You don’t want to think about it happening. The snow is coming down, but you haven’t received that joyful call that work is cancelled. You give yourself plenty of extra time and head out, taking it slow. You skid, and end up in an embankment. Next thing you know, you’re calling your boss and a tow truck.
In some parts of the country, snow is inevitable. But getting your car stuck in the snow doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips and tricks to get a car out of a snowbank.
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Clear the Tailpipe
First, make sure there’s no snow or ice blocking the tailpipe. This could cause deadly fumes to enter the car.
Try Digging Yourself Out
Have a shovel? We didn’t think so… Use anything you have or can find to dig out the snow around the tires. Use something sharp to break up the ice, being careful not to puncture your tires. Remove packed snow in front of the tires, and even loose snow if it’s higher than your car’s ground clearance.
Rock and (Hopefully!) Roll
If you have all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, make sure it’s engaged.
Slowly try to back out. Even if your car is only moving an inch or two, that’s okay. That’s progress. Then move forward, slowly, as much as you can. Repeat. Continue this back and forth motion as long as the car is still moving. If you’re spinning your tires, stop. That will only dig the car in deeper.
Ideally, the back-and-forth motion will help the tires gain traction and, at some point, you’ll be able to back out or pull forward all the way. If this doesn’t work after a few tries, stop. Rapid “rocking” back and forth can kill your transmission.
Turn the Wheel
If you have a front wheel drive car, turning the steering wheel to move the tires in a different direction may give you the traction you need to move forward.
Ride the Brakes
If you still aren’t moving, re-assess the situation. If any of your tires are spinning while the others have traction, ride the brakes very lightly while you push the gas to move forward in the lowest gear. This increases the torque required to turn the tires, transferring some of the power to the spinning tire and, with luck, getting it to move forward.
Don’t do this for very long, as your brakes could overheat, creating a dangerous driving situation when you do hit the road.
Use What You’ve Got
Still no progress? It’s time to see what tools you may have at your disposal… including your cell phone to call a tow truck. But if that’s your last resort, you’ll need to find something that will give your tires traction. Chains are ideal, but if you had those, you probably wouldn’t be in this situation. Other items you can use to melt the ice and gain traction include:
– ice melt/rock salt
– kitty litter
– windshield wiper fluid
– a plywood board
– Your rubber car mats
– small pebbles
– antifreeze (Antifreeze is poisonous to pets and children, so don’t use this in a residential area if you can’t clean it up).
Focus on the front tires of a front-wheel drive car, and the rear tires of a rear-wheel drive car. Once again, pull forward slowly in the lowest gear. You should be free. Drive slowly to the nearest safe place to stop and assess your car for any damage. There may be snow stuck in the tires that you can knock out by hand.
Important Safety Tips If Your Car Is Stuck in a Snowbank
Getting stuck in the snow can be frustrating – and dangerous. Follow these important tips to stay safe.
– Remain in your car, with the heat on. Getting out puts you at risk of frostbite and being hit by a moving vehicle.
– Avoid doing damage to your car. Rocking the car back and forth or riding the brakes should be used as a last resort, and only for a very short time. It’s a lot easier, and less expensive, to call a tow truck to pull you out of a snowbank than it is to call a tow truck, get a ride to the nearest auto mechanic, and replace your transmission.
– Know when to give up. Sometimes, you just won’t be able to dig yourself out of an embankment. Don’t make the mistake of hurting yourself or doing expensive damage to your car. A cell phone and roadside assistance membership can be your best friend.