Whether you’re a seasoned or novice driver, commuting in the winter can be stressful, especially in areas such as the Snowbelt near the Great Lakes. With a slight shift in the wind, mother nature can leave several feet of snow in just a few hours. And because conditions can change at a moment’s notice, being able to maneuver through icy or snow-covered roads is critical to staying safe.
But what happens when you have a car stuck in the snow? Is there a preferred way to get it out? Let’s look at 5 popular recommendations.
1. Stay Calm and Safe
Although realizing your car is stuck in the snow can cause frustration and inconvenience, it is fixable. When it happens, try not to panic and assess the situation by first considering where the vehicle is stuck. Are you in the middle of a street or on the side of the road? Is your car stuck in the driveway? Where the vehicle is will help determine the steps you’ll want to take moving forward. But remember, getting a car out of the snow takes time. So take a few deep breaths and consider which steps you plan to take next.
2. Turn Your Traction Control off and Rock It
In 2021, traction control became an active safety feature in the U.S to “help keep traction between the tires and the road in slippery or dangerous conditions.” While it is meant to always be on when driving—especially in hazardous conditions—it is best to turn your traction control off when you’re stuck in the snow. This will allow your wheels to spin quickly and dig into the snow to gain traction and move. To turn it off, push the button with an automobile icon and swirly lines that you can find on your dash or console.
Once your traction control is turned off, keep your wheels straight and try the rocking maneuver to see if you can free your vehicle from the snow. Rock your car back and forth by switching between the forward and reverse gears. As your speed increases, gently hit the brakes to prevent yourself from sliding into the spot where you were stuck. Also, make sure your care is motionless when you shift gears. You don’t want to overwork and damage your transmission. If a few tries don’t do the trick, consider other options.
3. Shovel Out the Area
Keeping a small shovel in your car at all times is a great way to prepare for the winter weather ahead of time. If you have one, clear away any snow sitting at the front and back of your vehicle, including around your tailpipe and surrounding your tires. The idea is to create enough space so your wheels can move forward and backward a few feet, if possible. You also want to flatten the area around your wheels to help with traction. However, be sure not to overwork yourself or opt for an alternative method to free your car if the exertion could cause you distress.
4. Grab Some Cardboard, Carpet Remnants, or Kitty Litter
Planning ahead is critical during the wintertime. You never know when the weather will suddenly change, causing you to get stuck in the snow. Because of this, it is wise to keep several emergency items in your carjust in case. Items like cardboard scraps or carpet remnants can be as helpful as a first aid kit, blankets, and a flashlight. If your vehicle loses traction in the snow, you can lay a few cardboard or carpet pieces under each wheel to help build friction and get your car moving.
Using other products around your house, like sand or cat litter, can also be a convenient and effective way to increase traction and propel your vehicle out of the snow. After clearing away the snow, simply throw a handful of either product on the ground in front of your tires to better grip the ground and gradually move forward. You can increase the amount as needed, knowing that both are environmentally friendly and safe for your tires. You can even store a bag in your trunk in the event you get stuck while you’re away from home.
5. Get Help When All Else Fails
Sometimes, shoveling a car out of the snow isn’t the best option. Maybe the ground is too slippery, or your car’s stuck on a busy road. So depending on your circumstances, you may want to reach out for help.
Try asking friends, family members, or neighbors for help pushing your car out or for someone with a four-wheel-drive truck to pull you out. Worst case scenario, you’ll have to call a tow truck. If your car’s warranty is still active, then the cost of the tow may be free. If it’s expired, now is the time to invest in extended vehicle protection.
Be Proactive and Invest in a Vehicle Protection Plan
The best time to buy an extended car warranty is before you need it. One expensive repair could end up covering the cost of the policy. Instead of worrying about the “what ifs,” prepare ahead of time and start researching breakdown coverage options now. Avoid waiting until it’s too late and having to pay out-of-pocket for tow services or vehicle maintenance.