Getting out of a sticky situation

Posted on by Defensive Driving Team | in Defensive Driving Online

If you know what to do, getting stuck in the mud doesn’t have to be an extravagant disaster. First, drive prepared. In winter, carry salt, sand, or cat litter in your car, as well as a small shovel and ice scraper. The sand or cat litter will also be useful for mud in spring and summer.

Next, try to avoid getting stuck. Drive particularly slowly in muddy, icy, sandy, or otherwise sticky conditions. As soon as you do start to sink, stop driving. Spinning your tires will cause your wheels to sink even deeper.

If you’re in a four wheel drive vehicle, put the vehicle into four wheel drive. If in an automatic, shift into a low gear; most people find second gear works well. If in a manual transmission car, put the car into first gear. Straighten the wheels. Then, try to accelerate very, very slowly. If this doesn’t work, try reversing slowly.

Extra weight will help to increase traction. In snowy conditions, you may want to place extra weight in the car before driving. If you’re stuck in sand or mud, however, this extra weight could cause you to sink further. In this instance, ask passengers to get out of the car before proceeding.

If you’re still stuck, get out and examine the situation. Try to determine which wheels are spinning. Then, using your shovel, clear snow, mud, or sand away from these tires. If stuck in snow or mud, pack sand or cat litter around the slipping tires. If you’re in sand, a piece of wood or carpet mat will be more useful. Then, if you have passengers or can hail a passerby, have your assistants push the car while you gently accelerate forwards. As you do so, you may want to ride the brakes slightly; in many “stuck” situations, one wheel may be spinning more than the others. Depressing the brakes very slightly will help to decrease the spinning, thus distributing power more evenly between the wheels.

In snow and especially in sand, letting some air out of your tires may help. By decreasing the tire pressure, you are increasing the surface area between tire and road. Let out pressure 5 PSI at a time; try to avoid decreasing the pressure by more than 15 PSI, and make sure to inflate your tires fully again as soon as possible.

“Rocking the car” is another technique that can be used to get unstuck. To rock the car, put it into reverse and very lightly tap the gas, then release. The car should go back and then rock forward slightly. Repeat this motion, so that the rocking of the car increases (if you find the right rhythm, the amplitude of the back and forth rocking should increase, like coffee being shaken in a cup.)

Finally, be prepared for when you get unstuck! Make sure that you are ready to continue driving and steering once your car gets out of the mud, sand, or snow. Drive far enough so that you’re sure you won’t get stuck again.

To read more on a broad range of subjects from “How To Change A Tire” to “How To Jumpstart Your Car”, visit DefensiveDriving.com’s Safe Driver Resources website!

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