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What to Do When Your Car is Stuck in Snow

Even if we’ve taken all the necessary winter weather precautions – including winterizing our cars, protecting them with the right insurance policy, and brushing up on winter driving safety – sometimes the snow can get the best of us – and our vehicles! Whether you’ve driven into a snowy ditch on a slippery street, or you’ve been snowed in before ever leaving your own driveway, use our guide to help get back on the road when your car is stuck in snow.

Here are some important do’s and don’ts for getting your car “unstuck” in the snow.

DO

…stay calm!

When bad winter weather hits as we’re behind the wheel, it can be all too easy to start panicking and lose our cool. The best thing to do, however, is quite the opposite! If you get stuck in the snow, it’s important to stay calm, so that you can properly assess the situation and plan your escape method.

DON’T

…waste your fuel.

In the wintertime, you should always have at least half a tank of gas in your vehicle – you’ll be glad for this good habit if you ever find yourself stuck!

If you do get stuck, try not to waste your fuel by running your car on idle. Run your engine intermittently instead to conserve gas. You don’t know exactly how long you’ll be stuck: conserve your fuel so you have enough to make it home after you’ve become unstuck.

DO

…check your tailpipe.

Before starting your engine, be sure to check your tailpipe and clear any snow that’s covering it in order to prevent gas from building up in your vehicle.

DON’T

…spin your tires.

Spinning your tires in an attempt to get un-stuck will only do the opposite, digging your vehicle deeper into the snow and potentially damaging your tires. Spinning your wheels will give you momentum if you’re on concrete or asphalt – not when you’re stuck in the snow.

DO

…try to shovel yourself out.

Instead of spinning your tires, you can try to shovel yourself out of your snowy predicament by digging away excessive snow and ice around your vehicle. If you have a shovel or ice pick in your car emergency kit, use it to Break up the ice around your tires, and remove the excess snow. If you’re stuck without a shovel, you can improvise using a trowel to dig around your tires. What’s more, you can use a screwdriver or other sharp object to break up the ice below your tires – this creates a rougher surface area to help your tires gain traction.

DON’T

…apply too much power.

It might seem like a good idea to try and power your way out of that snowy ditch, but applying too much power can actually make things worse. Remember: easy does it! Apply limited, gentle power to the wheels – you want to build up just enough momentum to help break lose, using the throttle sparingly so as not to overwhelm your tires.

DO

…try the “rocking technique.”

Besides shoveling yourself out, you can also try the “rocking” method, in which you use the engine to roll your car forward, then put it in reverse and roll it backward. At this point, you should shift to drive to roll forward again – after several attempts, you should gain enough momentum to help get yourself out of ditch or snowy rut. Once you become “unstuck,” and begin rolling away, power your way out and onto solid ground.

DON’T

…use your traction control.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but when you’re stuck, you should turn off the traction control to avoid your tires from slipping. You need all the power to go to your wheels, and if you’re using traction control and your tires are slipping, the power may be cut when you need it.

DO

…use traction to your advantage.

Help create traction for your tires by sprinkling rocks, sand, pebbles, salt, or kitty litter in front of your tires. Salt will help to melt the ice around your tires, while sand or kitty litter will help to create traction for your wheels.

What to Do When Your Car is Stuck in Snow

Most Canadians have been there at one point or another: a mid-winter snowstorm hits, and you’re stuck behind the wheel, crawling through traffic.