Braving rough terrain in a strong & durable vehicle has a way of making you feel powerful—like nothing can stop you. And usually, that’s the case. But sooner or later, you’ll inevitably find yourself in a sticky situation—literally. For those moments when your vehicle seems hopelessly stuck in the mud, sand, or dirt, here’s how to get unstuck while off-roading.
Best Ways To Get Your Truck Unstuck
First things first: stop gunning your engine and spinning your tires. Face it, you’re stuck, and that’s not going to get you out. Instead, try one (or several) of these methods for getting your truck unstuck.
Release Air From Your Tires
If you’re stuck in a soft substance like mud or sand, it may be helpful to release a little bit of air from your tires, lowering the tire pressure. This will give your tires a little extra traction, as they will now have more surface area in contact with the ground with which to grip. The pressure of your tires can safely be lowered by about 10 pounds—any more, and you’ll risk your tires being so underinflated that they won’t be of much use or will slip off your rims. Just remember to reinflate your tires as soon as possible after you’re unstuck.
Dig It Out
For times such as these, it’s a good idea to keep a shovel in the back of your off-roading vehicle. Using a shovel, dig out the area directly in front of the stuck tires. This will remove the barrier that was preventing the vehicle from moving forward. This is a technique you can try if you get stuck while off-roading solo. Keep in mind that digging your truck out will likely work better when it’s stuck in solid ground rather than in highly liquid mud.
Use a Jack
Sometimes, all your vehicle needs to get unstuck is a little extra lift. It’s advisable to purchase a hi-lift jack to keep in the back of your vehicle just in case, as the tire jack that came with your vehicle won’t do you much good in this situation. If your tires are mostly or completely buried, use the jack to raise them out of the rut. Then fill up the hole with dirt or place a board or another type of material beneath the tires so that your truck’s tires rest on that instead. This will give your vehicle the traction it needs to get out of the rut.
Generally, if your vehicle isn’t too badly stuck, adding some extra traction is a good way to get out of a pickle. Traction boards are a reliable way to give your vehicle the traction it needs to get unstuck. These boards are typically orange and made of plastic, and they’re covered in little pegs to create a rough surface. If you have one of these, simply wedge it peg side up under whichever of your tires is stuck. Then get back into your vehicle and slowly step on the gas until you feel the wheel gain traction. Even if you don’t have access to traction boards, the concept still stands—in a pinch, you can use other materials like sticks and brush from outside, plywood, a square of carpet, or even your vehicle’s floor mats to give your tires the traction they need.
A recovery strap kit is an affordable and reliable way to get your vehicle unstuck. To use this method, you’ll need to have a recovery strap with you and at least one other vehicle to pull the stuck vehicle out. Recovery straps are long, elastic straps that have either loops or hooks on their ends which can be used to connect the straps to a vehicle, then connect two vehicles to one another.
To get a vehicle unstuck using recovery straps, first identify the recovery points on your vehicle—these are the points on the vehicle to which the straps can be safely connected without damaging the vehicle when it’s pulled. If you’re not sure where your vehicle’s recovery points are, check its manual. Move any onlookers away from the two vehicles—to avoid any accidents, the only people nearby should be the drivers of the two vehicles. Put the stuck vehicle into gear—either drive or reverse depending on the direction it will be pulled. After you’ve connected the recovery straps to both vehicles, have the pulling vehicle move away from the stuck one until the recovery straps are taut. The pulling vehicle doesn’t need to go too fast, just fast enough to gain a little momentum to jerk the stuck vehicle out. The energy from the moving truck and the recovery band should be able to pull the stuck truck out.
If you try getting your vehicle unstuck with a recovery band to no avail, you may need to resort to using a winch. Because they can be used by solo drivers, a winch is practically essential if you’ll be off-roading alone on extreme terrains. When choosing a winch, select one that has a weight rating of at least 30 percent more than your fully loaded vehicle and consider what type of material you want your winch’s cable to be made of. To use your winch, you’ll need to find a sturdy, living tree as an anchor point for your winch’s cable. Protect the tree with a tree saver strap—winching without one can seriously damage the tree’s bark and even kill it. Once your winch is attached to both your vehicle and an anchor point, turn it on, and the winch will do the hard work of unsticking your vehicle.
Call a Tow Truck
Usually, one of the above methods will successfully free your stuck vehicle. But if all else fails, you may need to call a tow truck to help you get your vehicle unstuck. Many towing companies will have some tow trucks that are specially equipped to recover badly stuck off-roading vehicles.
Before you set out to go off-roading, be sure you have a solid grasp on how to get unstuck while off-roading. Rest assured, it will happen eventually, especially as you begin to tackle more difficult terrain. But getting stuck isn’t something to be afraid of—just be sure to pack the right recovery gear and you’ll be prepared for anything your off-roading experience throws at you.
Check out our selection of recovery products to help you be prepared to get out of a sticky situation. We are constantly engineering new products, based off of our own experiences, so we can be prepared for any situation that our adventures may get us in.