Air Down – Please Don’t Tear Up the Beaches
Bill Smith, President #7126 Life Member
Much has been written and said after this past summer season about the need to lower tire pressure before driving on the beach. The issue became one of this summer’s biggest, with over thirty cars being stuck one weekend day at Ramp 44 on Hatteras Island.
The need to “air down” before venturing out onto the sand remains an area of concern for both the National Park Service, as well as other drivers who have to deal with the challenges of multiple “stuck” vehicles in their path.
If you read comments online, there are many different opinions expressed but the opinion of most experienced beach drivers is that it is imperative that you lower tire pressure significantly before attempting drive on the sand, normally reducing air pressure to at least 20 pounds or below.
It seems one of the biggest deterrents to beach drivers failing to “air down” surrounds their questions of what do they do after they leave the beach. Many who come to the Outer Banks on vacation, as well as those who live here, keep their tires aired down for significant periods of time. They do not “air down” and “air up” each time they use the beach. Maintaining reasonable highway speeds, in the area of 40 to 45 mph does little to compromise a vehicle’s tires, certainly over a limited period of time.
If you choose to drive on the beach, one thing that should be done is to become familiar with tackle shops or other locations that provide air stations. Many of our NCBBA Weigh Stations, listed in this newsletter, provide free air. In Corolla, for example, there is a new air station in Corolla Park with six air pumps. Many stores or gas stations up and down the beaches provide free air such as The Blue Whale in Salvo, Askins Creek Store in Avon and the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. Become familiar with the available air stations around areas of the beach you enjoy.
Please be courteous, failing to properly “air down” before entering the beach can create problems for other conscientious drivers, can make for an expensive afternoon, damage your driveline and lessen the enjoyment of all who use our beaches. Your vehicle may have oversized tires and be capable of traveling on the beach with full air pressure but there is a good chance that it will create ruts making it difficult for those who follow.
Suggested equipment for beach driving is a shovel, a tow strap, a jack and a board to place under it. An air gauge is mandatory and four-wheel drive (4WD), although not mandatory, is highly recommended. All-wheel drive (AWD) and low ground clearance vehicles frequently have problems on the beach. Beware brown sand and drop-offs.
We want everyone to enjoy the beach driving experience by being properly prepared. As NCBBA members, let’s be the ambassadors out on the beach, setting the proper example for others by “airing down” before we head out.
For your convenience, we have listed Weigh Stations who have air..
Weigh Stations With Air
AVON - Frank & Fran's
BUXTON - Dillon's Corner
FRISCO - Frisco Rod and Gun
HATTERAS - Teach's Lair
OCRACOKE - Tradewinds Tackle Shop