We were cruising along a back track on Cape York when I came across a number of vehicles and trailers having real trouble in the soft sand on the track to Cape Melville. When I suggested they should lower their tyre pressures, I got told where to go. So I did; I got back into the Patrol and cruised past them – that easily! They then took my advice.
It's really not that hard. People flog their 4WDs and trailers along sandy tracks, making it hard on themselves, their vehicle and trailer and stuffing the track in the process, all because they haven't let their tyre pressures down. Man, it is enough to drive anyone who does the right thing, or any of our land managers, bloody crazy!
Lowering tyre pressures, especially in sand, is the best thing you can do to make it easy on yourself and your vehicle. In the process, you'll also help to save the track.
Say if you are on a beach and not too heavily loaded, generally 140kpa (or 20psi) is a good starting point. If you are driving the Canning and have 200L of fuel on board along with water, food for three weeks and all the camping gear for the family, then 175kpa (25psi) could be much more appropriate. It's all a bit of a compromise and, where there is a good chance of a stake or a rock taking out a sidewall, then 25psi makes even more sense.
And what about the trailer tyres? I go down to at least the pressures I have in the tow vehicle and many times quite a bit lower. With my Tvan I've done some amazing trips in very rugged or sandy country and in those situations I've lowered the tyre pressures to 12-15psi. You see, the tyres on the camper are just rolling along (while the tow vehicle tyres are powered) and are less prone to be torn off a rim, to break a bead or even get a puncture.
Now, the idea of lowering tyre pressures is to allow the tyre to deflate and its contact with mother earth to increase in size – mainly in length but also in width.
One of the things that continually surprises me, and I've been bogged more times than I can count, is the difference just a few pounds out of a set of tyres can make to a vehicle and/or a bogging. So, if you are at 20psi and become bogged, drop your tyre pressures to around 17-18psi and try driving out on that. But don't spin the wheels.
You can lower the air pressure even more, but as you do so, remember it becomes easier for a tyre to be parted from the rim, or for the seal between tyre and rim to be broken for just a second or two. Either way, the result is the same – a very flat tyre and that doesn't help you whether you are on soft beach sand at Robe or half way up a dune on the Canning.
Tyre pressures also play an important part whether you are on a gravel road like the Strzelecki Track or a steep rock strewn route in the Victoria high country. For example, when I'm on the blacktop in my 'Cruiser or Patrol towing my camper and set up for a trip, my tyre pressures will be around 38-40psi (265-280kpa), front and rear. Once I hit the gravel, I'll drop 6-8psi from each tyre and maybe a couple more if the road is badly corrugated. If the track slows or becomes chopped up I'll go down a couple more psi.
Now, all this means you need to carry a tyre pressure gauge or a tyre deflator and an air compressor on all your trips. My advice: go get them now!
Check out the full feature in issue #123 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.