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  • Basic Spotting Rules for the Trail

    It's important you know basic spotting rules before you go off-road with friends. Imagine yourself out having a great time off-road when your buddy gets his Jeep into a jam. He's stuck at an odd angle and he's having a hard time seeing the trail. There's a large rock that's just off to the side and out of his view. You know he's in a predicament, but you're not sure how to help. 

    The Spotter's Role

    Your friend needs a spotter. Spotting for someone involves getting to a vantage point and helping them through an obstacle or hard-to-see portion of the trail. The spotter gives the driver basic directions through loud voice commands or hand signals. The driver must trust the spotter, especially if the going gets tough. Trail damage to body panels or drivetrain equipment is costly, and can ruin even the most perfect day, so it's imperative you know the basic rules of spotting and take it seriously.

    Basic Spotting Rules 

    Off-Road ObstaclesSpotting is one of the fundamentals of any off-road trip. When off-road, there can be hazards and obstacles all around you. They can be to the sides, front, or rear of your vehicle--and yes, beneath or above you as well. The driver must be constantly scanning the environment, not only for the best path (or "line"), but also for the potential hazards. As you can see from the picture below, full doors and interior add-ons such as a roll-cage can clutter or obscure your view from the driver's seat. In this case, Jeeping with a spotter you can trust is crucial.

    Obstacles Obstruct View From Inside The Vehicle - Basic Spotting Rules

    How To Use Words And Gestures

    First and foremost, use basic words or gestures. Complex sentences can confuse the situation. Couple words and gestures together for the best results. Simple words as "STOP" (palm out) and "GO" (a beckoning or thumbs up gesture) work better than "hold up" and "come on", for example. But you may not be able to yell over the sound of a straight piped V-8 engine. Discuss this beforehand and figure out what works best for both the spotter and driver. While the spotter remotely guides the 4x4 through a hazardous obstacle, the driver and spotter must be on the same page.

    Use terms such as "driver" and "passenger" for sides of the vehicle. This removes the directional "right" and "left", which can be confusing, especially if the driver and spotter are facing one another. Doing so reduces the opportunity for situations that can cause bodily injury and vehicle damage, such as a typical rollover, seen below.

    Rubicon Rollover

    Keep It Simple!

    Alway designate a spotter and one assistant spotter per obstacle, especially if they're familiar with the trail. It doesn't help to have everybody along for the ride pile out and start shouting directions. Just remember the golden rule. Keep It Simple! Simple always works best, especially when you've got a large expensive vehicle feet or inches away from trees or boulders.

    Generally the more experienced "off-roaders" on the trip will volunteer to spot. Experienced spotters can predict how the vehicle will behave. Variables like rain, mud, tire type, center of gravity, and more, all come into play here. "When in doubt, throttle out" sometimes works. But there will be just as many times where "slow and steady" wins the race, especially on the rocks.

    Jeeps Off-Road Obstacles

    How To Be An Effective Spotter

    Spotting is just as important while off-road as having the appropriate recovery equipment. Don't forget to learn the ins and outs of your vehicle, as well as others you Jeep with. Knowing how a given vehicle will or may behave on the trail is the first step in becoming an effective spotter. If you have an experienced spotter in the group, watch how they guide a 4x4 through the trail. Always remember, keep it simple, be safe, and have fun out there. Follow the basic spotting rules. 

  • Product of the Week - Poison Spyder Trail-Cage

    jeep-cj-renegade-jeep-beach-2015This week we're taking a look at trail-cage options for the Jeep Wrangler, namely the Poison Spyder Trail Cage and Heavy Duty Spreader Bars. First off, let's discuss why you would want a trail cage in your Jeep. Originally, the Jeep CJ did not feature an OEM roll-bar, although it was a popular option at the time. Roughly a few years before the CJ-7 entered production in 1976, the classic “sport” style roll-bar, as we know it today, became mandatory. Every Jeep now had an installed roll-bar from the factory, a big step up in safety measures for the time. However, the CJ still lacked any sort of support for the windshield, which could not support the weight of the vehicle, and would often crumple inwards in the event of a frontal rollover. In the early 1980s, the Jeep CJ was switched from a narrow to wide track axle, to increase stability, another safety measure. (CJ-5 Renegade pictured above, CJ-8 Scrambler below).

