Boat Trailer Inspection Checklist
How to: Put on Snow Chains and Drive Safely
If you travel to the mountains or snowy areas regularly, sooner or later you’re going to have to use tire chains. Start by getting the right set for your vehicle at your local Les Schwab.
Quick-fit chains are not your grandpa’s tire chains. They are MUCH simpler to put on and take off. Here are a video, step-by-step instructions, and driving safety tips for installing quick-fit tire chains on your vehicle.
Do These Two Things Before You Leave
When you need chains, driving conditions are nasty. Snow is coming down, passing traffic is spraying slush, dirty water is dripping off your wheel wells, the road is slick, and it may be dark. Don’t make this the first time you put on your chains.
Practice installing your new chains once BEFORE you travel. Take advantage of a dry garage or driveway to make sure your winter tire chains are the right size and you’re comfortable putting them on. If needed, the professionals at Les Schwab Tire Centers can help.
Put together a simple winter road trip safety kit with warm gloves, waterproof layers, and other items to make your winter driving more safe and comfortable. In the winter, always carry this emergency kit and tire chains in your vehicle.
When and How to Install Your Tire Chains
Once you’re comfortable installing your chains, you’re ready to hit the snow.
Be Safe. If you’re on the road, pull off as far as possible onto a safe shoulder. Flip on your hazard lights. Put on your waterproof layers, hat, headlamp, and gloves from your winter road trip kit.
Identify the Correct Tires. If your vehicle is front-wheel drive, the chains go on the front. If it’s rear-wheel drive, chains go on the back. If it’s all-wheel drive, please check your owner’s manual. If you’re not sure, you can ask the experts at Les Schwab for help.
Pull Out Chains & Instructions. With your vehicle parked, open the bag and pull out your instructions and your first chain. Each bag comes with two chains. The plastic instruction mat that comes with your chains can be used as a barrier between you and the snow to keep you dry.
Untangle Your Chains. Holding them from the plastic-covered cable, make sure everything is straight and the chains are not looped over one another. Hold up your chains so the yellow end is in your left hand and the blue end is in your right.
The chains should hang loosely and the metal hooks seen along the yellow and blue sections should be facing away from you so they don’t damage your tires.
Place Chains onto Your Tire and Connect the Cable. Lay your chains on the ground and push them behind the tire, yellow cable end first, from the right side to the left.
Once the chains are centered behind the wheel, grab both ends and pull them up over the top of the tire. You should feel the chains against your axle.
This will allow you to easily connect the yellow and blue ends of the cable by slipping one end into the other and pulling them into place.
Connect the Red Hook. Now that the cable is connected on top, look for the red hook directly opposite the cable connection. Connect the red hook on the right to the first available gold link on the left.
Check the Diamond Shape. Push the connected chain over the top of the tire. You should see the diamond shape in the chains against your tire. Between each of those diamonds is the center rail, which should be placed down the middle of the tire tread.
Connect the Red Chain Along the Bottom. Now that the cable is connected on top, look for the red hook directly opposite the cable connection. Connect the red hook on the right to the first available gold link on the left. Push the connected chain over the top of the tire.
The bottom of the chains includes a red draw chain with bungee on your right, and a chain guide on the left. Pull these out towards yourself.
Take the long red chain and run it through the chain guide and pull as tight as you can with both hands. Don’t pull using the bungee. As you pull, one of the chain links will find its way into the notch on the red chain guide, locking it into place.
Using the bungee end of the red chain, pull it through one or both of the red loops and secure it to a gold-side chain opposite the red loops. If you can’t get it through both loops, that’s ok, pull tight through one and attach it to a side chain to the left of the loop.
Repeat on Second Tire. Repeat these steps to install chains on the other side of your vehicle.
Drive Forward Slightly. The next step is to drive forward about 15 feet, or a full car length. This gives the chains a chance to relax and settle on your tires.
Re-tighten Chains. To take up any slack, unhook the rubber end of the red draw chain and pull it tight again. Once it’s tight, guide the red chain through the loops and, again, securely latch the bungee end to the gold-side chain.
The chains should be tight on the tire. And, be sure to stop if you hear them making any contact with your vehicle. If your chains are still loose, unhook the bungee and adjust the red hook straight across from the chain guide. Unhook and reattach to the tightest position on one of the three gold chain links. It’s okay if the extra links are hanging loosely. Now, you’re ready to reattach your bungee.
