What to Do When Your Car Is Stuck in Snow

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You can get your car out of the snow by shoveling, driving carefully, and helping your tires find traction on the icy ground.
Snow is beautiful—until your car gets stuck in it. When your vehicle won’t move, that winter wonderland can feel more like a nightmare.
Don’t despair if your car gets stuck, there are ways to get your car free of that snowbank quickly and safely. You can even take steps before you hit the road to make sure you’re ready to dig yourself out of trouble.
If you live in an area with frequent snowfall, you’ll want to arm yourself for snow emergencies with the right equipment, the right knowledge, and the right car insurance. Car insurance comparison shopping app Jerry gives you quotes from up to 50 top insurance companies in just 45 seconds.
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Continue reading on to learn how to help out a car stuck in the snow.
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Plan ahead and equip your car

It’s a good idea to take steps before you get on the road to make sure you’re ready to get your car unstuck if you happen to run into some snowy weather.
If you live in an area with frequent heavy snow, you should have snow tires on your car, and they should be in good condition.
You should also keep a snow shovel and a bag of kitty litter in the trunk of your car. When your car’s under a snowdrift and you’re late to work, you’ll be happy to have the right equipment on hand.

Prepare to get the car moving

So you’re stuck in some snow—before you put your foot on the gas (or even turn the car on) make sure to follow these steps so you’re set up for success.

Turn off traction control

It might feel counterintuitive, but switching off traction control will help if you’re trying to get your car unstuck. The wheels need to spin a little to find traction, so turn this feature off before you start the car.

Dig out the tires and tailpipe

Using the shovel you have stashed away in the trunk, dig around the car, making sure to clear snow from around the tires, the tailpipe, and underneath the car.
By flattening the terrain immediately around your wheels, you’re giving your car a fighting chance against the elements.
If you don’t have a shovel, use whatever you have handy—an ice scraper or a boot, for instance—to break up any ice around the tires. Make sure the exhaust isn’t blocked!

Set the wheels straight

You’ll put more stress on your tires if you try to get out of the snow with your wheels at an angle, so make sure your front tires are pointed straight ahead before you put your foot on the gas.
Key Takeaway Be certain that the exhaust pipe is clear before you start the car to prevent accidental carbon monoxide poisoning!

Try the forward-and-back technique

Now that you’re ready to get your car moving, rather than revving the engine, you need to take it slow.
Put your vehicle in the lowest gear and slowly move forward, then back. Now that you’ve tamped down the snow in front of your wheels, apply a little gas and drive forward. You may be able to get enough traction to get out.
Key Takeaway Take your hat or earmuffs off before you start the car and roll down the window so you can hear if your tires start to spin.

Try the braking technique

If you’re still stuck after driving forward and back, try braking at the same time that you apply the gas. You’ll keep your tires from spinning and put a little extra power into the wheel.
Don’t try this method for more than a few seconds—you could overheat your brakes. If one or two tries don’t help, give your brakes a rest.
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Try the rocking method

Just like you did before, you’re going to roll your car back and forth, but just as the car starts to swing forward out of reverse, give it a little gas.
This rapid shifting will help your car gather enough momentum to drive out—but beware! It can also overload your transmission if you’re not careful. Only try the rocking maneuver a few times, or you could create a new problem.

Get help to push your car out

Sometimes all it takes to get a car out of the snow is a little elbow grease. If your driving techniques aren’t working, call a friend (or two!) and ask them to push the car from behind while you gently apply the gas.

Use kitty litter, snow chains, or cardboard

Sprinkling cat litter (remember that kitty litter you put in your trunk?) or sand in front of your drive tires can help them get the traction they need to pull out of the snow.
If you’re looking for maximum traction and you’re willing to invest beforehand, put snow chains on your tires. Even when your car’s been stuck for hours, chains will almost always do the trick.
Let’s say you’re out of litter, and you don’t have chains—you can still give your tires a boost by putting cardboard or wood down in front of the wheels. If you’re out in the sticks and you don’t have cardboard, find some branches.
If you’re desperate, you can even use your car’s floor mats!
Key Takeaway Never use antifreeze to melt the snow and ice around your car. It’s corrosive to metal and dangerous to animals. In some states, it’s actually illegal to pour antifreeze on the ground.

Let a little bit of air out of your tires

If everything else has failed, one more way to give your wheels the traction they need is to let a little air out of the tires. Release just enough pressure so the tires look slightly flat. This increases your tires’ surface area, giving them a better chance to grip the ground.
Consider this the nuclear option and only let out air if you’ve got a way to replace it quickly. Driving on underinflated tires isn’t safe for long, so if it’s a long way to the closest service station, you might be better off calling a tow truck.
Key Takeaway If you let air out of your tires to get free from snow, head straight to the nearest service station to reinflate your tires.

Get roadside assistance with Jerry

Driving in the snow can be scary. Roadside assistance from Jerry can ease your anxieties and ensure that you’re never left out in the cold.
Jerry’s roadside assistance member benefits include vehicle towing, which can get your car out of the snow when everything else fails. You can also get Uber credits if your car gets towed or a tire change or repair. Protect yourself in the snow for less than $10 with Jerry!
Jerry blew my mind, honestly. From start to finish, using the app took me 10 minutes and I ended up with $100 of savings a month. Best of all, customer service answered all my questions about rental car reimbursement and roadside assistance.” ––Savanna R.


How can I get my car out of the snow without a shovel?

If your car is stuck in the snow and you don’t have a shovel on hand, don’t despair. Sprinkling cat litter around your tires, putting down cardboard in front of the wheels, and getting a friend to push your car can all help you defeat the snow.
Even if you don’t have a shovel, use another tool, your feet, or your hands (always wear mittens!) to clear any snow or ice around your exhaust pipe before you start the engine. If you try to drive your car while the tailpipe is blocked, you could die from carbon monoxide poisoning.

How can I get my car unstuck from the snow?

Driving slowly back and forth to flatten the snow and build momentum can help you get your car unstuck from snow. Make sure to clear as much snow away from your wheels as possible before you start.
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