It’s one of those uh-oh moments – you realize your wheels are spinning because your vehicle is stuck in mud or sand. It can happen when you pull off a desert highway to make a U-turn, or to make a phone call. It can happen when you’re directed to park on a patch of dirt – and then it rains during your meeting. You start the car to leave and there's simply no traction.
But there are actions you can try before you give up, curse the fact that you don’t have 4-wheel drive, and call for a tow truck (assuming your mishap location has cellphone reception).
Here are the steps, based on advice offered by State Farm and the California DMV. You may want to pass this list along to your drivers as a friendly reminder. Or if you’ve found a better method, please take the time to share it in “comments.”
- Shift into a low gear and keep the front wheels straight.
- Gently step on the gas pedal.
- Avoid spinning the wheels. Drive forward as far as possible.
- Shift into reverse and slowly back up as far as possible. Again, be careful not to spin the wheels.
- Shift into a low gear again and drive forward.
- Repeat this forward-backward motion until the vehicle rolls free.
- If you have any passengers, ask them to get out and push, if needed.
- In deep mud or sand, try to increase the traction by putting any available dry, solid objects beneath the tire in the direction you want to go, either forward or reverse. Some drivers have used floor mats. (But if you’re going to try that, don’t expect to use the floor mat ever again.) Others have had success with tree branches.