What to do if your car is stuck in the snow
Normally, it's not recommended to be driving out in the snow. If your car is stuck, here are some tips that can help you get out of the snow.
In some parts of the country, driving in the snow is unavoidable. Staying weather aware and preparing for the storm allows you to install chains, grab some tools, and be ready to tackle the snow and ice. However, it's often the case that you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the snow sneaks up on you.
Before you know it, you may find yourself sliding, and now your car is stuck in the snow. Even if you have the best tires money can buy, it can't always save you from black ice and things out of your control. Here are ten ways to get your car out of the rut and back on the road.
1. Don't Spin Your Tires
The biggest mistake that most people make when their car is stuck is that they want to step on the gas. It doesn't matter how fast you get those tires going; if you're truly stuck, it's not going to help. It seems like the right thing to do, and eventually, the car will overpower the snow, but you're just digging a deeper hole. Additionally, you can wear the tread on your tires.
Wait until your car comes to a complete stop, and you must take your foot off the gas pedal. You may not be able to notice that your tires are spinning but roll your window down so that you can hear them. If they are spinning, it makes a distinct noise and will smell like burning rubber.
As traffic creeps past on the New Jersey Turnpike, drivers work on cars stuck in the snow near New Brunswick, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
2. Always Pack a Shovel to Dig Your Tires Out
In most cases, you will need to dig the snow from around your wheels to free them. Always carry a small shovel during the winter months as you never know when you will need it. You want to make the area around your wheels flat so that you can get some traction. The undercarriage must also be free of any snow or ice as it can inhibit the car from moving too. If you don't have a shovel on hand, then use anything you can to get that snowy mess out from under your vehicle.
3. Do a Rocking Maneuver
If you've had your car stuck in the snow a few times, then you probably know all about the rocking maneuver. You gain momentum and use your forward and reverse gears to rock the car back and forth in the snow. When you reach a good speed, apply the brakes to keep the car from sliding back down into the holes you've created. The more momentum you build, the better the progress you will make. It's not a foolproof method, but it works most of the time.
Photo by Erik Mclean
4. Keep Wheels Pointing Straight
Your wheels must be pointing straight ahead. It's harder to get your car unstuck when the wheels are at an angle. When a vehicle is stuck in the snow, it's easier to push it out from behind when everything is pointing in the right direction.
5. Lower Your Tire Pressure
Many people don't have the proper amount of air in their tires. When your car is stuck, try releasing the pressure. Tires with less pressure have more traction than those that are filled to maximum capacity. Just remember to put the air back in as soon as you can. Low tire pressure can impact your gas mileage or even cause an accident.
Photo by Webandi
6. Free Your Tailpipe
It's not uncommon for snow or ice to build up inside the tailpipe, especially if you are stuck in a drift. If your exhaust is not flowing freely, dangerous fumes can build up inside the cabin and be hazardous. Unless you want to deal with CO2 poisoning, it's best to clear your exhaust system.
7. Use Rocks or Kitty Litter for Traction
When dealing with wet, slippery snow, you need something for your tires to grip for traction. Many people will carry around a bag of kitty litter in their trunk just in case their car becomes stuck in the snow. However, you can use small rocks, sand, or even a piece of cardboard should you have it in your vehicle. Put the object behind or in front of the tires to help them have traction to pull out of the snow.
Photo by Syed Ali
8. Put the Car in Low Gear
Don't put your car in drive as the engine will keep pulling even when your foot isn't on the gas pedal. A manual transmission should go to a higher gear, but an automatic needs to go to one or low. When the car isn't pulling against you, then you can alleviate the pressure on the tires, allowing you more control.
9. Don't Panic
Try to remain calm. If you get all worked up, it's only going to make matters worse. You need to collect yourself by doing some deep breathing. It may take a while to get the car unstuck or for help to arrive. Make the best of the situation, especially if you have kids in the car.
A police officer and others help push a car that was unable to gain traction on the snowy roads in Mt. Holly, N.J., Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018.
10. Call for Help
If you've done everything possible to get your car unstuck and it's still buried deep, then it's time to call for help. If you don't have a friend or relative that can come to your rescue, then it's best to call a tow truck. Wrecker services have the proper tools to get you back on the road.