How To Get Your Car Unstuck


Snoqualmie Pass in Western Washington is a place notorious for winter snowfall. Here, deep in the Cascade Mountains, snow is measured in tens-of-feet, not inches, and can pile up to treacherous levels in just a matter of hours. It’s a section of Interstate 90 that’s crucial to the transportation of goods from the Port of Seattle to cities all across the nation.

It’s regularly travelled by tourists and business people and regularly claims vehicles in the steep snow embankments along the highway’s exits.

Last winter, as I pulled off the highway toward a rest stop, a red Ford Ranger had slid off the road and was buried to its fenders.

We stopped, hooked up the tow rope to the rear bumper of our Legacy, and pulled the truck to safety. The Legacy’s tow feature came in handy again on New Year’s Day, when my in-law’s Nissan Leaf got stuck in 20 inches of snow.

Getting stuck in the snow is a common occurrence. Here’s how to get out of it, even if there’s no tow vehicle nearby.

First, when traveling through winter areas, make sure to carry a shovel, sand bags or kitty litter, and rubber floor mats along with cold-weather clothing and gloves. With those simple tools and some determination, you’re likely to escape the snow and get back on the road.

When you first notice you’re stuck, try turning the steering wheel all the way to one side to attempt to get the tires into untouched snow. That could provide just enough extra traction to get the vehicle moving, even it’s just an inch or two. From there, rock the vehicle back and forth until traction is gained. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to put on the gloves and get outside to do some work.

The good thing about snow is that it’s easily displaced. Grab your shovel, floor mats, and sand (or kitty litter) and start digging out the tires. Sprinkle the area behind and in front of the tires to give them something to grab onto. Then try the rocking method again. If you have a friend or two with you, have them push.

If that doesn’t work, try putting the floor mats under the tires and try again. If that still doesn’t work, you’ll need to do more digging and clear out as much snow from the undercarriage as possible until the tires are on terra firma and you have enough traction to power through and get back on the road.

Of course, to avoid getting stuck in the first place, be sure to use proper winter tires and drive cautiously. If your defensive driving still lands you in a snowy ditch, be prepared to do some work to get out of it, or hope that a nice guy in a Legacy stops to offer you a tow.

What’s your best stuck-in-the-snow story?


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