Stuck in snow and mud: What helps when nothing rolls anymore.

The Vito 4x4 drives through Sweden's snow covered landscape

What should you do if snow and mud prevent you from driving on? In our breakdown series, we have compiled the best tips for you.

Keep calm when the tires spin.

A remote street in the freezing cold of January. For hours snow has been whirling on your windshield, the day’s destination is already within reach. Your stomach is rumbling, the long drive is exhausting and suddenly a piece of road is in front of you that has not been hit by a snowplough for hours. There is no way around it and you step on the gas … and you get stuck and the amount of snow seems insurmountable, it is important to keep a cool head and not to freak out! We have put together the best tips on how to get your van out of this kind of trouble.

The A Vito 4x4 tire in the snow

Snow and ice are sometimes a real obstacle.

The most important steps in every breakdown

  1. Take a deep breath.
    The most important thing is to stay calm! This applies above all to breakdowns on busy motorways, but also to incidents that occur far from popular routes.
  2. Warn other road users.
    The first thing to do is to use the hazard lights, because rear-end collisions can also happen on forest roads. If these no longer work, the accident site must be secured.
  3. Out of the danger zone.
    If the van can still be moved, look for a safe parking area. It is best to find a breakdown bay on the motorway, otherwise on the hard shoulder. If you are off the beaten track. Be sure to find a place where no approaching truck can hit you.
  4. Do not do anything risky.
    If the van cannot move or as soon as it is parked, take care not to get out without observing your surroundings carefully. Always get out on the passenger side or away from the road.
  5. Always wear a safety vest.
    Orange suits everyone. In Spain and Italy the safety vest requirement has been in force since 2004, in Germany since 2014, and in the USA only in some states. However, it is always advisable – no matter where – to have a couple of safety vest at hand. If you want to be on the safe side, it is best to pack one for every passenger, so they can draw attention to themselves in the event of a breakdown.
  6. Set up a warning triangle or flare.
    In Europe, a warning triangle is mandatory in almost every country. Depending on the surroundings, this must be installed 50 to 400 m away from the scene of the accident. If a curve obscures your view, set up the warning triangle before the beginning of the curve. In the USA or other countries like South Africa, accident participants often also use “flares”. These either light up with LEDs or are ignited to warn other road users. Be careful not to endanger yourselves when setting up.
  7. Get help.
    As soon as the breakdown has been secured, you can take care of the problem. When waiting or thinking, it is essential to keep behind the guardrail in a safe place. As a member of an automobile club, you can contact them, otherwise a call to a towing or breakdown service will help. Important: Always provide the exact location. With a smartphone or GPS device this can be precisely identified.
  8. Do it yourself.
    If you want to tackle the problem yourself and have packed the necessary equipment, you can use our breakdown tips as a guide. Here, too, it is important to make absolutely sure that nothing can happen to you and that you are parked in a safe place.

Please absolutely make sure, you know the specific laws of the country you are travelling through.

The Sprinter 6x6 from Oberaigner drives over a mound of earth

Nothing can stop the Oberaigner 6×6 Sprinter. But if it does get stuck, a strap and wooden board help.

How “rocking-free” works in the snow.

If you get stuck in the snow, stay calm. Hectic and frequent accelerating often gets you even deeper. One solution is to free yourself with cautious “rocking free”. The first step is to use a small shovel or similar tool to clear the snow. Then straighten the tires as much as possible and change quickly between forward and reverse. This helps to gain momentum and to overcome the snowdrift. Another possibility is to place a doormat or piece of cardboard underneath or to sprinkle sand or gravel – this makes it easier for the wheels to grip and helps you out of the slippery snow. Now start gently to let the tires grip. If nothing helps, always have some warm blankets in the van. These will keep you warm if you have to wait a long time for the snowplough.

A Sprinter 211 CDI drives through mud

Over rough terrain – with the right tricks.

Overcome mud holes with branch and ratchet strap.

Those who get stuck off-road or on dirt roads in mud and earth can also free themselves with a shovel and doormat. Another possibility is to free the wheels with the help of a branch or a wooden slat. This method is particularly helpful if you have been trying to get free for some time without success and a trench has formed. The branch or board must be very stable and about half a meter long and about eight centimeters in diameter. The aim is to stabilize the support of the wheel with the wood and to increase the contact surface. This must be attached to the drive wheel, which is the most sunk in ideally with a ratchet strap, but a rope will also do. If both drive wheels are stuck, the double configuration is required for this.

How to free yourself with a board and a ratchet strap:

  1. Before the piece of wood can be fitted, the drive wheels should be turned so that one of the rim holes points to 12 o’clock.
  2. The ratchet strap is passed through this hole and tied around the tire once.
  3. The board is then attached to the top of the tire. It is important not to push the board too far into the wheel well. Otherwise, there is a risk of damage.
  4. Tighten the strap over the board and around the tire several times. It is essential to fix the loose end of the rope or strap so that it does not wind itself uncontrollably around the tire.
  5. Then fix the board to the other side in the same way.
  6. Now start the engine and start driving carefully back and forth. The aim is to make the board turn with you.
  7. When you are successful and the wheels come free, be sure to take off the equipment.

  • Sprinter 6x6 off-road
  • The Mercedes-Benz 310 D crosses a river
  • A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter drives through a massive puddle
  • A Mercedes-Benz 1300 L drives through a cloudy mountain landscape

Teamwork helps in times of need.

If the breakdown point is well secured, the passengers can be helpful. One possibility is to push – carefully accelerate to prevent falls and to maintain the maximum effect. Another solution is to distribute the weight wisely in the van.

If nothing more is possible: Put on snow chains.

If you have several difficult sections of road ahead of you, it is a good idea to put on snow chains. These do not take up much space and provide the grip your tires need in snow or mud. Simply place the snow chains around the tires and fasten them on top and in the middle. Then tighten over the tire. After a short drive, re-fix the chains. Important: Make sure to secure the loose end and follow the varying instructions for use.

A Mercedes-Benz MB 310 with snow chains drives through ice and snow

If nothing more is possible, snow chains could help.

Photos: Daimler; Felix Schwarz; Kai Knoerzer; Chad Smith; Länge x Breite x Weite; Deborah Wanner und Dominic Egloff; Oberaigner

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

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