All the right equipment, winter tyres fitted – but your car still ends up in the ditch or in the middle of a snowdrift? In this situation good advice can be worth its weight in gold, especially if you skid on a side road with no help at hand. The experts at TÜV SÜD have some helpful hints on what action to take if you get stuck in winter snow.
Exercise moderation: Generally, the first action of motorists who are stuck is to try to get their cars moving again on their own, as can be witnessed time and again in scenes of frantic revving and spinning tyres. This only makes matters worse, however. It is better to increase the load on the driving axle and accelerate carefully. The second gear is best for this purpose. It's also important to remember "be seen, be safe", so switch on your hazard lights.
Rock to get rolling: Where patience and applying load are of no avail, motorists can resort to a combination of the two: rocking the car to and fro. To do so, drivers must start a swinging motion by alternately pressing the gas pedal and releasing the clutch at regular intervals. The rocking distance must then be carefully extended and the rocking momentum used to get the car over the obstacle. Motorists driving a car with automatic transmission must alternate skilfully between the R and D position of the gear lever.
Get a grip: As a helpful hint when trying to get your car unstuck, a door mat or special grid placed under the wheel of the driving axle provides the necessary grip and traction. But ensure that people in the vicinity of the car keep their distance. Items placed under wheels may turn into missiles.
Shovelling: A shovel, snow chains and lamps are helpful in escaping the grip of the snow. Blankets and hot drinks prove valuable when motorists have to wait for help. TÜV SÜD's tip: when shovelling snow, take care to clear the snow both in front of and behind the wheels on the driving axle and make sure that both the axle and the underbody are free. Clearing the snow from the wheels is useless if the car itself is actually sitting on a mound of snow.
Spray your way out:In the experience of the TÜV SÜD experts, sprays with "snow-chain effect" and other coatings that claim to improve grip do not live up to their promises.
Towing: If the car has become damaged after skidding and has to be towed, use a rod instead of a rope on icy roads – otherwise keeping your distance from the car in front may turn into a gamble. TÜV SÜD's experts therefore advise motorists to always keep a tow-rod in the boot during winter.
Move down a gear: Prevention is always better than cure. By adjusting your driving behaviour to the conditions and dropping down a gear instead of your normal speed, you can make your journey on icy roads safer.
For more information and tips on driving in winter, go to www.tuev-sued.de.
(Article revised for UK)