Getting stuck in the mud, snow or ditch can happen to anyone no matter how cautious you are. Your first instinct tells you to floor the gas pedal in your frustration to get out but you are only worsening your situation as your tires dig deeper into the slippery material.
Should such situation arise, knowing what to do and how you approach the situation can make a difference between getting yourself unstuck and waiting hours and possibly spending lot of money on a tow truck services.
You do have many options such as towing service from your friend or relative or passerby but you do need to hope that they have a strap and a powerful enough car to pull you out. But in case above options aren’t available; here are few tips for freeing a stuck vehicle the old fashioned way
The best way to handle getting stuck is to always be prepared for that scenario. That means keeping few of the necessary items in your roadside emergency service to help you in these scenarios. These items include:
- Shovel to use in digging or scooping mud and others from your tires and path.
- Wood planks, carpet and cardboard for aiding in traction
- Plastic recovery tracks such as Maxtrax which won’t sink or slide under your tire. They can also be used as shovel.
- Hi-lift jack for lifting your stuck tire to slipping in your traction device underneath.
- Winch (if attaching to another vehicle, always hook it to the frame
- Tow strap so that you can strap your car to another vehicle for pulling your car from ditch,
- Snow Chains (put them on your tires before you drive around in the snow)
Don’t panic but assess the situation
When you are stuck mud, your instinct tells you to hit the gas pedal hard but you are only making your problem worse. You are digging deeper into the mud, may even damage tires, axles, transmissions, drivelines. Avoid the urge to slam your foot on the gas and try to stay calm and assess the situation.
Assessing the situation will give you an idea on what you do. Check to see if your vehicle’s tailpipe is clear of snow or mud so as to prevent carbon monoxide from building up dangerous gases in the car. If your car is buried deep that the axle or chassis rest on ground, you’ll likely have work cut out for you. If you have more than one wheel sunken into the loose material, especially if they are drive wheels, or if the vehicle is teetering by its frame severely enough to alter its weight distribution, reducing traction in the drive wheels.
If the case is less severe you may get out relatively easy. With wheels pointing straight (to reduce drag), using your steering wheeling, accelerate gently. Rock your vehicle gently (back up slowly and then move forward slowly and repeat) and try to get your vehicle out of mud. For automatic transmission, use lowest setting and for manual transmission, use higher gear like first or second. If you move slightly, but don’t escape, throttle up and try to conserve the momentum you’ve built.
If this doesn’t get your car unstuck, then try turning the steering wheel slightly and try rocking your vehicle gently again. If there is anyone around to help you, have them push the car from behind while you gently press on the gas. Ask them to position themselves at whichever end of the car points opposite the direction of escape. Avoid flooring the engine as this will damage the transmission.
Free your tires and Build up traction
If your tires dig deeper you’ll need to dig out the mud surrounding your tires. Gently scrape off mud as well. If necessary level the ruts down to ta smoother transition out of the mud with dry material available including gravel, rocks, sticks, foliage, even your floor mats to help provide traction.
Traction is essential for getting your vehicle unstuck. Mud being slippery reduces traction and spinning the wheels won’t help you but you will actually lose more traction, digging deeper into the mud.
If you have sand, gravel, or kitty litter (make sure it’s not the clay-based type!), add them to the front and back of the tires to aid traction. If you have one, use jack to lift the tires a little then place your cardboard, carpet, plywood or plastic recovery track in front of the wheels. Make sure that jack stands on the firm ground. If it isn’t, place something flat and solid beneath it.
If you don’t have one of these, a coat, blanket, truck liner or car mat can be used. You could even try gravel, rocks, foliage, or sticks. You just need something to provide traction. Accelerate slowly and you should hopefully find yourself unstuck soon.
Let air out
Airing down increase the surface area between tires and ground, this will increase traction and, essentially, a longer lever against the ground. Try not to release more than 15 psi. At that point, you are doing more harm than good. Once you are out of mud, reflate your tires.
Use a Winch (if available)
If you have a winch, now is the time to use it. Find a tree or another steady object that you can attach the winch to. When getting the right winch for your vehicle, you need one that is rated at 30% more than the weight of your vehicle.
Call a Tow Truck service when all else fails.
Once you are successfully out of the mud, wash your car thoroughly and take it to a mechanic to check for damage. While every situation is different—mud, snow, sand, a ditch—the principles behind getting your car unstuck remain relatively the same. Learn them now before you spend hours of toiling in vain.