Rain and bad weather can turn dirt roads, fields and temporary car parks into a nightmare for vehicles. And if you're driving on them, you can end up quite literally stuck in the mud.
Many big events (like festivals, fairs and exhibitions) rely on turning open fields into temporary car parks. So read on to find out how to get a car out of mud should the worst happen.
How to get a car out of mud in 5 steps
- Give your tyres some room to manoeuvre by moving your steering wheel back and forth. You can also dig around your tyres a bit if you have a spade or suitable tool with you.
- Try not to spin the wheels – pull away in second gear for lower revs and better traction.
- Try to keep moving to maintain momentum once you’ve got going, especially if you’re on a slope.
- Drive slowly at first to shed the excess mud from your tyres, before safely driving back at a normal speed.
- Stay out of 'tramlines' created by other vehicles if you can.
If you’re still stuck in the mud, try some of these handy hints.
- Place cardboard in front of the wheels to help give your tyres extra grip – you can even use car mats for a similar effect.
- Avoid sudden movements when towing – the person towing should ease away slowly to take up the slack before moving off.
Advice for a muddy festival
Festivals are one of the most common events where people get their car stuck in a muddy field. So, how can you easily and speedily leave a festival when the ground is muddy?
- Accept that it'll take a long time to get out of the car parks – up to several hours at some events.
- If the car park is gridlocked by cars, be patient and switch off your engine when appropriate to save fuel.
- Offer help to others who may need it.
- Make sure your towing eye is accessible before trying to move off. This'll save you time later if you need a tow out of the mud. It's usually stored in the boot with the jack, and screws in by removing a small plastic cover in the bumper.
- Change into clean shoes or wipe off the ones you’re wearing – muddy wellies can easily slip on the pedals.
- Look out for people there to help. You'll often find dedicated teams at big events, so you might be in luck with some professionals ready to lend a helping hand.
- Once there's some space cleared up, try out the advice listed above.
How to drive in mud
Regularly driving to or from outdoor festivals, concerts, country shows or sports matches in Britain means it's a matter of 'when' and not 'if' you'll encounter muddy, waterlogged conditions. These are some general tips to remember when you find yourself driving in the mud.
Use a lower gear
- If you're driving a manual, drive in second or third gear to keep a steady pace.
Avoid sudden braking or accelerating
- Tyres lose traction if you slam on the brakes suddenly.
- You need a steady pace to safely drive through a slippery, muddy surface.
- When you have to accelerate or brake, make sure you do it gently.
- Sudden braking could also cause your tyres to skid.
Can mud damage my car?
Once you get free from being stuck in the mud, make some time to wash your car as soon as you can. Thick mud underneath the vehicle can increase the risk of corrosion and is best hosed off sooner rather than later.
Dried-on dirt can build up on your car and be harder to clean off. When left for too long, there's more risk of chipping the paint when you come to clean it off. Your car could end up looking worse for wear and the resale value could be impacted as a result.
Do cars need mud guards?
Mud guards, sometimes known as mud flaps or splash guards, can protect your vehicle against mud and other loose debris thrown up by the tyres as you're driving.
There's no legal requirement to install mudguards, but they can prove especially useful if you're driving on roads with rocks, mud and other debris. They help to block the grit and debris flung up by the wheels, protecting the sides and underneath of your car from chips and corrosion.
A possible downside of installing a mud guard is an increased fuel consumption because of the added drag.
What should you not do when stuck in mud?
Do NOT do any of the following if your car is stuck in the mud:
- Accelerate too hard – this could result in you making the situation worse by spinning the wheels and digging yourself deeper down into the mud. This makes it even harder to get free.
- Stop the car once you’ve managed to get it moving – make sure there’s enough space ahead of you for you to keep moving and get to a solid surface. Stopping the car runs the risk of getting stuck in the mud again.
- Lose your cool – yes, it’s really frustrating to be stuck when you want to leave or perhaps you’ve got somewhere important to be, but keeping a calm head will help you assess the situation and get yourself freed quicker.
Use your car mat to get unstuck
Although not a guaranteed method to save your car from being stuck in a muddy field, one thing you can try is to take your car mat and place it just in front of the stuck tyre – the more you have the better. You can then try and accelerate forwards, if lucky the car mat will provide enough traction for the tyres.
How to get a van out of mud
There’s nothing special you can do to get a van out of mud – we’d recommend following the same steps for getting a car out of mud. To recap, you’ll want to wiggle your steering wheel side-to-side to create extra tyre room, pull away in 2nd gear for extra traction, drive slowly and avoid accelerating hard as you’ll risk spinning the wheels and digging yourself in deeper.
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How do you get unstuck from a mud hole?
Follow our steps to get your unstuck from a mud hole:
- Wiggle the tyres from side to side (while stationary) and dig around the tyres if you have a spade.
- Pull away slowly in second gear for more traction.
- Keep the car moving once you’ve pulled away, stopping again could get you stuck back in the mud.
- Avoid spinning the wheels and avoid the tramlines of other cars.
Can a 4x4 get stuck in the mud?
Yes, a 4x4 can get stuck in the mud. Despite a 4x4’s obvious off-road capabilities, there are still situations where they can get stuck. Whether it’s particularly deep mud or tricky conditions, they’re not totally infallible.
How do I get my car out of mud alone?
Follow the 5 steps on our page, and if that fails, you may need to call for a tow or assistance.
Are there charges attached to being towed out of mud?
Your breakdown provider may charge a fee to retrieve your vehicle, especially if specialist equipment is required.
Help's at hand
You’ll see a dedicated AA team at big events, like Glastonbury. They're there to help if you get into difficulty or your car breaks down.
If you need to call us out, ring
0800 88 77 66
The AA app is the best way to contact us, as we can find your exact location using your phone's GPS. Find out more or download it now.
Published: 14 Sept 2016 | Updated: 21 July 2023