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December 11, 2003

Mr. Answer Man Solves Your Dune Buggy Dilemmas

FDS is quiescent for the moment, waiting for the December and January striper trips to come about, but it still gets the occasional visitor from Google.

One of whom was Dan, who is hoping our advice might prove helpful in mechanical matters.

I'm building a V-8 powered dune buggy and i had a question....worse case situation.... if i do get stuck in the sand ... i plan to have a winch on the front.. my question is.. if nothing solid is there to pull against what are my options... another vehicial could work.. but is there some special anchor to pound in the sand i could buy.. for those situations.. that grab and bite.. just for sandy conditions... let me know ..

Holy God almighty, a V-8 powered dune buggy? I hope you're rear-mounting that sucker, Dan. Not that I know a lot about engines. I know a lot about misplacing my center of gravity, though. A front-mounted V8 strikes me as one sudden stop away from a NASCAR highlight, if you get my drift.

But that's neither here nor there. There are a number of ways to get unstuck from loose beach sand. The best thing, of course, is to avoid getting stuck in the first place, and the easiest way to prevent that eventuality is to lower the air pressure in one's tires. Normally, the tire pressure on my Explorer is at something like 35 psi. I take that down to 24 for normal beach driving, or 18 if I know I'm going to be driving in very loose sugar sand.

Lowering the psi in each tire causes it to balloon outwards, redistributing the weight of the vehicle over a larger area, thus making it harder for each individual to dig itself into a rut. Snowshoes and beds of nails work on the same principle.

I did not know this the first time I drove a 4x4 out onto the beach, soon after SW and I first started dating. One $75 tow-truck bill later, I had the lesson burned into my head for all eternity. I also learned that, when a vehicle is stuck on the beach, women feel that extracting it is a gender-specific role.

One thing to remember when driving on low pressure tires. Don't drive fast. That's just asking for a blowout. Also, as light as a Dune Buggy is, even one with a V8, you might not need to lower the tire pressure at all. When Woundwort had his Jeep, I don't think he ever took the pressure down.

However, assuming all the advice above is taken and one still ends up stuck on the beach, two things wil come in handy. One is a Danforth anchor. The other is a 3x10 foot piece of rubber bottomed carpet.

The carpet is useful for driving out of ruts. Feed it under a stuck tire, and the tire now has something solid to pull itself up on. I used mine for the first time this year to extricate a pickup, and it worked admirably.

You'd use the Danforth anchor with the winch, but you'll need some room. The Danforth, when used in a boats, is designed to take advantage of distance. The lower the angle between a Danforth and the boat it is anchoring, (that's the farther away it is on a horizontal, rather than vertical plane) the more the action of the boat tugging against the anchor actually serves to set it. Those big flat flukes just dig in deeper ever time they feel a tug, unless that tug is directly above. In that case, out they pop.

A Danforth should work the same way, in principle, with a stuck vehicle. Make sure it's set as deep as you can get it first, and watch out for snapbacks. If something is going to give, the winch cable will snap before a dug-in Danforth gives up the ghost. Be careful of the fluke points, too. I dropped one onto my foot in the Pamlico Sound 20 years, and it went right to the bone. I was a hundred yards away from a boat with a dead engine, and had to swim the anchor back in 10 or so feet of water, with a blood trail from my foot spreading out behind me the entire time.

A 13 foot bull shark had been caught in the same waters earlier that year. It was an exciting swim, if only in my mind.

Posted by Bigwig at December 11, 2003 04:45 PM | TrackBack
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Bigwig - didnt know you were a dune-buggy expert too!!! -- Sid

Posted by: sid at December 12, 2003 11:51 AM

Well, I can't build one.

But I bet I can get it unstuck.

Posted by: Bigwig at December 12, 2003 01:12 PM

one thing you might consider is putting slick tires under where the engine is mounted and/or on the drive wheels, keeping them at about 20 psi. most think that deep-treaded, knobby tires give better traction, and while in mud this may be true, but sand is a different thing totally. you want to "float" on top of the sand, not dig deep ruts, which is what knobby tires do.

Posted by: kevin at December 12, 2003 05:55 PM

Two thoughts:
1) A Bruce anchor also works well in sand and is lighter than a comparable Danforth.
2) Bury your spare tire horizontally in the sand with the winch cable led through the hub as an emergency anchor.

Posted by: John Wertz at December 13, 2003 12:13 PM

thanks for the advice guys.... and yes the buggy will be rear engine mounted.. 400 CHEVY small block with a tunnel ram ,dull carbs,.. i was going to buy paddle tires but now i'm thinking... a set of mickys would work just fine too.. a 36 inch tread with would just float across the sand id think.. good idea kevin and i could still buy a set of smoothys for the front

Posted by: Dan Forkin at December 14, 2003 12:51 PM
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