Sometimes, you just can’t avoid driving through mud. Whether you’re parking in an unpaved lot at a concert venue or pulling off the pavement to go camping, odds are that at some point, you’re going to have to navigate some mud and muck. Drive through enough of it, and you’re probably going to get stuck. With tires spinning, mud flying and forward progress halted, what is a driver to do?
As soon as your truck bogs down to a complete stop, the first thing you may want to do is put it in reverse, keep your wheels straight and gradually accelerate in an effort to get back where you started from—on solid ground. If the truck has four-wheel drive and you haven’t already locked it in, you’ll want to do it at this point. If the truck bogs down after going only a short distance in reverse, shift into low gear and power forward as far as you can. This technique is know as rocking the truck back and forth, says Consumer Reports. If the tires spin, turn the tires side to side in an effort to get the edge of the treads to grip the surface. Increase acceleration gradually, giving it more and more gas as long as you are moving forward. Repeat the back-and-forward process as long as you continue to make progress. Passengers should get out of the vehicle and help push if necessary. This will also reduce the weight of the truck.
Place dry, solid objects beneath the edge of the tire in the direction you want to go (forward or reverse). Some drivers have successfully used floor mats (though, they’ll probably be toast afterwards), says Consumer Reports, but rocks, limbs and boards all may likely make better options. You can also reduce the amount of air pressure in your tires to gain more contact between the ground and the tires’ tread. Offroaders.com recommends dropping the pressure to between 18 and 20 pounds per square inch.
If the truck is resting on the undercarriage, use the vehicle’s jack to lift the tires off the ground. (Make sure the jack is on a solid surface and never crawl under the vehicle while it’s jacked up.) According to Popular Mechanics, once lifted even a few inches, you can slide sticks, boards or other solid items beneath the tires to provide lift and traction.
If you plan to drive through mud on a regular basis, it is probably wise to outfit your truck with some sort of winch, says Popular Mechanics. If you don’t have a winch, a come-along or a heavy-duty jack can be used to pull the vehicle free provided there is a tree or other solid object close enough to attach a recovery strap around. Simply loop the winch cable or recovery strap around the tree and use the power winch, come-along or jack to slowly pull it out of the rut. For safety, place a heavy blanket, tow strap, heavy coat, winch accessory bag, etc., over the center point of steel winch cables, says Four Wheeler.com. In the event the cable snaps, the weight of the blanket may help keep the cable from whipping into the air, possibly injuring you or damaging the truck.
Oftentimes, the best and quickest way to get your truck unstuck can be to have another truck simply pull you out. Using a webbed recovery strap or tow strap, attach the strap to both trucks’ tow hitches, frame-mounted tow hooks or the frame itself, as long as you can get to them without putting tension on other, less solid parts of the vehicles. Never attach a strap to a bumper, axles, parts of the suspension or the hitch ball, as these parts can get easily damaged. Once attached, the mobile vehicle should slowly pull most of the slack from the strap, leaving just enough room for the mobile vehicle to get up a little speed before pulling on the stuck one.
The mobile vehicle should accelerate slowly, gradually — never stomp the gas, as this may lead to damage of either vehicle or the strap, according to OffRoaders.com. The driver of the stuck vehicle should put it in gear and begin applying gas as the vehicle starts to move. Bystanders should stay two to three car lengths from the vehicles and out of their path of travel in the event the strap breaks or one of the vehicles begins to slide.
Originally published February 2013