How to Drive with Snow Chains on Your Tires
While driving with tire chains, listen for a loud sound of slapping, or metal on metal. If you hear any indication that a chain may be broken or hitting your car, STOP as soon as safely possible. Loose or broken chains that flap can wrap around a strut or shock component, causing big damage to your vehicle. To help prevent damage, here are a few tips for driving when you have winter chains installed on your vehicle.
- Don’t go over 25 miles per hour, or else you can damage the chains or your vehicle
- Never drive on bare pavement
- Avoid locking or spinning your wheels by starting or braking suddenly
Removing Snow Chains from Your Tires
Pull over in a safe location and remove the chains. Start by unhooking the bungee and chain from the guide, removing them from the tensioner. Unlatch the red hook, and then undo the blue and yellow cable connection. Once all of your chains are off and lying flat on the ground, pull backward or forward slowly a few feet so you can safely pick them up.
How to Pack and Store Snow Chains
At the end of your trip, lay your chains out in the garage and let them dry. If you pack them wet, they can rust.
Also check them for wear, especially if you’ve driven them on asphalt for any distance. Look for flat spots, and replace the chains if you find some.
We’re Here to Help
Remember, if you don’t use your chains all winter long, you can return them with proof of purchase to any Les Schwab for a full refund in the spring.
Get your next set of Quick-Fit chains, along with a few tips on how to install them, at your local Les Schwab, where doing the right thing matters.
Want more tips on winter road safety? See 19 Winter Driving Resources You Can’t Do Without.
Get More Winter Tips
10 Tips for Long Distance Driving
Are you planning on taking a fun road trip or driving long distance? Safely getting there and back home again isn’t about luck. It’s about planning, maintenance, and a trip to your local Les Schwab. We have some long-distance driving tips to help you and your family enjoy every highway adventure, wherever you plan to go.
Get a Free Pre-Trip Safety Check at Les Schwab:
Our pros will check the air pressure on all your tires including the spare. They’ll also do a visual inspection of your tires, wheels, alignment, shocks and struts, brakes, and battery. If we find anything, we’ll make recommendations to add safety to your road trip. Schedule your safety check now.
Assemble a Road Trip Safety Kit:
Depending on the time of year, must-have items include water (for your vehicle), flares, a battery-operated radio, and a fully-charged jump-starter (which can be used to charge phones if your vehicle battery dies). You’ll also want seasonal or leather gloves, a hat (for either shading your face from the sun or a warm hat for warmth), and blanket to kneel on if you need to change a flat tire on the side of the road. Learn more about what to include in your road trip safety kit as well as these winter-specific driving tips.
Top Off All Fluids:
Fill your gas tank right before you leave. Other fluids to check and fill as needed include your windshield wiper fluid, antifreeze, brake fluid, power-steering fluid, transmission fluid, and oil. For electric vehicles, charge the battery the night before. Double-check that your cup holder has your favorite fluid (soda, coffee, tea) ready to go.
Change the Oil:
If it’s time to change the oil in your car or truck, some Les Schwab locations can help.
Check Your Visibility:
This includes how well you can see the world and how well other drivers can see you. Check your windshield wipers, headlights (including your high and low beam bulbs), taillights, backup lights, and the lights on your rear license plate. Replace them as needed. Clean your side mirrors and remove the film on your headlight and fog light lenses.
Verify the Spare:
Make sure it is properly inflated and that you have a jack. Confirm that your lug wrench fits the lugs on every wheel. If you have a locking lug on each wheel, be sure you have the socket key. Don’t have a spare tire in your vehicle? Check out our article titled Do I Even Need a Spare Tire.
Inspect Your Shocks and Struts:
The shocks and struts on your vehicle help with ride control, comfort, and safety. The pros at Les Schwab can do a free visual inspection of your shocks and struts. If you’ll be towing a trailer, we’ll help ensure your tow vehicle’s shocks and struts can handle the load.
Get Plenty of Sleep Before Every Drive:
This can help keep you awake and alert while behind the wheel. And take a quick pit stop every 100 miles, whether you need it or not. That break will help invigorate you and your passengers.
Bring Some Entertainment:
Find an audiobook everyone will enjoy. Or suggest highway games such as “find all the state license plates,” “I spy,” and “20-questions highway edition.
Pack Snacks and Water:
This can include healthy snacks, fruit, and pre-packaged meals that don’t require refrigeration. And don’t forget to pack plenty of water and other beverages.
