While being able to explore the countryside far from civilization is one of the best things about ATV riding, the distance you put between yourself and rescue equipment can become a real problem should you get into a sticky situation out on the trail.
Wondering what to do when your ATV gets stuck? Fortunately, there are a couple of tricks you can try for getting your ATV out before starting the long walk back to town. Let’s take a look at five helpful hints for breaking free of any rough terrain, whether mud, snow or ice.
1. Use Your Winch
Attaching a winch to your ride is one of the easiest ways to deal with the frustration of trying to figure out what to do when your ATV gets stuck. A small winch that can be fixed to the front or the rear of your vehicle can tug you out of the mud and the muck — as long as there’s something to anchor it to. If you’re riding with a buddy, you can use a winch anchored to your partner’s ATV as leverage to pull yourself out of a tough spot.
2. Bring a Come-Along and Tow Straps
If a winch is outside of your budget, then you can always carry around the next best thing: a come-along and a set of straps. Essentially hand-powered winches, these tools can be used to pull your way out of trouble, either alone or with the help of a friend. Best of all, they fit in most backpacks, which makes them easy to keep close at hand while riding.
3. Make Your Own Anchor
You can also bring your own anchor in the event that there are no trees or rocks on which to attach your straps. Some ATV riders pack a small steel rod with an eyebolt welded to the top, while others carry a set of ice-climbing anchors with them. Drive your anchor into the ground at a slight angle away from your vehicle and attach your straps to tug your way out of trouble.
4. Dig Out With a Shovel
But what to do when your ATV gets stuck with no anchor points for your winch or straps, such as an open, snowy field? A folding shovel can be your best friend in these situations. This all-purpose tool will help you dig out any snow trapped under your rig and help your tires reach a more solid surface. Traction is key in the snow, and if your ATV is high-sided in the white stuff, a shovel can be your ticket out.
5. Rock Back and Forth
Wildly spinning your wheels only confirms how little traction there is underneath your ATV. The key to breaking free from mud or snow can often be as simple as getting a little momentum going by rocking your vehicle forwards and backwards and taking advantage of the resulting pendulum effect. Using your body to lean into the rocking motion will help to thrust your vehicle out of trouble and into a state of traction once again.
Tips like these will make sure that you ride — not walk — happily home, which is what owning an ATV is all about.
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.