Safety Center

What To Do if Your Car Gets Stuck in Snow

Anyone can get their car stuck in the snow. Here are some methods to help you get unstuck.

Dig out

Pack a small shovel, a bag of rock salt, and a bag of kitty litter in your trunk. Clear a path around the front and rear tires and tailpipe. Spread the rock salt to melt any residual snow or ice, then lay down kitty litter to create a grip for the tires.

Try a traction tool

If you're home, you can break down a cardboard box, find a piece of plywood, and jam them under the front of the drive-wheel tires (or behind if you're going in reverse). Then, gently apply the gas to move over the plywood. Make sure no one is near the wheels when you do this since the box or wood could shoot out when the tires spin.

Shift back and forth

Straighten the wheel and put your vehicle in the lowest gear if there are no obstructions in front or behind you. Shift to drive, then slowly to reverse. Shift back to drive and gently apply the gas. Stop if your tires spin. If your car is equipped with traction control, you may need to temporarily turn off this feature since it could hamper your efforts to get out.

Brake and accelerate

If back-and-forth doesn't work, try stepping on the brake while slowly accelerating the gas pedal. Only attempt this for several seconds; otherwise, it could overheat your brakes.

Get help to push

Solicit the help of several neighbors, friends, or strangers to push. Roll down your window, count down (3-2-1) to alert your helpers when to push, and gently apply the gas.

Deflate tires

The last resort is to release some air from your tires gradually. This will give you more traction for a short distance. Only try this if there is a nearby service station to reinflate your tires or if you have a device to inflate them. Traveling any long distance with low tire pressure could ruin your tires.

Once you're free…

Pull over to a safe, cleared location to check for and knock off any snow that may be packed in the front of your vehicle's grill or around the wheel area.

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  1. Jessica Shea Choksey, “How to Get a Car Out of Snow,”, (Janurary 14, 2021).

  2. Rick Popely, “How to Free Your Car From a Snowbank or Ice Patch,”, (December 1, 2016).

Our Safety Center pages are filled with tips related to the safety and maintenance of your home and autos. The information contained in these articles should not be construed as professional advice, and is not intended to replace official sources. Other resources linked from these pages are maintained by independent providers; therefore, NJM cannot guarantee their accuracy.