When you have a car stuck in snow, you have a problem. Let's not be concerned about how you got it stuck, let's just focus on how to get it out of the deep snow on your own.
Here's what you can do to get it out yourself, without leaving the car.
The technique is known as "rocking the car" out of the snow. This technique can work for soft soil and shallow mud as well, but it's most often used to get a car out of snow.
First, let's look at the basics of this technique - just the basics.
Then, let's discuss some of the precautions associated with it so you don't get into deeper trouble.
Keep in mind that this technique will allow you to free a car stuck in snow on the street or other common road surface. It won't allow you to free a car that's lodged in a snow bank or stuck in a ditch in 3 feet of snow. That's a job for a tow truck, another vehicle with towing straps or a bunch of helpful motorists that can help you dig and push your vehicle.
The idea behind rocking the car out of the snow is you're trying to create a type of runway for the car by gently driving back and forth in the snow, making a slight amount of progress in one direction or both, until you have:
This may take a dozen or so movements back and forth to create a sufficient pathway to free the car, but if done properly, it requires no shoveling and doesn't harm the vehicle.
The approach I use is to move in one direction a foot or so, apply the brakes gently to hold the car in position while I switch gears, and then move in the other direction a foot or so, again gently applying the brakes to avoid sliding, and then repeating the process until I'm ready to make my escape.
The more level the surface, the easier it is to get out of trouble. Be mindful that depending on how and where you have your car stuck in snow, it might be that the path out is something other than the path in. This includes backing out.
Also, it's often best to make the pathway the same length ahead and
behind the point where you were stuck. By doing so, when you make the
pathway, you're passing by the point where you were stuck, and that
often helps keep you from settling in there and getting the car stuck in
snow again. In other words, you pass by the trouble spot instead of resting back into it.
You'll need to assess your situation to determine what seems best. Usually, if you can go with the slope of the pavement, instead of against it, you'll do better because gravity will be working in your favor.
Here are some precautions that you should be aware of when using this technique. Heed these precautions and your car stuck in snow will soon be on the road again.
Notice the Rav4 in the photo above. The driver is at an angle, deep in the snow, and probably spun their wheels. So, now they're deeper in snow and slush and possibly mud.
relatively easy to get a car stuck in snow, so practice this technique
be mindful of the precautions. Unless you're embedded deeply, at a
considerable incline, or you're into deep mud, you should be able to get the car out based on
your own gentle and repeated efforts.
At the risk of stating the obvious, it's much easier to prevent a car stuck in snow than it is to free it. The key to prevention can be summed up as follows:
The two most difficult situations with a car stuck in snow both involve charging into deep snow and then settling down into it. In dry snow, your car could get surrounded easily. In wet snow, your undercarriage could become entrapped much like concrete.
Both situations can be avoided if you simply use good judgement. With experience, you'll feel and hear how your car is performing, and that will suggest what is best to avoid trouble.
Most of the time, if you go steady but slower, you'll probably make it through the snow. And, if you get your car stuck in snow, at least you won't be as far and deep into trouble as you would have been had you driven into it at higher speeds.
There will be times when a car stuck in snow needs more help than rocking it can provide. For those times, it's good to have a small shovel, traction devices, and other material on board such that they can be used to help get you out of trouble. You might be surprised at how just a little sand or some cinders can dramatically improve traction when the problem you're having involves glare ice.
Tow ropes or straps can be helpful if there is someone else with a vehicle that can be used to pull you. If you have a passenger, often that's all you need to help push your car out of the deeper snow. Even a car stuck in snow that is very deep can be pushed out by two of three people when the driver is carefully steering and gently applying just a little power to the drive wheels.