Cars are precise assets and pat of the family considering the amount of money spent to acquire one. Just like the human system, cars do require some care to keep it safe and sound, cars require some care to keep it safe and going for long. The human system is taken care of by giving it nutritious food, taking it to the hospital for checkups from time to time and all sort of care just to ensure that the body is healthy. This same thing applies to the cars that we drive, they require absolute care to keep their parts functional, from the brakes, tires and all car parts that make up the car system. Therefore today I will be talking about ways car owners can take good care of their cars themselves in the simplest way ever to keeping it safe and sound and also increase it's resale value. The list includes simple steps and daily routine “Do it yourself” tips that when followed judiciously will keep the car in good condition and offer lot more value back, whenver you plan to sell.
Read the user manual: This is the first on my list of how to take good care of your car, because many car owners neglect this very first step. Every car is different and comes with its user manual which contains the specifications of the car and care instructions for the that specific car. By reading the manual first of all is the right step on how to start taking good care of your car.
Change engine oil regularly: Just like the human body needs food to nourish its system so also does the car engine need a good oil to keep its part in good condition. Therefore it is advised that you change your car engine oil regularly as per owners manual recommendation. Check weekly and make sure to top the oil with a good brand of engine when it is low.
Brake pad check: In time of danger, the car brakes come to rescue. This is only possible if the brake pads are good and functional, then the brake will do its work. A simple take of changing or checking on your brake pads regularly can save your life and keep car in good condition without any accidental history.
Tire care: The tire in a car need some pedicure too just the human feet do, your car can’t move an inch if the tire is not in good condition and also the brake and brake pads can’t put the car to a stop if the tires are bad. it will be a good thing to do to check on the expiring date of a tire and change it if the tread is wearing off.
The spark plug: Some car owners don’t even know a car has a plug, well now you know every car has a spark plug which is meant to be change periodically. A bad spark plug can cause the car to have issues accelerating with in a short time. Very old spark plugs should be changed to avoid engine malfunction.
Tire air pressure: It is one good thing to have a good quality tire in your car it is another thing to make sure the air pressure in the tires is what suites the car. Over air pressure in the tire of the car can cause outburst which is very fatal when the car is in motion and when there is under pressure which mostly we call flat tire, the car wouldn’t even move an inch and this will affected the wheels badly.
Grease every joint: Rust is the enemy of iron and once it steps in damage done to the car cannot be undone, but a simple step of greasing the parts that have nuts on it and some iron parts can encourage lubrication and easy movement of those parts thereby keeping the rust away.
Park your car under a shade: There is no other person excerpt the car owner can do this, even a mechanic wouldn’t always be there to park your car for you, Parking the car under a shade will prevent the heat of the sun from destroying the plastic parts of the car or even the windscreen and dashboard. If shade is not always possible, then use the car sunshade to protect the dashboard and many other plastic parts.
Battery care: The car battery is just like the heart of the engine and without it the whole car system wouldn’t work. Any problem in the battery affects mostly the electrical part of the car, the horn, lights and ignition. It is important that a car owner from time to time check the acid level of the battery and top it when necessary and also clean or check the terminals to see they are intact.
Clean always: Washing the car is part of the care to keep the car paint smooth and shiny. The cleaner a car the better it is, even if you don’t have the strength to wash the whole car kindly take it to the car wash and get the quick clean done than leaving the tons of dust on it for weeks.
This should help those members who have Radio were we have to manually set frequencies like my Crony CN888.
CH Type Frequency Power Output
FRS/GMRS 462.5625 High, Med or Low
FRS/GMRS 462.5875 High, Med or Low
FRS/GMRS 462.6125 High, Med or Low
FRS/GMRS 462.6375 High, Med or Low
FRS/GMRS 462.6625 High, Med or Low
FRS/GMRS 462.6875 High, Med or Low
FRS/GMRS 462.7125 High, Med or Low
FRS 467.5625 Low
FRS 4675875 Low
FRS 467.6125 Low
FRS 467.6375 Low
FRS 467.6625 Low
FRS 467.6875 Low
FRS 467.7125 Low
GMRS 462.5500 High, Med or Low
GMRS 462.5750 High, Med or Low
GMRS 462.6000 High, Med or Low
GMRS 462.6250 High, Med or Low
GMRS 462.6500 High, Med or Low
GMRS 462.6750 High, Med or Low
GMRS 462.7000 High, Med or Low
GMRS 462.7250 High, Med or Low
I would also like to share the step by step procedure on how to set the frequency on a Crony CN-888 as the instruction manual that comes with the box is very confusing.
