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Hey, off-road enthusiasts! Ready to take on the thrill of dune bashing and sand driving? One of the essential elements of an unforgettable sand-driving adventure is having the right tires. Driving on sand brings with it a host of unique challenges, like reduced traction and increased resistance, so your choice of tires can make or break your experience. Buckle up as we explore the best tires for sand driving, and help you gear up for your next adrenaline-fueled outing!
Top sand tires
If you’re going to be spending your days driving around on the sand, then the best option for you is paddle tires. These tires are designed exclusively for off-road sand driving, and their special design may look strange but will allow you to make the most of your sand driving experience. But remember – you need to switch them out for regular tires before you leave the dunes – they’re not designed for road driving; in fact, they’re not road-legal at all.
For those of you who aren’t planning to spend your whole day in the dunes, your best tires for sand are probably a form of off-road tires – either all-terrain or mud-terrain, and we’ll look at these options in more detail below.
To help you choose the right tires for your sand adventure, we’ve put together a complete guide, including our top tire picks and some tips to keep you moving when driving in sand.
Factors to consider when choosing sand tires
Before you hit the dunes, consider these key factors when selecting the perfect tires for sand driving:
Tire size and width
Go big or go home! Wider tires are your best bet for sand driving, as they distribute your vehicle’s weight over a larger surface area, preventing you from sinking. Choose the widest tire size that’s compatible with your vehicle for the best flotation and traction on sand. You can learn what size tires your vehicle can handle on the Wheel Size website. For example, the popular Ford F150 truck has two possible sizes 265/60R18 and 275/65R18, and the best option for driving on sand is the larger one—the 275/65R18.
Tires aggressive tread pattern
Tread patterns play a crucial role in how well a tire performs on the sand. Opt for tires with large, widely spaced lugs and deep grooves that will help to propel your vehicle forward without sinking.
Lower tire pressure is a must for sand driving. It increases the amount of your tire that’s in contact with the sand, increasing flotation. Just make sure to choose tires that can handle lower pressure without damaging the sidewall or bead. Our expert top tip, if you’re using off-road tires, is to go as low as you can without going below 50% of the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. And most importantly – as soon as you reach hard terrain, inflate your tires back to the recommended air pressure!
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Rims and beadlock
Choosing the correct rims for sand driving is important, especially if you plan to use paddle tires or particularly low tire pressure. Rims with a beadlock allow you to drive at lower pressures as they attach the bead of the tire to the rim – something that’s normally achieved with higher tire pressures.
Sidewall strength and height
Sand driving can be tough on your tires, especially when running at lower pressures. Go for tires with higher, reinforced sidewalls to minimize the risk of punctures or damage during your adventures.
Top sand tire types and features
You should consider three types of tires when driving on sand: paddle, mud-terrain, and all-terrain tires. Each has its own benefits, depending on your needs and preferences.
Paddle tires are the kings of loose sand and are what professional dune bashers use. This specialized sand tire sports large, scoop-like lugs (treads) that look like paddles, propelling your vehicle forward by pushing sand behind them. The large space between the lugs allows for efficient sand displacement, reducing your chances of getting stuck.
Sand paddle tires offer outstanding traction and flotation on the sand, making them perfect for dune driving and sandy off-road adventures. But they’re not one-size-fits-all—paddles aren’t suitable for other terrains, like rocks or pavement, and perform very poorly on hard surfaces. Plus, their specialized design can come with a hefty price tag.
Best for: Professional sand drivers who need a dedicated sand tire for deep, loose sand and don’t mind switching their tires regularly.
Mud-terrain tires are designed for extreme off-road conditions, such as deep mud, rocks, and sand. They feature aggressive, widely spaced tread patterns with deep voids to maximize traction, clean out mud and debris, and maintain a grip on loose surfaces. Mud-terrain tires also have reinforced sidewalls to withstand rough terrain and lower pressures.
Mud-terrain tires can perform well in sand due to their aggressive tread pattern and robust construction, which allows you to drop their pressure down, lower than an all-terrain tire. They’re a solid option for drivers who want to tackle more challenging off-road conditions, including sand dunes and other obstacles. However, mud-terrain tires can be noisy and less comfortable on pavement and may wear faster than their all-terrain siblings when used on the road.
Best for: Sand and off-road drivers who spend almost all their time off-road but may occasionally need to drive on pavement without switching their tires out.
Jack-of-all-trades, an all-terrain tire performs well on various surfaces, including sand, dirt, rocks, and pavement. Their tread pattern typically features large treads with deep grooves for improved traction and debris evacuation. These tires also have reinforced sidewalls for added durability.
They are a versatile choice if you’re planning to drive on sand and other surfaces, including road driving. While they may not provide the same level of traction as paddle tires, they strike a good balance between performance, durability, and versatility. Plus, they’re more cost-effective, as you won’t need to swap them out when transitioning between different terrains. However, all-terrain tires might struggle in very soft or deep sand compared to more specialized options.
