Totally new member asks for dune/vehicle advice & commen

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PeterChenoweth
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Totally new member asks for dune/vehicle advice & commen

Post by PeterChenoweth »

Greetings! Please don't laugh too hard at my questions. I hope I can get some good answers! :)

I and my family have spent many wonderful years visiting the greater Pentwater/Hart/Luddington/Silver Lake area on many summer vacations. For years I have thought it would be an absolute blast to own a vehicle that could "play" in the dunes surrounding Silver Lake. That time may be coming soon! :) I'm considering buying a SUV soon, namely a Jeep Liberty 4x4, and as I'm pondering my decision I thought of how much fun it *might* be to take this thing out on the dunes.

To all of you who know and understand the dunes... What does it take to safely "play" in the dunes? Can a regular, non-monster-tired SUV like a stock Jeep Liberty 4x4 handle the dunes? Or is this not a good idea. Can the all wheel drive systems of vehicles such as Subaru's handle the dunes? My guess is not very well... Can a normal person (tourist :oops: ) get whatever permit is necessary and go out in the dunes? What about safety and knowledge - are there any special driving skills needed for traversing the dunes?

Thank you for any advice/tips/hints that you would be willing to provide to this wanna-be dune lover!

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Post by thor »

I've seen 2 wheel drive trucks way out in the dunes. so to answer your question. yes. the key is to air down big time. I've dropped the pressure on my 2500 to 15 psi and went all over.

JeepJD79

Post by JeepJD79 »

Most definetly you can drive your stocky out there. Especially a liberty! I have seen a couple out there this past summer doing just fine. I have been going to Silver lake for 18 yrs now and thats the only place I run my jeep, in fact it lives there! The one thing I have learned from duning and with my family who taught me to drive out there is RESPECT! You must respect the terrain which is ever changing. I am not trying to scare you peter I am just saying be observant. Most of the Traffic out there as you may or may not know is direction and flows in a clockwise fashion. Yes there are some steeper hills out there, but I think you will find yourself enjoying the mobility of your liberty, being able to cruise just about anywhere you want to go! Like Thor said, lower your tire pressure down. Start at about 15 pounds and go down from there. Play with it, you will be amazed at the difference just a pound or half pound of air will make on certain days! You may think I am nuts but I run 33" tires on my jeep with 4.5 pounds of air in them. Granted the jeep is all fiberglass and what not, but this is the pressure I have found works the best. So play with that, get use to your vehicle and the way it reacts! BRING A STRAP!! I am a serious jeep nut, and I know that liberty has got a couple nice tow hooks under there! :) Just have the strap "in case" Its much nicer to be able to pull a person out rather than dig! Don't worry about that, there usually are so many people around that if you need a tug they will be more than happy to help out in return of a smile and hand shake. Your permits are readily available at the front gate. You can even buy Off Road Vehicle (orv) permits at Meijers now. You must have one of these to enter the park, along with either an annual or daily Michigan State Park sticker. I think it is wise that if you attend the dunes more than once or twice a year, and enjoy other Michigan state parks than just get the annual permit. You don't have to waste time buying one everyday you enter the park. That way your "dune ready" I will try and retrieve the website from the DNR that talks about the voucher system and stuff and post it for you on here. If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to post another message. Everyone on here is really helpful! Hope to see you out there sometime,
Jason Dodge

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Post by Smiley »

One more thing you will need is a dune flag mounter at the front of the Liberty. It has to be at leat 10 feet tall when monunted. Most Michigan dirt bike stores and all dune buggy stores have them. They are also available at the stores in Silver Lake and just outside the dune lot entrance. You might need to fabricate a bracket, so I would suggest getting one setup before you make your trip.

I have been driving different vehicles on the dunes for over 26 years. I can get nearly anything to drive across the flat areas, even 2 wheel drive trucks and front wheel drive cars - you just have to let enough air out to get flotation. This does not make them fun to drive on the dune though ;)

The main thing is to take it easy till you learn to read the terrain. Momentum is what keeps you going over the dunes, but do not drive too fast for your limits. That is how people get hurt every year. The dunes shift around every day, especially if it is windy and in the springtime as the sand dries. I would not try the large ridges until you get the feel for your vehicle's traction, if you spin tires on the little hills then you have too much air pressure. A light vehicle like the Liberty should be OK with 12 pounds in the front and 10 pounds in the rear tires. Be carefull of breaking the tires off the beads by turning too sharply at too fast a speed.