As an example if you want to set Channel 3, than follow the steps as given below.
Press Function Key (orange button on top left corner)
Press 4 (until it shows the frequency range as 12.5)
Wait until frequency is on the display screen again.
Type 4 6 2 6 1 2 - This will automatically pick up 462.612 s
Press the # key
Change the channel number displayed on the top right corner of the display screen by pressing either the A or B key on the right side of the key pad. Once CH03 is displayed press # again.
Type 4 6 2 6 1 2 again - Once again this will automatically pick up 462.612 s
Press the # key
Change the channel number displayed on the top right corner of the display screen by pressing either the A or B key on the right side of the key pad. Once CH03 is displayed press "C".
This will set your frequencies (receiving & transmitting) for Channel 3, similarly you can follow the same steps along with the frequency numbers to set the wanted channel.
I suggest you print and keep a copy of this with you when off-roading, it can not only help you, but others around you.
Hope this is helpful.
This is a very simple and cheap test you can do on your own car. All you need is a cheap multimeter at 40-50dhs. You can probably pick one up even cheaper online or at somewhere like dragon mart.
I'm sure some of us have experienced a problem where you parked the car up in the morning and went back to it in the morning and it wouldn't start because of a flat battery. Why did this happen? It was working fine last night?
You should first test the battery with a proper battery discharge tester. This is a bit more expensive than a multimeter and I appreciate that most people won't have or won't buy one.
Next thing you need to check is the functionality of your alternator. You can do this with a multimeter which is one of the tools i recommend everyone should have. Set the alternator to VDC. DC volts. Measure the battery voltage across the positive and negative terminals with the engine stopped and ignition off. It should be 12 volts give or take half a volt either way. Next, start the car and measure the voltage again using the same method. Depending on the car, you should see a voltage of 13-14 volts. If you rev the engine and see a wild fluctuation the charging regulator could be fried but this is a whole other topic.
Ok, now that you're sure that your battery and alternator are fine, let's find out why your battery is draining overnight. Disconnect the negative battery terminal and connect the negative wire on your multimeter to the negative terminal on the battery. Tape it on if you have to. Next connect the positive wire on your multimeter to the cars earth lead. Again, tape it on if you have to.
Now turn your multimeter on. Set it to the highest possible amp setting and turn it down gradually until you get a reading on the screen. Once you see a reading, this is your battery drain. Pull the fuses out one by one and watch for the reading dropping to zero. When you pull a fuse and the reading drops, you know you have found the circuit where the problem is. Check your cars fuse diagram and see what the fuse corresponds to and you know where to start looking for the problem.
**diaclaimer** I accept no liability for any harm or damage caused by following this guide. Always read your cars manual and consult a qualified mechanic before carrying out any repairs.
Set of 4 used: Twice
Vehicle used: Land Discovery and Nissan Pathfinder
Number of years used: 5+ Years
Value for money: 5 / 5
On-road comfort: 5 / 5
Off-road performance: 4 / 5
Overall Performance: 4 / 5
Tires are one of the most important and integral part of your car. I have used Michelin Latitudes tires on my Jeep Commander 5.7 Hemi and Pirelli Scorpions tire on my Land Rover Discovery. I love both these tires equally with an inch extra respect for Michelin due to their softer side wall for extra road comfort and better sand flotation.
While I was in market for tires for my Discovery, there were offer on Nitto I came across for our off-road club and to be honest Nitto tires were very competitively priced. After fair evaluation and considering my tight budget, I thought it was a good compromise to consider Nitto Dura Grappler for my Land Rover Discovery. This first set of Nitto Dura Grappler tires lasted me for 4 years for roughly 60,000 kms that includes on road and regular off-road driving every week. So in end I was very happy with this forcible compromise I have to make 4 years back due to budgetary constraints.
