Slipped on an ice patch? Trapped in a snowbank? Follow our step-by-step guide to get back on the road.
Whether your car veered off the road or it snowed while your car was parked, it can seem impossible to free yourself without putting a tow truck on speed dial.
TIP: If you’re reading this while stuck on the road, skip ahead to our instructions below!
But there are easy steps anyone can follow to increase your chances for getting out: removing snow from around your car, helping your car gain traction, then carefully driving your car out. Prepare yourself for all kind of wintery driving hazards and you’ll be a DIY snow hero in no time at all!
TIP: When accelerating, try not to spin your tires – this digs deeper holes in the snow and creates ice and slush under the tires, reducing traction and making it harder to move.
Step 1. Dig out your car
If you don’t keep a shovel in your car, now’s the time to go buy one! Our car safety kit includes a compact shovel, along with all the tools and gear you need to stay safe on the road in the event of a car crash or flat tire.
When you find yourself stuck in the snow, get out of the car and use your shovel to dig out all the snow around the tires until you can see them entirely, and you’ve made room in front, behind, and alongside the car so you can get the momentum you need to make your escape. Remove any snow buildup around your car where the weight of the car isn’t on all four tires. Also remove buildup around your tailpipe to ensure it doesn’t get clogged and you don’t risk exhaust buildup in your car.
Step 2. Help your car gain traction
Next, put your car in the lowest gear. The lower gearing ratio will allow your tires to spin slower under the load of the engine and keep you from spinning your tires, so you don’t lose traction and dig yourself deeper into the snow.
Step 3. Straighten your wheels
To make it easier to get your car out of the snow, straighten your wheels as much as possible. You may have to adjust for anything directly in your car’s way, like road signs or fire hydrants, but you want to avoid pointing at too much of an angle since it will be harder to drive out.
Step 4. Drive your car out in a back-and-forth motion
This maneuver should help your car gain traction. Think of it like a rocking chair – back up slowly, stop, move forward slowly, repeat. This is a gentle motion that requires finesse and takes time to build momentum, so be patient and don’t gun your engine! As long as you’re still moving back and forth, you’re making headway. If this technique isn’t working after 10 attempts, stop and proceed to the next step.
Step 5. Still stuck?
If rocking your car was unsuccessful, the ground under your tires is likely still slippery and you’ll need to rough up the surfaces in front, behind, and next to your tires. You can try any of the following rough or gritty substances:
- Salt helps tires gain traction while melting the ice and snow underneath them.
- Sand or even kitty litter can provide grip for your tires to get moving.
- Car mats, doormats, or even carpet squares will cover up snow nicely. Turn them upside down so you don’t leave black tire marks on the surface.
Step 6. STILL stuck?
Sorry, but it’s probably time to call in a tow truck. Even though following the above steps are your best bet for getting unstuck, the snow conditions, tires and driving techniques can vary widely. If your tires are worn down to the end of their treads, or your car is still equipped with all-season tires, all bets are off for getting you unstuck. They simply don’t function well on snow or ice.
There’s no better way to maintain your car’s performance in winter conditions than swapping out your all-season tires for winter tires. According to tests run by Transport Canada and the Rubber Association of Canada, In deep snow, winter tires provide 25% improved traction over all-season tires, which could significantly lower your risk for an accident.
Winter tires in good condition keep your car moving forward in ice, slush, sleet – you name it (that being said, those tires should be in good condition, too.) The increased safety of using the proper tires for the season far outweighs the extra effort involved in owning two sets. Much of the extra spending comes from the service costs associated with switching your tires twice a year, which is why you should change them yourself.