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How to Dig Your Car Out of Snow

Try these tips next time you're struggling with a snowbound car.


  • Step 1: Prepare Put on warm layers and gloves. Think about which way you want your car to face after you’ve dug it out, and figure out where you will relocate the snow that’s around your car.
  • Step 2: Clear the door and the exhaust pipe Start by clearing a path to one of your car’s driver-side door. Then, clear out the snow from the rear of your car, making sure that your exhaust pipe is free of snow to avoid letting carbon monoxide fumes into the car.
  • TIP: Make sure you’re lifting the shovel with your legs, not your back, by bending your knees first.
  • Step 3: Start the car Start your car, turn your defroster to high, and make sure your car is in park with the parking brake engaged.
  • TIP: If the car lock is frozen, heat your key with a lighter before inserting it.
  • Step 4: Clear the rest of the snow Remove the snow underneath your car. Continue clearing the snow until there’s at least 2 feet of clear space around your car.
  • Step 5: Free the tires Get rid of the snow from behind and in front of all your tires, paying particular attention to the front wheels if your car is front-wheel drive, or the rear wheels for rear-wheel drive.
  • Step 6: Dig a path and drive out Dig a path to clear road. Brush the snow off your car, and use the window scraper if you have one; then try to drive it out.
  • TIP: Apply slow, steady pressure to the gas pedal -- don't floor it. If you are driving a standard shift, put your car in low gear.
  • Step 7: Rock the car or get a push If you can’t get traction, rock the car. Shift between forward and reverse if you're driving an automatic, letting the engine settle back to idle each time before switching gears. If all else fails, get someone to push your car while you apply the gas.
  • FACT: A 39-inch snowfall in 24 hours in early December 1995 cost the city of Buffalo, New York, nearly $5 million for snow removal.

You Will Need

  • Warm clothes and gloves
  • A snow shovel
  • Someone to help push
  • A lighter (optional)
  • A window scraper (optional)

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