The Nitto tires are made in Japan so it gives you that added peace of mind for your investment. I drove them for 4 years in all sorts of terrain: sand, wadi, rocks and road and here is what I think about the Nitto Dura Grapplers. On road they are really quiet and offer a very comfortable ride although their side walls are not as soft as Michellin, plus with the technology they call "Revolutionary Dura-Belt™ 3 Steel Belted Technology" that gives them good grip on the road in all weather conditions and avoids inconsistent ware of these tires. They lasted me 4 years with total abuse off-road, they always remained very smooth and quiet on-road and I felt confident having them on. My main concern however came how it does perform off-road being a highway terrain tire? The answer is simple, it was amazing as the straight threads of a highway terrain help them float better in the sands, although they seem a bit heavy (which is a bit negative mark from off-road side for stock cars). They served me very well for over 60,000 kms and I was very pleased with their overall performance.
Recently I have changed my off-road vehicle from the Land Rover Discovery to a Nissan Pathfinder. And without a doubt I have got a second set of the Nitto Dura Grapplers again. I recently went to Liwa with my new set of tires, to test if they are still the same or not? The answer is mostly yes, they are still smooth, quiet and comfortable on-road even at 140 kmph and gives you good control with different maneuvers. This time however I found something different in off-road, that I have to deflate more in the sands. Instead of the 15 PSI that I used to drive it on, I had to go down to about 12 PSI. It did well for some time, but in the really soft patches the car sunk, what amazed me was that they have done something with the tire thread that pushes the car upward and takes you out of the soft stuff if you have your technique right. Even though the car would be lifted from its spot and move a bit then again bog down in the soft sand. The trip leader advised me to deflate it down to 10 PSI a couple of times, but I was hesitant to not to have a pop-out. Having to be pulled out on 2 occasions I decided to listen to my trip leader and deflated further down to 10 PSI. The result was amazing, I never got stuck again for the rest of my liwa trip, even in soft sand where it seem the car would just get stuck, I continued to push and felt the tire just found the smallest bit of traction that would keep the car moving and a lift upwards which just did the trick and did not allow the car to bog down.
In conclusion I would only like to say, these are my second set of Nitto Dura Grapplers on 2 different rides, and if I was not impressed the first time around, this time it has surprised me with a change for the better. I am very happy to own the current set and feeling relieved that I have made a great investment for the next 4 years to come.
A very good morning to all my fellow Carnity Enthusiasts. I wanted to share this simple but useful device which I had bought recently from Dragon Mart, a bit expensive, but totally worth it.
This is a power bank which can easily fit in the palm of your hand and includes all wires to connect and charge your mobile phones, laptops and more importantly start up your dead car battery. It is a bout 12000 MAH power bank that can easily start up your dead car, I have tried it twice with 2 dead cars and it works like a dream, no need to keep it charging for long. Just connect, switch it to 12Volts (it has a switch 3V, 6V and 12V for different applications), and start up your car. It sends a strong charge to the car battery and just starts it up. If fully charged it still has enough juice to charge your 3000 MAH battery completely. Forgot to mention it has a torch also, not so powerful, but useful to eliminate dark spots. Awesome device.
This is what it looks like, I like the case also, very handy and useful.
Below is the most comprehensive list of all commonly used off-road gears and basic recovery tools - this is the stuff everyone needs and it has to be easily accessible at all the time, while driving in off-road terrain (Sand and Rocks).
Bush Ranger Black Max, ACE @ Festival City.
Also available Pro Air, Max AirII at different price points.
ARB Air Compressors from ARB Abu Dhabi (call up and order, will deliver C.O.D)
Chinese stuff at Dragon Mart - if you're feeling lucky.
Other compressors at Carrefour/other Hypermarkets or car accessory shops are not really recommended.
RADIO / WALKIE TALKIE
Motorola, allegedly 20 mile radius, from the small Sabka shops Dhs.325
Dragon Mart, higher output (will fry your ears), cheaper, clearer.
TOW ROPE / SNATCH STRAP
Bush Ranger heavy duty tow (dhs.200 or so) or Pro snatch kit (Dhs500+) from Ace
Viking rope from Robbie's Garage (to the left of Times Square, Shk Zayed Rd) Dhs265, I think.
Kinetic Rope from International Trading Co. Opposite Everhot Water Heater - Al Qusais.
Are available at ACE, 3.0 T to 4.75 T very reasonable rates, make sure you get the shackles with the screw and not the pin-type shackles.
