How to Get your ATV Unstuck

One of our favorite things to do on an ATV is tackle mud, but what do you do when you get stuck in it? This post will tell you how to get your ATV unstuck, covering all the tricks.


man and atv in the mud

The first step is to lessen your chances of getting stuck in the mud in the first place. Avoid riding in mud that is too deep. It's not good for your ATV anyway.

And remember that momentum is your friend. Don't drive too fast, but do drive at a steady pace. If you slow down too much or stop, you'll probably get stuck. Be ready to shift into four-wheel drive and the lowest gear at the first sign of a tricky spot so you don't have to take time to adjust.


atv riding

We tend to automatically think being stuck is a catastrophe and that we always have to have a winch, but sometimes it isn't that bad and other methods will get us unstuck.

These are some of the easiest ones when you're not as badly stuck or you're just lucky.

atv riding on mud

Rocking out

No, this isn't about listening to music. In some situations, you can combine rocking motions and trying to maneuver the ATV into an effective method to get unstuck.

Begin by either throwing your shoulders side to side or rocking back and forth while sitting on the ATV. Then put the ATV in reverse and see how far it will move, gently. Then move forward as far as you can, gently. It is possible to widen the space between the mud and the tires this way to reduce suction and make you able to drive out.

Repeat this step as long as it seems to be giving you more movement. If it doesn't have any impact, stop immediately because it's probably making the problem worse.

camping shovel
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If you brought a shovel with you, you can shovel thick, "peanut butter," mud away from the front of the ATV and away from the tires and potentially make it able to drive out.

branch under the wheel
Image from

Get your ATV unstuck with wood or tree limbs

Wood and tree limbs can be used in a pinch. This isn't recommended, but it is an option if you have no others. If you have wood or can find some sturdy, loose tree limbs, you can dig a space in front of the front tires and stick the wood or limb in there to give your ATV something to potentially grab onto.

atvs riding

Get off the ATV and lift

If you can feel that the tires aren't touching the ground, get off the ATV, hit the gas and lift the rear rack at the same time. This should make the front tires grab the ground and create traction that might make the ATV able to drive out.

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If none of the above worked, you still have options.

man with winch in mud

With a winch

A winch is the most well-known and most guaranteed way to get out of the mud.

You'll need a strong anchor point, like a tree. This anchor point needs to be as close to straight in front of your ATV as possible so the cable can pull the ATV straight.

Unless a friend will be winching your ATV out. If so, make sure their ATV can pull you straight out too.

Attach the winch low on the ATV so it can lift the ATV out of the mud as it pulls. Also, make sure to attach it to a strong spot on the ATV so it doesn't damage the machine.

If there isn't an anchor point available, you can make one with a Land Anchor. Drill it deep into the ground to make a strong anchor.

man hands on a winch

If you're using a winch with a steel cable, make sure to wear gloves to keep from getting burrs in your hands.

If you have a line damper, add it to slow down the winching and prevent snapping. If you don't have one, use a strap or sweatshirt.

Winch slow and steady until the ATV is free. With all that pressure on the winch, from the ATV and the suction of the mud, the cable can snap and cause serious damage to you or your machine.

If you're anchoring to a tree, it's best to use a wide strap to place between the cable and the tree. With a steel cable, it protects the tree. With a synthetic cable, it protects your cable.


What if you don't have a winch?

If you didn't come prepared with a winch or yours is broken, you can use a rope or come-along in the same way you use a winch. They are harder to use, but doable in times of need.

Like when using a winch, make sure when attaching things to your ATV to always secure it to a strong spot on the ATV so force doesn't break whatever you're pulling on.

Attaching rope and come-alongs low on the machine also help lift the ATV up while also pulling forward.

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