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How to Get Your Car Out of the Snow: A Helpful Guide

A helpful guide to automobile extrication.

car covered in snow on the side of the road
Tyler Duffy

The best thing you can do to avoid trouble driving in the snow is to fit your car with a great set of winter snow tires. But sometimes, when you live in a northern state, you wake up to 8-12 inches of the freshly fallen white stuff. And even with that fancy all-wheel-drive system and winter tires, you'll have to dig your car out.

Here's a guide on how to get your car out of the snow with some helpful products to aid the process.

Clear Your Exhaust Pipe

Before you even start the engine, the first thing to do is to make sure your exhaust pipe is clear. The exhaust pipe being clogged with snow can create a backup and cause deadly carbon monoxide — which you can't detect by odor — to leak into the car. Don't let that happen.

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Clear the Snow

Of all the items to keep in your car for winter, a small hand shovel is among the most important. Often, you can find one that is collapsible, foldable or separable for easy car storage. Clear the snow from your roof and windows (you probably want to be able to see once you get going). A tire iron or screwdriver can be handy for clearing ice and snow away from your tires. The chunks of ice you clear may even add a little traction.

One thing to remember here is to keep your hands warm. You're only going to be as valuable as your fingers are pain-free and mobile. Stash some winter gloves in your aptly named glove box. Keep some extra backup with hand warmers.

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Add Traction

Your tires need something to grip. A set of MaxTrax will do the same job they do while off-roading. But if that feels like overkill for your Honda CR-V, you can also keep a bag of salt, sand or a more pet-safe alternative. Applying the salt or ice melt generously will melt the snow around your ice and tires and offer more grip.

Rock Your Car Out

Rocking the car forward and backward can build momentum and help you get the car out. Accelerate forward as far as you can. Reverse as far as you can. Repeat. Make sure to do this gently. The last thing you want to do is gun it, spin your wheels and end up more stuck than before you started.

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Let Some Air Out of Your Tires

Softer tires are grippier than harder tires. As a last resort, you can air down your tires a bit to soften them and broaden the tire's contact patch to get a better grip. Driving that way can be unsafe. So, you want to air them back up as soon as possible. A portable tire inflator could come in handy. The air pump at the closest gas station will also do the trick for cheaper.

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