updated 1/30/19

How to get your vehicle unstuck in snow

Oh, Yay I’m So Happy I Got Stuck In The Snow…said no one EVER! Here are some tips on how to get your vehicle unstuck in snow.

move car in snow

It’s definitely easier said than done most of the time, especially if it’s a typical Wyoming day where the freezing wind is blowing so hard. You’re not sure if it’s actually snowing or just blowing the already fallen snow onto your face for a free ice exfoliation. Snow tires/studded tires are going to make the biggest difference for winter driving.

Turn off Traction Control

car with wiggly lines button

One of the first things you should try to get your vehicle unstuck in snow is to turn off the traction control.  You may need to push the traction control button and hold it for a couple of seconds or push twice depending on the manufacturer (check the owners manual, probably still in your glovebox for how to do this). This may seem like a backward step but it’s not. Traction control can reduce the power to the wheel, when you may need more.

Also, check the tailpipe(s) of the exhaust. Make sure it isn’t piled up with snow causing fumes to back up into the vehicle.

Be careful on the gas/throttle/accelerator, too much power on a spinning wheel will just spin you into a deeper hole.

If you have low range gears or snow mode probably a good idea to try those first. Use a diff lock if you have one. This will aid traction to help get unstuck. Make sure it’s unlocked before you carry on your merry way through, or this will cause major problems. For information on locking differentials, check out this Video.

How to get your vehicle unstuck in snow if your spinning wheels on flat compacted snow or ice?

In this situation, pushing is probably a good place to start. Get a feel for how much power you need. You may need just a little to get going then more to keep it going. Hopefully, your buddies are pushing enough in a straight line that you don’t start to slide, but if you feel the back-end of the vehicle start to slide sideways, steer into the slide. If the back-end of the vehicle goes to the left, steer to the left. The car will return to the center.

Should you start fish-tailing, it means you might be putting too much steering angle into it, so be ready for the opposite and try a little less steering angle.

How to get your vehicle unstuck if your high centered? 

stuck in snow

Too much snow under the body of a car can cause it to become high centered, ie stuck in the middle …(with you?).

  1. Try rocking the vehicle back and forth. Go from D to R and try to build up some momentum to push through the snow.
  2. In a manual transmission, do the same, however, use a higher gear such as 2nd or 3rd or even higher if your vehicle has enough torque to where it won’t stall. Be quick through the gear changes to keep the momentum going. Be careful not to burn out your clutch if you start smelling rotten eggs. stop!
  3. Dig. Sometimes, it’s the last and only option. Dig a path for your wheels. Pull out the snow from under the vehicle. Dig smart. For example, if you are in a front-wheel-drive vehicle and going forward seems like the easier option. Dig a path in front of the front wheels. Avoid digging a hole, this will make it worse, make a flat path.
  4. Placing something in front of or behind the wheel. Sand (we have plenty of that here) kitty litter, a carpet mat, a plank of wood, even some twigs from the roadside might just be enough to give you the traction you need to get going. Be aware that when the wheel begins to spin it may just throw them out and could hurt someone or damage something.
  5. Let some air out of the tires, so you have more surface area. Just don’t forget to fill them back up to normal pressures as soon as you can.
How to get your vehicle unstuck from snow

Get a tow truck

If all that fails, you may need a tow.  If you have a vehicle still covered under the manufacturer warranty, you may have roadside assistance included. Check the owner’s manual for a leaflet/number to call.

What tips do you have for getting unstuck in snow? Tried any commercial products? Let us know the comments below.

Disclaimer: Do these at your own risk!