Driving And Safety

Getting your Car Unstuck from Snow and Ice



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When your vehicle gets stuck in the snow or ice, don't panic. Instead, try one of the techniques used by drivers that live and work in the snowiest regions. Drivers that live in areas that routinely are blanketed with heavy snows or ices quickly become pros at dislodging their vehicles from snow banks, icy shoulders, or other winter weather hazards.

*Things you will need

When driving during the wintry season, all vehicles should carry certain supplies. Pack the supplies in a crate or small tote and store in the trunk. Some experts advise actually keeping the winter pack in the cabin of your vehicle for easy access in the event that the trunk may be frozen shut.

1. Sand, salt (quick-melt salt or even household water softener salt will work), dirt, cat litter, cardboard or carpet mat.

2. Small shovel (or the collapsible kind) and sturdy ice scraper.

3. Extra boots, gloves, hat, and earmuffs.

4. Flashlight or lantern.

*Tips to get unstuck

There are several methods for maneuvering a vehicle that is stuck in snow or ice but generally a few simple moves will release your vehicle and allow you to venture back onto the wintry roads.

1. As soon as you determine you are indeed stuck, turn on your hazard lights, and shut off your vehicle. It is recommended to place a call to your destination and let someone there know that you are stuck and will be late. If possible, they may be able to venture out to you and help remove your vehicle or even alert the authorities that you need assistance.

2. Bundle up for warmth and grab your shovel. Try to remove as much snow or ice as you can from in front of each wheel.

3. Decide which wheel(s) are slipping and place sand, salt, dirt, cat litter, or even a piece of cardboard or a carpet remnant or mat in front of the wheels. If you do not have any of those items, look for several small to medium sized sticks and arrange those in front of the wheels to use for traction. If there aren't any sticks or debris to be found, you can let a small amount of air out of the tires to provide more surface contact with the ground for traction but make sure you re-inflate those tires as soon as possible.

4. Get back into your vehicle and restart the engine. Gently accelerate using a low gear. Second gear has been recommended as the best gear for getting traction in the snow or ice. You may need to rock your vehicle gently and slowly over the placed sand or other traction aid. Do not accelerate quickly or too much as the tires will spin. Spinning the tires excessively with limited road surface contact will just melt the snow under the tires which can then refreeze very quickly into a tire-shaped icy divot. Excessive rocking and acceleration can also damage your vehicle.

5. As your vehicle gains traction, be ready to steer and brake as needed when you are able to break free of the ice or snow bank. Don't accelerate hard, keep it steady and smooth to avoid getting stuck again.

*Warnings

There is always an element of danger when you are stuck along the side of the road.

1. If you are able to engage volunteers to help you get your vehicle unstuck, make sure you set clear signals between the pushers and the driver to avoid any injuries. You don't want to accidently injure anyone by accelerating into them.

2. Make sure that anyone outside the car is clear of any potential flying debris your wheels may kick up. Serious injuries have occurred when a pusher has been hit by traction aids like sticks or hard rubber car mats. Never use hard items like plywood for a traction aid as it can cause serious harm to anyone it hits when it shoots out as the tires spin for grip.

3. If using car mats for a traction aid, be aware that they may become damaged.

4. If stuck after dark and/or on a busy road, be extremely cautious about being outside your vehicle. If you slid off the road, there is always the potential that other drivers might be just as unfortunate and you could be hit by other vehicles. Trust your instincts, if you feel that it is too unsafe to get out and try to maneuver your vehicle, shut your engine off, call for help and wait patiently.

During the winter season, always be prepared for all varieties of weather conditions as well as changing conditions. When possible, plan and stick to your route (and let someone else know your plan.) Before heading out into potentially hazardous road conditions, check the online Department of Transportation site for your area. In the U.S., each state's Department of Transportation has a road conditions site available to the public. If you're already on the road as the storms comes in, keep your radio tuned to weather information.

Using common sense works best. If the weather and roads appear bad, and you don't have to go out, don't. Stay in, get cozy and enjoy winter from the warmth and comfort of your home.

 

More about this author: Barb Hopkins

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