Make Sure Your Car Is Ready To Go at Les Schwab
Schedule a free pre-trip safety check at any Les Schwab location. We’ll give your tires, wheels, battery, brakes, shocks, struts, and alignment a visual inspection and make recommendations if anything needs attention.
Winter Driving Tips: Getting Real-time Road Conditions
People always want to talk about the weather. Not because it’s interesting, but because it has a huge impact on our daily lives. Especially if you’re driving in it. Lucky for all of us, technology has made predicting what the weather will do, and how to prepare for it, a lot easier.
Know what’s happening right now. Here in the west, we know the weather can change things. Current road condition resources are available with web cameras, current conditions, chain requirements, and extended forecasts.
Get your local forecast. AccuWeather offers a free hyperlocal app for Apple or Android devices. What is hyperlocal? It means you get a forecast based on your exact location.
Weather happens in the country too. That’s why the Weather Underground app for Apple and Android devices was created. Download it and get up-to-the-minute forecasts and information in your neck of the woods.
Plan Ahead in Any Weather
It’s probably no surprise that a lot of auto crashes happen in bad weather. Over 1.2 million of them a year. And almost half occur in the rain. You can avoid joining club fender bender by slowing down, especially on wet pavement and snow-covered roadways.
Get More Safety Tips
Winter Driving Tips: How to Drive in All Conditions
Living anywhere in the Western U.S. means you’ll eventually drive in the rain, snow, ice, or fog. Sometimes all on the same day.
If you’re driving at just 35 miles per hour on dry pavement and hit the brakes, you won’t stop right away. That’s obvious. But did you know it will take up to 97 feet to come to a complete stop? Rain, ice, and snow require even more distance. This winter, give the guy in front of you plenty of room.
Here are a few more of our favorite tips and resources that can help you navigate anything winter might throw your way.
- Hydroplaning can happen on slick roads. The heavier the rainfall, the more likely your vehicle is to leave the pavement and ride on top of the water – even if it’s just for a moment. This guide will show you what to do if it ever happens to you.
- Stay safe while driving on ice. These how-to icy driving tips will help keep you and your car on the road.
- Become a snow driving expert. This guide will teach you stopping distance, how to drive downhill, and where the road is most dangerous.
- Recover from a skid. Learn how to pull out of a skid, especially when you don’t want to be drifting around a hairpin curve on an icy mountain road.
- Drive safely in the fog. Check out these fog-related tips for those times when the thick stuff makes driving difficult.
- Download a winter driving guide. This one from Car and Driver has plenty of advice, including the difference between traction control and stability control. Hint: stability control is better for winter driving.
Want to know more? Learn about snow tires here.
SHOP WINTER TIRES
Winter Driving Tips: How to Drive in Snow
According to the Federal Highway Administration, about a quarter of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet.
Now for the good news. With the right preparation, you can travel safely even when the weather turns on you. Hint: properly inflated tires in good condition are near the top of the list. This is a must so you have the traction you need.
When you find yourself driving on snow or you’re caught in a storm, remember the following advice on vehicle handling.
How to Drive on Snow and When It’s Snowing
- Here’s a winter driving checklist to prepare and stay safe.
- Clear off snow from windows, mirrors and roof before you leave. When you brake, snow on top can slide forward and cover your windshield.
- Brush off snow from your lights, so you have the best light on the road and other drivers can see you.
- Reduce your speed and leave more space between you and the vehicle ahead. A good following distance is about eight to 10 seconds from the other vehicle, depending on your tire tread, weight of your vehicle, road slope, amount of snow on the road, and visibility. You may want even more.
Stopping Distance on Packed Snow
- How much stopping distance will you need? For the reasons above, safe stopping distance varies by vehicle. For a cars traveling 35 mph on dry pavement, it can take anywhere from 60 to 97 feet for thinking and braking distance. Double that for driving on wet pavement. Triple it for packed snow. Ten times for icy roads. (See this stopping distances chart for calculations at multiple speeds.)
- Avoid sudden stops, abrupt downward gear shifts and quick direction changes. Brake gently to avoid skidding or sliding. If the wheels lock up, ease off the brakes.
- Know what to do before you go into a skid. Skid car classes on how to drive on slick roads are a great idea for young drivers and anyone else traveling by road a lot in winter.
- The rules for getting out of a skid depend on a lot of factors: whether you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), if you have front- or rear-wheel drive, if the road is icy, if you’re going downhill, if you have extra weight in your vehicle. Read more about skid correction.
