How to get your car out of the snow

Is your car stuck in the snow? There are two ways to get it out. The wrong way and the right way. Here’s the wrong way:

Ignore the snarky comment at the beginning of the video. According to sources with the SPFD and the News, this car caught on fire for the same reason about two or three dozen other cars caught fire over the last several weeks in the Twin Cities. The driver was under the impression that the best way to unstick your stuck-in-the-snow car is to go back and forth between reverse and forward as fast as possible. This is incorrect. Doing anything as fast as possible in the snow does not work. One needs to be gentle with a stuck in the snow car. Treat the gas pedal like a treasured butterfly, apply no more pressure to the pedal than you would apply in patting dry the forehead of a febrile infant, coax the wheels to move no more forcibly than you would coax an unsure lover to accept your gentlest affection.

After digging out as much of the snow and slush as you can, of course.

If you jam the transmission into forward and reverse and rev the engine up like it was a Formula One race car in second place 10 feet behind the first place car in the last six seconds at Daytona, then you risk overheating the transmission. This can cause the transmission fluid to overflow onto the engine that you’ve also made hot (and not in a good way), and the next thing you know your car is doing the Bon Fire Boogie.

Also, when you are trying to drive a car out of deep snow or mud, keep the wheels as straight as possible. Adding weight to increase traction is good. If someone is pushing you, have them down on the car while they push forward, and don’t try the back and forth thing because you will run them over.

Best thing to do, of course, is stay home during the blizzard. I’m not sure why that is so hard to understand.

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13 thoughts on “How to get your car out of the snow

  1. It does? Well, it’s been in MN for 15 years, so, in that sense, yes. It may be that the leak in my transmission line and low fluid levels saved me from a fiery end! Good thing I didn’t fix that last summer…

  2. I’ve had success shifting into 2nd as soon as I get the wheels moving. Having less torque makes it less likely to get the wheels spinning on the ice, thereby polishing it for the next driver.

    Also, spinning your wheels on ice polishes it, making it slipperier.

  3. Depending on your resources and type of snow you’re in, shovel and pack some gritty dirt under the drive wheels in the direction of travel.

  4. Hey, HEY! …Formula One race car in second place 10 feet behind the first place car in the last six seconds at Daytona… As a HUGE Formula 1 fan, I can tell you they NEVER race at Daytona. You are insulting them by confusing them with NASCAR and all of the other riffraff car series!

  5. Depending on snow or mud conditions, the rocking technique sometimes does work better than slow, steady pressure.

    There’s some physics behind it, but I can’t tell you what it is.

  6. This is why I keep a shove, tow strap and bucket of rock salt/medium gravel in my van in the winter. Of course I also keep a few army surplus wool blankets too (I am one of those safety nutty people – my first aid kit contains two heavy bleeding clotting sponges). I have never gotten inextricably stuck, except in actual ditches and have never failed to extract anyone from being stuck (except that 3/4 ton that was in a steep ditch – didn’t care either, as he had blown past me on an icy highway – one of the 4×4 can magically tract on ice brigade). I did drive his wife and kids to a truck stop – not sure I would have taken him if I had room), or be extracted with a little help – usually without. I even managed to help extract a guy who was blown into a drift that buried his car to the rear doors.

    I am, I should reiterate though, a safety loon. This is what comes of being raised by a OSHA (MIOSHA in his case) safety inspector/investigator. I don’t actually carry a full limb splint, but could easily improvise one with stuff in my van. I do have wrist and foot semi-immobilizing bandages and digit splints. Ironically, the only time I have ever had to stop heavy (arterial it turned out) bleeding, I was a pedestrian and had to use my hands until a nurse came up and used her purse strap as tourniquet.

    As far as flaming engines go, in my experience a mixture of Gatorade, coffee (even moldy coffee) and if you run out of those, urine are really good fire suppressants. Depressingly, I was in two vehicles that caught fire in as many weeks – one of which was mine. The former went when we were unfortunately more than an hour from home and without cellphones (this was when they were still a uber-luxury item). The second went while I was trying to baby it home with a friend following. I threw a rod that nearly hit him and dented his quarterpanel. The very sad side note to that van is that my parents finally made me scrap it literally five days before I did a job in trade – for a fully rebuilt (machined) chevy 350.

  7. Depending on snow or mud conditions, the rocking technique sometimes does work better than slow, steady pressure.

    I’m not saying the rocking technique does not work. It most certainly does. Here’s how you do it:

    Put car in reverse while your foot is on brake.

    Take foot off brake and give the car enough gas to go back as far as it will go. Put foot on brake right away.

    Sift to forward gear.

    Release brake and tap the gas. As the car goes froward, shift to neutral. When the car reaches maximum forward position, brake.

    Put car in reverse. Take foot off brake and tap the gas to get the car to go backwards to a point farther than it was before.

    Put foot on brake.

    And so on.

    Here is how it does not work:

    Shift car to forward gear, hit gas as hard as you can.

    When the wheeels go WSSZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!! for a while, slam car into reverse and hit gas as hard as you can.

    When the wheels go WZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!! for a while, slam car into forward gear


    Keep your foot off the brake the whole time because that would add a measure of control and stability.

    Mike, I’m sure you’re doing it right. But you are from Hallux. Most of these Twin Cities denizens who are burning their car up are from Iowa. What do they know?

  8. Best thing to do, of course, is stay home during the blizzard. I’m not sure why that is so hard to understand.

    Some people think that they’re invincible. Some people are idiots. Almost everybody in the first category is also in the second. Basically, if you don’t have to travel during a snowstorm, don’t (and if you’re trying to get to the airport to catch a flight, first call your airline to confirm that they haven’t cancelled the flight).

    Like DuWayne @10, I keep a shovel in the car during winter, along with some kitty litter (sand substitute), an old sleeping bag, and jumper cables. I haven’t needed to use this stuff with my current car, which I’ve had for 15 years (it has the nice feature of turning off the headlights when I take the key out of the ignition, in case I forget), mainly because I don’t need to drive that much and can usually avoid doing so in major snowstorms. But I’m the child of two people who grew up on the Great Plains, so the basics have been drilled into me.

  9. Ya OK I’m way behind in my reading , so sue me :)The rocking techniques works best with standard transmissions – you have good control with clutch. I never buy automatics.

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