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  • Writer's pictureKatie Davis Himmel

Snow Tips & Tricks

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

It's totally normal to cry. Let it out.

Hello Chicagoans!

This past weekend I helped some neighbors get their car unstuck from our back alley (💪) and realized how much random knowledge I've just been hoarding in my brain that needed to be shared. (My dad is an auto-mechanic so I learned a lot of the pre-tow truck hacks over the years.)

I posted these Snow Tips & Tricks in my Chicago neighborhood group and got 200 likes and 50 comments so far. (!!!) I wanted to memorialize the content and make it more bookmark-able to be your annual omg-I'm-stuck reference guide.

Check out all the tips & tricks below and feel free to bookmark or share this post.

It was incredibly difficult to verbalize some of the muscle-memory-moves, so please post a comment or send me an email if I missed anything or if you have any handy Tips & Tricks to add!

Ugh. Yay winter.

Tips and Tricks for when your car is stuck in snow and ice:

  • First things first, make sure around your car is as clear as possible. When shoveling, yourself as much wiggle room as possible to build up momentum with the weight of your car to be able to fling yourself into the hopefully-more-plowed street. Metal ended shovels work best

  • Know if your car is front-wheel drive and plan accordingly. Most smaller cars are, and this makes your job harder. But you can do it. Now, let's begin:

  • Turn off traction control if you have it

  • Put your car in first gear (if you only have ‘D’ (drive) do the ‘-‘ (minus) offering if you have that. This will try to keep your tires from spinning. Spinning is bad. Try to avoid that. It will just dig you in deeper

  • Keep your tires straight rocking back and forth a few inches at a time until you feel confident that you’re free enough to go for it! (turning the wheel/tires can help you dig in deeper, so avoid that until you feel sure of your freedom)

  • If those above don’t work, then things get real. Try to figure out which tire is spinning the most and start focusing there

  • We need to add traction. Sand, kitty litter, or rock salt are good at this. These are not always on hand, so keep reading on creative traction-adding items... 1) Turn the car off for safety and take floormats out of the car (or cardboard boxes, towels, blankets — whatever you have that is thin and can be wedged under the tires. And that you don't care to smush/ruin/need to wash) 2) Clean out all you can around each tire. Wedge your traction-adding-item under the tires in the direction that you need to go (meaning: the cardboard will go in front of spinning tires if you need to go forward, cardboard behind spinning tire if needing to go in reverse). Get back in the car and repeat all the above. (Traction control off, be in first gear, wheels straight...) 3) Start with the rock salt (or 'ice melt') as first choice if you are headed to the store. This will also help melt the snow and ice on top of adding traction to your tires

  • Find neighbors to help push in the direction you need to go. Make sure you communicate about if you are in Drive or Reverse so you don’t run anyone over

  • Take your time. Getting stressed and feeling rushed and just spinning your tires will make it worse. People can wait for you. We’re all in this together.

  • Once you *do* get free. Try your best to avoid having to brake and lose the momentum you worked so hard for. Have a clear path to get all the way out to the street and make sure there is no oncoming traffic. Momentum is your friend. Stay in first gear or ‘-‘ the whole time until you are free and clear in the street to stop and celebrate and put your car in regular ‘drive’ and go on with your life

  • I have one more trick I’m not typing here because it’s totally not safe. (Ha!) But reach out to me if none of this works and I can add one more thing to this list before you need to give up and call a tow truck

  • Keep trying and take breaks if it’s freezing out. Walk to the nearest store with a bag of salt and dump a ton around the spinning wheels. Try all the above once more. If that doesn’t work go take a nap and/or cry somewhere privately and start again later

  • I think the biggest thing overall I’d know if your car is front-wheel drive and use the weight of your car strategically. Those powered tires are what matter most


Did I miss anything? Comment with other tips and tricks if you know of any!


PRO TIP: Did you know the city of Chicago has an AWESOME digital Chicago 311 service?! You can request your street to be plowed or request your back alley to be ‘tracked’ online (or via the smartphone app) using the tool. It's super fun.

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