SAFETY FLAG - available from shops that sell Quads, alternately use Fishing Rods fastened with a bolt to the spare tyre rig, also available is the FireStik range at Robbies which is very expensive but very neat and professional). You may also want a gutter-mount for the same (if your vehicle has a rain gutter).
Fancy chome-plated stuff rom ACE or other accesory shops - expensive & of debateable utility.
Bushranger tri-fold shovel with its own cover - about as expensive, easier to carry.
Regular construction shovel from a hardware or construction material store - Dhs.25 and much more effective but not so compact.
Fiskars super-lightweight camping shovel. Most expensive but is also lightest (you want to carry sand, not metal!). I recommend this, but this is very budget-sensitive.
BASIC FIRST AID KIT
Available at all pharmacies, auto kits available at ACE and some specialized offroad joints, you can also put one together yourself or your vehicle may have one supplied with it. Should contain:
Gauze (Large, Medium & Small sizes)
Sticking Plaster & Adhesive Strips (Band Aid variety)
Basic medication/ointment for minor cuts and bruises
Burnaid other burn treatment
Scissors & Forceps
BASIC TOOLKIT + FIRE EXTINGUISHER + JUMP STARTER CABLES + USABLE STEPNEY
HYDRAULIC JACK & STRONG WOODEN PLATFORM/PLANK (or HiLift Jack base)
An alternative is the very expensive and equally heavy but neatly packaged Exhaust Jack Series II (dont buy Series I) from ACE, its upwards of Dhs.800.
A Hi-lift jack is something a lot of people like to carry prominently like some sort of badge, but this is of doubtful utility in our really sandy terrain. Very useful in Wadis etc.
Valve remover for tyres - most tyre shops Dhs.10/-
Pen-type pressure gauge (marked in PSI, not LbFt) - Dhs.25/- most car accessory shops. Other gauges are also available, the pen-type stuff is considered good. Use trusted brands like Milton, PCL, ARB, Victor, Rolson or Monkey grip.
4 Spare Tyre Valves to replace any lost while deflating.
CAN FOR ADDITIONAL FUEL FOR LONG TRIPS
Available from Ace Hardware, good for long distance trips where you are not sure about the petrol stations on the way, very handy in places like Liwa.
YOUR VEHICLE SHOULD HAVE RECOVERY POINTS - FRONT AND REAR.
Collapsible water can from ACE (Dhs.35 or so).
Cool box with ICE (also useful for medical emergencies) and fluids of your choice (for more guidance, ask Kash).
Cargo Net & Elastic Tie-downs to keep things securely fastened.
GPS - Make sure it can store way points, record a track and pay the track back in reverse.
Miscellaneous stuff that you should never need, but would want to keep handy - tire sealant gel/foam/goo, radiator leak-stopper (powder that you pour into your leaky radiator), exhaust leak fix (for small leaks, not cracked exhausts), flashlight, etc from ACE.
Just to be on the safe side, one small 5 litre fuel can (Dhs.25 from any petrol station) and a manual siphon hose to borrow fuel from others (15-20 bucks).
Duct Tape, Insulation Tape, Bush Knife/Pen Knife & Plastic Zip Ties.
For camping trips - collapsible chairs/tents/sleeping bags/lanterns/BBQ kits/use your imagination.
Small bottle of concentrated liquid Camp Soap or Dettol Hand Sanitizer + lots of Kleenex/tissue rolls.
Working gloves to handle hot stuff in the engine bay + cloth/cotton waste.
AAA or IATC Assistance as a sort of insurance for major breakdowns.
Hope this helps. Please let us know if you need assistance or further information.
Basic Guide to Self-Recovery
For newbie here is the recommended to read beginners guide to off-roading before you jump to reading this topic.
We have already looked at the very basics of driving in the desert, lets look at another aspect. Sooner or later you will experience another, but not so pleasant but inevitable facet of this sport or hobby. Getting stuck, now we will talk here about that or to be more precise, how to get yourself unstuck without any help or if you are on your own, which by the way is not a very good idea to start with, specially if you've been just introduced to this activity.