If you don't make it over a dune then back down using reverse as your brake - back up straight. Too much brake will cause you to be unable to steer well going in reverse down the hill. Keep looking for others, they might not see you or know where you are headed.

Do not go there on a holiday weekend until you get some experience!

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Post by PeterChenoweth »

Wow, thanks for all the info, Smiley, JD79, and Thor :) :D

As it turns out, I decided to get a 2003 Mazda Tribute (Ford Escape). Not quite the off road potential as the Jeep, of course. But I did get a V6 and 4WD, and it does have a locking differential - so I'd think that would be at least somewhat fun out there, no? Loved the Liberty, but the Mazda is a little more my style and hard to pass up with 0% financing....

I plan to lurk around here quite a bit over the next few months to see what I can learn in anticipation of this summer.

Would this be the Meijers in Luddington?

Thanks again for all of the wonderful info!

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Post by TLB »

We have a video of a 98 Chevy Monte Carlo that was at test hill.

We could not belive he was out there. Then he drove up test hill to the top. He did this three times each time backing down after he reached the top.

The next time he went over the top and we said he's done, oh no he wasn't he came back around from the right side of the hill and did it again.

You never know what you will see on the dunes.
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Post by Smiley »

I remember the car, it was in the spring when the sand was still pretty wet a couple inches under the surface. If I remember there was still some snow showing where the dunes had covered it in the winter and the wind had just uncovered it that week. You could have floated anything with low tire pressure that day on the sand.

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Post by TLB »

It was probably the same car that we saw. I remember that it had Ohio plates on it and it was light brown in color.

I think we were there in June when it was hot outside, not like it is now here in Essexville, 2 degrees at 9:20 am.

Can't wait to play in the sand this summer!

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Post by Poiks »

It's sort of a mystery to me what makes a good stock dune vehicle. At Pismo Beach I saw a Kia Sportage 4X4 get stuck as soon as he turned off the hardpack. Yet one of those Mercedes ML320's was going wherever he wanted no sweat.

Recently my dune buggy broke down in the bottom of a bowl at Glamis. A Toyota Sequoia 4X4 and a Ford F-250 V10 4X4 both tried pulling me out, without success. But another buggy dragged me out of there easily.

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Post by Smiley »

Yep it was brown :)

Floatation balanced with traction. If they do not experament with tire pressure then they normally run too much to get enough flotation. The heavier the vehicle the harder it is to float and still get traction to move forward. I can climb dune faces at Silver Lake at 2 mph with my Bronco (5800 lbs) -- MT Bajas 39x18 running 3 psi. I can do the same thing with my 2001 F350 (7200 lbs) with PJ 38x15 at 5 psi if the sand is still somewhat wet underneath. With my Jeep TJ (3200 lbs) I can do it running 32x10.50 at 5 psi, but without axle traction aids.

You have to get the right combination to be able to drive slowly and still float. Most duners do not bother, they mostly drive fast. I've pulled a drowned Hummer off the dunes - an H1 that weighed nearly 9000 lbs, using my Bronco. The idiot was putting air into his tires as we went across the dunes to the parking lot. I wondered why it was getting harder to pull! But I still dragged it out even after it had street pressure in the tires. Man that guy was a bonehead.

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Post by TLB »

It's like I always tell my friends, their is no telling what you will see out there on the dunes.
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Post by MT Buggies »

That's for sure! We are planning to go up there in July, can't wait!
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Post by bbchevelle »

greeting all i have been playing in these dunes for my whole life i started when i was 3 or 4 years old and am now in my 40s i have driven everything from stockes to built monsters and the true key is tire pressure and caution i run 10 psi in the rear and 12 psi in the front of our suburban its lifted with just 31 inch tires and will go where ever you point it the only other mod is a auburn gear posi in the rear witch helps a lot that and 4:10 gears made a huge differance i have seen stockers running to much air struggle and stockers running to little air roll a tire off fthe rim if you use commen sense and remember you have very little air in your tires and avoid sharp tuns and excessive bouncing you can most anywhere you want to in the dunes and there are plenty of people that will always offer to help if you ask have fun and be safe
come on gramps lets hit the dunes

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