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After a particularly trying time solo riding in the mud near on the Log Creek trail near my hometown of Charlotte NC (all of which ended with calling an ATV towing service call – more on that in a bit) I thought it would be a good idea to talk about some potential methods myself, or others I know have used to jar their ATV or UTV free from thick mud or wet sand without an integrated winch.

Stay Calm And Assess

If you ever get stuck, the very FIRST thing you need to do it take a deep breath and relax. Most beginner riders instinctively shutoff their 4-wheeler when things go wrong. Unless you’re intake is actually under water, you’ll want to keep the engine running. A running engine will prevent mud or water from entering your exhaust, and will give you quite a bit more options on getting free.

Next take a cold hard look at the situation you are in. Are all four wheel totally submerged, or are just the front, or rear? Is there a bottom to the mud lake your in that can be used for leverage. Take note of any nearby large rocks, trees, branches you may be able to use for leverage.

Deadman Anchor Method

The Deadman Anchor Method is a very popular and common technique used to free an ATV or UTV from mud if there is no trees or boulders around. To perform the Deadman Anchor, you’ll need a good sized rock, a sturdy stick or branch, and some rope or chain.

You will need to find a good sized rock, preferably one that’s at least the size of your head. Next, find a sturdy thick branch that’s about 4-5 feet long.

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Take the rock and tie the end of the rope or chain around it, then tie the other end around the front axle of your ATV or UTV.

Next try to dig a trench the length of the branch in front of your ATV and jam the branch it as far into the mud as you can under the front wheels of your ATV or UTV.

After you’ve lodged the branch under the front axle, tie the other end of the rope or chain to it, then take off until you feel tension on the line. You DO NOT want to be anywhere near that ATV or UTV when you do this.

Take off at high speed in reverse, then slam on the brakes. If your ATV or UTV is stuck good it should jar it free of the mud with little to no damage done.

4WD Drag Method

The 4WD drag method works particularly well in wet clay soil found here in North Carolina when its been saturated by rain. This technique is essentially an advanced form of the Deadman Anchor and should be attempted by experienced off road riders who know how to operate a 4-wheeler with a clutch.

To perform the 4WD drag technique, you’ll need a strong branch or stick that’s about 2-3 feet long and very sturdy. This is the same side of wood you might use for an axe handle.

You’ll also need a good length of rope or chain, the same size as the one used in the Deadman Anchor Method.

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First find a sturdy stick about 2-3 feet long. If you don’t have access to wood nearby, you can often find what’s called “dead fall” nearby that will work just as well.

Find a sturdy branch about 3-4 feet long and as thick as your wrist.

Take the stick and tie the end of the rope or chain around it, then tie the other end around your front axle.

Place a rock behind one of your back tires so that when you pull forward, it will create tension on the line.

Again – you DO NOT want to be anywhere near that ATV or UTV when you do this.

Back up until the tension is enough for your 4WD machine to catch traction, then floor it in reverse and keep on the gas until you feel it break free. You should see a huge rooster tail of mud and water when you do.

Still Not Working? Try This…

If submerged enough, thick mud can create a suction around your vehicle. Trying to rock your ATV back and forth can cause the suction force to increase and your vehicle to sink even more. The key is break this suction with a lever, like a long sturdy branch – the longer the better.

Position the branch under the “stuck” end of the ATV and try to right this end until you’ve broken the seal of the mud. Some riders have had success using a thick PVC pipe as a lever, which has the added benefit an integrated airway to help break the seal. Once the seal is broken, attempt the Deadman or Drag method again.

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All Else Fails. Call A Towing Recovery Company

Kawasaki Rental ATV Stuck in Mud Near Charlotte NC
Kawasaki Rental ATV Stuck in Mud Near Charlotte NC

This past weekend was a doozy! Since my personal ATV was being serviced I rented an ATV locally which didn’t have a winch, however an integrated winch likely would have little relief for the particular situation I was in. I had to shutoff my engine since was was coming in the intake and ended up having to call a nearby towing service in Charlotte to help.

They employed the lever/suction method outlined above along with a heavy duty winch to pry my ATV free. While a somewhat expensive lesson, they were there within an hour, which have me plenty of time to enjoy the quiet of the woods for once.

Ride On!

ATV’n wouldn’t be ATV’n without a little mud, dirt and sand. Getting stuck once in a while is something you should expect to happen, that’s why you should have a plan in place to dislodge your ATV or UTV if and when it happens to you.

I hope this helps and let me know in the comments if there’s anything else you’d like to see covered on this issue.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>