The safest cars are undoubtedly newer models, or those maintained to peak condition. Both automatics and manuals perform well in the desert in different ways, but it is vital that the car you take to the desert is fully roadworthy, as the desert will highlight any faults of your vehicle.
To this end, check the following before you leave:
Oil and water levels
Security and soundness of belts and hoses
4 x 4 operation (test this thoroughly)
Differential Lock and or Rear Differential Lock operation
Location of car jack, jacking arm, wheel brace or wrench
Location of the vehicles Jacking points
Soundness of wheels and tyres
Location of spare tyre and key (if the spare has a lock)
Working order of seat belts (there should be one per person)
The merits and demerits of different types of 4 wheel drives for desert driving can be argued about by aficionados (and are, endlessly).
Automatics are undoubtedly easier to drive on sand, ridding the driver of the need
to be concerned about revs and clutch control.
For the same reasons, however, many drivers prefer manuals, as you need a greater degree of skill to cope with gear changes and the response of the car is inevitably more sensitive.
We won't attempt to go into the merits of individual makes of car for desert driving - all the major makes sold in
Qatar can perform well on sand, if properly driven. (Generally it's the skill and experience of the driver not the vehicle) If you want further advice on this topic, you will simply have to talk to as many experienced desert drivers as you can find, and then make up your own mind!
Whilst air bags are generally a great benefit in the desert they can deploy if you bounce or hit the front of the vehicle hard on the sand, for example, not seeing a small hidden slip face, a hole or depression in the sand.
There have been many a lengthy conversation and argument over tyres and the recommended pressure for soft sand driving. Most tyres are designed to give you traction but on the soft sand the last thing you want is traction, you want to float over the surface.
Sand tyres are the best. Next to that are bulled tyres. Both of these offer little or no traction and allow you to float on the surface. So if you can afford a second set of tyres or don't mind driving on bulled tyres, that's great, but for most of us we want the best of both worlds - something safe to take us around town and to the desert. A compromise must be found - and remember that the desert is made up of sabkha, soft sand, hard compacted sand and rocky areas.
is the usual pressure I would use. This is a compromise to allow me to drive over various terrain types and then if I get into trouble I can reduce the pressure until I'm comfortable. Once out of trouble I would then re-inflate the tyres back to 18 psi.
When your tyres are deflated there is a risk of rimming the tyre, so if you want to make a
hard turn or 'U' turn, slow down or make the turn very wide, reducing the chances of rimming your tyre. Next time someone insists you deflate your tyre below 16 psi remember you want to drive on the highway next week.
Lowering the pressure below
18 psi for sustained driving will increase the probability of damage to your tyres, hence when you re-inflate your tyres they will no longer be as strong as before.
Summary on tyre pressure, psi:
20 for semi firm sand and faster driving
18 is a compromise for most terrain
16 is OK for soft sand and dune driving
14 & below for very soft sand & if you’re stuck