WHAT TO DO IF YOUR VEHICLE GETS STUCK IN SNOW
How to get your car out of a snowbank
By Jordan Mendoza
Heavy snow creates dangerous driving conditions that can cause your vehicle to stall or slide into a snowbank—so it’s best to avoid driving during snowstorms. But if your car does get stuck in the snow, follow these tips.
DON’T SPIN YOUR TIRES If you spin the tires, you could dig your vehicle deeper into the snow.
USE THE LOWEST GEAR Put the car in its lowest gear and move forward until your car is free or the tires slip. If they slip, shift into reverse and try to back out slowly. If they slip again, repeat until you dislodge your vehicle from the snow.
GAIN SOME TRACTION If that doesn’t work, and you have a bag of road salt or cat litter in your emergency kit, sprinkle it around the tires for traction and try again. If you have extra coolant or windshield wiper fluid, you can use it to melt snow around the tires—but try this only as a last resort, because either fluid can poison animals.
IF YOUR CAR ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE Call 911 if it’s an emergency or you feel unsafe when your vehicle is stuck in snow. If it’s not an emergency, call a nearby service center to come get you. Ford owners can call Roadside Assistance at 800-241-3673. Depending on the age of your car, this coverage may be part of your warranty (check with your dealer for more information). If your warranty has run out, you may use a credit card to pay a onetime fee for the Ford Roadside Assistance service you need.
While you wait for assistance, tie a bright cloth to the car’s antenna—or safely set out flares or roadside reflectors, if you have them—to make your vehicle more visible. Clear any snow from the exhaust pipe so deadly carbon monoxide does not enter the cabin.
Finally, stay in your vehicle until help arrives. Turn off the engine, then restart it every 10 minutes to get some heat. Walking in heavy snow can be deadly as you risk getting lost, freezing or getting hit by vehicles on the road.
PLAN AHEAD You’ll be safer if you prepare for the worst ahead of time. Before you head out:
- CHECK YOUR TIRES: Before you head out, make sure your tires have adequate tread by looking for the tires’ built-in wear indicators, which will appear level with the tread when it’s time to replace the tires. And inflate them to the proper pressure—tire pressure drops considerably in cold weather.
- FILL UP THE CAR’S FLUIDS: It’s important to regularly fill up your coolant, or antifreeze. If the car runs out of coolant, your the engine block could crack. And fill up your windshield wiper fluid, using one with the necessary freeze protection for your area.
- EXAMINE YOUR WIPERS: Replace your wipers if the rubber is cracked, broken or falling off.
- TAKE AN EMERGENCY KIT: Prepare a winter emergency kit for your trunk and check it regularly, making sure your portable jump starter and spare cell phone are charged. (Often 911 calls will go through even if the phone has no service plan.) The kit should include: Tire chains, road salt or kitty litter for traction, jumper cables, jump starter, cell phone, phone charger, small shovel, ice scraper, flashlight, rags or paper, towels, blankets, flares, bottled water and energy bars.
- MONITOR THE FORECAST: Always keep on top of your local forecast and stay off the road when advisories have been issued. Give yourself extra time to travel slowly and safely. And before you hit the road, let your family or friends know where you’re headed, so they can alert the authorities if you don’t make it there in due time. Stay safe—and may no snowbanks be in your future.