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Master Your Driveway In Snowy Conditions

Winter’s cold and dark turn is at least accompanied by festive spirit. Shut your doors, close your windows, pull your curtains and light the fire – it’s the season to be warm and snug! Of course, winter’s charm climaxes with Christmas where we bed in for a week or more with high spirits, great food and inebriated family members – and lots of novelty sweaters and socks! One thing some of us really look forward to is snow. Mostly, though, snow’s novelty drops off with age when you realize you have harder trips to work, harder exits from your driveway and harder, more dangerous drives in general. Driving in the snow is tough, challenging and dangerous, but first you need to actually get onto the road! We’re all familiar with having our car really dug in on our drive during the winter months, and when you rub your eyes in the morning to look out upon a winter wonderland the last thing on your mind might be digging your car out. Fortunately, there are ways we can make this grueling task considerably easier. To stop you going crazy next time it happens to you, use the following tips to help release your car as quickly as possible.

Shovel The Snow Directly Around Your Car First

Don’t waste time and energy shoveling and clearing snow in areas not immediately beside your car, as more will accumulate when you begin to shovel snow next to your car.  Start on and around your car first, then clear the rest afterwards if you have time. For instance, avoid shoveling the snow at the point where the street meets your driveway. It’ll just ice over and get more slippery. When the street is plowed, there will be snow deposited to the side, so you will simply be adding to that pile and will find it harder to get out.  Work on this area after you have cleared your car and are ready to move.  

It is best to tackle the shoveling of snow on your driveway in sections, if possible.  If the snowstorm has stopped, divide your drive into stages and get to work by systematically removing sections of snow.  If the storm shows no sign of stopping, you need to work fast and work directly around your car.

Rock Your Car Back And Forth, Rather Than Spinning Tires

You have probably seen people stuck in the snow in their cars revving and spinning the tires like crazy in tenuous hope that the car will grip and rocket out of the drive.  Do you want to know a hot tip though?  Avoid spinning your tires at all cost.  Although you might think that spinning your tires will eventually free your car from the snow, it will actually dig your car deeper into the snow and could cause damage to your tires. The further you get down, the closer to the colder asphalt or stone you will get and it may be covered in a hard ice sheet that is harder to grip on than snow.

Instead of spinning your tires, you need to ‘rock’ your car back and forth by accelerating, then reversing, slowly.  It is important to gain traction for your tires without allowing them to spin. If, while you rock your car, your tires start to spin, then you need to then change the direction of your steering wheel to try and regain grip.

If you find that the tire on one side is spinning more than the other, this could mean there is unequal traction between your tires. In this situation, you could try pushing very lightly on your brakes.  This causes the minimum torque necessary for turning each wheel to increase and provides the tire that isn’t spinning to gain more power.  Be careful, though, because if you do this for too long you could overheat and eventually damage the brakes. If you’ve seen cars with smoke flowing out of their brakes in the snow then this is probably what’s happening.

Let A Little Air Out Of The Tires

When attempting this, you should exercise caution, because the last thing you want while trying to release your car from the snow is then having to get a pump to re-inflate your tires.  Letting a little air out of the tires of your car will increase their surface area, stickiness and ultimately, their grip. A flatter tire will provide more traction than a rock-solid one. It’s worth noting that tire pressure is already slightly lessened in cold weather so be especially careful if it’s very, very cold as you may deflate your tire too much.

Give Your Tires Extra Traction Using Cardboard, Cat Litter Or Sand

As soon as you see that snow is forecast for your area, put some old cardboard, cat litter or sand onto your driveway. You can also stick some in your trunk for good measure. Building cardboard layers up on your drive when it’s cold can reduce the chances of getting stuck in your drive. You can remove the saturated top layers of cardboard to reveal the drier, grippier layers beneath.

Disperse cat litter or sand directly onto the snow, ice, and mud around the tires. The grit will enhance your tire’s grip whilst also facilitating faster melting of ice.  Salt is great but it will corrode your car so be careful not to pour too much out onto your drive – focus on areas around your tires. Cardboard can also be used in a similar way. Position it either behind or in front of the tires on your drive and then use the above ‘rocking’ technique again.  If you do not have any cardboard or other mentioned materials in your house, then you could even use the floor mats from your car and place them under the front of your tires to give them extra traction. Get creative and improvise.

Shovel The Snow A Good Distance Away From Your Car

When you shovel snow you need to avoid making this common mistake – creating huge piles of snow alongside your drive that eventually end up back on your drive! It will only double your task as many of the chunks will eventually tumble back onto your driveway, especially if it’s windy.  Instead, you should shovel the snow a reasonable distance away from your drive and car and flatten it into piles which can’t blow over and spill back onto your drive.

Carefully plan where you are going to place your piles before you shovel the snow so that you can avoid placing it on areas you need to use.  For instance, don’t dump snow anywhere you will be clearing later! Have a drive clear plan in mind for every year, you will benefit when the snow starts falling again because you will know what to do on your drive when the time comes!  

Get Help From Roadside Assistance Or Friends

There may well be times when you simply can’t get your car unstuck, no matter what you try and how hard you try. In those situations, it is a good idea to enlist the help of friends or neighbors, because of the more hands on the job, the better.  Have them push the car as you apply gas gently.  Pushing the car forward as you shift into first gear each time while rocking it can also help to get you unstuck, as it gives you additional momentum.  

Obviously, the person or people pushing needs to be on stable footing and out of the way of the drive tires.  Ice and debris can fly out from the tires and is, therefore, dangerous for anyone standing at the back of the car.  Your roadside assistance provider may offer additional services such as fluid delivery, jump starts, and 24-hour emergency towing.  

Along with the handy and effective tips above, a key to successfully shoveling snow and getting your car unstuck as quickly as possible is being properly prepared.  Make sure you have the right tools at home and in your car, particularly during the winter months.  Even when it is not snowing, you should still be ready for when it does – the most wonderful time of the year.