- The way to drive downhill on packed snow depends on whether you have ABS. If so, start at the top of the hill as slowly as possible. Leave your auto in normal drive gear and use light, steady pressure on the brake pedal to stay at a safe speed. This allows your antilock braking system to maintain traction by making sure all four tires slow at the same rate when you apply the brakes. (Learn more here.) If you don’t have ABS, proceed slowly and lightly pump your brakes on the way down.
- Don’t be overconfident just because you have all-wheel drive (AWD). Here’s why. You'll get the best traction for driving in winter conditions with snow tires mounted on all four wheels.
Use Extra Caution
- Stay in your lane, especially when visibility’s bad from driving snow. Think twice about passing. More hours of darkness and foul weather mean we just don’t see as well on the road in winter.
- Give trucks and snowplows plenty of room. Stay well into your lane and don’t follow closely. Big vehicles blow a lot of snow around which lowers visibility.
- NEVER pass big vehicles on the right. Debris, rocks and ice that can crack your windshield get sprayed in all directions from snowplows.
- Don’t drive through snowdrifts. They may cause your vehicle to spin out of control.
- When it’s snowing, don’t use your brights. They will reduce, not improve, road visibility.
- If you’re noticing snow turn to sleet or ice, kick your defroster into high. If ice builds up on your windshield pull over when you’re in a safe place and use an ice scraper. Don’t try to squint through a small section of your windshield.
- Use extreme caution when approaching off-ramps, bridges and shady spots where snow or ice on the road may be worse.
- Never use cruise control in snow or when there’s a chance of ice. It can cause your tires to spin faster when you hit a slick spot then fishtail your vehicle when the tires regain traction.
About Using Snow Chains
- Carry chains and know how to use them, including which wheels you need to put them on.
- Near chain-up and removal areas, slow down even more and watch for people in the road.
- If you have to pull over because conditions are too bad to go on, get as far off on the shoulder as safely possible, turn off your headlights and turn on your hazard lights.
Remember that your best bet for driving this season is to make sure your tires can handle the winter conditions. Last but not least, be flexible. Sometimes it makes the most sense to stop somewhere for a while or the night to wait out the weather.
Read our winter driving series to learn how to avoid hydroplaning, to drive when it’s icy or foggy, and get real-time road conditions by state.SHOP WINTER TIRES
Winter Driving Tips: The Dangers of Using Just Two Snow Tires
When driving in winter conditions, including ice and snow, staying in control and on the road is the top priority that starts with equal traction on all four tires. Installing snow tires on just the front or back of your vehicle won’t do the job, and could put you and your family in danger. Here’s why it’s important to install snow tires on all four wheels before facing winter’s fury.
Is it Okay to Put Snow Tires on the Front Only?
The short answer is no. Your vehicle might have front-wheel drive, but installing snow tires on the front and not all four wheels could end with you oversteering or fishtailing around corners or when applying the brakes in certain weather conditions — even at low speeds. Essentially, your back end will spin around, facing the front of your vehicle in the wrong direction. This can be especially bad if you’re out of control around a mountain corner and sliding into oncoming traffic.
Why does this happen? Even if there is no power to the back wheels, they still play a vital role in cornering and braking. All-season tires aren’t designed for cold weather and harden up when temperatures near freezing. Because they’re harder and have less traction, they easily slide on the snow and ice. Winter tires are designed for the cold and stay softer in low temperatures, helping provide grip.
Is it Okay to Put Snow Tires on the Back Only?
Again, the answer is no. Mostly. While it’s not recommended, the only time this could work is on rear-wheel-drive only vehicles. Even in these cases, we still recommend four matching snow tires for optimal performance. Anything else, including 4x4s, front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive vehicles should have a full set of snow tires for best traction. Installing a set of snow tires on just the back wheels can easily cause your vehicle to understeer.
Why does this happen? When the front wheels have no traction it can become difficult to steer and stop. At that point, your front wheels are only helping guide your vehicle. Where you end up on the road is anyone’s guess. Additionally, installing snow tires on the rear only can cause anti-lock brakes and electronic traction control systems to malfunction.
Get Your Tire Chains and Snow Tires at Les Schwab
The weather can shift and worsen quickly in the West. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a full set of snow tires and carry traction devices for your vehicle. Stop by your local Les Schwab for expert advice on the right tires and chains for your car or truck. Check out our article How to: Choose Snow Tires for advice on finding the right snow tires for your needs.