Best for: People who want to experience the fun of sand and off-road driving but also need to be able to regularly drive on the road without changing their tires.
The best tires for sand—buyers guide
Ready to gear up? Our experts at GoTires have put together the ultimate list of the best tires for sand:
Top mud-terrain tire options
For those of you who want to take your off-roading onto the road sometimes and also want to drive on a range of terrains, besides sand, a mud-terrain tire is a great option, and we’ve found all the best tires for sand in this category.
BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM3
If you’re looking for a tire that can easily conquer sandy terrains, the BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM3 is an excellent choice. These tires are not only aggressive-looking but also pack a serious punch when it comes to performance in the sand. With their large, staggered lugs and flexible compound, the KM3 tires offer outstanding traction and control, even on steep dunes and soft sand. They’re made to last, and unlike many other mud tires, also perform well on the road.
Nitto Trail Grappler M/T
Nitto Trail Grappler M/T is another great choice for driving in the sand. They have a unique tread pattern featuring large shoulder lugs and a triple reinforced sidewall, which gives excellent traction and durability when navigating soft dunes and sandy trails. They’ve also been designed to be quieter for road driving than many other tires in their category.
Toyo Open Country M/T
Toyo Open Country M/T tires boast an aggressive tread design with hook-shaped blocks that provide outstanding traction and flotation when driving on soft, sandy surfaces. With their durable construction and high turn-up ply count, you can trust these tires to resist punctures and withstand the rigors of off-roading in sandy terrains.
Yokohama Geolandar MT G003
The Yokohama Geolandar MT G003 is a great all-round choice for a wide range of off-road conditions, including sand, as well as performing well on the road. These tires feature an aggressive tread pattern with large, well-spaced lugs that ensure excellent traction and flotation on soft, sandy surfaces. Their triple-polymer compound not only enhances durability but also contributes to improved grip in the sand.
Top all-terrain tire options
We’ve checked out all the best all terrain tires from every top tire manufacturer to bring you our list of the best tires for sand, off-road, and road driving.
BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2
The BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 offers great off-road performance for an all-terrain tire, but lacks somewhat on the road performance for its category. These versatile tires come equipped with an interlocking tread pattern and serrated shoulder lugs, which provide excellent traction and flotation in sand. The KO2’s tough sidewall construction and specialized rubber compound ensure excellent durability and resistance to punctures, even in challenging conditions.
Toyo Open Country A/T III
Toyo Open Country A/T III tires boast an aggressive and functional tread design with a symmetric tread pattern and evenly distributed voids, which help provide excellent traction and flotation when driving on soft sand. The durable construction and advanced rubber compound ensure that these tires can withstand the challenges of off-roading while maintaining grip in sandy conditions. They handle well on the road too, including in snowy weather making them a good all-around choice.
Yokohama Geolandar A/T G015
Yokohama Geolandar A/T G015 is a solid choice. These all-terrain tires have a unique tread design with an aggressive tread pattern and deep grooves, which work together to provide impressive traction on soft sand surfaces. The Geolandar A/T G015’s 3D sipes and advanced rubber compound contribute to its durability and grip, making it a good choice for off-roading, including on sand.
Falken WildPeak A/T3W
The Falken WildPeak A/T3W has a large, wide tread pattern with large shoulder blocks and wide grooves, which help deliver exceptional traction on sand. They also have an aggressive sidewall which will allow for lower tire pressures. The WildPeak A/T3W’s heat-diffusing technology and durable rubber compound ensure that these tires can handle the challenges of off-roading while maintaining excellent grip in sandy conditions.
Top paddle tire options
While the all-terrain and mud-terrain options are great for most jeeps and trucks, if you want the best sand tires for ATV, you probably want paddle tires. One thing to note is that you need different tires for your rear and front wheels. Here we suggest a couple of popular options for paddle tires.
CST Sandblast tires don’t look like many other paddle tires—they have more shallow paddles, giving a smoother ride and allowing you to go faster than a standard paddle tire. They also have more angled knobs which give stability on hills.
Maxxis RAZR rear tires
Maxxis RAZR tires are designed to perform exceptionally well in loose, deep sand with their extra-high paddles. They are arranged in a v-shape to give better control and cornering, allowing them to perform well at high speeds. With their specialist design, you need to purchase different tires for your vehicle’s left and right sides.
GMZ Racing Sand Stripper XL (front) and GMZ Racing Sand Stripper Stagger Cut (rear )
The GMZ Racing Sand Stripper duo has been designed for superb flotation on deep sand. They’re built for larger and heavier vehicles than many other paddle tires and are built to last with excellent durability.
Proper tire care and maintenance for driving on sand
Routine tire checks
Inspect your tires for damage, like cuts, punctures, or excessive wear, before and after each sand excursion. And after driving on sand, remove any embedded objects, such as rocks or shells. Address any issues ASAP to avoid further complications.