Getting bogged down happens all the time, whether its your first day in the desert or your a seasoned professional with the scars to prove it. The very first thing to do is NOT to panic. You are not the first one this has happened to and your not going to be the last. Panicking will only make the situation worse, so its always better to keep a calm and collected mind to help you through this ordeal.
The other thing is to realize that your actually stuck and leave it at that and learn to accept that, yes, you are stuck and not going anywhere anytime soon. I have noticed many a times that someone does not accept the fact he is stuck and making the situation worse, What usually happens is the individual goes into denial mode and thinks that power alone can help him out, forgetting that his old friend momentum has abandoned him because he was mean to it. Then you see huge trails of sand being thrown up as he or she digs deeper into the earths crust.
You see every time a wheel spins in a stationary position is displaces more sand underneath it effectively acting as a drill, remember our goal is to stay on top of the sand not under it, so this ego push will make things worst.
Most of the times by simply reversing out to where you came from will solve the problem, specially when you have a slightly rising gradient in front of you. But start of with the gas slowly making sure not to spin the wheels, a little slip here and there is acceptable. Best way to do this is to pop your head out of the window or simply open the door and peek at your wheels. The advantage of this is two fold, first you can see your tires and second very quickly you'll learn not to spin them as doing so sends a tons of sand in your direction and fill the interior of your car with sand.
Also before you do this, its best to step out of your vehicle and analyze the predicament you've gotten yourself into. This gives a good idea of what exactly needs to be done next.
One effective technique and one that I personally feel is dying out is the art of rocking. No its not some kind of ritual dance to appease the sand gods so they will let you free from their clutches. It is pretty much what it says.
You literally rock your car out. This usually works best if you are knee deep in it and on relatively flat surface, has limited to no effect if the car is stuck sideways at a sharp angle. This works best if your driving a manual transmission but not totally ineffective on autos too.
First thing to do is engage low ratio as this gives you more torque and you shall require oodles of it here. In low gear now bring the clutch to it's friction point, and I do hope you know what that is, if not look it up. Just when you feel the car is about to move, press it back in, just before it stalls. You don't need to use the gas pedal here. You might even stall a few times but its perfectly OK to do so, try again.
Now once you do this you'll realize that the car gets a slight jolt like some one just gave it a wallop. Do this a few times and you'll feel with every movement of the clutch the car gets more movement than the last. What is happening is your disturbing the sand that has a death grip around your tires. With every jolt the car is trying to make forward, some of that sand is moving into place where your tire used to be, all the while making some space for the tire to move about.
After a few attempts in one direction change gear, if you were in 1st put it in reverse and vice versa. Now this pushes the sand on the other side of the tire. All the while you will see your movements getting bigger and bigger gradually, now the trick is to keep the clutch engaged just long enough to move the vehicle as much as possible before it stalls out and you will see the car has now started to rock.
What is happening now even if you have half a foot or less of travel in either direction is, sand is sliding in when you move and when you go over it the weight of your vehicle is compacting it, so you will slowly start to rise out of the sand. Sometimes the surface could be flat or the sand coarse and not sliding in at a fast enough rate or not at all. Now what you will do is what many will find extremely odd some might even disregard it. Pile up sand on your tire sidewalls. When I mean pile up, I don't mean bury your entire tire, just till sidewalls should be enough and you might have to repeat this. When you do this and rock that sand pile flows into that little tract your making like a small bulldozer and slowly the elevation starts to get higher.
Now that you've got a good rocking motion going for you, you can feel your almost free. Now get the timing right on the edge of your swing, throttle it down and most of the times you will jump right out, sometimes you might misjudge it or the sand is playing tough, you might have to start over.
Another thing to keep is mind is you have to make sure you are not grounded. This is when any other part of the undercarriage i.e chassis, differential etc is in contact with the sand, even if by a little. You'd be surprised how stubborn sand can be sometimes. Best to clear your car to such an extent that nothing other than your wheels are in contact with the ground.
For an automatic rocking is less effective simply because of lacking a clutch, and not being able to give those life saving initial jolts. What one does is play between D and R. D a little movement forward, the same in R. Do this a few times and see if your getting any movement in any direction and if only in one direction, then play with that side first and then slowly going in the opposite direction. The concept is the same but just takes longer and your not rocking, rather paving your way out. You can try and achieve a rocking motion by alternating between a gear and N, but this is not recommended. Also keeping in mind not to over do it and automatic transmissions are prone to overheating, give it a little rest in between tries by simply putting it in park or neutral to cool itself down.
