How to Drive a Car in the Mud

white car full of mud driving in field

While off-roaders - equipped with giant 4X4s, tires designed for iffy terrain, and friends with winches to pull them out in times of failure - may actually seek out muddy conditions, it is advisable for those behind the wheels of ho-hum standard vehicles to avoid deep mud. As a general rule, the average car can handle traversing muddy areas that are no more than two inches deep. Unfortunately, the depth of mud isn’t necessarily uniform or easy to gauge. When possible, take a different route. However, if after careful consideration, you decide to tackle muddy conditions, do so as safely as possible using the guidelines listed below.

Part 1 of 1: How to safely navigate your car through mud

man standing outside of car, looking at mud

Step 1: Get out of your car and survey the situation. Things look different up close and personal than they do from inside your vehicle.

Provided your footwear is up to the task, walk a little way up the road to see for yourself what obstacles lie ahead and test the depth of the mud. That way, you can make a more informed decision as to whether or not to proceed, and identify trouble spots before you tackle them in your car.

hand removing some tire pressure

Step 2: Let some air out of your tires, if necessary. When you need to traverse more than a few yards of muddy terrain and the situation looks particularly gnarly, consider whipping out your tire gauge and reducing your tire pressure.

This allows more of your tire tread to make contact with the ground, creating more traction as you move through the mud. For this purpose, aim for a tire pressure of 18 to 20 psi in each tire. Once you are back on smooth roads, seek out the nearest service station to replace the air your removed.

foot pressing on gas pedal indicating that driver should go slowly

Step 3: Adopt a slow and steady speed. Achieving optimal speed through mud is an art in itself - an art you likely don’t have time to master. You need to create enough momentum that you don’t get stuck without going so fast that you slide out of control.

Although the actual speed you should go depends on the terrain and situation, it usually lies within five to ten miles per hour. So, in addition to driving slow and steady, find your inner patience.

truck driving on the high road, avoiding ruts

Step 4: Avoid ruts. When faced with driving along the ruts or blazing your own route, always choose the mud untaken.

That’s because the softest and most slippery conditions lie within ruts.

Also, by situating your car at the lowest elevation possible, you reduce the clearance between the bottom of your car and the ground. These elements form a recipe for getting stuck.

  • Tip: If you get stuck, first of all, don’t panic. Try gently accelerating while forcefully rocking your body backwards and forwards. If you’re lucky, this will get you out of the rut. If this fails, get out the car and lay twigs, leaves, or anything else you can find in front of your wheels to create traction, then try to gently move out of the rut again.

While driving a car in muddy conditions is hopefully a situation you do not have to deal with frequently, it is a good skill to have. If your best efforts at traversing sluggish terrain fail and you find yourself deeply stuck, admit defeat and call for help. Sometimes the only way out is to be towed - in this case, hopefully you know a friend with a winch and towing capability.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

More related articles

The Traveler’s Guide to Driving in Malaysia
CraigBurrows / Shutterstock.com Malaysia is a popular destination for many tourists today. The country has amazing sights and attractions that you will want to explore....
P2422 OBD-II Trouble Code: Evaporative Emissions Control System (EVAP) Vent Valve Stuck Closed
Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC): P2422 P2422 code definition Evaporative Emissions Control System (EVAP) Vent Valve Stuck Closed Related Trouble Codes: P2441: EVAP Vent Valve Stuck Open EVAP trouble...
Auto Safety Tips
Driving is more than a way to get from point A to point B. Owning and driving a car can also be a highly enjoyable experience. Whether a person is driving...

Related questions

Q: How do I adjust the clock?

The clock is located at the top of the center console, and is very easy to adjust: Turn the ignition to ACC or On. Press the button to the left of the clock until the hour is set correctly....

Q: What kind of fuel should I use?

You should use “regular” unleaded fuel with an octane rating of 87.

Q: What should I know about starting the engine?

Starting your engine is not as simple as turning the key and cranking it. There are several things that you should do before hand to ensure safety for both you and your passengers, and those around you. Here’s what you...