Every winter and sometimes even autumn and spring the UK has a chance of being coated with a layer of snow which causes carnage on the roads up and down the country. Those travelling in their own car it can be even worse. We've written a few articles on winter car care and in this article, we're going to share some tips if you find yourself stuck in the snow with your car.
Prepare for problems
If your car is already stuck then you can probably skip this bit and start at the car stuck in snow ideas and suggestions bit. If not, drive on - these are handy tricks for both personal leasing customers and business leasing customers.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail is a quote that seems apt for attempting to drive out if there's snow on the roads with your car. Driving in the snow is something that should be avoided if at all possible as the dangers far outweigh the benefits. However, if you absolutely must drive in these conditions then here are some tips to prepare
- Purchase and fit winter tyres
- Pack warm blankets - you may become stranded on the drive
- Attach snow chains to the wheels for better traction and reduce spin
- Pack food and drinks
- Pack portable chargers to ensure you have a working phone and services
- Plan a route which avoids isolated and remote roads and frequently passes services and busy roads
- Service the engine
- Ensure the car has as much fuel as possible and oil in the engine
- Do not travel with babies and small children unless absolutely essential
- Pack snow clearing tools such as shovels and rock salt
No one should treat driving in extreme weather as a challenge, especially if you believe the myth about 4WD being better in the snow. Driving with visible snow on the ground increases the likelihood of an accident astronomically so bare that in mind.
How to get a car out of the snow
Stop and don't panic
If you've already found yourself in some trouble in the snow and ice with the car then (slowly) stop and don't panic - this can lead to bad decisions and making the situation worse. Remaining calm in extreme weather is difficult but can go a long way. Check the situation around you and the cause of being stuck. Is the car in any danger of sliding into a life-threatening situation such as a steep hill or even a cliff? Use this information to determine whether it's safer for the passengers to be inside the vehicle or out.
Clear the snow and ice
The reason why snow and ice are so deadly is that it drastically reduces the traction the tyres have with the road. Our next goal is to improve traction and contact between the rubber and asphalt. You can use a snow shovel to begin clearing a potential path for the wheels to take back to safety - it is also advisable to let out some air from the tyres but only enough so that it is not visibly flat.
Don't forget to also clear snow away from the tailpipe, if there's a blockage then the fumes can creep into the car which can cause all sorts of problems.
Clear as much snow and ice as you possibly can because if there's still a lot in the general area you could find yourself right back in the same situation just a little further away.
If you don't have a snow shovel you can also use tools, ice scrapers or in the worst-case scenario your bare hands - however this is a sure-fire way to cause more harm than good as you will have freezing cold hands with less grip, as a result, you will still need your motor functions to turn the wheel and change gear.
Whatever you do, do not use anti-freeze or de-icer to clear the snow as this can cause devastation to the ground and to any wildlife living in the area.
Getting the stuck car out
Now that you've cleared a path and found that the area is safe it's time to try and get the car to move out. Start by turning off traction control which stops the wheels from spinning, here spinning can be helpful.
The trick is to make sure the tyres do not spin and to do that keep the revs as low as possible and exercise some professional clutch control discipline. Keep the car at the lowest gear possible.
Slowly get the vehicle towards the direction you want to go and be patient. Keep all 4 tyres in the same direction makes it easier and whatever you do, do not depress the brakes hard - instead try pumping them if you find yourself going faster than you'd like.
Switching from drive to reverse and 'rocking' your car can often help dislodge some slush from the tyres and create some distance to gain a decent level of speed. However, caution must be taken that this isn't abused as there is a risk of harm to the gearbox of the vehicle. To mitigate the risk, try to only change gears when the car has completely stopped and to stay in neutral for a short time between gear changes.
It's customary for others to help push the car, which can help immensely, but caution needs to be taken in case those pushings get into trouble themselves and potentially struck by the vehicle if it gains speed quickly.
Further improve traction
If you're having no luck with the above then why not throw dry and grippy materials under the tyres such as rock salt, sand and dirt. Materials such as these are much easier to gain traction with a wheel which could make or break your attempts at getting out. Here's a couple of other items which you can use:
- Car's own floor mats
- Kitty litter
- Pieces of flat wood
If you've remembered to pack snow chains then now is the time to put them on. You will need a jack and a solid surface to lift the car up and put them on but they should make a significant difference to the traction.
What to do when you're stranded in the snow?
If it's looking like an impossible task to get out of the snow then it's time to consider whether you are able to get yourself out or need the help of recovery service. If you can, great! If you can't then you need to figure out who to call when stuck in snow - The AA, RAC, Green Flag are just a couple of mainstream companies - you can also check out the local suppliers which may be more responsive. This is where the prior planning comes in handy to deal with the wait so get out the thermos, blankets and just relax while you wait. You've tried your best and putting the brakes on your journey may not be the worst thing.
Decide what to do next
If you've managed to get yourself out ask yourself if it's worth continuing the journey or turn back to where you came from or to your nearest services. If the snow is still falling heavily then admitting defeat on this occasion may be the safest and sensible decision to make but if you feel the roads get significantly easier from now on then you may feel confident enough to continue.
Driving in the snow and finding yourself stuck in snow should be avoided unless absolutely essential. That being said, with a little bit of patience and a plan you can get the car out and back to safety.
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