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Transmission and gear tips for sand driving

What gear to select can depend on the engine characteristic of your 4WD.

Automatics can be better in sand driving because they change gears more seamlessly than manuals.

The moment you depress the clutch to change gear in a manual, there is no power going to the wheels and the sand can grab those wheels. In a manual, anticipate what's ahead and if needing a lower gear be in that correct gear before you get to that patch.

It's all about selecting the right gear with the right range and staying off the clutch.

What gear to select can depend on the engine characteristic of your 4WD. Keep up the engine revs, especially in a petrol-engine 4WD. If revs fall away, which can happen when a patch of soft sand grabs the wheels, it can lead to the vehicle stalling. This is where a diesel is a better bet; a diesel will still provide its pulling power at low engine revs due to its torque characteristics.

"Drivers should listen to their engine speed. Maximum torque in a petrol engine comes in around 3500rpm, and in a diesel around 2000rpm," says our off-road guru.

In softer sand a petrol might be best served in first gear, high range, revved out to achieve the maximum torque sweet spot. In a diesel selecting third gear in low range might achieve the same thing, an equal travel speed that's comfortable (and well within the 40km/h speed zone), with torque to spare if needing new momentum.

If the 4WD is struggling in high-range, then low-range can be tried. But if stopping to change to low-range - or stopping for any reason - select a patch of firmer sand.

"Rolling to a halt is a good idea. Applying brakes will dig you in. In especially soft sand reversing back over your tracks for a couple of metres (keep the steering straight) will compact and give you a launch pad to get going on," is what Adventure 4WD teaches.