Off-roading is a popular activity that people participate in all over Arizona. There are even clubs and Facebook groups dedicated to it!
The activity isn’t without its risks, though. You run the chance of encountering patches of thick mud, especially in the days and weeks following rain. For the most part, you may be able to determine if it is safe to drive through, but even the most experienced off-roader can be misled and find themselves stuck.
Should this situation arise, it is important that you know what to do. How you approach the situation could mean the difference between getting yourself unstuck, or waiting hours (and spending a lot of money) for a tow truck to help you.
Here are seven tips to get your car unstuck from mud:
Like we said, even the most avid off-roader can potentially find themselves stuck. It is safest to plan ahead. One of the best things you can do is include the following items in your roadside emergency kit before you take off on your adventure:
- Shovel– This is probably the most useful tool for getting your vehicle unstuck. You can use your hands or another item for digging or scooping, but a shovel will get the job done quickly and with the most ease. (If more than one tire is stuck, your back and hands will be glad that you had a shovel.) You don’t have to try and figure out how to fit a garden shovel in your car. A D-handle or foldable shovel will work perfectly and fit in your vehicle with ease.
- Cardboard, Carpet, or Plywood– A piece of cardboard, carpet or plywood can help provide traction.
- Plastic Recovery Tracks– A step up from the carpet/cardboard solution, a molded plastic recovery track like the Maxtrax MKII or the MAXSA Innovations 20333, won’t sink or slide under your tire. As an added bonus, when held at the end they can be used as a shovel.
- Hi-Lift Jack– A hi-lift jack can be used to lift a stuck tire so you can slip your traction device (cardboard, carpet, recovery tracks) underneath it with ease.
- Tow Strap– This is great to have if you are off-roading in a group. If you have a tow strap you can use one vehicle to help free another. You should avoid using straps with hooks, as they can be dangerous if the strap breaks. Remember to only connect to automobile frames, and not the body or bumpers
If you find that you are stuck, avoid panicking and acting rashly. Avoid the urge to slam your foot on the gas, as you will only get yourself into a deeper hole, literally and figuratively. Remove your foot from the gas and take calming breaths until you are composed.
Assess the Situation
Get out of the vehicle and assess the situation, then make a game plan. If your wheels are so deeply buried that the axle and chassis are now resting on the ground, you will know that you have a lot of work ahead of you. Same goes if you have more than one wheel sunken into the mud or sand. If the drive wheels are sunken, or if your car is tottering by its frame enough to alter its weight distribution and reducing traction in the drive wheels, getting it unstuck will also prove to be a little more difficult and time-consuming. If your case is less severe than all of that, you will probably get out somewhat easily.
Try the Easy Escape
If your situation doesn’t appear to be very severe, try and gently accelerate your vehicle out of the mud. Use your steering wheel and make sure that your front wheels point straight. For vehicles with an automatic transmission, use the lowest gear setting. For a manual transmission, you should try a higher gear like first or second. Gently accelerate, rocking the vehicle slightly, to see if the vehicle moves without the wheels spinning in place. If you move slightly, but don’t escape, throttle up and try to conserve the momentum you’ve built. At this point, the wheels may start to spin faster than the vehicle moves, which is fine as long as you continue to move in the direction of escape. If you stop moving and/or start to drift uncontrolled, stop. You don’t want to drift further into the mud or towards any potential oncoming traffic.
Ask Someone for Help
Your passenger or a willing passerby can prove to be helpful. Ask them to stand at the side of the vehicle that is opposite your escape path and push. Use the same method as before–slowly accelerating and rocking. Hopefully, they will be able to help push you out of the initial dip. You might find that, while rocking, it also helps to move your steering wheel back and forth. This will wiggle the front of the vehicle and could build momentum to the back and forth rocking. Essentially what is happening is the front wheels are acting as flippers with the back wheels and you are “swimming” the car out of the mud.
If you aren’t getting anywhere with the above tips, then it’s safe to assume your wheels and axles are buried too deep for an easy escape. Now it’s time to dig out the mud surrounding your tires. Gently scrape mud from off the tires as well so that you can see some tread. If you have one, use your jack to lift the tires a little then place your cardboard, carpet, plywood or plastic recovery track in front of the wheels. If you don’t have one of these, a coat, blanket, or car mat can be used. You could even try gravel, rocks, foliage, or sticks. You just need something to provide traction. Accelerate slowly and you should hopefully find yourself unstuck soon.
Time for a Tow
If you have tried everything listed above and you are still stuck, it may be time to blow the whistle and call for a tow. This could be a tow truck or a friend who can use a tow strap and/or winch to help you out.
At Virginia Auto Service, we love to help you with your vehicle and safety in any way we can. We hope you find these tips for getting your vehicle out of the mud helpful. For high-quality auto repair services, give the experts at Virginia Auto Service a try. Call (602) 266-0200 or schedule an appointment online.