Sand Driving Tips: How Much to Air Down Your Subaru Tires for Optimal Traction and Safety?

As a Subaru owner who enjoys off-roading, you may be wondering how much to air down your tires when navigating sandy terrain. Airing down your tires can provide a significant improvement in traction and handling, but over or under-inflating your tires can also damage them. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of tire pressure and how to air down your tires for sand driving, as well as tips for testing and adjusting your pressure for different conditions, and the benefits of other modifications like traction mats and winches.

Why Airing Down is important

Airing down your tires before driving off-road is an important step to take for several reasons. When driving off-road, especially in sandy terrain, you want to maximize the surface area of the tire that comes into contact with the ground. By reducing tire pressure, the tire will flatten out and conform to the terrain, creating a larger contact patch and improving traction. This increase in surface area also helps prevent the vehicle from sinking into soft sand, as the wider tire distributes the vehicle’s weight.

Airing down also provides a smoother ride on bumpy terrain, as the tire is able to absorb more of the impact from rocks and bumps. This can prevent damage to your vehicle and make the drive more comfortable for you and your passengers.

How Much to Air Down for Sand Driving

The recommended tire pressure for sand driving depends on several factors, including the type of tires you’re using, the weight of your vehicle, and the conditions of the sand. A general starting point is to air down to between 15-20 psi, as this will provide a good balance between traction and maintaining enough pressure to avoid damaging your tires.

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However, it’s important to note that every vehicle and driver will have different preferences and needs. Some drivers may need to adjust the pressure higher or lower depending on the specific terrain they’re navigating. It’s crucial to test and adjust the pressure until you find the optimal level for your vehicle and driving style.

To test your tire pressure, start by airing down to 15 psi and drive on a straight, flat stretch of sand. Take note of how the vehicle handles and how much traction you have. Gradually decrease the pressure in increments of 2-3 psi until the tires start to slip or spin, then increase the pressure back up to the last pressure where you had good traction. This will be your optimal tire pressure for those specific conditions. Remember to adjust the pressure as needed for different sand types and conditions.

Risks of Over or Under-Inflation

Over or under-inflating your tires can have serious consequences. Over-inflating can cause a harsher ride, reduce traction by reducing the size of the contact patch, and can also cause damage to your tires by creating excessive wear on the center of the tread. Under-inflating can cause excessive flexing in the sidewalls, which can cause the tire to overheat, leading to a potential tire blow-out. It can also cause damage to the tire’s internal structure, increasing the risk of a flat tire.

To avoid these risks, it’s important to regularly check your tire pressure and keep it within the manufacturer’s recommended range. This can vary depending on your vehicle and tire type, so check your vehicle’s manual for specific information. Additionally, it’s important to adjust your tire pressure for off-roading conditions, taking into account the type of terrain, your vehicle’s weight, and any applicable modifications.

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Other Modifications for Sand Driving

While airing down your tires is an important step for improving traction in sand, there are other modifications you can make to further enhance your off-road experience. Traction mats or recovery tracks can help provide additional grip in soft sand, allowing you to get back on track if you get stuck. Winches can also be useful in situations where you need to pull your vehicle out of a particularly tough spot. Just remember to use these tools safely and always consider the surrounding terrain before taking any actions.


Airing down your tires is an important step to take when off-roading in sandy terrain, as it can significantly improve traction and handling. Finding the optimal tire pressure requires some testing and adjustment, but the results are well worth it. Remember to always check your tire pressure regularly and keep it within the manufacturer’s recommended range to avoid over or under-inflation. With these tips and modifications, you can confidently navigate sandy terrain in your Subaru and enjoy the thrill of off-roading.


Q: How often should I check my tire pressure for off-roading?
A: It’s recommended to check your tire pressure before every off-road trip, as well as during the trip if you notice any changes in how the vehicle is handling or the traction you’re getting.

Q: Can I air down too much?
A: Yes, airing down too much can damage your tires and increase the risk of flats. It’s important to find the optimal tire pressure for your specific vehicle and driving conditions.

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Q: Can I air down my tires for other types of off-roading?
A: Yes, you can air down your tires for other types of off-roading, such as mud, dirt, or rocky terrain. The recommended tire pressure may vary depending on the specific terrain, so it’s important to test and adjust accordingly.

Q: Can I air down my tires for regular driving?
A: No, it’s not recommended to air down your tires for regular driving. This can cause excessive wear on your tires and reduce their overall lifespan. Keep your tire pressure within the manufacturer’s recommended range for regular driving.

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Billy Covington

With a passion for all things automotive, Billy is our go-to expert on Subaru performance upgrades and modifications. He's been featured in several car magazines and blogs, and his extensive knowledge and expertise make him a valuable member of our team. When he's not working on cars, he enjoys playing guitar and writing music.

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