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The Importance of Having Someone Spot Your 4WD Recovery

It can happen at any time. You find yourself in need of an outside set of eyes. Even with reverse cameras and vehicles with cameras all around, having a trusted person able to spot your vehicle and relay that information to you is critical in recovery situations.

A good spotter can alert you to any potential dangers. They can guide you on the best path to take to avoid damaging your 4WD. They can also save you from getting into deeper trouble than you may already be in.

An eye on safety is first and foremost

If you are in a tricky situation, take time to get out and survey the scene. Talk with your spotter and highlight hazards to avoid. Make plans and take suggestions on board. Once you are ready to get rolling, make sure you can see the spotter and ensure they are in a safe position too. You don't want someone getting injured while they help you.

Hema Maps 4WD recovery

Recovering a stuck 4WD is very dangerous. There are massive forces at play, particularly when winching or snatching. Correct recovery tools such as winch cable dampers are essential. A recovery is no place for onlookers or those wanting an Insta-pic. Snatch straps can break, and shackles and recovery points can let go. When anything fails during a recovery, there could be tragic consequences. The spotter should be making sure no one is in the vicinity before commencing the recovery.

Communication need to be clear 

The spotter should be giving the driver visual cues, as well as verbal confirmations. A hand-held two-way UHF radio is a very handy tool. The communication should be clear and concise. Standard calls are ‘right hand down, left hand down’ relaying to the driver which way to steer the vehicle. Calling throttle controls is very important too, gentle throttle pressure is required. When power needs to be applied, the spotter must relay the right time call at the right time, including ‘stop’!

A spotter can see what you can't 

They can see ruts, rocks and holes that can entrap your vehicle. A spotter can also see other hazards such as tree branches that could cause damage. At times successful recovery is a matter of inches. Having the wheels going exactly where they should is vital. An awareness of what can catch the diff housing, impact the vehicle's clearance and any tyre spiking hazards, all fall to the eyes of the spotter. Recovery boards are the safest way to get a vehicle moving and the spotter should ensure they are properly aligned.

Hema Maps 4WD recovery

Practice makes perfect

When things go pear-shaped, your spotter must know how much you (the driver) are relying on them. Also important is that they know how to communicate effectively with you. Make sure they know how to use the two-way radio and know the right instructions to provide. “I meant the other right hand-down” doesn't bode well in the pressure of a 4WD recovery. Practice with your spotter in non-stress situations.

Top spotter tips:

  • Be clear in your instructions
  • Make sure you are in a safe position
  • Use a handheld two-way radio and hand signals to instruct the driver
  • Use recovery boards as a first option. They are the safest way to recover a 4WD.
  • If winching or snatching a 4WD, ensure the anchor point is solid, shackles are attached correctly and use dampeners on the winch rope or snatch strap
  • Practice communications in a safe environment with your driver so you are giving them the information they need in a recovery situation
  • Take the time to assess the recovery scene and highlight potential hazards together

Next steps

At Hema Maps, we strive to provide the most comprehensive and accurate maps and guides for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore Australia's natural wonders.

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