Another way if your driving an automatic or you cannot rock for whatever reason. Is crawling. Now this is different and nothing like rock crawling. Crawling is basically struggling and fighting your way out. More like a battle with the sand to show it whose the boss, but don't get too cocky here, mother nature always has the upper hand. You might win the battle but will always loose the war.
First of all is see if there is a downhill slope in any direction, even a very slight one, always remember to never underestimate the power of gravity. Similarly aim away from any uphill slopes, yes even very tiny ones and this goes for almost all types of situations where you get bogged down.
How to crawl, very simple but can be physically strenuous at times. As always engage low ratio and apply differential locks if you have them. Now if the down hill slope is behind you engage reverse or forward if in front, first we have to get it going, then if it is on any one side we try to come out of it.
You have to give it enough throttle that your wheels start to spin slowly, again stick your head out of the window for the two reasons mentioned above. Usually this is in between 1500 to 2000 rpms. Initially you might have to go a little over just to get the ball rolling, easing back down once you do. I don't think I need to mention again that you do not want to be spinning them as if your doing a burnout, just keep it steady.
Now while that is happening, do full lock to lock turns with your steering wheel from left to right and than from right to left again. Do it with a little enthusiasm and not as if granny is trying to parallel park. You might notice that front wheels might stop turning between those lock to lock turns but that's OK. Keep at it.
What is happening here is that your oscillating wheels are clearing out loose sand from its path and depending in which direction you are moving either pulling or pushing your car. Of course the rear wheels are also helping. Also if you got mates with you a little push also helps out a lot.
By this time you should have some kind of movement. At first it could come is short bursts, but keep at it. If you notice you are getting lateral movement only within a specified arc of the steering i.e only half a turn in either direction and rest of the movement of the steering wheel is pretty much doing nothing. Then limit the the turns to that much. Trying out complete lock to lock turns again in the middle to see if the situation has changed or you lost movement in the your intended direction.
If the downhill slope your aiming for is on one side then steer more on that side. Limiting turning to the opposite side. If your lucky and there is a downhill slope close by you will feel the car is starting to struggle less as it tries to free itself and gravity giving it a good helping hand, this is when you start to give it a little more gas. this is also when you realize how even a slight slope helps.
Slowly but surely if you don't over spin you tires and keep at it, your vehicle will come to a harder patch of sand and now all you have to do is keep going until your well clear.
And of-course when all else fails, use your trusty shovel and a little bit of elbow grease. But know how to use it wisely don't just go about it, a little shoveling in the right place goes a long way, rather than a lot of shoveling in the wrong place.
First of all make sure as mentioned earlier nothing other than your tires should be in contact with the ground. If there is a build up of sand in front or at the back of any of the tires, clear that out as well. Once you've done that try to break free if it doesn't work the first time see where the problem is and shovel a little more and give it an another shot.
One type I will not cover in detail here as it is a subject all on its own is when you get stuck sideways, only the very raw basics as it is always advisable to get help from others first, only if your by yourself and you have no other option. The simple aim here is you want either the nose or tail of the car to point downhill as much as possible. If it is very steep slope with very loose sand and your tires dug in quite deep on the down side, in that case call for help.
If it is not that steep, or high and the sand is not all that soft and your not dug in too deep, then you can try to get out of that situation, but raise caution again if your not 100% confident of what your doing it is best to ask or call for help.
Anything over 30 degree of tilt I would leave it alone, more experienced drivers might attempt steeper angles but they know what they are doing and do not try to emulate them.
Thing to do here is see which side of the car is pointing more down and has a clear path that is no obstructions like bushes. You want to go in that direction. Sometimes you could land up in what will once again have your car stuck, i.e: a ditch or pocket but being stuck level in a ditch is any day better than being stuck sideways on a slip face. Try to crawl out first but of course not steering up in this case. If you feel your getting some kind of movement then keep on going if not, give it up.
Assess the situation very carefully and correctly and then you might want to physically move some of the sand out of the way and try again but very very careful and cautious as sometimes that sand on the lower side wedged up against your car is the only thing keeping it from rolling over. So if you disturb that you could end up in a world of hurt.
