Getting stuck in the middle of a large pile of snow or on a stretch of ice can be an all too common occurrence during the cold winter months. Luckily, we’ve got some tips and tricks that can get your car clear in no time, even if you don’t have one of the best vehicles for winter driving. Follow these six tips below to get a car unstuck in snow:
1. Clear a path around your tires
Try to dig out snow and ice from the drive tires. You want to free up a few feet in front and behind the tires so you can move the car back and forth. This is especially important if your tires are not winterized or if you have not taken steps to prepare your vehicle for winter. Be sure to also dig out any snow under the front or center of your car that is higher than its ground clearance.
Of course, a snow shovel makes this much easier, so try to keep one in the trunk if you plan to drive in snowy conditions.
2. Rock the car free of the snow
Gently shifting from drive to reverse can help clear some of the snow around your wheels. “You go into driving, then reverse, then repeat,” says Mark Osborne, who oversees Michigan Technological University’s winter driving school. “But you have to be careful not to mess up your transmission. I put my foot on the brake at the top of every ‘rock’ so the car is stationary when I shift. It’s also good to shift into neutral a second before you shift.” “
3. Do not lower the throttle
You’ll always be tempted to floor it if you’re stuck in snow or ice, but don’t. Lightly step on the pedal to give the vehicle just a little gas for a moment and then release. Repeat to improve the necessary “rocking” motion. It’s momentum that sets you free, not force.
4. Add traction under your tires
If you still can’t get your car free, next time you can try to get a grip under the wheels. Things like sandbags, salt, dirt or even cat litter can be used when your car is stuck in snow. Throw several fists under the tires for better grip, then try the throttle again.
It is also important to remember to turn off the traction control if you are stuck in snow. This is one of several safety features that can help you maintain control of your vehicle if you’re driving on ice on the road, but leaving it on when it’s stuck in snow is a different story. Traction control prevents wheelspin, which is the rotation of a vehicle’s wheels without traction, and can sometimes help you get your car out of snow.
5. Get others to help push your car
If you have other people in your car, or friendly bystanders who can help, simply pushing your car out of the snow can be a simple solution. Gently press the gas while the car is pushed to increase speed. Safety always comes first, so make sure you’re in forward gear and the ground isn’t too slippery for helpers to push on. Using snow chains can also help create traction under your tires, making it easier to move through snow and ice.
6. Ask for help
If all else fails and you can’t seem to figure out how to get your car out of snow, the next best thing is to call for help. Many insurance companies offer 24-hour roadside assistance services that can help you get a car out of snow, jump-start a dead battery, fill an empty gas tank, and more.
Always keep a cool head
Whether you’re stuck in snow or driving on an icy stretch, try to stay calm. Don’t do anything sudden, like slam on the brakes. “If you do that, you’re going to transfer your vehicle’s weight to your front wheels,” says Osborne. “It lightens up the back, making it more likely that your rear end will spin.” Instead, Osborne says, gradually ease off the throttle and hold the steering steady until you’ve cleared the ice.
Getting your car stuck isn’t the only problem when winter comes. Snow and icy pavement can lead to accidents. To help you navigate inclement weather this winter, check out our snow driving safety tips.
24-way assistance is available. Contact your local Bolder Insurance Advisor to find out more.
This article is provided by Nationwide Insurance, a Bolder Insurance partner.
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