12 Things to Do When Your Car is Stuck in Snow

Winter Woes: 12 Tips to Get Your Car Out of Snow

November 13, 2023

The winter season can be a beautiful time of year, with its glistening snow and cozy moments by the fireplace. However, it also brings some challenges, especially when you find yourself stuck in the snow while driving. It's an all-too-common scenario. 

There are several practical steps you can take to ensure your safety and get back on the road. In this blog, we'll explore a list of essential things to do when your car gets stuck in the snow.


Here are 12 things to do when your car is stuck in snow:


1. Rock your car forward and backward

Gently rocking your car can help dislodge the snow around your wheels. Here's how to do it:

  • Put your vehicle in the lowest gear. 

  • Move forward slightly.

  • Now, slowly back up. Avoid revving the engine. After backing up, switch to the forward gear and gently apply some gas. This technique can compact loose snow and potentially provide the traction you need to get unstuck.

Listen carefully for any signs of tire spinning. If you hear your tires spinning, quickly release the gas pedal. Once your wheels start spinning, it's a clear indicator that you're stuck, and accelerating further will only worsen the situation.


2. Use the braking technique

Using the braking technique when your car is stuck in deep snow or on icy roads is a simple yet effective method. Just remember, don't attempt this on dry roads, as it could harm your vehicle. 

  • Start by shifting your car into a low gear, like you would for tricky driving conditions. 

  • Gently press the brake and gas pedals at the same time - this isn't to stop your car but to apply light brakes while giving some gas. It helps your wheels gain traction without spinning excessively. 

  • If your car is still stuck or one of the tires keeps spinning, try pressing the brakes while gently giving some gas; this can stop the spinning and make the gripping wheel work better. 

If you're driving a front-wheel-drive car and there are no obstacles blocking your way, slightly turn your wheels in the opposite direction; sometimes, this can improve your traction.


3. Straighten your wheels

Positioning your car's wheels correctly is crucial when trying to get unstuck in the snow. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  • Make sure your front wheels are pointing straight.

  • Once you have your tires lined up straight, shift your vehicle into the lowest gear. 

  • Move forward a little bit and then gently reverse without revving the engine too much. 

  • Put your car back into the forward gear and apply some gas. This technique helps by compressing loose snow around your tires and can be remarkably effective in getting you unstuck.

Depending on how stuck you are, this straightforward method can provide enough traction to free your vehicle. In some cases, you might need to steer slightly to one side as you work to get your car unstuck. If that's the situation, keep your steering input as minimal as possible. Avoid oversteering, as it can complicate the process.


4. Clear the snow around the tires

Before attempting to move your car, it's essential to clear a path around your tires. The idea is to dig away the snow and ice in front of and behind the drive tires, providing a few feet of space for maneuvering. Having a snow shovel with you can significantly simplify this task, so consider keeping one in your trunk if you expect to drive in snowy conditions.


Read: 12 Tips for Safe Winter Driving in Canada


5. Using kitty litter and other traction aids

In case you have kitty litter, sand, or salt in your trunk, here's a trick to improve traction. Sprinkle it around your tires. This will enhance your tires' grip on the ground and make it easier to escape.

You can also use items like cardboard, plywood, and weeds or branches from the roadside. Make sure the area is clear, and accelerate gently, as sometimes the wheels can cause the traction material to shoot out.


6. Find someone to push the car

If there are passengers in your car or friendly bystanders willing to assist, a straightforward method to get your car out of the snow is by pushing. While they push, gently apply the gas to give your car some extra forward momentum. 

Be absolutely certain to select the gear that keeps the pushers out of harm's way. This means choosing the forward gear if they are pushing your vehicle from behind.

car stuck in snow


7. Deactivate traction control 

Many vehicles come equipped with an automatic feature called Traction Control, designed to prevent your wheels from spinning too quickly on slippery surfaces. Traction control uses the brakes to regulate wheel speed, preventing one wheel from spinning faster than its counterpart. This enhances your ability to steer the vehicle with better traction, stability, and control. 

But when you're stuck, restricted wheel spin can be counterproductive. Turning off Traction Control can allow your wheels to spin more freely. This can help clear the snow around the trapped wheel, often providing just enough traction to break free. Remember to re-activate Traction Control once you're moving freely again, as it plays a vital role in regular driving conditions.


8. Use snow chains

Snow chains provide a significant boost to your tire's grip on deep snow and ice. Snow chains essentially create textured extensions on your tires, enhancing traction. Properly installed snow chains greatly improve your vehicle's capability to navigate through snow and ice steadily. However, remember not to exceed speeds of around 30 mph to prevent damaging the chains.


9. Activate the differential lock 

If you're driving a four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle, you likely have the option to activate the differential lock, although it might be labeled differently in various cars. When you engage the differential lock, all the wheels on the same axle move at the same speed. This prevents them from spinning independently and provides extra traction to the wheel with the least grip. Without differential locks, a single wheel can spin freely once it loses grip. This uniform movement greatly enhances your traction when driving in adverse weather, like snowfall. 


10. Release some air from your tires

If you're in a tough spot and have no other options, you can let a bit of air out of your tires. Lowering tire pressure causes them to flatten slightly, which means more rubber touches the ground, giving you a bit more grip. But do this only if you can quickly refill them nearby. The last thing you want while stuck in the snow is a flat tire.


11. Clear the exhaust system

If your car's tailpipe gets clogged with snow and ice, the exhaust from your car has no way to escape. This could lead to dangerous carbon monoxide seeping back into the interior of your car, and that's the last place you want this potentially deadly gas.


12. Plan your exit before parking

Before you park your car, it's a good idea to think about your exit strategy. Often, when we park, we make a few moves - first, we back up, and then we edge forward a bit. During the winter, it's advisable to park in reverse and leave some space in front of your vehicle so you can employ the same backward motion and momentum when it's time to leave. Just as you entered, you should exit. The more you maneuver, adjust, and aim for perfection, the more you compress the snow and smoothen the ice.

Getting trapped in the snow is never a pleasant experience, and it can happen to anyone, no matter how skilled a driver you are. The key is to stay calm and be aware of the right actions to take in order to safely free your vehicle. By following these guidelines, you'll soon find yourself back on the road!