And last but not least as every stuck is unique and requires its own set of solutions to get away, sometimes you will have to use one of the techniques mentioned here sometimes all of them, or even more, never give up on ingenuity, but always step out and access your situation before you start trying.
Welcome to a basic guide to off-road venturing.
Most of us would like to venture into the vast dunes we see on either side of the road, but it can be tricky for the uninitiated to take the first step off the tarmac and into the unknown,
Well the first thing to remember is sand is almost like a liquid surface and our main aim is to stay above it, buoyant if you will and not sink. How do we do that? Lowering the tire pressure. How does that help exactly? It increases the contact patch or footprint of your tires. Which basically means now there is more ground to support the weight of your vehicle and you wont sink in as easily.
At first stick with 15 - 18 psi, going any lower exponentially increases the chances of the bead of your tire losing its seal with the wheel and letting go of all the air (pop out), usually at the worst time and place possible. Once you understand and gain more experience in the art of desert driving you can go lower according to the vehicle and terrain at hand. But in the beginning lets stick to 15 - 18 psi to keep our first steps in to the desert as trouble free as possible.
Now that you have your tires ready for the terrain what do you do now. Full throttle starts are mostly never a good idea but rather gentle acceleration, some situations you need to give it more go than normal, but if starting from a flat and relatively smooth area it is always better to be gentle. Hard starts will usually end up in digging yourself in if not careful. But don't be a granny about it either, remember this is not your typical tarmac surface and gentle blips on the throttle will not get you anywhere. You have to learn to achieve that balance.
Once you get going you have to remember what was mentioned earlier, that think of sand as a liquid surface. You have to keep your momentum, in fact momentum is your biggest friend out in the desert and once you have an intimate relationship with momentum, it will help you out in a lot of places. What you initially thought were impassible tracts of sand, momentum will take you through them.
Think of this as water skiing, once the boat slows downs the skier tends to start going lower and lower into the water until he finally sinks. Although the desert will not consume you and your car like a body of water but getting back to that speed and motion is going to be real hard, and in some places its just not possible to build that momentum again and you will either get bogged down or have to change route.
Don't be afraid to let your engines stretch its legs to keep the momentum going. Most people are afraid to rev their engines too much simply because they are not used to it. Don't change up gears too soon, as the lower rpms will rob the wheels of the required torque to keep the momentum going. But also just don't stick in one gear and let it scream in pain. If you're driving an automatic keep the pedal planted in just enough that it does not shift into the next gear or mashed totally into the carpet that it downshifts and starts to over rev. Automatics in this regards can be a slightly tricky, but they shift gears in milliseconds and keep the downtime in between gears to a minimum. While on a manual you have to be quick and crafty with you changes as too long between gears and you could have broken that fine balance keeping you afloat.
Again taking similarities between water and sand, more like ice in this example. Steering. it will not be as sharp or as responsive as on a hardened surface. The vehicle will not turn on a dime. There is a small delay in where you want the nose to point and where the car itself wants to go. Basically you turn and then you wait for the rest of the car to catch up before it actually starts to and this delay gets worse as the speed of your vehicle increases as well as the softness of sand your driving on. So you have to be a little ahead of time, a sort of a mini time traveler if you wish and be able to predict where you want to be going in the next few seconds rather than waiting for the last moment.
Sometimes no matter of future predicting ability can help you when gravity becomes in charge, this usually happens on slopes and we will talk about this later.
Now that you got your self going, what about stopping? And as always braking, this is different here too, you just can't slam on the breaks. Because all this does is digs your tires into the sand and then trying to move again becomes a hassle if not totally getting stuck. Always gently ease off the throttle and apply the breaks slowly and when ever possible let the car come to a halt on its own. Also makes a big difference where you choose to stop. If your facing uphill and the angle is high enough. 9 out of 10 times you will not be able to carry on forward any further. Always try stopping facing downhill even if it a a very gentle slope. You'd be surprised how well gravity works !
OK, now that we know how to drive on flat surfaces, lets tackle some fun stuff ! Going up a dune ! Sand dunes have two sides to them. One is a gradual climb leading up to what I refer to as the slip face. The other side, a real sharp drop and most of the times there is a nasty bit in the middle of these too. Which I like to call the blade but usually know as the ridge.