Winter Driving Tips: Top Safety Reminders
There are always a million things to do when you’re heading out for the weekend. But planning ahead for winter driving can really pay off. All it takes is a few safe driving tips and checklists.
- Don’t use cruise control on slick surfaces. When it’s raining or snowing, cruise control can spin your tires and send your vehicle out of control.
- Create a winter driving safety kit. Already have an ice scraper for your windshield? Congratulations! You’re almost there. Here's a quick list of other items you may want.
- Learn how to drive on ice and snow with AAA.Whether you grew up driving in the winter or not, it’s always good to refresh your skills with these easy-to-understand tips.
- Print our before-you-go checklist. These quick infographics list out everything you’ll need for your winter drive.
- Know what to do if you get stuck in the snow. You might be one of the lucky few who never gets stuck, but, to be prepared, check out these helpful tips.
Be Ready for Any Weather
Even if the roads are clear when you head to work, they can be covered in snow and ice on the way home. The same goes for any weekend away, driving up to the slopes, over the passes, or through the canyons. Be prepared by getting your vehicle winter ready. That includes checking your tire pressure, tread, tires and devices.
SHOP WINTER TIRES
The Essential Summer Road Trip Checklist
Not to Worry: 27 Tips for Safest Night Driving
Driving at night can be a travel delight. Your favorite playlist, the open road, a feeling of adventure — what could be better?
But night driving brings into play some serious safety issues. The overall nighttime crash rate is about one-and-a-half times the daytime rate. Night crashes are statistically more severe, with the fatality rate three to four times that of daylight crashes.
The main problem is lower visibility. Visual cues like pavement markings and road signs are harder to see. Your depth perception, ability to make out colors and peripheral vision are all worse at night. Older drivers can be especially challenged: A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as the average 30-year-old.
Another safety issue is fatigue. Our bodies are programmed to get sleepy when it’s dark. If you are a parent taking advantage of young kids’ sleep time to log travel miles, you may be fighting exhaustion.
Plus, it takes a lot more concentration to drive at night. Here are some tips for getting to your destination safely during your night travels.
Before Your Night Travel
- Have the right tires mounted for the time of year, and make sure they’re properly inflated.
- Avoid having to change a flat after dark by checking your tires for wear. Uneven or too much tread wear makes tire failure more likely.
- Adjust your headlight beams. The aim can get a bit off over time, when the assembly loosens or your vehicle suspension sags. Follow the instructions in your vehicle owner’s manual or in this video.
- Make sure your headlights are clean. If they look foggy or hazy, you can polish them in a few minutes with some toothpaste and car wax to get a lot more light on the road.
- Clean your windshield. Glass with smudges or streaks on the inside or dirt on the outside make it even harder to see when it’s dark. You’ll also get tired quicker from straining to see.
- Dirty mirrors can increase glare. Clean your side mirrors and adjust them slightly downward so you can keep glare from other cars’ headlights out of your eyes.
- Refer to our summer road trip checklist or winter road trip checklist to make sure everything else on your vehicle is ready.
While You’re Underway
- Turn your headlights on an hour before the sun goes down and keep them on an hour after dawn. This improves your visibility to other drivers when the sun is low in the sky.
- Stay within the speed limit. You can’t see as far at night. With your low beams on, you can only see a maximum of about 250 feet in front of you on unlit roads. You’ll need that much or more to come to a stop, depending on your speed and the road conditions.
- Keep alert by frequently checking all your mirrors. Staring straight ahead for long periods will strain your eyes and lower your attention level.
- Don’t fight drooping eyelids or wait until you’re nodding off to stop. Do something to get your blood flowing and increase your attention, like doing a few stretches or taking a short walk. Get yourself a cup of coffee, or even take a short nap.
- Any time you need to stop, pull as far over onto the shoulder as you safely can and turn on your hazard lights.
- Clean your windshield whenever you make a pit stop or fill up your gas tank. Extra wiper fluid and a clean towel or some rags are good items to have in a road trip safety kit. Create one for summer and one for winter.
- Increase your following distance. Know that feeling when someone is tailgating you with their headlights shining into your rear-view mirror? It’s nerve-racking and the glare in your eyes can make it even harder to see potential problems ahead or by the roadside. Give yourself and others enough space to react.
