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RC Crawler Suspension 101

Article by Hunter Wick

Crawlers are all about being able to flex on the rocks. This is what is known as suspension articulation and it's really what makes a crawler a crawler. For the crawler to flex like this, however, the correct suspension setup is necessary. This article will explain the basics on how to setup the suspension on your crawler since their suspension is a tad different than other types of RC.

First off, why is the suspension setup on a rock crawler or scaler so much different than that of another type of RC? To explain, let's take a crawler and a short course truck and compare them. While the SCT (short course truck) needs suspension to soak up bumps at high speed, the crawler needs the correct suspension setup to be able to articulate, allowing it to overcome the huge obstacles it may face. Also, the SCT and most other types of RC cars besides crawlers use an independent suspension setup, while crawlers use solid axles that help them to flex more and ultimately climb over the toughest terrain.

Now let's get on to actual setups. Generally, there are two different ways you can go about setting up your suspension. There is what is known as a "droop" setup and then there is a normal setup. The difference between a droop setup and the normal suspension setups is that while normally the shocks use oil and springs, a droop setup doesn't use either of these. This is why it is referred to as a droop setup, because it allows the crawler to droop, giving it a lower center of gravity. Keep in mind that these are only the two very basic setups, as there are many more out there.

What is the advantage and disadvantage of a droop compared to a standard setup, and when would one be more beneficial than the other? Well, this is a complicated question. A droop setup is designed to give the crawler or scaler a lower center of gravity, but because of this reduces ground clearance and ultimately makes it easier to get hung up on a rock. A normal suspension setup usually maximizes a crawler's ground clearance allowing it to overcome larger obstacles, but raises the center of gravity for this reason. Clearly, there are pros and cons to each type of setup, so this is where it becomes confusing. To achieve the benefits of both setup styles, people like to mix and match them. For example, a common idea is to have the front shocks setup in a droop configuration while the rears are in a normal setup. This allows the rear of the truck to still have plenty of clearance due to the normal suspension setup while the front has a much lower center of gravity, allowing it to climb on steeper inclines than before.

In addition to all these crazy setups that can be mixed and matched, there is what is called articulation limiting. By articulation limiting, I mean limiting the amount of flex the axles can provide. Sometimes crawlers flex too much, preventing them from having as much traction as they could. This is when articulation limiting can be useful. There are several ways this modification can be done, but ultimately it's very simple. The easiest way to go about doing this is to get a piece of nitro fuel tubing and apply it on the inside of the shocks, wrapped around the shock shaft. This will prevent the shock from being as long, thereby limiting the suspension articulation.

As you can see, crawlers and scalers are a whole different breed when it comes to suspension setups. While it can sometimes be confusing and maybe even slightly frustrating when you are learning the suspension basics on your new crawler, don't give up! Just remember to have fun. Hopefully today you have learned a little about your crawler, so now it's time to go hit the rocks!

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