Getting “bogged” as it’s so affectionately known, is a situation that most drivers who go off-road will eventually find themselves in. It’s so easy to do, as you misjudge a particular piece of track, and you find your wheels sinking in the snow or mud. Or perhaps you’ve sped too fast into a corner, lost traction on the turn, and have come off the road and you’re stuck.
It can be frustrating, and depending on just how your car is stuck getting it out again can be a challenge. But there are a few hard and fast rules to follow that will help you to quickly free your car from the mud or snow. Once you understand these, it becomes so much simpler to get unstuck, and get back to your trip. Ready to get into it?
Get your foot off the gas
We’re wired to think that stomping the gas will drive us forward, but if you’re stuck and you’re not moving, all you’re really doing is digging the hole deeper. The more your wheels spin, the deeper your car will sink. And of course, making it all the more difficult to get yourself out again. So take your foot off the gas, get out of your car and go have a look to see what’s causing the situation you’re in.
Turn low-range 4x4 o
If you haven’t already, now would be the perfect time to switch down to low range 4x4. This setting is perfect for sticky situations, like soft sand, thick snow, and deep mud, as it’ll ensure all the wheels have ample power to get you through whatever has you stuck. Some older cars have wheel locks you’ll need to activate for low range, others are a push-button. Make sure this is turned on, and get back the traction you need.
Deflate your tires
Getting your car moving again is all about traction, and the more surface area of your tire that’s in contact with the ground, the higher your chances that something will grip. So deflate your tires a couple of PSI, until these flatten out. You don’t want to overdo it, as that’ll cause even more issues, just enough to give you some extra tire to ground ratio, and a little bit more grip so you can drive yourself free.
Rock or turn your tires
What’s causing you to remain stuck is the fact the ground underneath your tires is just too soft. If you can compact it a little, with the weight of your car, it can often provide just enough traction to get you out. Try turning your wheel from left to right, or rocking backwards and forwards to flatten just enough ground, so you can get out. You don’t want to burn out your transmission doing this, and if your car isn’t moving, it’s not working. Stop, and try another technique to get your car free.
Use a traction mat
If none of the above work, the easiest solution is to use a set of traction mats. They’re exactly what they sound like, a piece of lightweight yet hard plastic, that slides under your wheels so your tires have something to grip. As your car drives forward, the gripping spikes underneath hold fast in the ground, so you can quickly drive out and free your car. These are a must-have for anyone driving on unsealed backroads, as you can free your car from mud or snow in minutes, and get back to your adventure.
Improvise a traction mat
For the times you’ve not packed your traction mats, or haven’t gotten around to buying these, you’re going to have to improvise. With a shovel, dig out the snow or mud from around your tires, and pack this empty area with branches, rocks, gravel, or whatever materials you can find, to give your wheels something to grip as you drive it out. I usually look around for small logs, about the width of my wrist, that I can cut down into manageable lengths to slide in under my wheels. It takes time, and if you’re on a long trip I’d recommend keeping these in your trunk, in case you happen to get stuck a second time.
Get a winch and chain
A must-have if you’re driving off road is a mechanical winch and chain, or a tow rope that you can secure to something sturdy, and use it to pull your car free. The trick to this working is that whatever you’re attaching your winch to, it’s strong enough to take the weight of your car as you pull it free. Look around, and use the sturdiest tree possible, and remember to go gently. Pull too hard, too fast, and you’re likely to yank the anchor tree out of the ground, or do real damage to your vehicle. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
Improvise an anchor
But there are times when there’s nothing sturdy around. Perhaps you’re in the middle of a sandy beach or desert, with no trees at all. You can improvise an anchor with your spare tire, simply dig a four-foot hole, and wedge the tire in on a 45-degree angle (pointed away from your car). Again, remember to start the winch running slowly, as the last thing you want is to find your anchor isn’t buried deep enough and the sudden pull has yanked it from the ground and your spare tire is now hurtling towards you. Go slow to winch yourself free.
Getting your car stuck in the backwoods, in the middle of nowhere, can feel like a stressful situation, but it’s really not. With this knowledge you now understand what it takes to get your car free, no matter what gear or equipment you have on hand. It’s much easier with traction mats, but in all honesty – you might not even need these to get your vehicle free, once you know what to do.