Driving on snow-covered roads can be very challenging. Plus there’s the unpredictability of the weather that can cause some stressful driving conditions and situations. Like when you drive your car for a moment and suddenly you find yourself and your car stuck in the snow. It can cause panic especially if you don’t know what to do if your car gets stuck in the snow. But really, what is it that you can do? For a start, do not panic. It is good to remain calm so you won’t do anything abrupt that can harm you and your car. The things that you need to do when your car is stuck in the snow usually involves clearing the path or removing snow from around your tires, rocking your car free of snow, adding traction and if all else fails, call some help.
What to Do if Your Car Gets Stuck in the Snow: How do you get your car unstuck?
Knowing what to do if your car gets stuck in the snow will be really helpful when you suddenly find yourself in that situation especially if you are living in a place where snow is a common sight. But before you start learning how to get your car unstuck, you need to know what to prepare first to ensure that you won’t get stuck in the snow unprepared.
Before the snow arrives and you know that you are going to be driving on a foot or two of snow, make sure that you and your vehicle are winter-ready. Here are some of the things that you need to prepare.
- Tires. Driving on a foot or two of snow can be challenging and that is why it is advised that you use snow tires or winter tires. You should also check your tire air pressure and inspect your tire tread to make sure that they are in great condition before the snow arrives.
- Fuel. Experts recommend to keep your fuel tank full or at least half full. This is done so you can keep your car on and the heater running if you are stranded somewhere. You can’t really be too sure if help can arrive immediately after making the call.
- Snow shovel. Keeping a snow shovel in your vehicle can come in handy when your car gets stuck in the snow. It can also be useful when somebody is caught unprepared and asks for your help. You can also consider bringing ice melter, salt, or even kitty litter to use for improving the traction of your tires and melting the snow.
- Winter emergency kit. You can prepare a winter emergency kit and keep it in your car’s trunk. You will never know when you’ll need it. The kit can include items like gloves, hat, extra winter clothing, blanket, flashlight, first aid kit, water, food, reflectors, emergency flares, jumper cables, washer solvent, cell phone charger, tool kit, and tow strap or chain.
If you do find yourself in the situation, here are some of the things that you can do if your car gets stuck in the snow.
- Turn off your traction control.
For your vehicle to get unstuck in the snow, you will need both of your drive wheels to have traction which are the front tires on a front-wheel drive and the rear tires if you have a rear-wheel, all-wheel, or a four-wheel drive. You can usually turn off the traction control system of your vehicle with a button located on the dashboard or your console.
It is important that you do this when your car is stuck in the snow. Although this feature helps you maintain control of your car if you hit ice on the road, with it on when you are stuck in snow is another thing. Traction control is built to prevent wheelspins or the spinning of the wheels in the absence of traction. Sometimes, these wheelspins can help you get your car unstuck in the snow.
- Clear a path around your tires.
First things first, check your exhaust pipe is clear of snow and clear it by hand if it is not. Many people have lost their lives from carbon monoxide poisoning because they failed to check their exhaust pipes.
After checking the exhaust pipes, you can now start to move or clear the snow away starting from your drive tires. Dig the snow using your snow shovel, you can improvise if you don’t have any. Dig the snow out in the front of the tires, underneath and in the back. Get rid of the snow long enough for your wheels to move forward and back a few feet if you have that much space on either the end of your vehicle.
If there is any snow higher than your vehicle’s ground clearance, you should clear it out too. You also need to dig out the snow from under your car’s front. If there is snow under your vehicle and you are high-centered, it will be difficult for you to move since it can block your exit.
- Free your vehicle from snow.
When you have already cleared your tires from snow, it is time to rock your vehicle free some snow. There are some driving techniques or maneuvers that you can do to make the process easier.
First is the forward and back maneuver. To execute this properly, you need to start your vehicle and roll down your window. You have to hear clearly so if you are wearing earmuffs, you need to take them off. It will be better if you can stick your head out the window and watch your front tire. You can also get better traction if you can straighten your wheels. If the parking situation permits, do so.
