Off-Roading 101: Sand

Have you ever wanted to take your Jeep® brand vehicle off-roading in the Sahara Desert?  While the logistics of getting there are probably over the top, you don’t have to travel to Africa to enjoy your Jeep 4×4 in the sand.  There are outstanding opportunities to get in the sand all over the United States.  Sandy conditions exist in almost every state, especially in deserts and coastal areas.  You can also find some very fine natural sand dune locations in Oklahoma, California, and Nevada.


Driving in sand can be a blast, but can also present certain challenges for your Jeep 4×4. Your tire size and inflation pressure are the key components when dealing with sand.  Larger tires are obviously going to be better suited for soft sand. Plus, deflating to around 10-15 pounds of pressure will help your tires find the traction they need to negotiate sandy obstacles.  However, always follow the manufacturer instructions before deflating tires and make sure to air them back up to the recommended pressure before you’re back on the road.  If you drive on sand dunes, a flag from a tall antenna or whip mast is highly recommended (or sometimes required) so that you are better visible to other vehicles.  Some sand dune areas are immense, so extra water and supplies are a must.  As a reminder, it’s never a good idea to go off-roading without a vehicle buddy.


The consistency of the sand can play a large part in how you negotiate it. Softer sand will require high range four-wheel drive, while harder, wetter sand may require more low-range operation. No matter what the consistency, always keep your vehicle moving. The vehicle’s momentum will contribute greatly to its ability to get through the sand. Turning your steering wheel quickly to the right and left can also increase tire traction. The most important thing to remember in sand is to avoid spinning the wheels while stationary. Spinning tires will cause your vehicle to sink into the sand very quickly. If you do get stuck, wetting the sand or using your floor mats in front of your tires may help you out of your predicament.


Before venturing off into a sandy or dune location, check to make sure it is legal to drive in that area. A good site for finding legal sand dune locations in the United States is: So go ahead, deflate your tires, and have some sandy fun, because off-roading in sand can be a great way to enjoy your Jeep 4×4.


Have you ever driven your Jeep brand vehicle on the dunes or some other sandy location, such as the beach? Share your Jeep 4×4 adventure!


18 Responses to “Off-Roading 101: Sand”

  1. You forgot to mention Michigan Sand Dunes!  I take my Jeep there every summer weekend…

  2. Silver Lake Sand Dunes near Mears, MI is the best. As soon as you enter the dunes Test Hill is on your left. The ultimate “Test” for your Jeep. Will you make it first try? I did!

  3. I have taken my jeep threw beach sand and desert sand its amazing and so much fun and when i see my guy friends take there jeeps threw sand its like there a little kid agian huge smile on their face as they drive threw the smooth soft sand :):)

  4. Silver Lake, MI FTW!  My TJ does exceptional up there on the sand dunes!

  5. You forgot to mention if your JK is equipped with the stock 3.8L stay away from sand! The 3.8L does not provide enough horsepower on pavement why would you consider putting it in a sand box? You’ll be stuck before you even get a chance to have fun….

    • Scott, that is simply silly. We take our Jeeps out on deep, soft sand frequently and don’t have any issues with inadequate power. Moreover, that is the purpose of low range. It’s a massive torque multiplier. Things that help are limited slip differentials, locking axles and the like….

  6. Heriberto

    Actually I have a JK and it’s a beast in the sand dunes.  I wasn’t sure either when I first got it whether or not it would keep up with the older 4.0 inline 6.  So I called my cousin who has an 03′ Sahara and we took our Jeeps to the sand dunes in Mexico to test them out.  We raced them up Compition Hill and I beat him more times than he beat me.

  7. The 3.8L JK has more HP than most stock 4.0L’s.  My 4.0L Jeep is factory rated at 190 HP.  The JK 3.8L is rated at 232 HP.

  8. Glamis is only an hour from me and Superstition Mountain OHV park is only 10 mins away…all my Jeep see these days is sand dunes.

  9. Abdul Hakeem

    I have a stock JK 2011 2-door soft top Sport.  I have driven fairly far out in soft sand over dunes in the Hijaz region of Saudi Arabia and the stock Wrangler performs admirably.  I’ve never gotten stuck and I’ve helped recover a Nissan Xterra and a Hummer H2 while I was at it. I often keep the tires (the unfairly derided Dueler H/T) at street pressure and it’s fine.  You just have to be reasonable and look at the terrain.  Very soft sand is more easily overcome by partly deflated tires, but even at street pressure the JK can handle most of it right out of the showroom.

  10. I have a 2011 jeep  grand cherokee overland that I took on the beach this weekend and the 4 wheel drive turned off 2 miles in and I was stuck for 3 hours. the air suspention alson turned off. The dash said service 4 wheel drive.  After getting pulled out by an old land cruiser and driving on the hard pack sand the 4 wheel drive came back on.  The jeep dealer is telling me nothing is wrong and is trying to blame it on my tires which are factory size nitto grapplers. I told them I only got stuck because the 4 wheel drive turned off.    Has any one else had a problem with the jeep grand cherokee 4 wheel drive turning off. I am scared to go on the beach or in the deep snow not knowing if the 4 wheel drive is going to work.

    • Arnold,
      Did you ever get an answer to your question?
      That is very concerning!!

  11. Abdul Hakeem

    Good article, but here in Saudi we are down to at *least* 10 psi, I myself use 7 psi. I have never lost a bead using the stock Dueller HTs or Dynapro ATMs.

    Also, I find that very soft, hot sand requires 4-lo, even on flat sand sometimes, and the wet sand is fine with 4-hi, the opposite of the article. Our wet sand becomes very firm and rounded and is extremely easy to drive on, the soft stuff creates sharp ridges, burns skin, and is a real challenge.

    Sand from region to region is probably very different due to different material in the grains.

  12. I have 30×9.50 R15 on my 03 Sahara, inline 6 manual trans.

    What do you suggest is the ideal tire preasure for beach sand?

    South Padre Island Tx.

  13. I live in the AZ desert. Roll a Cherokee converted by Rubitrux. I spent most every day over the last two years running in the sand. I find the key to sand is speed. Plan your route and DO NOT stop. You will seldom get stuck unless you stop or are greatly slowed by an obsticle. Yes, tires help, cool weather helps, Lockers probably help more than anything. A wise word- if you plan to do a lot of sand play- esspecially in remote areas- bring shovels, go to your local hardware store and buy a sand anchor (it is like a 5 foot steel eye hook with wide flat corkscrew threads on the bottom. It gives you something to hook a winch/come along to because there arn’t many trees in sand dunes

  14. Arnold We had the exact same problem in the exact same order with our 2011 Grand Cherokee Overland. Never happened to us before. Did you ever get the mystery resolved?


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