Oh, Yay I’m So Happy I Got Stuck In The Snow…
Said no one EVER!
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 to you’re winter driving experience.
Turn off Traction Control
Trial and error depending on the circumstances is a good way to go, whatever circumstance you’re stuck in though, turn off the traction control. You may need to push the traction control button and hold it for a couple seconds or push twice depending on the manufacturer. 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 to 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 to try and get unstuck. Make sure it’s unlocked before you carry on your merry way though, or this will cause major problems. For information on locking differentials, check out this Video.
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 it. So if the vehicles back end goes to the left, steer to the left, until the car returns to the center.
Too much snow under the body of a car can cause it to become high centered, ie stuck in the middle …(with you?).
- Try rocking the vehicle back and forth. Go from D to R and try to build up some momentum to push through the snow.
- 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. You will have to 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!
- Dig. Sometimes, it just has to be done. Dig a path for your wheels. Pull out the snow under the vehicle that it may be stuck on. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
If all that fails, you may need to be towed out.
What tips do you have for getting unstuck? Tried any commercial products?
Disclaimer: Do these at your own risk!
Lauren has been working in the automotive industry both in the U.K and in the U.S. for over 10 years. A car geek, photographer, big game chaser and bagpipe player, powered by coffee. Send your questions to: