Best Tyres for Sand

If there is one change you make to a 4WD to make it more capable, its to fit a decent set of 4WD tyres. However, this is not the case when it comes to finding the best tyres for sand, and whilst there is a difference, the tyre type really doesn’t matter too much. They’ll all do the job, but of course, some do it better than others.

If you’re wondering if I’m completely off my rocker, keep reading (although you might be partially right!). The less aggressive the 4WD tyre is, the better it will perform in sand, but you can easily drive on sand with a 4WD with any style of 4WD tyre, with the right knowledge.

What are the best tyres for sand driving?
What are the best tyres for sand driving?

Mud terrain and all terrain tyres on sand

The most common tyre that 4WD owners run for vehicles that actually leave the bitumen are all terrain (and sometimes mud terrain). Both of these tyres go just fine on sand, but they are easier to have issues with on sand as they’ll dig holes much faster than a road terrain tyre will, and they don’t float as well.

If you were to get stuck on sand and do one revolution with a road terrain tyre, all terrain and mud terrain tyre, and it didn’t push the vehicle forward, what do you think the results would be? The mud terrain tyre is going to dig the biggest hole due to its aggressive tread, and it will make you sink down even further.

My bogged 80 series
There’s very little forgiveness with mud terrains spinning on sand

The all terrain tyre is somewhere in the middle, and the road terrain tyre is going to want to float as much as possible without digging in, which is exactly what is best for sand driving. The other factor worth noting is that Mud terrain tyres generally have stronger, and stiffer sidewalls, so require lower pressures to get them to bag out in the same way an all terrain, or road terrain tyre would. 

To get the same result in terms of flotation, you might have to take a few extra PSI out of a mud terrain and all terrain tyre, but even then, they’ll still want to dig in more than a road terrain.

Low tyre pressures on the Dmax
The heavier duty the tyre, the more air you need to let out to make them bag

The wrong tyre pressures, coupled with a heavy right foot and mud terrain tyres is a guaranteed recipe for a badly bogged 4WD that is sitting on the chassis.

Tyre Pressures are king on sand

Now, you’ll note above that I mentioned above ‘the wrong tyre pressures’. This is by far and away the most important factor for sand driving, and trumps the type of tyre you have a hundred times over.

Any normal sized 4WD tyre (nothing low profile) will perform just fine on sand at the right tyre pressures. This will depend hugely on the weight of the vehicle and the tyre size, but generally something between 10 and 20 PSI is a good place to start.

You could have mud terrain, all terrain or road terrain 4WD tyres and they’ll all work just fine, with the right tyre pressures. Yes, you read that correctly; any tyre is fine on sand, with the right tyre pressures.

Soft tracks at Francois Peron
Any tyre works fine on sand, at the right tyre pressures

Tyre size on sand

Now, if you’re wondering whether to get massive 16 inch wide fat 4WD tyres so it makes it easier to drive on a beach, or to stick with the cheese cutter style that Toyota gave you the vehicle with, it’s a bit counter intuitive.

In theory, the more tyre on the ground, the better the vehicle will float, as the weight is distributed over a larger contact patch. However, wide tyres also have to push sand out of the way, and its actually the length of the footprint that matters most, not the width.

Wide tyres are not better in sand
Contrary to logic, wider tyres are not better in sand

If you take a normal 4WD tyre, and deflate it, and look at the surface area on the floor, you’ll note that whilst it does grow in width marginally, it grows substantially in length, and this is what makes your vehicle float and drive better on sand.

The science says a narrower tyre is better in sand, but I’ve yet to see any conclusive testing done between wide and skinny 4WD tyres. I certainly wouldn’t go wider than you need; stick with standard tyre sizes (and go up in height if you really want) and it will work just fine.

Skinny tyres
Skinny tyres work just fine in sand

Road terrain tyres are generally best on sand

If you want to get technical, any road terrain tyres, or non aggressive all terrain tyres (like the Bridgestone Dueler 693) will be the best performer on sand. However, the difference between these and a set of all terrains or mud terrains isn’t that different, and providing you pick the right pressures, its almost irrelevant.

It is important to think about the tyre structure and strength though, with many beaches having rocks and particularly limestone in them. The sidewalls of a road terrain tyre are not nearly as strong as a light truck all terrain, and the chances of a puncture are much higher.

So, I’ve said my piece. What do you reckon the best tyres for sand are?

Bogged in the Dmax
The least aggressive 4WD tyres are best in sand

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