You can be trapped in your vehicle at any time and for any reason. Whether you’re on vacation, driving in the backcountry or if a catastrophic event has dictated that you must travel in an austere environment, there is always a risk that unknown terrain could turn deadly. When no one else is around to help you get out of a jam, what can you do?

First, you need to determine the extent of your situation by answering a few questions. Are you near any type of civilization? How far away is it? Are their friendlies nearby that can help? How bad is your situation and how long is it going to take you to get your vehicle mobile again? Once you have assessed the situation and taken inventory of your equipment on hand, your surroundings and answered the pertinent questions relating to your current status, you can begin formulating your strategy and preparing to execute your plan or next course of action.

You have either driven off of the road that you were on or taken a road less traveled and become stuck, buried, bottomed out or bogged down, and there is no one around to pull you out. Worse yet, you are driving the family truckster and not a purpose-built, four-wheel-drive expedition vehicle.

The first option is to simply build your way out of the situation. In some cases of being stuck, all that you need to do is alter the surface that is causing your tires to spin in place instead of rotating their way forward (or backwards) with something that will help the tires pull their way out. What you will need to do in this situation is to supplement the ground with a friction-causing medium that will enable the tires to grip the substance, causing enough resistance to move the vehicle from its immobilized position.

This can mean simply finding downed tree branches or a substantial amount of nearby vegetation to fill the void that the tire has been buried in. You can also utilize your vehicle’s floor mats, turning them upside down so the tire can grip the mat’s rubber backing. In order to place the chosen medium in the proper location, you will either need to dig under the wheel or jack the vehicle up to create enough space for the replacement surface material.

Save Yourself

Another method is to pull yourself out of the situation. This can be done with a tow strap and either the use of a come-along or through the rotation of the tire itself. Let’s go with describing the tire method. First off, you will need a proper anchor that will support the weight of the vehicle, as it will be used as leverage to pry it from its immobilized position. If there are no large trees, fence posts or boulders in the immediate area, an expedient method is to use the spare tire. A collapsible shovel will be very handy for this method.

In order to create your own anchor, you must measure the length of the tow strap (30 feet is a good length to have) and the distance to where your intended anchor point will be, allowing enough space for at least one rotation of the tow strap around the tire. Once the distances are measured, a hole will need to be dug, at an angle facing inward toward the vehicle, that is deep enough for the spare tire to fit all of the way into, creating your anchor point.

The tow strap will then need to be secured to the anchor. This can be done by threading it through the center hole in the hub and running a rod like a lug wrench through it on the back side to secure it. You will then bury the spare tire in the hole and secure the tow strap to the tire, where it will wrap around it during acceleration, causing a winching effect. This will essentially pull the vehicle out of its position. Some considerations regarding this method are going to be whether the vehicle is front-wheel or rear-wheel drive, as that will determine the direction of recovery and where the anchor will
need to be placed.

There are other situations where you might find yourself in dire circumstances with regard to your vehicle, and there are many ways to successfully overcome those situations. Having the proper mindset, or mental fortitude as I like to call it, is paramount in being able to remain calm during a stressful event. Pre-planning and visualization are essential to smoothly handling a situation such as this. Another key to successfully being able to escape a situation is to not only be prepared with the proper equipment in your vehicle’s EDC kit, but to have the knowledge and practical experience to use it as well.

The worst time to try to execute these techniques and tactics is when you need them most and have never tried them before. If you are planning a trip into a remote area or travel in austere environments on a regular basis, you should have a working knowledge of how to self-recover your vehicle, along with a few basic items that take up little space and have multi-function capabilities, to keep you safe in your travels.

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Winter 2016 edition. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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