Are you a fan of beach driving?

By: Kath Heiman, Photography by: Kath Heiman

Kath ponders the perils of beach driving with an expensive rig.

Are you a fan of beach driving?
I guess if I fancy a spin in the sandy stuff, I’ll just have to borrow a mate’s car or hire one

I spent my first eight years in Scotland, a country known for its single malt whiskeys – and also for its harsh winters.

Driving hazards in Scottish winters include ice and snow drifts on roads. For local Scottish councils, the challenge is to supply up to 15,000 tonnes of salt per day to spread on roadways and footpaths to keep thoroughfares open to traffic (Scottish Road Network Report, August 2010). The great thing about the salting process is that it helps prevent ice bonding to the road’s surface, so tyres have a better chance of maintaining grip. Of course, the problem with salt is that it increases the electrical conductivity of water and, therefore, accelerates rusting. 

Given the extent of the salting practice, it’s probably not surprising that vehicle corrosion costs Scottish drivers more than AUS$100 million every year (The Scotsman, July 8, 2015). For my part, I’ll never erase childhood Scottish memories of crusty bubbles of orange and brown rust bursting through the lower door sills and under the floor mats of our family’s four-wheeled pride and joy. 

So, now you have this context – can I make a confession? I simply can’t get excited about beach driving! 

Don’t get me wrong. I know that many people enjoy getting among the sandy stuff in their 4WD. Slithering around on a beach or careening down sand dunes is probably a lot of fun. And when you think of some of the beautiful coastlines that Australia has to offer, it’s easy to see how trundling along the shore in the comfort of a well setup vehicle could be a holiday highlight, particularly if the destination is a secluded fishing spot. 

But as the person who ‘keeps the books’ in our household, the cost-benefit analysis of taking our HiLux for a frolic along the beach simply doesn’t stack up. It’s the only 4WD we’ve got and – outside of the family home – there’s more money tied up in it, and the camper trailer it pulls, than anything else we possess. All of us who own similar setups, and subject them to a bit of after-market accessorising, know it doesn’t take long before the combined value starts to look a lot like an annual salary. 

So I won’t open the way for sea salt to damage the paint work, the undercarriage and the vehicle’s interior just so the HiLux can dip its rubber toes into the briny ocean and play chase along the foreshore. Sure, I could help protect my vehicle by spraying the underside with lanolin or fish oil. But, quite frankly, I could do without the smell. And even if I use the best anti-corrosion products available, I’m pretty sure that sand and salty water will find ways to sneak past the bolt heads and rubber seals that separate the outside of our 4WD from its insides. While this seepage is unlikely to bring the HiLux to a halt, both my local mechanic and I know it’s very likely to cost me money. After all, a two-hour job at the auto shop can easily turn into a four-hour job if the guy under the vehicle is doing battle with rusted bolts and perished rubber.

So, whether it likes it or not, our HiLux will never be a dune buggy. If it’s left to me, our 4WD might be a contender to exceed the record set by my old Volkswagen that lived its entire life inland. I sold it three years ago – rust-free – in its 43rd year. The guy who bought it nearly fell over with surprise!

I guess if I fancy a spin in the sandy stuff, I’ll just have to borrow a mate’s car or hire one. The hire company may have something to say about it – but that’s probably another story.

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Check out the full feature in issue #96 January 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.