    jeep-cj-8-scrambler-jeep-beach-20151991-jeep-wrangler-yj-renegade-front-grille-redFor the 1987 model year, the Jeep Wrangler YJ made it's debut (YJ Renegade shown above). The YJ featured wider axles than the CJ, as well as a lower stance. Track bars, sway bars, and wider leaf springs helped make this Jeep more stable and less prone to a rollover. For the 1987 model and up, the Wrangler featured new “spreader” bars that connected the roll-bar to the windshield, another safety feature. However, the spreader bars were still not up to the task of supporting the windshield in a rollover scenario. In 1992, the classic “sport” style roll-bar was replaced with the “family” style roll-bar, seen on late model YJ's, TJ's, and the JK Wrangler. This new design gave the rear passengers added protection in an accident and provided shoulder mount points for standard seatbelts, rather than the lap belts that had been used in previous models. When the TJ hit the dealerships in late 1996 (2006 model pictured below), the roll-bar was given a slightly updated design, but the spreader bars remained mostly unchanged.2006-blue-jeep-wrangler-tj-half-doors-frameless-topIn 2007, the new and totally redesigned Jeep Wrangler JK became larger and wider than it's predecessors, and included certain features like electronic stability control. While more traditionalist owners may bemoan the abundance of electronics in the JK platform, the computer does assist with making this Wrangler a more stable and secure ride. However, the OEM roll-bar “system” still has that same weak point in between the factory bar and the windshield seen in the CJ and classic Wrangler models above. The usual approach to eliminating this is to install what is commonly known as a “trail-cage”. A trail-cage is different than a complete aftermarket 'cage in that it makes use of the factory roll bar, and simply reinforces or replaces the stock spreader bars. A trail-cage is great for the owner looking to beef up the safety of their Jeep Wrangler without breaking the bank.2016-jeep-wrangler-mojave-sand-front-passenger-cornerWe've seen many trail cages come through the shop over the years, and while there are several to choose from, we usually sell and equip customer builds with the Poison Spyder version. While we will go over this product in detail, be sure to check out the Rock Hard 4x4 version as well. We've installed quite a few trail-cages at our shop, and our techs will be happy to assist you in picking out a 'cage upgrade or trail-cage to suit your build, today!custom-jeep-wrangler-mango-tango-273029-interiorFirst up, the Rock Hard 4x4 Bolt-In Ultimate Sport Cage (above). While some may be skeptical of a bolt-in over a weld-in cage, we can assure you the Rock Hard bolt-in 'cage is tough as nails! We've installed a few here at the shop, and the 1/2” thick proprietary locking collars and grade 8 hardware ensure that the 1 3/4” .120 wall steel tubing is securely fastened together. The center section that connects the windshield bar to the OEM soundbar features a 14 ga. steel plate, so you can mount a CB radio, switches, or other accessories in your cab. If you're planning on installing the Rock Hard cage yourself, there is no welding required, so the average DIY'er can do it in his/her own driveway! The front A-Pillar section features grab bars, to help with entering and exiting the vehicle, and comes pre-welded to a plate that extends down the side of the OEM dash and bolts to the floor of the Jeep (plate may vary depending on model). This supports the windshield, and prevents it from folding backwards into the passenger compartment in the event of a rollover. The TJ/LJ version is pictured below.custom-jeep-wrangler-lj-white-rock-hard-4x4-bolt-in-roll-cageNow to the Poison Spyder trail-cage, which features a similar mounting structure to the Rock Hard 4x4 'cage at the OEM dash. The Poison Spyder JK and TJ trail-cages differ here in that the JK version is bolt on, while the TJ trail-cage requires welding. The weld-in Poison Spyder product can make use of the stock spreader bars on TJ/LJ Wranglers, but Poison Spyder also offers a heavy duty spreader bar kit to reinforce this area, as seen in our 4.6L Brute Conversion, below. This trail-cage upgrade is definitely a worthwhile investment, but does require more time and effort for the fitment and welding portion of the project. (Standard PS Trail-Cage kit seen on RubiTrux conversion, second picture down).jeep-wrangler-brute-tj-conversion-american-expedition-vehicles-poison-spyder-trail-cage-install-tack-weld-in-place2005-jeep-unlimited-rubitrux-rollbar-cageFor the Jeep JK and JK Unlimited, the Poison Spyder trail cage is a unique bolt-together design, and completely replaces the stock spreader bars with DOM tubing. Instead of tube clamps, Poison Spyder features an interlocking tube coupler design, to add durability to the cage. The couplers come notched and welded at the junctions to ensure proper fit. The 3/16” thick dash plates also come without a 90 degree bend at the top and instead extend straight to the floor, removing additional bends or seams that may pose a potential weak spot. A dash crosstube connects both dash plates, while an overhead crossbar connects the center spreader bars to the OEM sound bar. As also seen on the Rock Hard product, this center section is great for mounting a CB Radio or other offroad accessories! Poison Spyder also offers optional entry handles, constructed from 1.25” DOM tubing, and the couplers can either be MIG or TIG welded, depending on preference.2015-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-willys-wheeler-jk-jku-poison-spyder-sport-cageMost trail-cage products that you'll find, including the ones listed above, ship bare steel; this is usually because powdercoating can get damaged during transit or because there is welding involved in the assembly process. Our recommendation for the above products, if not being assembled and installed in your vehicle at our shop, would be to find a local business that offers powdercoating. If you're in a pinch, there's always the tried-and-true method of rattlecan primer and paint - just remember that the key to any rattlecan job is in the prep-work!

    poison-spyder-jeep-jku-trail-cage-install-front-topEdit-poison-spyder-jeep-jk-trail-cage-2The assembly process at our shop consists of fitting and fully installing the trail-cage into the Jeep, then removing the pieces and sending them to powdercoat. This ensures a proper fit for all of the pieces and results in a clean install, with a finish that goes great with the factory interior. Some owners opt to have the tail-cage paint-matched to the OEM color of the Jeep, but black is a popular choice as well – it's up to you! Remember, with RubiTrux, possibilities are unlimited, so give us a call and add a trail-cage to your Jeep, today!


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