Since it’s winter time and a lot of you are dealing with the hassles of driving in the icy winter conditions, I thought it would be a good idea if I took a minute and wrote an article that many of you will find helpful.
Today I’ll be writing about how to get your car unstuck when you’ve slid off the edge of the road and you can’t get enough traction to get your car or truck moving again.
Warning: If you’re not dressed for the cold winter weather and you’re not properly equipped to dig your car out, you should may want to consider staying in your vehicle and call for help to prevent hypothermia.
Also, if you’re on a busy road, it’s probably not a good idea to be working along side of it or another car may lose traction in the same place and crash into you and injure you. If you choose to use any of the tips outlined in this article, do so at your own risk. Only you will be able to determine if it is safest to get out of your vehicle and try to get your car unstuck, stay in your vehicle and wait for help, or get out of your vehicle and get a safe distance away from it while you wait for help to arrive.
Tip Number One – Don’t Panic
When you’re stuck, it’s really important to stay calm. Cooler heads will prevail in a situation like this. If you stay calm and take the steps outlined below, your chances of getting out are much better.
Tip Number Two – Carry a Good Shovel With You
If you do any driving in the snow you should always carry a good shovel with you. I’m not talking about one of these little foldable army surplus shovels either. I’m talking about a real shovel that has a solid handle and good point on it. You might think that a snow shovel would be ideal to carry but this just isn’t the case. When you’re stuck in the snow, you want a heavy duty digging shovel that has a point on it because you might have to use its tip to break the ice up so that you can get some traction.
When you realize that you are stuck, don’t make things worse for yourself by spinning your tires. This will only serve to dig the ruts that have a grip on your car deeper and deeper. The longer you let those tires spin, the more difficult it will be to get unstuck.
Instead of spinning your tires, carefully get out of your vehicle making sure to look both ways for traffic so you don’t get hit by an oncoming vehicle. If you have emergency roadside flares in your trunk. You may want to set them out a good distance in front and behind your vehicle so oncoming traffic will be notified in plenty of time that your car is stuck on the side of the road. Hopefully, this will encourage them to slow down and take precautions to avoid hitting you or your car.
Next, carefully walk around the car and assess the situation. Depending on how far off the road you are, you may have to do a little digging or a lot of digging. The idea is to remove the piles of snow that are holding your car in place so that you can get moving again.
If you slid into a snow bank head first, there will likely be little piles of snow on the back side of your tires. If you try to back up to get unstuck, these piles of snow will act like tire chocks and prevent your vehicle from backing up. Take your time and use your shovel to remove these little snow berms and your chances of getting out go way up.
Now take a minute and look under the car. If there is a bunch of snow packed under your vehicle, you’ll often have a problem getting out because when you try to back up, the snow will catch on things like your transmission, transfer case, or axles. This is where the longer handle of a real shovel comes in handy. Having a long handled shovel will make it possible for you to slide the shovel under your car and remove any snow that is preventing your vehicle from backing up. Be careful not to hit your brake lines with the shovel. You don’t want to pull those off or puncture them.
If you’ve done a good enough job of digging the snow out and you’re not having to back up a hill, you may be able to back out now.
Tip Number Three – Carry Sand Bags In Your Trunk
You can buy tubes of sand at your local home improvement store that serve double duty during the winter. The first thing they’ll do for you is provide extra weight for your vehicle so that you will get added traction over the axles. The second thing they can do for you is provide the necessary traction that you might need to get your car or truck unstuck.
After you have taken the time to dig out any snow that your car is hanging up on, take one of the sand bags out of your trunk and cut it open. Then sprinkle it just behind or in front of each of your tires that get power when you push on the gas pedal. If you’re in a front wheel drive vehicle and you’re trying to back out of a pile of snow, you’ll want to sprinkle sand just behind the front wheels and in the track marks between your front and rear tires.
Some people will carry course kitty litter in their trunk instead of sand and they claim that this works too. I imagine it would but I’ve always carried sand in our cars because it weighs more and I want the added benefit of getting more traction over my vehicle’s axles.
Tip Number Four – Carry Some Carpet Scraps in Your Trunk
You can get some carpet scraps for free from your local carpet store and they can be really useful when you’re trying to get unstuck. After taking the time to dig the snow away from your tires and under your car, place these carpet scraps behind or in front of your drive wheels. I’ve found that jamming them behind my tires (carpet side down) and then stomping on them to lock the fibers of the carpet into the snow usually works best for me. Now when you try and back out, your tires will have a dry surface to grip onto so that you can free them from the icy clutches of the snow.
Tip Number Five – DO Rock The Boat
You’ve probably heard the expression, “don’t rock the boat” before. While this may be good advice while boating, a little rocking motion may actually help you when your car is stuck in the snow. Sometimes I’ve been able to free my stuck car by shifting from forward to reverse and then back to forward so as to cause the car to rock back and forth. I make sure that I do this gently, pausing between each direction change, to prevent damage to my transmission and prevent me from getting stuck worse than I already am.
Note: Use this tip at your own risk. If you damage your transmission or clutch, it’s on you if you choose to do this. Don’t send me a repair bill if you break something in your car.
Hopefully these tips will help you get unstuck the next time you find your car stuck in the icy clutches of Mother Nature. If not, you may have to call a tow truck. Keep in mind that many car insurance plans come with free roadside assistance. You should probably check to find out if that is the case for you and keep the emergency roadside assistance number programmed in your cell phone.
While we’re talking about the hazards that the cold winter months can present, you might want to take a minute and read, Got Frozen Pipes? What To Do before you leave.