How to Pull a Car Out of a Ditch

How to Pull a Car Out of a Ditch

Written by Ted Repic
August 11, 2023

Finding yourself, a friend, or a stranger stuck in a ditch or snowbank can be worrisome. It is times like this that you should do your absolute best to maintain a level head so that you can adequately assess the situation at hand. Safety comes first! If you find someone in need of assistance on a busy road, pull over to the shoulder and turn your hazard lights on to let all vehicles behind you know that your car is stopped, and you may exit soon. By learning the safest steps to take during this situation, you will be back on the road quicker, as well as protecting yourself and passengers from any harm.

Recovering A Vehicle from a Ditch

stuck car being recovered from ditch

Finding yourself stuck is not uncommon; the risk is much higher if you are an avid off-road driver. The other reasons for getting stuck are fundamental human error, distracted driving, drunk driving, or poor weather conditions like rain or snow being most common. If you or the driver in need are intoxicated, it is imperative to put the car in park, remove the keys, step out, and immediately call for roadside assistance. This goes the same for adverse weather conditions, if you are in fear for your safety when recovering your stuck vehicle, call for help immediately, do not put yourself or others at risk of injury or death,

If the car is stuck for other reasons, follow the below steps:

Properly Assess The Situation

man checking stuck car for damage

IMPORTANT: The first thing you need to do after the vehicle has fallen into the ditch or snowbank is to check the condition of every passenger. If you believe somebody needs emergency medical support, call 911 immediately!

After checking the safety of the passengers, be sure to take proper precautions to ensure safety measures further. Now, assess the situation at hand and put on your hazard lights. This will alert other drivers to avoid you on the road. It is also good practice to put your emergency brake on as you do not how secure the ground below you is. Moving on to damage, use common sense to decide if the vehicle can be recovered before you cause more unnecessary damage. If you find your car is too close to the road for recovering, consider calling law enforcement to assist and redirect traffic in the meantime!

The Easiest Way: Use Recovery Gear

man using Rhino USA recovery gear

If you have recovery gear, you can skip all of the above steps and get right to it! High-quality gear will make pulling a vehicle out of a ditch easy. We will break down the tools you need and the steps to do it below.

or invest in a complete recovery kit and save some money.

Unless you have a winch, this process will require an additional vehicle to do the pulling. To start, connect one end of your tow strap or kinetic recovery rope to a D-ring shackle on the stuck vehicle (do not use a tow ball for recovering!). Now connect the opposite end of the recovery strap or kinetic rope to the D-ring on the vehicle doing the pulling. Have the vehicle begin pulling by slowly accelerating forwards. It is important to use a trusted tow / recovery strap with loops and no hooks. 

A kinetic recovery rope is one of the most effective ways to get a car out of a sticky situation. A kinetic rope is able to stretch up to four times more than a traditional tow strap, allowing for maximum kinetic energy and a yank-like effect for the safest and most effective recovery for both vehicles and people. When using a kinetic recovery rope, we recommend using soft shackles to attach the rope to both vehicles.

Tow Straps with hooks can snap and send the metal hook flying into the vehicle's windshield, and a similar thing happens with a tow ball. People have died. Don't do it!

Use a Nearby Object to Gain Traction

wood stuck vehicle recovery

Cars are engineered to drive on the road, with the below terrain providing perfect traction. Mud and snow are soft and slippery, meaning reduced friction! There are a few things you might have on hand that can assist your car is getting the proper traction to get unstuck, the most effective being traction boards if you brought them.  A few of these items are:

All of these items are great for gaining traction. Place one of the items in the front or back of your tires (depending and the direction you're going to move) and give the engine a little gas. Remember slow, and steady wins the race!

Adjusting Your Vehicle's Weight

car weight remove

If you find yourself in a somewhat flat area, you may be able to drive out! To do this, assess your surroundings and be sure you won't be driving into oncoming traffic. Remember to undo your parking brake! Now, when giving the vehicle gas forward or reverse, get a feel for it and find out if it is almost making it! If it's not quite making it out of the hole, try removing heavy items from your vehicle to make it lighter. A light car is much easier to maneuver! If this does not work after a few tries, move onto another step in this guide.

Removing Air From Your Tires

air down tires

One way to increase traction snow, ice, mud, or sand is to deflate your tires. Removing air from the tires will significantly increase the amount of rubber touching the surface. However, removing too much air is a recipe for disaster! When driving on a beach, most park rangers will require you deflate your tires by as low 10 psi. This allows the most tire to surface contact without popping.

To properly measure the amount of air you deflate, you're going to need a Tire Pressure Gauge. These gauges will tell you exactly how much air you've released from your tires!

Featured Product: Rhino USA 3" Ultimate Recovery Tow Strap

For the highest quality recovery gear and the most effective ways to pull a car out of a ditch, check out Rhino USA for the best recovery equipment guaranteed with a lifetime warranty!

rhino usa tow strap

Call for Roadside Assistance

If all else fails, it is time to make the call for some professional help. You do not want to put any more stress or damage on your vehicle. Your safety comes first, and a lot of stress may make you skip necessary safety protocols and do something to cause injury or worse.

We hope this article was helpful and informative. If you are stuck and need a second opinion, feel free to give us a call at (800) 575-7310, and we will be more than happy to assist! Remember, if somebody is seriously injured as the result of an accident, call 911 immediately!


What other safety precautions should I take when pulling a car out of a ditch?

Safety is paramount. Make sure to wear gloves, eye protection, and follow proper guidelines for hooking up the equipment. Maintain a safe distance during the pull.

What equipment do I need to pull a car out of a ditch?

To safely and effectively pull a car out of a ditch, you'll need a reliable winch, sturdy recovery straps, D-ring shackles, and proper safety gear. Other gear that we would recommend includes: kinetic ropes, off-road gloves, traction boards