A Visual Guide to Getting Your Car Unstuck From The Snow

No matter how safe a driver you are, we all get stuck in the powder now and then – especially when there's a BOMB CYCLONE!?

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Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.


  • Reply December 20, 2011


    Also, I heard letting air out of your tires helps with traction.

  • Reply December 20, 2011


    @Chris – not so much. The idea behind letting air out of your tires is that it allows the tires to ‘flex’ and not be so rigid. The key aspect here is that letting air out of your tires decreases the contact patch (it basically turns the tire into a ‘U’ shape, wherein only the side portions of the contact patch touch – as opposed to the entire contact patch). In actuality, this can decrease the friction between the tire and the ground.

    The key aspects to look for here are rubber compound, tread design, and tread depth. Winter tires, as Andrew points out, are a more aggressive tread that is designed to prevent snow from becoming packed in-between the tires’s grooves. Another key point though is that they are a softer rubber compound. And finally, as with any tire, it’s never smart to drive around on them once they’re worn out. This is extra important in the winter for obvious reasons.

    The list (of things to keep in your car) above is good, with the caveat that I would also recommend an extra pair of gloves, hat, and maybe an old coat. You never know what the conditions will be when you slide off the road or your car decides to break down.

  • Reply February 14, 2014


    This is based on the common assumption that increased surface area results in increased friction. A study of Classical Mechanics shows that this is false… and gives us a logical explanation for #2 (the coefficient of static friction is always greater than or equal to that of kinetic friction).

    Not that anyone wanted a Physics lesson on a men’s blog, but there you have it…

    • Reply January 5, 2018

      Pete Mcd

      There are different kinds of friction. What are you are referring to is a model for relatively smooth and rigid surfaces. A tire on a road follows at least two other frictional models, including one called rolling resistance.

  • Reply February 14, 2014


    Thank goodness I live in Texas and its 70 and sunny. We can’t handle this stuff down here, shuts us down completely when we get ice storms.

  • Reply February 14, 2014


    Also missing from the list… your AAA card.

  • Reply February 14, 2014


    A main difference between summer and snow tires is the tread compound. In winter temps the tread compound of summer tires basically turns to hard plastic and provide very little traction. Winter tires maintain their flexibility in extreme cold and thus provide more control.

    • Reply January 5, 2018

      Kyle Taylor

      Yep, came to say exactly this.

  • […] college guys in their 20′s, I have found a lot of useful information there. Like this awesome Visual Guide to Getting Your Car Unstuck from the Snow! Which I have totally used for getting out of my snowed in […]

  • Reply June 19, 2014

    Muresan Mihai

    I agree whit your tips, grate article and well written but I
    come across this website http://www.tracgrabber.com
    they seams to innovate a product so called Trac-Grabber and is a rescue device
    to help get vehicles unstuck from snow, sand or mud. For the one who have
    problems in getting vehicles stuck I think they should try it.


  • Reply October 28, 2014

    Muresan Mihai Nicolae

    you should try this Trac-Grabber rescue device: http://www.tracgrabber.com/Testimonials-srk/
    get vehicle untuck from snow, sand and mud

  • Reply February 4, 2015


    Not bad, you are correct the point is to move, doesn’t matter if it’s forward, backward, or sideway. And go slow.

    But seriously, cardboard? Carry sand or cat litter? Do you guys not have traction aids in the US. That’s one thing to always have in your trunk in the winter.

  • Reply February 8, 2015

    Jim Perry

    A great safety device for quickly and easily getting unstuck is the Trac-Grabber. They work great.

  • Reply March 4, 2015

    Jim Perry

    There is a new product called Trac-Grabber that is perfect for one person to get their car unstuck from snow and ice.

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