Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Stuck in Snow

I live in Southern Ontario, where we are having the most snow in 55 years. Our little side street does not get plowed right away, so there are lots of cars that get stuck on the street. I like to help if I can, not only because it makes people happy, but because with the stuck cars, even the snowplow can't get in..

Here is a summary of advice I have if you want to help people stuck in snow.

When I see a car that is stuck on the street near my house, I get my plastic snow shovel and walk over to ask them if they need help. Usually they are pretty grateful for any assistance. The shovel is always needed, because there is only so much pushing one person can do. Plastic is best because drivers are scared that I will scratch their cars with a steel shovel. And important point: APPROACH CAUTIOUSLY or you could get run over or trapped if the driver does not see you. Even if they see you, be careful about approaching the car: the tires may start spinning any time, and once, a driver slammed the door on my finger by mistake. That hurt for two years.

First I find out where they are going, and try to discuss a plan with them. Sometimes I advise them on where they should go - like maybe back to their driveway if it looks like their vehicle will not make it to the main street and it's a good option to get off the street and wait for the plow. If they don't live on this street, they are happy to get back to the plowed main road. One driver got stuck just trying to turn onto our street and would not take my advice to go back. He was driving a custom lowered car with no ground clearance and wide summer sport tires. Very bad combination! I couldn't help that time, he was still there when I got back home an hour later. And my finger was still swollen up from getting trapped in his door.

Once the plan is made, it's time to shovel out from around the wheels. Make sure they don't try gunning the engine while you are shovelling. Clear an area about 2ft in front and behind all four tires. Unless the car is perched on a snowbank (yes it happens) that should be sufficient.

Next it's time to drive. Sometimes I drive it myself. Usually it's the women who are most comfortable just to let me drive. Sometimes the men just need a little coaching - mainly to not spin the tires if the car is motionless. That is not helping, just hole- digging.

If they are already in a hole that can't be shovelled away (ice or hard pack snow), we need to rock the car a little to get it out. That can be done even with an automatic transmission, but it does need some coordination between the pushers and the driver. Once the car starts rolling back and forward in the hole like a pendulum, it can usually break free with one big push.

Then, if the plan is followed, the car can follow the tracks of the other cars back to the street. And I can go home and let my heart rate settle down to normal. Maybe 60 years old is just too old for this excitement!

It takes a bit of experience to judge the road conditions and the car's ability to deal with it. In my opinion, the best cars have four wheel drive and winter tires, in fact I have not come across any stuck vehicles like that on our street. I guess we just don't get enough snow here or maybe their drivers know something about driving in snow. Funny thing is, I don't actually see any people stuck here with the worst combination: rear wheel drive and all season tires - maybe it's because they never even make it out of their driveways.

No comments:

Post a Comment