How to Get Your Vehicle Unstuck from Snow

Get Your Car Unstuck

How to Get Unstuck in Snow, Ice, Sand, or Mud


Not all of us have experienced that stomach-turning sensation associated with having our vehicle stuck in the snow, ice, sand, mud, or whatever life and the seasons have decided to throw at us. But those of us that have, know it's a pain in more ways than one! Whether you're currently stuck, or you're just trying to future proof your knowledge, this is for you.


FIRST, go easy on the gas. I know you're freaked out and just want to get free, but going full throttle can get you even more stuck in a rut or possibly damage one of the many expensive components that make up your car. What you want to do is try gently rocking the vehicle forward and back to let inertia carry you out. Keep your wheels straight. Remember: If you're well and truly stuck, know when to call it quits. It's cheaper to call a tow truck than to repair parts damaged and worn down during an attempt to get free.


IF YOUR VEHICLE IS BURIED IN SNOW or there are obstacles in your direct path: you'll need to clear them out. Shovel the snow or obstruction out of the way (you can use your hubcap as a DIY shovel if you don't have one on hand). Prioritize the area immediately in front of and behind your wheels so it will be easier to make the car rock free of its rut. If there's snow blocking your car at the front or back of the vehicle's clearance, clear that too.


WITH THE IMMEDIATE PATH CLEAR, drive forward as far as you can, then reverse. Repeating several times and being sure to break at the peak of each rock while switching from forward to reverse to protect your transmission. During this phase, you may have to lay down your car mats to add some extra traction. Don't worry, your can always get new ones! Take the mats out of your vehicle, place them where your tires can roll over them, and drive over the mats (and hopefully out of the rut). One mat per wheel if your car still has all its mats should help get you free.


ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE DEALING WITH ICE, remember to be slow and steady. Quick movements and speed changes will only raise your chances of slipping and sliding. You almost always have to introduce something to get traction when stuck in ice. Your car mats, sand, small stones, or kitty litter (if you have some laying around for some reason) are good additions to gain traction!


IF, AFTER ALL THIS, YOU'RE STILL STUCK: call for help. If you know someone who lives nearby, let them know you need help or see if an Uber can get to you. Call a tow. You've got options. It doesn't hurt to admit defeat if doing so gets you home safe faster! Stay calm. Stay safe.


A NOTE ON BREAKING DOWN, especially in the middle of nowhere. Things happen when we’re not prepared. If you’re driving through a developed area there’s the chance of a Good Samaritan stopping to help, but in the boonies, help is much less likely to drive by. Whether you’ve run out of gas or your car’s engine starts chugging out fumes, getting stranded is nerve-wracking. Do what you can: turn on the vehicle’s hazards, pop the hood, and phone for help. Take note of where you are located and call the local police department if you absolutely are not able to get a hold of anyone else. If the weather is extremely cold or hot, it’s important that you do not leave your vehicle. Do not attempt to hike your way to help during a winter storm. Humans are not built to take on intense exposure and it’s not worth risking your life. Stay calm and play the waiting game. This is one of the reasons you (hopefully) keep blankets, water, and other emergency supplies in your vehicle. Keep safety as a priority and keep your head together.