Wintertime Survival Guide

How to get unstuck from a snowbank

Help From a Pro: Jerry Hunt, AAA Southern New England tow truck driver

By Rebecca Dorr Sampson
January 30, 2011

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Nobody wants to be that poor soul stranded street-side with car tires spinning. As a tow truck driver, Jerry Hunt has pulled plenty of those drivers out of snowbanks, and his experience has taught him to proceed slowly and with extra caution in slippery conditions. “Pay attention to traffic, and don’t be in a hurry,” he says. “You’ll get there eventually.”

Being prepared is crucial. Hunt recommends stocking your car with snow-fighting essentials such as an ice scraper, a shovel, and a bucket of sand. “Little tools like that can help,” he says. Always keep your gas tank at least half-full (that way, you can keep the car – and the heat – running in an emergency), and make sure you have warm clothing, a blanket, a couple of flares, sand, and a fully charged cellphone.

If you do get stuck, don’t panic. Use your shovel to clear snow away from all four wheels and the car’s tailpipe. Throw sand in the path – front and back – of your drive wheels for traction. Then start the car, put it in reverse, and back up a little. Next, put it in drive and creep forward. Rock the car back and forth this way, without gunning the engine, and you might just find yourself unstuck. If not, use that cellphone: “Don’t be afraid to call for help,” says Hunt. “Let us get you out of there, get you home.”