Introduction: How to Get Your Vehicle Unstuck in the Snow
Video tutorial on how to get your vehicle unstuck in the snow. If you manage to get stuck in the winter, it can be certainly frustrating and you also risk damaging your vehicle. This can include burning up your tires, hard on cv or u joints in axles or driveshaft, and the transmission. Here I am working with a rear wheel drive truck which are known to be worse in the snow as they have minimal weight over the drive wheels. If you are spinning the wheels and not moving, STOP. This will create heat, melting the snow into ice under the tires, not allowing the vehicle to gain traction. Beyond that, this will also put excessive wear on your tires.
Step 1: Straighten Those Wheels
You may also find straightening the wheels will help reduce drag. This is especially noticeable if you are trying to drive through existing tire tracks, rather than trying to create new tracks which can basically act as a wedge under the wheel. If you have a front wheel drive, there is more chance those wheels will be able to pull snow out of the way, rather than a rear wheel drive vehicle.
Step 2: Try Rocking the Vehicle
With no work you might be able to rock the vehicle. What this means is that you’ll have to alternate between forward and reverse. Normally this does involve some foot work, using both feet, one for the brake and the other for the throttle. Place the vehicle in drive, left your foot off the brake and lightly apply throttle. This does take a bit of feel and you should feel the vehicle increase slightly in high going to the top of the rut and immediately apply he brakes. The brake pedal may vibrate, this will depend on the vehicle and is fine as this is the anti lock brake system activating. Ensure the vehicle is fully stopped, do not immediately change gears as you can damage the transmission. There should be no brake pedal pulsations (again that will depend on the vehicle), make sure the wheels aren’t spinning, and the engine rpm has turned to normal. Select reverse, let your foot off the brake and immediately apply the throttle. A balance is needed for the throttle, not too much where you have excessive wheel spin, but not too little where you can’t build up momentum.
What we are trying to achieve here is getting the wheel up higher on the sides of the rut, finally building up enough moment to drive out of that rut. You may need to turn off traction control if your vehicle is equipped. Not all vehicles have this option, but on this particular truck I can select second gear, this allows for less wheel spin by using a higher gear ratio which in turn reduces torque. This is outlined in the owners manual. Other vehicles may have a winter mode, such as BMW or Volvo which essentially does the same thing.
Step 3: Remove the Snow
The first aid I like to start with is cleaning the access snow from around all four wheels, normally about a foot ahead and a foot behind. If you haven’t seen my winter tips video on what you should carry in your vehicle, be sure to check it out. One of the items I covered in this little snow scoop, which allows you to remove snow easily while preventing your hands from getting cold.
You will be able to move the vehicle in either direction, especially if you’re having trouble moving it specifically forward or in reverse. Then you’ll be able to increase the vehicle’s momentum, giving you the force to move through the snow.
Step 4: Use an Object Under the Wheel
Next use the assistance of an object underneath a tire, such as a block of wood. Clean some snow away, ensure it’s about 2ft long and wedge it under the drive tire. For a rear wheel drive for a non posi, this would be the rear passenger side wheel. On a front wheel drive, this would be the front driver side wheel.
When sticking an object under the wheel, be extremely careful with the throttle as this can grab the object and throw it, either hurting someone or damaging something and this can include your vehicle. Caution is needed.
Here I am able to pull the vehicle ahead slightly to build moment to get onto the wood.
Once the vehicle is on the wood, then I have enough traction to build up momentum to get the vehicle moving. Again being cautious with the throttle, having a balance between enough to get the vehicle moving, but not too much to throw the object out from under the wheel.
Using an old floor mat, you can use one from your vehicle, but it can be damaged. Therefore it’s best to use an old garbage mat, buy a cheap disposable one, or even use a scrap piece of carpet. One side has the rubber spikes to bite into the snow and the other side allows for a non skid surface for the tire.
If the made were to move out from under the tire accidentally, while this can cause damage, it will certainly be much less than compared to a block of wood.
Other objects can also be used such as a chain, rope, plastic grate, etc.
Step 5: Use Sand or Gravel
Using sand or gravel. Again using the scoop, ensure any excessive amount of snow has been remove from around the wheel, then place the dirt before and after the drive wheels. Same as what I discussed in the start, if you can’t move in one direction, you might be able to in the other, then allowing you to build up momentum to move the vehicle.
Step 6: Use Weight
And finally, put weight over the drive wheels. This is normally easier with a rear wheel drive as you can place weight in the box or trunk. If you push that weight past the wheels, this will cantilever the weight increasing the downward force. With a truck, use the weight of the snow. Even use concrete blocks, sand bags, jugs of water, etc.
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