At first always try to go up the easy side first. Always look for a smooth and straight line up. Which is clear of all bushes, dips and bumps, basically as smooth a ride up as possible. Then comes the tricky bit. Now what you need is power but in very measured quantity. Too less and you won't make it and too much will send you flying off into the unknown on to the other side.
So to make it simple, the thing to do is give it as much as you got at first but easing it off or totally letting it go before you go flying off. Three Fourth way up the climb you should be able to guess from the forward momentum of the car that whether you need to keep the pedal mashed into the carpet or you need to back off or totally let go and let your old friend momentum take care of the rest with just some gentle blips from you here or there.
Keeping in mind the amount of run up you have had before the climb. If you had enough speed before you hit the dune and specially of it is not a very big one, say twice the height of your car. It would be unwise to mash it as you already had loads of speed and your own inertia will take you over just keep the throttle steady or give it a little more if you feel your losing forward motion on the way up. Sometimes you might even need to slow down if you don't want your bumpers from smashing into the wall of sand.
What do you do once your on the top? Well hopefully your not on your own and you are following someone so keep an eye on that car what it does, goes over, turns to one side etc etc and try to replicate the same thing. If your following someone give it sometime before you attempt the climb yourself, in case there is a problem you cannot see. If there is you should see someone come over the top to tell you or if you have a radio you should get an all clear.
If your by yourself. Always a good idea to go on foot and see whats on the other side. If you don't make it the first time round. Put your car in reverse and slowly come straight down. Sometimes this can be tricky as you may be a bit disorientated from the angle or which way the tires are pointing. Remember gravity and the delayed steering. Gravity will initially pull you down straight and then the delayed steering will come into play and you could end up sideways on a slope. Also never freewheel down, always keep in gear and let engine braking help you down plus this also helps you keep in control of the situation.
Then back up a little further if possible and give it more throttle the next time. Also keep in mind that sand is also a little bit like pie. A hard-ish crust on top with being softer on the inside, and once you drive over a patch you have effectively cracked the crust exposing the softer inner side. So try not to follow your tracks of the previous attempt as you will be treading on the softer exposed sand. The more cars that pass the more churned up and softer it gets. Sometimes it is not possible to get a fresh patch of sand. Only one small exit out of a pocket or only a small crossing on top that is not sharp enough to cross over. In that case try to be on as much undisturbed sand before you are forced to get in line.
As with all things, what goes up must come down. Going down is one of the easier parts of desert driving and sometimes the most scarier parts specially if your a beginner, but don't get too easy about it either. Things can still go wrong. First basic rule is too keep you wheels and the nose of your vehicle pointing straight down. This might be harder than it sounds, remember what was mentioned earlier about reversing down a dune, the same thing can happen while going down nose first. Again never freewheel in neutral down a drop and don't brake too aggressively this will cause your nose to dig in and in a worst case scenario cause you flip over, head over heels. Although this is very rare but this might happen.
Another phenomena while slithering down a dune is fish tailing. That is when the end of your car wants to over take the front, So it starts to come up sideways from behind. What needs to be done is to make the appropriate steering correction and slightly accelerate for your front to get back up to speed with the back. But gently, over enthusiasm here can end up worse than the initial symptom of fish tailing.
If coming down a sharp and steep downward slope engage low 4, 1st gear or D 1 if an auto and then let the car comedown with the help of gravity and engine braking. Better is to start off with less sharper gradients and practice this with being in D 1 or 1st. Once you get used to it you should be able to complete this task in D and just the brakes. But it is always handy to know this technique,
In the end driving in the desert is a delicate balance between momentum, gravity and power and only practicing and driving as often as possible can get you better at it and develop a sixth sense about it. You will learn to interpret the feedback of your vehicle and steering wheel is giving you. You will learn to read the terrain better, even before your vehicle gives up on you, you will realize your not going to make the climb and its better to stop or if you have enough momentum left to come back down. But its better to start of with the correct basics instead of getting ingrained with the incorrect technique right from the start.
This is just a very basic guide covering only some of the points. Remember nothing beats real world practice.
Hope this has been of some help in making that transition from tarmac to sand. Feel free to add or edit or even post questions. I will try my level best with whatever knowledge I have to try to answer your queries.