Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

How to get a car unstuck by yourself

How to get a car unstuck by yourself

Knowing the right way to get a car unstuck by yourself can mean the difference between getting unstuck with no damage or getting unstuck and causing serious transmission damage.

The most common way to get unstuck is the way to cause the most transmission damage.

Why you shouldn’t rock back and forth by shifting between Drive and Reverse

Most drivers think the correct way to rock yourself out of a ditch is to alternate between reverse and drive while gunning the engine. BAD!

When you switch between Drive and Reverse you’re forcing the transmission to engage clutch packs and bands, speed up, and then immediately release those clutch packs and bands and apply others and then speed up.

With each gear change, there’s a small amount of clutch slip and that creates heat. Then you slam it back into reverse and repeat the process.

All that heat and friction chews up your clutches and bands. You’ll create the damage in winter, but the symptoms usually don’t appear until Spring. That’s when you’ll start to notice late shifts, missing shifts, “shift flare,” and even slipping. That kind of transmission damage can easily cost upwards of $4,000 to repair.

So trying to get your car unstuck by rocking between Drive and Reverse can cost you 26X more than the cost of a tow. Not smart.

The correct way to get a car unstuck yourself

You can avoid transmission damage and still attempt to extricate yourself from a ditch. Here’s how.

• Place the transmission in LOW gear.
• Accelerate until the vehicle starts to move forward.
• Then let off the gas and allow the car to roll backward.
• As soon as it reaches maximum backwards roll, apply just enough gas to force it forward again.

I’m not talking “gunning” it here. Just enough to use the vehicle’s momentum to get you out. This method keeps the transmission in one gear and eliminates all the shifting and extra heat buildup. It works as long as you use just the minimum amount of gas to move the vehicle.


© 2012 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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