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Sand Driving Tips To Safely Take Your Subaru On the Beach

By Ben Boxer

Can You Drive A Subaru In The Sand?

Yes! You can drive a Subaru in the sand. You need to follow a few precautions, but many people drive their Subarus on the beach all the time.

Whether you own a Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, or Impreza, eventually you will want to drive it on the sand. Subarus are more than capable of driving on the beach without issues. We’ll outline what you’ll need and our guide for how we’ve approached sand driving.

On the upper West coast, there are a few places where it’s legal to drive a motor vehicle on the beach. I have wonderful memories as a kid enjoying beach camping in my parent’s diesel Chevy Suburban. So naturally, as I grew up and began driving, I wanted to continue the tradition of taking my car out on the Washington coast. I was intimidated since my little Subaru was so much smaller than the big trucks I was used to seeing on the sand. But once I learned these techniques, I have never been afraid to drive on the sand.

Best practices for driving your Subaru in the sand:

  • Assess the sand condition (is it hard, or deep and soft?)
  • Bring an inflator & tire gauge
  • Be prepared to air down
  • Turn off traction control if your vehicle is equipped
  • Hug the shore when moving along the coast
  • Maintain a steady speed and avoid sudden acceleration
  • Always make sure you’re aware of the tide pattern
  • BONUS TIP: Clean your undercarriage immediately

Before Driving On The Sand, Consider The Conditions

If the sand you’re about to drive on is hard packed and firm, you’ll have a much easier time navigating the beach. However, during the summer when most people are out enjoying the coast, the sand is typically going to be much softer and more deep. Dry, soft sand is much easier to sink in. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tackle it in a Subaru. Just take the necessary precautions and follow these steps.

Bring The Right Gear With You

Before you drive on the sand, here’s a quick list of the best things to have with you:

The all wheel drive system in your car should be able to handle a good leisurely drive on the beach. But having the right tools with you just in case is very important.

Dropping Tire Pressure When Driving On The Sand:

Just as a precaution, airing your tires down is always a good idea before hitting the beach. We usually run about 15-18 psi because it gives you much more grip and keeps you from sinking by widening your tire’s footprint on the sand. So you’ll want to have a tire gauge on hand to help you see how much air you’ve let out. Most gauges also have a little notch on the back for pressing against the valve stem so you don’t have to do it with your thumb nail.
If you’re going to be driving on sand, we highly recommend carrying a portable air compressor. They’re not very expensive and can really help you out in a wide range of situations. It’s convenient to be able to pump your tires right back up as soon as you hit the pavement again.
IMPORTANT: do not try driving on the freeway again before re-inflating your tires. It can be extremely dangerous to drive at higher speeds with low air pressure. If you’re not sure what kind of compressor to get, check out our portable inflator guide to find the right one for your budget.
lifted subaru forester on the beach driving in the sand with Mud tires

On firm sand, you can usually avoid relieving air pressure. But Make sure to use caution as you drive.

You’ll also want to carry a shovel with you. This is probably the most important piece of gear you can keep in your vehicle. In the event that you do get stuck, a shovel can help you dig sand, snow, or dirt out from under your car’s frame and body. A small shovel will work just fine and you can usually buy them for under $30 bucks. (I bought this simple Stanley shovel on Amazon. I couldn’t believe how light it was and I’ve used it multiple times to dig out of snow and sand.)
Optional: this is more of a luxury item, but a good set of recovery boards can help you get out of a pickle much quicker than digging for hours. They have traction knobs on them, and when used correctly, your tires will hook up on them and pull right out.

Use Proper Driving Techniques In The Sand

In order to avoid getting stuck in the sand, use these helpful techniques:

  • Turn off traction control if equipped (if your Subaru has X-Mode, it can be helpful)
  • Don’t accelerate quickly
  • Maintain a steady speed around 25mph
  • Avoid sharp turns
  • Follow the water line as you travel up and down the coast – the sand will be firmer close to the water
  • Always know when and where the tide will come
This may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll want to turn off traction control if your vehicle is equipped with it. The traction control will cut power to any wheel that experiences slippage and kill your momentum. So it’s best to turn it off before you hit the sand.
Another helpful technique is to drive very conservatively. Don’t hit the throttle suddenly. Accelerate smoothly and avoid making sharp turns. Not using sudden movements will help keep your wheels from digging into the sand. Keep in mind that while you don’t want to drive fast, you also don’t want to lose momentum. Don’t stop until you’re ready to park.
As you move from one spot to the next on the beach, drive close to the water line (obviously not too close – usually 50 feet is safe.)
There’s two reasons why this is a good practice. First, the sand close to the ocean will be harder and you’re less likely to sink in. Also, driving by the water will help keep you clear of other people’s camps along the beach. Just keep a close eye out for folks playing and walking along the shore.
If you’ve ever seen @kooksofthecape on Instagram, you know how embarrassing and dangerous it can be to get caught in a high tide. The last thing you want to do is end your day with a flooded car and an insurance claim. Before heading out, check the tides so you can enjoy the day. We usually use to find the tide info for whatever beach we’re at.

You can see how the ocean completely flipped this F350. Always check the tides.

BONUS TIP: Clean your car right after your trip

If you’re visiting the coast, you’ll want to rinse the vehicle immediately after. The salt content of the ocean water and sand will quickly begin to break down the metal components of your vehicle. Additionally, it can be damaging to your paint’s finish. It’s a great idea to get a car wash on the way home, or the next day.

Don’t forget to clean the underside of your car. That is where most of the damage will occur.

Here’s how I keep my Subaru’s surfaces clean and safe from rust:

  • I use Fluid Film undercoating once a year to protect against rust
  • After driving on the beach, or salted roads, I run the lawn sprinkler under my car on the highest setting for about 2 minutes
  • I wash the car after any beach trips to help protect the paint from deterioration

What I Carry In My Car For Beach Trips:

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If you follow these simple tips and tricks, you should be able to safely enjoy a day driving on the beach. Always follow local laws and regulations when attempting to drive on the beach and travel with friends if possible.

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