Two Misconceptions That Make Getting Unstuck Harder than It Should Be

With freshly fallen snow, one sound you will almost always hear in your neighborhood is the spinning wheels of motorists trying to get unstuck from the snow. There are two basic car misconceptions that cause people to continually spin their wheels, sometimes for hours, when they’re stuck in either snow or mud.

These are:

If the Wheels Slip, Apply More Power

The car is a magnificent piece of mechanical technology that places hundreds of horsepower at your command. Surely that raw power will get you out of your fix, right? Wrong. It won’t help much when there’s little traction between your wheel and the snow. The harder you press the accelerator, the more torque the engine applies to the wheels. More torque on the wheels means you need more traction to get the car moving, and snow simply doesn’t have enough of it.

The trick is doing the opposite: apply as little power as possible. This will transmit very little torque to the wheels and therefore you won’t need that much traction to get your car moving.

If What You’re Doing Isn’t Working, Be Persistent and Keep Doing It

Dogged persistence is an important trait but that must be balanced with working smarter instead of harder. If what you’re doing isn’t working, stop, reassess, and try something else. This seems trite, but it works for all of life’s problems and it’s surprising how few people understand this. Instead of gunning your engine and spinning your wheels over and over, try these alternative techniques to get unstuck from snow or mud:

  • Use gravity to your advantage. If you’re stuck on a hill, try moving downhill when the situation allows it. This may be all you need to do provided you go easy on the accelerator. Once unstuck and you’re on a surface with better traction, you can then drive uphill.
  • Rock your car. This is especially effective when you have a helper pushing your car. First move forward a bit, stop, and then go backward a bit. Repeat this until you are unstuck. Make sure your efforts and those of your outside helper are synchronized.
  • Shovel away snow from where your wheels will be going and add sand or cat litter to the shoveled tracks to improve friction. If you don’t have cat litter or sand, look around your immediate vicinity for gravel, sticks, pine boughs, or anything else you can find that won’t damage your tires.
  • Reduce the torque to your wheels by putting your car in your lowest gear and applying a bit of gas if you have automatic transmission. For manual transmission, use second gear and let out the clutch very slowly.
  • Let out a small amount of air from your tires. This increases the tires’ surface area that contacts the snow. Once you get moving again, don’t forget to inflate your tires back to the proper pressure. Try the other suggestions before this one.

Don’t forget that you can use these tips together when getting out of a difficult situation. For more information or if you have any car and tire needs, contact us.

Paul Campanella’s Auto & Tire Center is committed to ensuring effective communication and digital accessibility to all users. We are continually improving the user experience for everyone, and apply the relevant accessibility standards to achieve these goals. We welcome your feedback. Please call Wilmington Location (302) 777-7170, Pike Creek Location (302) 998-2234, Hockessin Location (302) 239-2512, Kennett Square Location (610) 990-4400, Swarthmore Location (610) 328-7884 if you have any issues in accessing any area of our website.