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Is Your Car Stuck in Mud? Here’s How to Free It

A tire on a car stuck in mud.

Most everyone will get their car stuck in mud at least once, either by accident or in search of adventure. When this happens, there are a few things to keep in mind and some tricks you can try to avoid calling a tow truck.

Keep Calm and Drive Ondeep tire treads in mud

The first thing to remember is not to panic — don’t try to accelerate your way out of it. Patience is really key here, because the faster your wheels spin, the less likely they are to grab anything and the more likely they are to dig you in deeper. This is not a problem you can solve with force; you must use car coercion.

Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle

Try turning the wheels left to right a couple of times to clear out a little space. If possible, get out and get dirty by shoveling or scooping the mud from the ground directly in front of your tires, lessening the angle of ascent they must climb to get out of the rut. This will hopefully allow you to gain a little momentum before crawling out.

Rock the Boat

Speaking of momentum, another way to achieve it is to try inching back and forth a little. Make sure that all of your passengers are out of the car to reduce the weight and that everyone is a safe distance away from the vehicle. Shifting rapidly between forward and reverse is bad business for your transmission, so keep it to an absolute minimum, instead opting to drive a little, then let off, allowing yourself to rock a bit.

Something to Hold on To

Mud slippage occurs because you can’t gain traction, so do what you can to add some. Put an old blanket or towel, sticks or floor mats directly in front of the tires on the drive axle. You can pinpoint whether the trouble is with the front or rear by paying attention to which tires are spinning quickly.

A Wheel in the Mud Keeps on Turningdeep tire treads in mud

You’ll have a better chance of escape if your wheels are pointing directly forward. You can also try letting a little air out of your tires for a bigger footprint … just remember to reinflate as soon as you get back on the road. When you’re ready to move out, make sure your transmission is in a low gear for automatics or a higher gear for manuals, then very slowly and smoothly give the car a little gas. If this is getting you nowhere, remember not to spin your wheels out of frustration. Retry a couple of steps before giving up.

Call on Me

If all else fails, call a friend or flag down a passerby. Hopefully, if you live in an area where mud pits are common, you already know to carry around your own tow straps for this occasion. Using the manufacturer’s guide for proper installation and use, safely attach the strap and follow the instructions for pulling.

Once you’re out, remember to drive slowly at first to clean off the remaining mud on your tires. Most importantly, don’t forget to get a good, thorough clean as soon as possible.

Check out all the steering and suspension parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to deal with a car stuck in mud, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Blair Lampe View All

Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter.  In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.

One thought on “Is Your Car Stuck in Mud? Here’s How to Free It Leave a comment

  1. I was stuck in the mud today!!!!!!!!!For 2 hours I tried to escape ………….then I read this article and I was out in 10 mins. Rocking back and forth got me out…….crawling out of the mud is key……thanks

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