wikiHow to Dig out Your Car After a Snow Storm

This article details how to get your car out of the snow build-up after a blizzard or a big Snowstorm. It's a big job, so using the right tools and knowing what to do can help the task run more smoothly. And if you're inwardly groaning at the task, at least it's a great workout in winter!


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    Find your car. After a snowstorm, locating your car can be tricky sometimes when a row of cars in the street or a car park look the same under the snow! Always know where you last left your car to make it easy to find again during the winter. If you need to carve out a path to get to your car, do so, as you'll want firm footing when clearing the car. If you're at work or in a general car park, wait for the car park owners to help clear the driving areas.
    • At home, park your car as close to the road as possible, so you don't have to clear the entire driveway of snow to get out. This will also help you locate it faster.
    • Be prepared. If you park on the street with other cars, put a stake or pole out near your car beforehand to find it after the storm. You may also adorn your radio antenna with a unique topper. This is especially important if you're parking away from home, such as for work or shopping.
    • If it is in the garage, just get out your shovel and clear around the entrance and the driveway.
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    Gather the snow clearing gear. You don't need much but what you do need must be capable of doing the job without scratching your car. Shovels have a tendency to scrape cars, even if you're careful because it's easy to slip and it's hard to know where the snow ends and the car starts until you've cleared enough snow.
    • Use a broom with feathered, soft bristle tips to do the main removal work. Don't use gardening bristle brooms or corn brooms as these will scratch the car.[1] Also take an ice scraper for the windshield.
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    • A very careful approach to removing the snow from the car itself would be to use an old towel, and shake it out from time to time.
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    • Dress warmly. Be sure to wear gloves as your hands will get incredibly cold otherwise and you won't be able to keep clearing the car. Wear layers of clothes, as you might need to remove the snow jacket if the going gets too hot while clearing off deep snow.
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    Start digging out the car. Depending on your personal strength, the amount of snow piled up on a car, and the temperature, this task can take anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. It will be much faster if you can get a helper or two on the job. The following method is recommended:
    • Start by digging around the wheels and the sides of the car, especially the driver's door.
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      • A snowblower could be great for this and for getting rid of the snow later removed from the car itself to the ground. Don't throw the snow--and whatever junk might be mixed in with it--at the car, people, or anywhere else it could cause a problem.
    • Shovel the removed snow well away from the car, other cars, and pedestrian walkways. The intention is to clean your car without creating more snow hazards.
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    • Brush the snow off the roof onto the ground. Since much of this will fall onto the hood of the car, also brush it off the hood. Don't leave snow on the roof or hood of the car. While it seems easier, it's a road hazard because it can blow onto your windshield blocking your view, or large chunks can blow onto other driver's windshields and block their view.[2] If your vehicle is higher than you, use a small stepladder and a broom to push off the snow.
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    • Use a scraper to clear the windshield, side windows, side mirrors, back window and any parts of the roof and hood that are not yet free of ice. Do not pour warm water on the windshield as this will cause the glass to crack!
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    After a major blizzard, snow may have filled the engine compartment. If so, prop the hood open, remove the snow, dry the spark plug wires and leave the hood open to let everything dry off. Also check your windshield washer outlets to make sure they are clear as you may need to clean your windows often during winter driving.
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    Try to unlock door with the key if the car doesn't have a remote. As soon as you can get into the car, if your locks aren't frozen, start the car and turn on the heat and defrosters. The heat from the heater and defrosters will help the car to warm up and melt snow and ice while you continue to clear it off. Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear and only have the engine on while clearing snow when the car is outside, never when the car is in shelter as the build-up of carbon monoxide is toxic.
    • If it doesn't open, use lock de-icer or clean and try another door if you don't have any de-icer on hand.
    • If you don't have any de-icer on hand, using a lighter or match to heat up your key before attempting to unlock your door. This may work as the heat will melt the ice; try several times if needed.
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    Clear snow away from the tailpipe. The exhaust must be able to flow freely from the tailpipe or it may build up in the car's interior.
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    Free up the wipers, if frozen. If they were running when you stopped the car, it may damage the wiper motor if you start the car and they are not free to move.
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    Start the car. Turn on the heat and rear defroster. Wait a few minutes for the car to warm up. Then get in and drive the car as usual, provided your driveway is clear.


  • Try not to let snow pile up on your car for days and days; you will have an enormously difficult task if you allow this to happen!
  • In the winter, have lock de-icer on hand in your home. Don't store the de-icer in your car!
  • If you know your car will be left out to be snowed on, you can prevent ice from forming on the windshield by putting a plastic windshield shade on the outside of it, under the wipers. (It might blow away though). Pinching it between the door and the car would help it stay on, but do that only if the car door has a frame all the way around the glass; glass should not be pushed out of alignment.
  • For lighter snowfall of up to around a foot or two, consider lifting your wipers on your car before leaving it unattended. Doing so will make it easier to clear off the car, and prevent ice from accruing on them.
  • For neat freaks, consider shoveling the entire driveway before you drive away. That way, no snow can get packed into ice on your surface.
  • If you live in a snow-belt area, plan ahead. If your car could be completely buried by snow, a friendly snowplow may not be able to identify it as something to avoid. In such cases, make alternative plans to park your car overnight.
  • If you expect to need tire chains afterwards, consider putting them on beforehand with little or no snow in the way. The snow chains can reduce the thoroughness that would otherwise be required in digging out the car. Be sure to remove them before driving on bare pavement.


  • Do not idle your car in your garage or any other shelter. Clear the exhaust pipe's area as soon as you are able. Avoid idling the car with people inside while you clear the snow. The buildup of carbon monoxide could be fatal.
  • Do not use salt on a car, or use an excessive amount around a car. It is corrosive.
  • It is illegal to drive with snow packed on your roof in some places; even where it's not illegal, it's hazardous and should not be done. Also, as the car warms, the bottom layer on your roof melts causing the snow and ice to slide onto your windshield when you apply your brakes.
  • If your locks are frozen, do not force them. You may end up needing a locksmith if you do.
  • Be careful where you leave the shoveled snow; it can soon pile up around you and other parts of the car if you haven't been removing it far away enough from the car.
  • Be careful of your shovel getting close to your car frame. If you aren't careful, the shovel will scratch your car. Brooms are safer.

Things You'll Need

  • Soft broom for car
  • Shovel for ground snow
  • Lock de-icer
  • Windshield scraper (ice scraper)
  • If you use water, only use cold water

Sources and Citations

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