How To Get A Car Unstuck From Snow

  • December 4, 2023
Man preparing car for winter drive Man preparing car for winter drive

As winter approaches, drivers might find themselves facing the challenges of navigating icy roads and snow-covered landscapes. If you’re planning on hitting the road this winter — after all, you've still got things to do and places to be — it’s important to prepare for the various winter driving scenarios you might encounter.

Here’s what to do if your car is stuck in snow – or, ideally, how to avoid getting stuck in the first place.

Before Hitting the Road

Keep These Winter Supplies in Your Vehicle

Once temperatures start to dip and birds begin flying south, it’s time to stock up your vehicle with a few winter necessities. Some of these items you’ll use on an ordinary winter day. Others are things you may never need, but you don’t want to be without them on the off chance you do!

  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Snow shovel
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Flares
  • Blankets
  • Snow chains
  • Tool kit
  • Sand or kitty litter
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Cell phone charger

Ensure You Have Adequate Tires 

The only thing better than the satisfaction of successfully getting yourself unstuck is avoiding the situation entirely! If you drive anywhere that gets snow or ice, having adequate tires is essential. Opt for winter tires designed to handle icy and snowy roads, like Bridgestone Blizzak Tires or Firestone Winterforce Tires. 

Bridgestone Blizzak Tires offer various features that enhance grip, flex, and bite to ensure you can handle the coldest conditions thrown your way — from NanoPro-Tech™ to cutting-edge zig-zag sipes. Firestone Winterforce Tires are also up for the challenge in mild winter conditions. Built to offer reliable traction and dependable braking on slush and snow, you'll be well prepared for the challenges ahead.

Additionally, ensure that your tires are properly inflated and have sufficient tread depth before venturing out onto the road. Taking these proactive measures may minimize the potential risk of getting stuck in snow.

How to Get a Car Unstuck from Snow

If your car’s stuck in the snow and you’ve got the items above tucked in your trunk for this very scenario, you’ve got a few options. Before trying any of these, make sure you’ve done the following:

  1. Make sure your exhaust pipe is clear. A blocked exhaust pipe can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, so clear any snow before you get in the driver’s seat.
  2. Disengage your traction control system. If you're wondering should traction control be on or off in snow, the answer is "on." Traction control is great when driving down a snowy road but not so great when dislodging your car from it. You’ll want your tires to have full power when you’re attempting to get unstuck, so make sure to turn off traction control if your vehicle is trapped in the snow.
  3. Put your vehicle in its lowest gear. This will reduce the speed to help gain traction, which also helps ensure they won’t dig deeper into the snow and slush.
  4. Lower your window. The last thing you want to do is spin your tires and get yourself into deeper trouble. Unroll your window so you can listen and ensure your tires aren't spinning.

Once you’ve taken care of the steps above, it’s time to work on getting your vehicle out.

Dig out a path around your tires.

Grab your snow shovel and get digging. Clear out any snow that has piled up around your tires, and dig a few feet in front of and behind your tires so that you’ve got some space to maneuver. You may need to use your scraper to break up any ice that has formed around your tires, too.

Use your snow chains.

If you don’t want to waste any time, the best way to get a car unstuck from snow is likely strapping on those snow chains. Snow chains instantly add traction to your tires, which is exactly what they need if you're stuck. If you really want to be prepared, practice putting on your chains before you’re stuck in freezing temperatures.

Improve traction with sand or kitty litter.

Another way to add some much-needed traction is by pouring a thin layer of sand or kitty litter around your tires. Both add a bit of grit to the surface and provide something for your tires to grip onto.

How to Get a Car Unstuck from Snow Without Tools

Inclement weather took you by surprise, and you’ve found yourself stuck in the snow without any of the tools listed above. Fortunately, you still have options.

Rock back and forth.

When stuck in the snow, your vehicle lacks momentum and traction. This rocking technique involves alternating slowly and gently between the reverse and forward gears. The goal is to press the throttle gently as the car starts to rock forward, capitalizing on the momentum you’ve created and allowing the vehicle to break loose.

Use your floor mats for traction.

In a pinch, your car's floor mats can serve as makeshift traction aids. Take your floor mats out, flip them upside down, and slide them under the front of slipping tires to improve grip. Then, shift between forward and reverse gears, gently rocking the car to help it gradually move out of the stuck position. However, don't floor the gas pedal. Instead, use gentle and controlled movements.

Let some air out of your tires.

Driving on underinflated tires is not recommended – unless you’re stuck in snow. Low PSI tires spread out wider on the road, gripping more surface area and, therefore, gaining more traction. That said, it’s important to consider your specific situation before deflating them. Use this option only if you can refill your tires quickly once unstuck.

Who to Call When Stuck in Snow

Despite your best efforts, your car won’t budge… it’s time to call in reinforcements. Who should you call if you’re firmly stuck in the snow? If you’ve got a roadside assistance plan, give them a call. Roadside assistance covers a variety of emergency situations and can help you get your vehicle back on the road.

Call a local emergency towing company if you don’t have a roadside assistance plan. While the price tag may not be fun, getting out of the snow and cold safely is more important.

I Finally Got Unstuck – Now What?

You’re shivering and stressed, but you’ve done it – your car is free! Once you feel your vehicle come unstuck, don’t stop. If you need to get out, whether to pick up floor mats or thank a good Samaritan pusher, get your car to a relatively clear spot before stopping. Once you’re ready to leave, continue driving slowly, steadily, and safely. Turn your traction control system back on, and head to an air-filling station if necessary. 

Avoid Getting Stuck in the First Place

Don't let winter weather catch you unprepared! Whether you find yourself stuck in the snow or want to proactively equip your vehicle for cold-weather challenges, having the right knowledge and tools is essential. To help improve your odds, consider upgrading to winter-ready tires like Bridgestone Blizzak Tires or Firestone Winterforce Tires. Schedule an appointment at Firestone Complete Auto Care today!

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