DIY: 10 Tips for Getting Unstuck in the Snow

Some things in life are just unavoidable. Taxes, for example, come for us all eventually. If you don’t believe me, ask DMX. In Canada, the list of inevitabilities grows by one this time every year: getting unstuck in the snow. Don’t get me wrong, snow is great, but only if you’re expecting it and if it’s in not in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like under your wheels when you have somewhere to be.

Which happens and it sucks and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Or is there?

With the following 10 tips and tricks you should be able to get your vehicle unstuck from the snow in no time.

Tip #1 Avoid Spinning Your Tires

This is where most people go wrong. Their vehicle stops moving, but their foot stays on the gas and their situation gets worse. They may think they’re doing the right thing by gunning it, but really they’re just digging themselves a deeper hole and potentially damaging their tires.

The best thing to do when your vehicle comes to a halt in the snow is to take your foot off the gas. If you aren’t sure if you’re tires are spinning, stick your head out of the window and listen.

Tip #2 Dig Yourself Out As Much as Possible

There’s bound to be copious amounts of snow and ice around and beneath your vehicle, especially if you spent the first few a few seconds spinning your tires deeper and deeper into their ruts.

So forget dogs; whenever you’re trying to get unstuck in the snow, a shovel is your best friend.

(I would like to take a moment to apologize to the dog owners I absolutely offended with that last remark. It must feel like salt in the wound, given that I used a cat GIF just before. I’ll use this as a teachable moment, I promise.)

The goal here is to flatten the area around your vehicle as much as possible to give your vehicle a fighting chance. Clear the snow and ice from around your tires, and make sure to make your undercarriage is as snow-free as you can.

If luck isn’t with you and you don’t have a shovel handy, improvise. Hockey sticks, skis and ski poles, or whatever other makeshift tools you might have are excellent candidates for digging duty. Get to work!

Tip #3 Set Your Wheels Straight

Be certain that you turn your steering wheel to have your front tires pointed straight ahead. You’ll have a much easier time of getting unstuck in the snow this way, as there is significantly more stress put on your tires when they are at an angle. Thus it would require considerably less effort to push or pull yourself out of the snow if you’re tires are pointed in the correct direction.

Tip #4 Try the Rocking Method

Momentum is your best friend when you’re stuck in the snow. The “rocking manoeuvre” is simple: use your engine to roll the car forwards, then slip it into reverse and roll back, then repeat. Use your brakes at the height of your forward drives and reverses to keep your tires from sliding back into the holes they’ve dug.

Even though you’ll be moving incrementally, you’re making progress by building momentum. Like the always wise Al Pacino told us, life is just a game of inches. I’ll yield that he was talking about football when he said that in Any Given Sunday, but nevertheless, it applies here too.

Wisdom’s wisdom.

Tip #5 Release Some Air from Your Tires

If the rocking method doesn’t work out for you, try deflating your tires until they start looking slightly flat. What this does is increase the surface area of our tires, helping them to gain a bit more traction.

Note that this trick will also decrease your vehicle’s ground-clearance, so if you’re already having trouble clearing the snow from under your car, be careful not to cause yourself extra troubles by releasing too much air.

Remember! Fill your tires back up as soon as you’re unstuck, as it can be dangerous to drive on tires with low air pressure. If you can, keep a good compressor in the trunk of your car during winter months for just this reason.

Don’t deflate your tires this much, though.

Tip #6 Check Your Tailpipe

Before you do anything, check to make sure your tailpipe is clear of any snow or ice. The last thing you want is to have dangerous exhaust fumes build up in your vehicle.

Getting stuck is bad enough as it is, there’s no point making your day worse with a trip to the hospital for CO2 poisoning. Besides, how are you going to get to the hospital if your car is stuck?

Tip #7 Find Objects to Increase Traction

Not the most elegant of solutions, but definitely one of the more effective ones is to just shove certain objects beneath your tires to help them gain traction over the slippery snow.

Car mats, sand, salt, kitty litter, cardboard, even small rocks or sticks are handy things to have in your vehicle and can be helpful when your tires just can’t seem to get a firm grip on the ground. Sure, people find it odd that you keep a bag of rocks in your trunk, but you won’t care about that when stuck in the snow in minus thirty degrees Celsius weather.

Traction control matts are never a bad idea

Tip #8 Shift Down to a Low Gear

Take your car out of drive and shift down to your lowest gear. This will ensure that your tires spin more slowly, preventing them from digging deeper ruts. It will also provide them with extra power and traction, which is vital against the slick snow.

Conversely, if you have a manual transmission, you’ll want to shift into a higher gear and use the clutch to control the spin. This will help mitigate the shock on the tires and grant you more control over your spinning tires.

Tip #9 Keep Your Cool

This might seem like a moot and unhelpful tip, but at this point, if nothing has worked, this is the most important thing you can do.

You could be stuck for a while, stranded somewhere remote without any help for a while. So take a few deep breaths, collect yourself, and be LL Cool J cool.

But wear a better hat. Please, wear a better hat.

Tip #10 Call a Friend

Some of life’s problems we can’t handle all by ourselves. Don’t hesitate or be embarrassed to ask a friend to come help you get unstuck.

If you don’t have any friends, you have our condolences, but that’s an issue beyond the scope of this article.

Just call AMA instead.