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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know the owner's manual doesn't recommend the HiHy for off-road, but has anyone had any experience driving one on the beach? I'm planning on taking my 2006 HiHy to the Outer Banks in North Carolina (where you are allowed to drive on the beach). I'm not trying to do anything more than pack the kids in the car and drive all our stuff out to the beach, but I'm a little worried that the AWD will have trouble with the sand. Has anyone had any experience with this?

I have a lot of experience with driving on the beach down there in an Explorer, but that was 4WD instead of AWD and also had 4WD-low.

Thoughts?
 

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I think it depends on the type of sand you'll be driving in. If it's hard pack sand or sand with large grains then you most likely won't have a problem, but if it's very loose, soft sand you may run into trouble. Unfortunately for Hybrid owners you don't have the option of turning off the VSC/TRAC system like gas-powered Highlanders do (as recommended/suggested in the owners manual...use at your own risk). The difference is that with VSC/TRAC enabled the engine will dethrottle when it senses the vehicle is bogging down, which will result in it grinding to a halt in deep sand. I have extensive off-road experience with my gas-powered Highlander and turning off VSC/TRAC in sand is extremely helpful and I've never been stuck in sand.

I'd assess the sand at the beach you want to drive it on, and if it looks remotely soft I'd air down your tires to at least 20 PSI just to play it safe. You ought to be able to go through most beach sand under those conditions as long as the sand isn't too soft or too deep, use your better judgment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks TD,

The sand can be pretty soft with deep tracks right near the entrance/exit to the beach, but once you get past that it's usually not that bad. I'll definitely drop the PSI in the tires down and I have some traction mats that can be put down under the tires in case I run into real trouble.

Not being able to disable the VSC worries me a bit, so that's why I thought I'd post something to see if any other HiHy owners had tried them out on the beach.
 

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I would have sworn we had a thread in here a few months back where someone was talking about taking his Highlander on an east coast beach, but dang it if I can find that thread....:headbang:

Sounds like you have a good handle on it with traction maps. A steady run through that initial soft sand ought to get you onto the beach with no problems. :thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
TD - you're not losing your mind - I think you were thinking about this thread where you gave me very similar advice. I just figured it was a year later and was worth starting a new thread to see if any HiHy owners had tried them out on the beach.

I'll try to remember to post back next month to let you know how it goes!
 

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TD - you're not losing your mind - I think you were thinking about this thread where you gave me very similar advice. I just figured it was a year later and was worth starting a new thread to see if any HiHy owners had tried them out on the beach.

I'll try to remember to post back next month to let you know how it goes!
Oh, okay, I didn't look in the 2nd Gen forum since I thought the thread was in this forum. Nice to know I'm not crazy......yet. :lol: By all means let us know how it goes on the sand, I'd be interested to know either way, that is whether you drive your Highlander as is or if you shut off VSC/TRAC as jeffs posted up above.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·

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Thanks for the tip Jeff! I'm going to print out those instructions and keep them in the glove compartment just in case. Too bad there's no way to force it into 4WD mode, but if the VSC/TRAC gets confused on the sand, at least I have a way to try FWD-only mode.
Before disableing the 4wdi, you might first try using reverse gear. Doing some testing in deep snow I found that when I was stuck by VCS/TRAC shotdown, nothing would happen if I tried to go forward but the wheels would very slowly spin if it was in reverse.
 

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CowherPower-

Have used our 2006 Highlander Hybrid AWD ONLY ONCE on Nauset Beach on Cape Cod (before knowing about how to disable the traction assist). It worked OK on hardpacked and large grain sands without a lot of elevation changes....but I wasn't very comfortable.The electric drive motors are not very helpful. (For many years before, we used a '93 Jeep Gr Cherokee which was great).

Good luck and be sure you carry the usual beach tools - jack pad, shovel et al.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
smlusci - Thanks. It's funny that you mention being on a Cape Cod beach because that's exactly where I was today (without the HiHy). The Outer Banks beaches that I'll be on in two weeks have deeper, looser sand than what I saw up here in the Cape.

And thanks for the recommendation on bringing tools. I've never been stuck in sand, so I'm not an expert on what you need to get out. A friend will be lending me some traction mats that you can unfold in front of the tires and I'll be sure to have a shovel. Anything else I should be aware of? And I assume the best strategy to get out is to disable the AWD/TRAC and try to get out slowly using FWD (and maybe someone pushing).
 

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Just remember to air-down your tires before hitting the beach. It's better to air-down and not need to have done it after all, than to not have aired-down and run into soft, deep sand and get stuck.
 
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