To start, place your vehicle in the lowest gear. For a four-wheel drive vehicle, engage the low-range gearing. Move forward a little bit and slowly back up. Do not try to rev the engine. Apply brakes and stop then put it in forward applying a little gas. This can help tamp down snow and can give you the needed traction to get out. Remember to listen closely, if you hear your tire spinning, release your foot off the gas right away.
Now, if you hear your tire spinning or your vehicle didn’t move an inch, you can try the braking technique. You do this by braking while giving a little gas since it can reduce the spinning and shift some power to that wheel.
In the event that there are no curbs or there are cars blocking your way and you have a front-wheel drive car, you can try to turn your wheels a bit the other way. Check if that gives you more traction. Keep in mind that you cannot do the braking technique for more than a few seconds because it can cause your brakes to overheat. Wait for your brakes to cool down first before trying again so the process won’t damage your brakes.
You can also try the rocking technique if your car is moving forward but for some reason it is stopping after. You can do this technique by rocking your car back and forth between forward and reverse gears. Try to do this only a few times and do not overdo it since the rapid shifting can overload your transmission.
It could happen that you get frustrated or panic that you forget what to do if your car gets stuck in the snow. No matter what happens, do not floor your gas even if you get tempted out of frustration. You need to go easy on the gas pedal and give your vehicle just a little bit of gas for a moment before you let off. A simple drive, reverse, and repeat can do the trick. No need to floor the gas since it is not the power that can get you unstuck but the momentum.
- Put some traction.
If all the methods didn’t work and you still can’t get your car free and your wheels are still spinning, put some traction under your wheels. You can put sandbags or sprinkle salt, dirt, or kitty litter in front of your drive tires and do the process again. Remember to wash your car and your tires with clean water if you use salt since it can cause corrosion. If you have chains, you can also use it to create traction under your tires.
Remember that it is not advised to use antifreeze to try to melt the snow or ice since it is harmful to children, pets, and the environment. Antifreeze can find its way through drains and waterways that can also poison our ocean and its inhabitants. It is also illegal in some states to use or pour antifreeze on the ground.
If you are not prepared and don’t have anything you can use to add traction under your wheels, you can improvise and use whatever you can find. You can use your floor mats, cardboards, weeds, or branches down in front of the drive tires .
- Ask for help.
A little assistance from other people and giving your car a little push can help. Ask for help from the friendly onlookers and good samaritans to give your car a little push. When they start to push, gently press the gas to add momentum. Make sure that you are in forward gear and the surface is not too slippery. You need to ensure that your helpers will be safe as they push.
- Be ready when your car breaks free from the snow.
If you manage to break your car free from being stuck in the snow, keep driving and find a safe spot with less snow where you can safely stop – assuming that you are in forward gear. But if you are in reverse, keep backing up for a while and take your foot off the gas. Put your vehicle in low gear then accelerate forward through the tracks you made. Accelerate gently and just fast enough to break free from where you are stuck.
When you finally got your car unstuck from the snow, engage your traction control system again if you turned it off. If you have your low-range 4WD engaged, disengage it. Then check if your radiator has an airflow and if there is snow blocking the front of your grille. Without a proper airflow, your engine might overheat. If you feel your steering wheel vibrating, your wheels might have snow packed into them. It is best that you pull over to a space spot and remove or knock the snow out using a shovel or a scraper.
When your car gets stuck, remember to always keep a cool head. Try to be calm and do not panic or you might not remember what to do if your car gets stuck in the snow. Don’t do anything out of impulse or frustration. Don’t slam the brakes, floor the gas, or attempt to break free by spinning your wheels at 200 km/h. It can damage some of your car’s components and you don’t want that. It will be an expensive fix. There is always a smarter way to handle your car getting stuck in the snow. If all else fails, call a roadside assistance service that can give your stuck car a tow.
What to Do if Your Car Gets Stuck in the Snow: Final Word
Knowing what to do if your car gets stuck in the snow and knowing what to prepare when driving on snowy road conditions can help save lives. Data says that there are over 1,000 road deaths every winter and more than hundreds of thousands of accidents and crashes. It is for this reason that every driver or car owner should know and learn how to prepare your car and yourself for winter driving. It pays to be prepared. It can save you and the people around you.