What to do if your car gets stuck in snow

What to do if your car gets stuck in snow

By this stage last year, the United Kingdom had already experienced the first of three major snowfalls that would massively disrupt working and home life by making driving conditions extremely dangerous, and while this winter has yet to reach the same levels of treachery, we never know what’s just around the corner. None of us want to get caught off-guard by the unpredictable British weather, especially while driving.  

So, here are a few simple tips for what to do if your car gets stuck in snow this winter. 

1. Take pre-emptive action  

You can help reduce your chances of getting lodged in the snow by doing a few simple things to prepare in advance.  

First, make sure you have the right tyres fitted before the really bad weather hits, especially if you live in a rural area that experiences a lot of snowfall. Go to your local tyre place and have winter/snow tyres fitted to ensure your vehicle gets the right kind of traction on snowy roads. Also take time to check and adjust your tyre pressure, and if using older tyres, check that the tread looks good.  

Secondly, ensure that you have a snow shovel stowed away in your car. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are usually very compact. You’ll be especially glad of it when the need arises to clear some space around your tyres – you won’t want to be using your hands to shift the cold white stuff out of the way! 

Thirdly, turn off your traction control, if your car has it. Your car will need both of its drive wheels to drag itself out of the snow, so whether your vehicle is front or real-wheel drive, turn off your traction control before attempting to get yourself unstuck. 

2. Clear away the snow around your tyres and tailpipe 

This is where your snow shovel comes in handy. Dig out the snow around your wheels, starting with the drive tyres. Make sure you create a path with enough length to manoeuvre your car back and forth as you work on getting free of the snow. You should have no snow around your car that’s higher than its ground clearance, so take time to get rid of it all. If you’ve set off without a snow shovel, you can use another strong implement to break up any ice below your tyres to create a rougher surface with better traction. Take extra care to clear snow away from the tailpipe to avoid any build-up of carbon monoxide inside the car, which could be lethal. 

3. Try the braking technique  

If you can’t get your car to move a muscle, you can try braking while also accelerating a little, which should decrease unproductive spinning and increase wheel power. Owners of front-wheel-drive cars can try turning wheels the other way to gain more traction, as long as there are no obstacles in the way. If the braking technique doesn’t work after a few seconds, stop trying it as you may overheat your brakes and cause damage. 

4. Try the forwards-backwards technique  

If the braking technique gets you nowhere, you can try the forward-backwards method. 

Roll down your window and listen carefully to the sound of the engine, then switch to your lowest gear and move forward slightly. Then, slowly reverse without revving the engine, followed by a move forwards again. The idea here is that your tyres can flatten down loose snow and create a sturdier surface from which to escape. If you hear your tyres spinning, stop immediately. 

5. Have a go at the rocking technique 

If you can get your car to move forward but it keeps stopping, try ‘rocking’ it back and forth between forward and reverse gears, accelerating just a little as it begins to move forward from reverse. You may gain just enough momentum to push yourself out of the area in which your car is stuck, but beware of the risk to your transmission too, which may overloads in the process. As with other techniques, stop after a few goes if you still can’t unstick yourself.   

6. Ask for help, or create some traction for yourself  

Don’t be afraid to ask passers-by for a hand if you can’t get your vehicle out by yourself. A good push from a few burly strangers could give you just enough momentum to break free. Always ensure that you remain in forward gear if people are pushing your car from behind, and vice versa if they’re pushing from the front.  

If you just can’t get any traction on the snow, try scattering something in front of and behind your tyres to create more traction. A bit of cat litter, bark or sand will help your tyres find more grip. You can also use snow chains on your car if you can afford to have them fitted. 

Contact Absolute Reg for more information.