There are a couple things you should do BEFORE the storm hits that will help make sure your vehicle can weather the roads.
Invest in snow tires if you live somewhere that gets more than a few inches of snow. Before the snow falls, get your air pressure checked and make sure your tire tread is in the proper condition.
You'll be glad you did if you or someone else on the road needs help digging out. Check out this helpful guide for putting together a complete winter safety kit for your car.
Both drive wheels will need to have traction for you to get unstuck. These are the front tires on a front-wheel-drive and the rear tires on rear-wheel drive, AWD and 4WD vehicles. Turn off the car’s traction control system (usually with a button somewhere on the dashboard or console).
Starting with the drive tires, dig the snow out from in front, underneath and in back. If you don't have a shovel, try using a screwdriver, ice scraper or other tool to at least break up any ice that's formed below the tires. A rougher surface area provides more traction.
Clear a path long enough for wheels to move forward and back a few feet, assuming you have that much space on either end of the car. Remove any snow around the tires that’s higher than the ground clearance of the car. Dig out snow from under the front of your car. If you’re high-centered, with snow or ice under the vehicle blocking your exit, you won’t be going anywhere.
Be sure to clear any snow blocking your vehicle's tailpipe before starting the engine. People have lost their lives from carbon monoxide buildup due to a blocked exhaust pipe!
Sometimes a push from a few Good Samaritans will do the trick. Be sure that you use only the gear that keeps pushers out of harm's way (Forward gear only if they are pushing your vehicle from behind.) Ask your helpers to push on the count of three as you gently apply the gas.
If your vehicle is moving forward some but then stopping, try “rocking” back and forth between forward and reverse gears. Give it a little gas just as the vehicle starts to swing forward out of reverse. This may give you enough momentum to drive out. But be aware that this kind of rapid shifting can overload your transmission. Only try it a few times or you could end up with expensive damage. It will be much cheaper to just call a tow truck.
If you’re still spinning, you can put something on the ground to add traction that won’t damage your tires. Try sprinkling sand or kitty litter in front of the drive tires (and behind them if you’re planning on backing out).
Another way to get traction is to lay cardboard, plywood, two-by-fours or even your vehicle’s floor mats down in front of the drive tires (or behind them if you’re starting in reverse). If you’re in the middle of nowhere, you can use weeds or branches from the side of the road. But caution: Clear the area and go very easy when accelerating. Sometimes the wheels can make whatever you put down for traction shoot out. And be aware your mats could get ruined. Again, it’s probably less out of your pocketbook to get a tow truck.
The last resort is to let a little air out of your tires, just enough so they look visibly lower. Only do this if you have a way to get them quickly refilled someplace close by. Driving on under-inflated tires puts more rubber in contact with the ground and will give you better traction for a short distance. But driving this way isn’t safe and it could damage your tires if it’s a long way to the filling station.
Re-engage your traction control system, if you turned it off. If you engaged your low-range 4WD, disengage. Make sure your radiator has air flow. Snow packed into the front of the grille can cause engine overheating. Go immediately to the closest service station and refill your tires if you let any air out. If you notice a vibration in your steering wheel, check for snow packed into your wheels. Pull over someplace safe and knock the snow or ice out with an ice scraper or shovel.