stall the car on the sandy terrain.
Now let us consider what to do if one gets stuck, apart from calling for a tow which may not be available?
Dig out the tyres: Your first step would be to dig out the tyres. Get ready to use your hands since you may not be carrying a shovel. You have to dig down until you can see the bottom of your tyres. You need to scoop out a trench from the bottom of both the tyres that are stuck, to the surface level in a gradual inclination – in the direction you intend to drive out which depends on the proximity to harder surface. If you have to reverse your car out, dig behind the tyres. If you can drive it forward without landing in deeper trouble – dig in front of the tyres.
Create traction: Creating traction will help your tyres drive forward or backward on the loose surface instead of digging further into the ground. Creating traction can be done in a few ways:
Deflate the tyres: You have to deflate (decrease air pressure) your tyres to create a greater surface area. Press the valve pin to release about half of the air pressure. If you’re using a tyre gauge, around 15-16 psi should suffice. With the air out, your tyre grip will widen and have a better traction and chance of driving out of the sand. However, don’t go below 10 psi, otherwise you would risk unseating the tyres.
Under-wheel stuffing for traction: After excavating the sand, take the floor mats out of your car, flip them under your tyres with the rubber surface facing upside to give a better surface for traction. You can also do this with other materials you might have on hand such as branches, cobbles, plywood or even a rug- the idea is to get something under the tyre that isn’t sand. Mind you, the traction providing materials need to be put under the wheels which have power – front wheels in case of front-wheel drive cars and rear wheels for rear wheel drive vehicles. (These days most of the hatchbacks and sedans are front wheel drive cars)
Full throttle for a pull out: With your tyres prepped, it’s time to hit the throttle! Have two or three strong assistants push on either the hood or the trunk lid towards the direction of your evacuation. Do a countdown as you suddenly release the clutch to accelerate out of the pit. Floor the accelerator pedal for maximum effect. Speed and power are required to get out of the sandy region.
Don’t forget to refill the air pressure in the tyres as soon as you reach the tarmac. If you don’t, you could face serious damage to your tyres. Get to a service centre and wash off the underside of the car as soon as possible. Sand gets into everything, and allowing it to sit there and grind away at your chassis and drivetrain isn’t going to enhance the car’s longevity.
You may also be on the look out for locals to help you out of the situation against some monetary incentives as they are pretty adept in rescuing vehicles that get stuck regularly at that spot.