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What Should I Do When My Car Is Stuck in Snow or Ice?

Posted by Charlie Maniates | Dec 4, 2019

Most people living in areas with cold, dreary winters have dealt with their car getting stuck following a snowstorm or stretch of freezing temperatures. Although the situation isn’t ideal, there are measures you can take to try to free your car without having to call a tow truck or, even worse, wait for the snow to melt.

But, before we run through a list of tactics you should try, there’s something you should absolutely avoid: flooring the gas pedal. Punching the gas will only dig the car deeper into the snow or generate more ice around the tires, making it even more difficult to free your vehicle. Instead, remain calm, take a deep breath and follow these instructions:

1. Clear Up Snow and Ice Around Your Tires

Dig away as much snow and break up as much ice both in front of and behind each of your four tires. Freeing up a few feet for your tires to move back and forth will help you regain some traction when you get back into the car.

Obviously, this is much easier to do if you have a shovel on hand, so it’s a good idea to store one in your trunk or cargo area throughout the winter months.

2. Gently Rock the Car Back and Forth

Once you’ve cleared paths for your tires, get back into the car and repeatedly shift from drive to reverse to generate momentum. This process takes a little bit of time, so be patient and slowly build up the momentum you need to free your car.

Be sure to brake and shift when the forward or backward momentum is at its highest point and the car isn’t moving so that you’re not harming your transmission or killing any of the momentum you’ve already built. It might also be helpful to turn off traction control, which prevents your wheels from spinning in the absence of traction.

3. Give Your Traction a Boost

Several substances, such as salt, sand or kitty litter, can help improve traction to give your tires the grip they need to move the vehicle if you still can’t get it free. While salt is ideal because it also contains a melting effect, you can pour any of these in front of and behind your drive wheels after you’ve cleared snow and ice to boost traction.

If you don’t have these on hand, you can try using your floor mats instead. Turn them upside down and place them under the drive wheels to try to improve traction in the same fashion.

4. Enlist Help from Passengers or Good Samaritans

If you have passengers aboard or see any passers-by willing to help, you can gently hit the gas while they push the vehicle’s rear to gain the necessary momentum to free the car. Be extra cautious when attempting this by ensuring the car is in drive and constantly communicating with the pushers.

Prepare Your Car for Winter Storms Ahead of Time

As the saying goes, “the best defense is a good offense.” Taking precautionary measures will put you in a significantly better position when the snow and ice hit this winter. These include:

  • Installing snow tires for the winter months
  • Ensuring your tires have enough tread to thrive throughout the entire season
  • Keeping a shovel and salt (sand or kitty litter also work) in your car
  • Parking in areas where snow and ice are less likely to accumulate

Additionally, it might make sense to purchase a roadside assistance service if your car is prone to getting stuck in order to avoid costly fees for a tow if all else fails.

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