Tip #3 ” Winching” Your Car Out


The tragic death this past week (December 6, 2006) of Mr. James Kim of Oregon gives focus for a suggestion you can use to save yourself when your car is stuck in mud or snow.

After several days of waiting at the site of their automobile at a road junction where its wheels had become stuck, Mr. Kim struck off across country for help. He walked about nine miles but became lost and his body was later found less than a mile from the family car. James’s heroism is most commendable, of course. His family is justly proud of his sacrifice.

From the numerous news reports and photos I have studied, I believe the Kim family could have extricated themselves from the dire situation in which they found themselves, using only the things they had at hand.

The Kim family had the car’s jack which they obviously used because they burned, one by one, the car’s tires to attract attention. Oddly enough, their jack was the key to their own rescue, in all probability.

This is what you should attempt to do to get your vehicle onto solid footing. Carefully survey the situation around the car, paying close attention to the most likely place into which you will try to maneuver your car to get it out of its stuck condition. You can use the jack as a kind of “winch” to “walk” the car out of the mud, snow, etc. Determine the closest point to which you intend to move your car, especially the drive wheels.

Assuming the footing for your car’s jack base is firm enough to support the weight of the car, position the jack at the recommended jacking point nearest the wheel that is stuck. If the car is on a grade, a chunk of wood or other object should be placed on the grade side of a wheel at the opposite end of your vehicle from the wheel you are jacking. The shift lever should be put in “neutral.” If the jack’s base starts to sink into the ground as you jack, let the car back down and find twigs and small stones or other objects to place under the base to support it.

There is an element of danger in what I am suggesting so great care for yourself and your passengers should be observed at every point. After all, this is an emergency measure of last resort.

If you have one or more able-bodied passengers with you, their help can be crucial to your success. Before you begin jacking, position all those passengers side by side so they can push your vehicle in the direction you need to go. Have them take a firm stance with feet and legs away from the car as much as possible. Now begin raising the car on the jack.

Raise the car as high as you can as you extend the jack out. The vehicle will become somewhat unstable as you raise the car. When you have reached what you believe to be the highest point you can safely raise the car, pull the jack handle from the jack carefully and join your passengers on the side of the car (or front or rear, depending on which way you intend to go). On a given signal push the car off the jack using as much force as possible. With a little practice the car will move over on the stuck end anywhere from a few inches to maybe a foot.

Retrieve the jack and begin the process all over again. You may need to improvise, even to the point of jacking the other end of the car and pushing that end toward your desired safe point. This process is slow, but it will work.

Some years ago, I pulled off a paved road to turn around in an area I thought was “high and dry.” I was wrong and found myself stuck in mud about fifteen feet from the dry road. I began the process I have described above. After about an hour of working I had moved the car approximately four feet. In another two hours I would have reached dry ground.

During my work to extricate the car a truck passed by and, seeing my difficulty, the driver used a tow cord and from the dry highway, pulled me out.

I believe the Kim family could have saved themselves by using this self-winching method I have described. They had time, reasonable weather in which to work, an operable automobile and plenty of wood and limbs around them by which to create a base over which to move the car.

Why not copy this article and put it in your car’s glove compartment and then hope and pray you never have to use it. But, if all else fails you can!

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