- Watch roadsides for the reflections of animals’ eyes. Slow way down if you spot them. If you see one deer, there are likely others, so go slowly to be sure you’re past them all.
- Turn off interior lights. They can create glare that makes it harder to see the road.
- Dim your dashboard lights.
- Keep your car clear of cigarette smoke. It reduces vision.
- Don’t look directly into oncoming headlights. If light from a car coming the other way is blinding or creates glare, watch the white fog line on the right side of the road. You’ll still be able to see the oncoming traffic through peripheral vision while staying in your lane.
- Use high beams when there aren’t oncoming cars and it's right for the road conditions (no fog or heavy rain). They let you see about twice as far ahead as your low beams (350 to 500 feet) and expand your field of vision to the road shoulders. You must turn them to back to low at least 500 feet from an approaching vehicle and when you're within 200 to 300 feet of the vehicle you’re following.
- Use your fog lights for better visibility if it’s truly foggy, but don’t if it’s not. Using them when it’s clear out is unsafe for other drivers and may be a traffic violation.
- Only use any auxiliary lights you’ve mounted on your vehicle if they’re approved for road use. They can blind other drivers and make it hard for your eyes to adjust when you switch down to regular beams.
- If your rearview mirror has a night setting, use it.
- When you see signs for construction zones, be prepared for redirected traffic lanes, equipment and rough roads.
- Be on the lookout for people on foot or bike. Not everyone knows to wear reflective gear.
- Put down your cellphone. It’s a dangerous distraction, day or night, and it’s a traffic violation in many states to use your cell while driving.
- Above all, be a defensive driver during weekend nights, when there are more drunk drivers on the road.
Night driving can be a great way to beat the traffic and enjoy a little peace and quiet. Just be prepared and drive smart.
Get a free pre-trip safety check at any Les Schwab Tires.
7 Things To Do When Your Car is Stuck in Snow
A blizzard is on the way. You’ve stocked up on candles, hot cocoa and batteries. But what if you have to leave the house? Do you know how to get your car out of the snow if you get stuck?
From driving techniques to using props, here are seven ways to get your car moving again, plus some advice about how to prepare for a snowstorm.
Before It Snows
There are two key things to do BEFORE the storm arrives to be sure you can get your vehicle back on the road after a big snow. They can make the difference between looking like a genius and having huge hassles.
Have the right tires in the right condition.
If you live somewhere where storms can bring a foot or two of snow at once, you should definitely be running snow tires, not all-season tires. (Find out how to choose snow tires.) Before the snow starts falling, get your air pressure checked and make sure your tire tread’s in the proper condition.
Keep a snow shovel in your vehicle.
Not only will this come in handy for you, but you may also be a hero to those who are caught unprepared. (Speaking of preparedness, here’s a winter safety kit checklist of other items to keep in your car so you’re ready for pretty much any winter road condition.)
Before You Turn Your Vehicle On
Turn off traction control.
Both drive wheels will need to have traction for you to get unstuck. These are the front tires on a front-wheel-drive and the rear tires on rear-wheel drive, AWD and 4WD vehicles. Turn off the car’s traction control system (usually with a button somewhere on the dashboard or console).
Clear a path around the tires.
- Starting with the drive tires, dig the snow out from in front, underneath and in back. Clear a path long enough for wheels to move forward and back a few feet, assuming you have that much space on either end of the car. Remove any snow around the tires that’s higher than the ground clearance of the car. Dig out snow from under the front of your car. If you’re high-centered, with snow or ice under the vehicle blocking your exit, you won’t be going anywhere.
If you don’t have a shovel handy, try using a screwdriver, ice scraper or another tool to at least break up any ice that’s formed below the tires. A rougher surface area provides more traction.
- Also dig out the tailpipe before you start the engine. People have lost their lives from carbon monoxide building up inside a vehicle when they didn’t know the exhaust pipe was blocked.
1. The Forward-and-Back Technique
Start your vehicle, roll down your window and take off your hat or earmuffs so you can hear clearly. Even better, stick your head out the window to watch your front tire. You’ll get the best traction by straightening the wheel, so do this as much as your parking situation allows.
Put your vehicle in the lowest gear. If you’ve got a four-wheel drive SUV or pickup, engage the low-range gearing. Move forward just a bit.
Now slowly back up. Don’t rev the engine. Stop, then put it in forward and apply a little gas. This can tamp down loose snow and maybe give you enough traction to get out.