Adjusting tire pressure
Lower your tire pressure before driving on the sand to improve traction and flotation. Don’t forget to reinflate your tires to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure when returning to the pavement for safe and efficient on-road performance. Our tire experts suggest going as low as possible with your tire air pressure without going below 50% of the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. However, if you use paddle tires, you might be able to go as low as 2psi – check the manufacturer guidelines for your specific tires.
Rotating and balancing tires
Rotate and balance your tires regularly to ensure even wear and maintain optimal handling. This is general advice for driving in all conditions, not only in the sand.
Tips for driving on sand
Engage 4WD and other vehicle features
Engage your vehicle’s four-wheel-drive system to improve traction and control when driving on sand. Use any terrain management systems, or traction aids your vehicle may have to optimize performance for driving on sand.
Using momentum and tire tracks
It’s important to keep a steady momentum going when driving on the sand to prevent you from sinking or getting stuck. If possible, try to follow existing tire tracks, as the sand here will likely be more compact and easier to navigate.
Techniques for getting unstuck
If your vehicle gets stuck in the sand, try reversing out along the same path you drove in. If that doesn’t work, deflate your tires slightly to increase their contact patch and improve flotation. Using traction aids like sand tracks or traction mats can provide additional grip and help get you moving again. In extreme cases, you may need to dig out sand from around your tires or enlist the help of another vehicle with a winch or tow strap.
Safety precautions and equipment
Carry essential safety equipment, such as a shovel, air compressor, tire pressure gauge, recovery gear, and a first aid kit when embarking on sand or sand dunes adventures. We also recommend that you tell a friend back home about your travel plans and estimated return time, especially if you’re venturing into remote areas.
With the right tires and techniques, you’re all set to hit the sand and experience the exhilaration of dune bashing! So, gear up, and embrace the thrill as you explore the vast, sandy playground that awaits!
Frequently Asked Questions
What tires work best on sand—paddle or off-road tires?
Sand paddle tires are best for driving in soft, deep sand, as they are specifically designed for this purpose. They are exclusively designed for off-roading and unsuitable for road driving, as they don’t give enough traction on hard surfaces and can cause a bumpy ride. Plus, they’ll wear down more quickly on harder surfaces.
If you plan to do a mix of sand and road driving, off-road tires like all-terrain or mud tires are a good option. All-terrain tires are designed to perform well on various surfaces, including sand, gravel, and pavement. With a mud-terrain tire, on the other hand, you get a more aggressive tread pattern designed to provide excellent performance in muddy and off-road conditions but are less comfortable on the road than an all-terrain tire.
So the best tires for sand will depend on your specific needs and driving conditions. If you want a highway tire, avoid paddle tires, but if all you want to do is drive off-road on sand dunes, paddles are the best tires for you.
What is the best tire width for sand?
Wider tires are better for sand driving, as they provide a larger surface area for distributing the weight of your vehicle, reducing the likelihood of you sinking into the sand. The ideal tire width for sand driving varies depending on the size and weight of your vehicle. As a general rule, choose the widest tire that your vehicle will accommodate. You can find details about your vehicle’s tire sizes and pressures on the Wheel Size database. This width provides enough surface area to help prevent your vehicle from getting stuck in the sand.
Are wider tires better for sand?
Yes, wider tires are better for driving on sand, and there are a few reasons for this:
- Flotation: Wider tires have a larger contact area with the surface, which helps to distribute the weight of the vehicle more evenly. This increased surface area helps to prevent the tires from sinking into the sand, which is particularly important when driving on loose or softer sand.
- Traction: Wider tires can provide better traction on sand because the larger contact area allows for more grip on the sandy surface. This is especially beneficial when you need to accelerate, brake, or make turns on the sand.
- Stability: The increased contact area of wider tires can also contribute to better vehicle stability on the sand. This is because the tires can better support the vehicle’s weight, reducing the risk of rolling over or experiencing other handling difficulties on uneven sand surfaces.
It’s important to note that having wider tires may not always perform well on sand. Tire air pressure, tread pattern, and type of tire (all-terrain, mud-terrain, or specialized sand paddle tires, for example) can significantly impact your vehicle’s capabilities on sandy terrain.
Do you want low or high tire pressure for sand?
Low tire pressure is better for driving on sand. Lower tire air pressure increases the tire’s contact area with the sand, which helps distribute the weight of the vehicle more evenly. This, in turn, improves flotation and reduces the risk of sinking or getting stuck in the sand. Lower pressure can also enhance traction, making navigating soft, loose sand easier.
However, it is important not to reduce tire pressure too much, as extremely low pressure can cause other issues like increased rolling resistance, poor handling, and potential tire damage. The ideal air pressure for sand depends on several factors, including the tire type, vehicle weight, and sand conditions.
With a paddle tire, check their manufacturer recommendations as they are designed to cope with very low pressures. For an all-terrain tire, we suggest you go as low as possible without going below 50% of the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.
When you return to hard ground, like pavement or gravel, it’s extremely important that you reinflate your tires to the recommended pressure. Driving with low pressure on hard surfaces can lead to poor handling, reduced fuel efficiency, uneven tire wear, and increased risk of tire damage.