Beginner’s Guide to Digging Your Car Out of Snow

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Imagine parking your car for a quick trip to the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk and a few other items, and then returning to find your car stuck in the snow. It’s not uncommon for routine errands to go astray during the winter months when unexpected snow fall can happen at any time. What do you do? We’re glad you asked! We’ve put together a few tips and tricks to help quickly remove your car from the snow, so that you can happily be on your way.

  1. Check the Tailpipe – The first thing to do when you find yourself in an icy situation is to clear the tailpipe and surrounding area of snow to help prevent deadly gases from building up inside the car.
  1. Dig Away Excess Snow – Next, you’ll want to break apart built up ice around the tires. We’re assuming you do not have a shovel on hand, so grab a nearby screwdriver, trowel, or sturdy stick. You’ll need to target the newly formed ice just below the tires, this will help build traction for when you’re ready to start moving. Now start removing loosely packed snow from around the rest of the car, make sure to move it out of the car’s path.
  1. Add Snow Chains – We’re assuming you do not have these on hand (Or you probably wouldn’t be stuck), but just in case we’re wrong, now would be the time to add snow chains and other like-gadgets in front of the drive wheels.
  1. Create Traction – We have a few options when it comes to adding traction. The best choice is to remove your car’s floor mats and place them in front of the drive wheels, but we recommend saving this option for last because you will more than likely destroy the mats. You can also sprinkle sand, rock salt or kitty litter around the drive tires, mostly concentrated in the front of the tire. If you do not have access to sand, cat litter, or you destroyed the car’s floor mats last time, gather nearby branches and twigs. If you’re not in too much of a hurry, go ahead and skip this step if you’re planning to use floor mats. You can always come back to it if you’re still stuck in 10 minutes.

Note: We recommend storing a snow kit in your car during colder months, containing a shovel or plastic trowel, a screw driver, and bag(s) of rock salt, sand or cat litter.  For a complete list, see “13 Items to Keep in Your Car This Winter.” 

  1. Enter Lowest Gear – Once your car is in the lowest gear possible, gently accelerate until you feel the wheels slipping, then reverse until you feel them slip again. Keep doing this until there is enough room to pull out. If you’re too heavy on the accelerator and/or break, you’ll damage the tires.
  1. Let the Air Out – If you’re still having problems gaining traction, let a little air out of the tires, but only if you have air to spare. The tires should not visibly appear deflated. And if you’re stuck after this, now is the time to remove the floor mats and place them in front of the drive tires.

Do you have your own tried-and-true methods for digging a car out or an entertaining story about a time you were stuck? Let us know in our comments section!