Snowmageddon: What to do if you get stuck in snow

Heavy snow has been predicted for large parts of the UK in the next 24 hours, with the Met Office warning drivers to expect road disruptions across the country.

Scotland and Northern Ireland seem to be set to get the worst of it, but many parts of England, stretching from the North to the Midlands and beyond are also due to see heavy snow, gale force winds and other wintry hazards across the coming days.

While we might be relatively lucky in that Britain is usually sheltered from the sorts of freak blizzards that occur in North America and in parts of northern Europe, you never can bank on the weather here being predictable.

Of course, the winter weather brings with it a particularly nasty set of challenges  that drivers in the UK have to deal with. Up there among the worst possible scenario is getting snowed in while you’re still in your car.

It doesn’t happen all that often in this country, but it does happen. Only last December, dozens of drivers and coach passengers were forced to abandon their vehicles after getting stuck in the snow in Yorkshire.

In the face of unpredictable conditions, it’s always best to be prepared for the worst. So what exactly do you do if you get snowed in while on the road? Here’s our quick list of top tips for surviving a snow-in.

Assess your situation

The first thing to do if you end up getting stuck is to remain calm and get a handle on your situation. Resist the urge to simply gun the accelerator and try to force yourself out; you’ll either end up just spinning your wheels and getting stuck, or losing control and ending up in a much worse situation.

Instead, take a deep breath and take a look around you. Is your car in or near a built-up area which you could walk to in order to get help? Are there other cars around you that are also stuck? Do you have phone signal to call for help?

If the weather is particularly bad, you can also either turn on the radio or use a weather app on your mobile device if you have signal to determine how long it’s due to last, and whether it’s better to wait for things to clear up or to seek help and/or shelter.

The first thing to do when you get stuck is to try to get a good idea of the situation you’re in. Are you near a built up area where you could walk to try to get help? Are there any other cars that are stuck nearby?

Make yourself visible

It’s crucially important that you make yourself and your car as visible as possible, particularly in bad weather. The first thing you should do is turn your hazard lights on, and if you have a reflective warning triangle or something similar, it’s advisable to put that outside your car as well.

If you have a high-visibility jacket or other brightly-coloured and distinctive clothing on you, you should also put this on and wear it whenever you go outside the car.

Particularly in bad weather, being as visible as possible can be the difference between rescue workers or other drivers seeing you and getting back-ended by another car.

Keep your exhaust clear

It might seem like an odd tip, but it’s vitally important that you make sure that your car’s exhaust is clear from deep snow.

If the tailpipe become clogged with snow or other debris, even the tiniest leak in the exhaust system will cause deadly carbon monoxide to enter the cabin.

Invisible, tasteless and odourless, carbon monoxide can’t be detected without the use of special equipment, and will cause you to fall into a coma and even die if it’s not allowed to escape.

To make sure this doesn’t happen, dig your exhaust free of snow if it gets covered and open one of your car’s windows by a hair to allow air to circulate and potentially deadly gases to escape.

Keep an emergency kit

During winter months, you should keep some vitally important pieces of kit in your car in the event of adverse weather conditions or heavy snowfall. This should include high-visibility clothing, a blanket, rug or sleeping bag and de-icer with an ice scraper.

A shovel, pieces of carpet or thick cardboard to place under the wheels to help you get extra traction and a torch with spare batteries are also essentials, along with a tow rope and extra screen wash.

Shovel yourself out

If you’ve assessed your situation and you deem it safe to shovel yourself free, give it a go. After all, there’s no sense in resigning yourself to being stuck in your car unless you absolutely have to be.

Use your shovel to dig snow out from under the wheels and from the path ahead, and place the pieces of carpet or cardboard under the wheels that drive your car.

You should then start gently in second gear to avoid wheelspin and ensure that you’re well and clear of the snow until you walk back to retrieve your cardboard.

Stay with your car

Conversely, if conditions are so bad that you can’t get out and there’s nowhere nearby that you can take shelter, make sure that you stay inside your car. It’ll provide shelter from the cold and the weather, and also help rescue workers find you more easily.

Layer up

It’s going to get cold if you have to stay in your car, so make sure that you layer on all the clothes that you have with you, and wrap yourself in your warm blanket or sleeping bag if you have one.

Remember to eat and drink

It’s not just your car that needs fuel, you do as well, particularly in a bad weather. Along with the supplies in your emergency kit, you should also make sure to carry bottles of water and a couple of snacks in your car to keep your energy levels up.

Make some friends

If you’re in a situation where other cars are stuck around you and nobody’s going anywhere, why not get out of your car to see how the people around you are doing?

Other drivers mightn’t be as well-prepared as you, so if you can help them out then other road users will definitely appreciate it. As well as that, conversation will pass the time and you’ll always be safer and easier to spot if you’re in a group.

Top up your fuel

Make sure that you always have at least half a tank’s worth of fuel in your car during the winter. It might seem a little ridiculous, but if you find yourself stranded you’ll be glad that you filled it up.

Firing up the engine now and again will help to warm you and your car up, and could also keep it from freezing up in particularly cold conditions. Just make sure that you don’t leave it running, you don’t want to run out!

Chill out

If you’re in a rural area, you might end up stuck for a considerable amount of time, so the best thing to do is to stay calm, stay positive and wait for help.

The worst thing to do is to waste your energy and time getting stressed out over something that’s beyond your control. If you’re really in a pinch, why not stay warm by having a chuckle about the irony of our terrible “stay cool” puns? Or not!

Keep your car in good nick

It’s also important to keep your car in good condition throughout the winter period, when the weather can wreak particular havoc on it and its internal workings.

Cold weather can also drain the battery of your car, so it’s good advice to turn off anything that puts unnecessary stress on the battery, for example plugged-in MP3 players. As well as that, a few simple checks like antifreeze and oil levels can go a long way to helping you out.

Perrys offers a full range of servicing options to help you on your way, along with our special 25-point Winter Safety Check. Priced from just £25, our team of experts will give your car everything it needs to survive the cold, including all vital fluid top-ups.

We can also fit winter tyres to your car to help you cope with the season, so why not get in touch today to see what we can do to help you?