Spotting a Winner

The sport of rock crawling has come along way of late. Up the trail, just ahead of our intrepid rock crawler, a new breed of helper has emerged: THE SPOTTER.

As a long-time Jeeper and sometime spotter, I appreciate the value of a spotter. What is a spotter and what does one do?

A spotter is another pair of eyes and a 'jeeping brain' to help the driver navigate the tricky spots on the selected route. The most important occasions are when the driver cannot see the trail, or when minute adjustments in the placement of the wheels would make the difference between go and no go, or worse.

Photo by Jenn Pozniak
As the trail gets more difficult, the spotter becomes more important
Jenn Pozniak

When the driver can plainly see the route with only an occasional rock or obstacle impeding progress, no spotter is needed. As the route gets more difficult, a good spotter becomes a valuable player in the mix.

A good spotter is usually also a good driver. Why? Unless you experience the capabilities and eccentricities of a rig, first hand, by driving it, it's very difficult to know what to expect of those characteristics on the rocks. Choose a spotter with long tested driving skills over aunt Bessie during her first off road adventure.

Photo by Jenn Pozniak
The spotter must know the vehicle, top and bottom
Jenn Pozniak

The spotter needs to know what the spotted vehicle can and cannot do. This means knowing at a quick glance WHAT will clear, and WHERE under the rig. A good spotter knows where to position the tires and differentials for that clearance. Sometimes the route requires the tires to be on top of the rocks, sometimes between, sometimes directly over. Spotters know in advance how much traction the tires have in a given situation, including the inflation (including any loss of center of gravity due to lower inflation), steepness of the obstacles, and the grip on the surface. Knowing what kind of style the driver prefers is also important. Drivers eager to use the 'Moab bump' may prefer to hit the same obstacle faster than those who like to 'tractor' over obstacles.

Read more of Spotting a Winner in the 4x4Wire Archives.

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