Listen carefully. If you hear any tire spinning, take your foot off the gas immediately.
2. The Braking Technique
If your vehicle didn’t move at all or a tire is spinning, try braking while at the same time that you’re giving a little gas. This should decrease the spinning and transfer some power to that wheel.
If you have a front-wheel-drive and there aren’t curbs or other cars blocking your way, try turning the wheels slightly the other way and see if that gives you more traction.
Don’t try this braking method for more than a few seconds. It can overheat your brakes which can compromise braking until they’ve cooled down.
3. Find Some Muscle
Sometimes a push from a few Good Samaritans will do the trick. Be 100 percent sure you use only the gear that keeps pushers out of harm’s way (Forward gear only if they're pushing your vehicle from behind.). Ask your helpers to push on the count of three as you gently apply the gas.
4. Use Snow Chains
If you’re still stuck and you have snow chains, it’s time to chain up. That almost always does the trick.
5. The Rocking Technique
If you don’t have chains, and your vehicle is moving forward some but then stopping, try “rocking” back and forth between forward and reverse gears. Give it a little gas just as the vehicle starts to swing forward out of reverse. This may give you enough momentum to drive out. But be aware that this kind of rapid shifting can overload your transmission. Only try it a few times or you could end up with expensive damage. It will be much cheaper to just call a tow truck.
6. Add Traction with Sand, Kitty Litter or Cardboard
If you’re still spinning, you can put something on the ground to add traction that won’t damage your tires. Try sprinkling sand or kitty litter in front of the drive tires (and behind them if you’re planning on backing out).
DON’T EVER USE ANTIFREEZE TO TRY TO MELT SNOW AND ICE. Antifreeze is toxic to children, pets, and wild animals, and it can find its way through storm drains to waterways where it can poison marine animals. Plus, in some states, it’s illegal to pour antifreeze on the ground. Using salt as a deicer is also a bad idea for the environment — and your vehicle. It’s corrosive to metal (like the undercarriage of your car) and becomes less effective below 25 degrees Fahrenheit anyway.
Another way to get traction is to lay cardboard, plywood, two-by-fours or even your vehicle’s floor mats down in front of the drive tires (or behind them if you’re starting in reverse). If you’re in the middle of nowhere, you can use weeds or branches from the side of the road. But caution: Clear the area and go very easy when accelerating. Sometimes the wheels can make whatever you put down for traction shoot out. And be aware your mats could get ruined. Again, it’s probably less out of your pocketbook to get a tow truck.
7. Let a Bit of Air Out of Your Tires
The last resort is to let a little air out of your tires, just enough so they look visibly lower. Only do this if you have a way to get them quickly refilled someplace close by. Driving on underinflated tires puts more rubber in contact with the ground and will give you better traction for a short distance. But driving this way isn’t safe and it could damage your tires if it’s a long way to the filling station.
Be Prepared When Your Car Does Break Free
If you’re in forward gear, don’t stop right away but drive somewhere you can see there’s less snow and you can safely stop. If you’re in reverse, keep backing up for a few yards, then take your foot off the gas. The snow will stop you. Next, put it in low gear and gently accelerate forward in the tracks you’ve made, just fast enough to break through where you were stuck.
Once You’re Unstuck from the Snow
Re-engage your traction control system, if you turned it off. If you engaged your low-range 4WD, disengage. Make sure your radiator has air flow. Snow packed into the front of the grille can cause engine overheating.
Go immediately to the closest service station and refill your tires if you let any air out.
If you notice a vibration in your steering wheel, check for snow packed into your wheels. Pull over someplace safe and knock the snow or ice out with an ice scraper or shovel.
Want a complete list of resources for winter driving safety? Here’s our guide for safe driving in winter, from prepping your vehicle to driving in bad conditions.
Important Notice: The information provided above is from a variety of resources deemed reasonably reliable. The operation of your vehicle, or the repair or replacement of your vehicle’s equipment, may be different than for a typical vehicle. Please consult your owner’s manual for specific warnings, notices, and other advice relative to the above.
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What You Need to Know About Road Conditions Right Now
If you’re traveling by car this winter, you’re going to want to bookmark the following guide for Western states, so you can find out what you need to know about road conditions right now. See current road reports, road cams, chain requirements, weather reports and winter storm warnings for California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
Guide to Real-time Road Conditions in Western States
For more on winter road safety, see our guide 19 Winter Driving Resources You Can’t Do Without.
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