I’m considering a snorkel for my 4×4. As far as I can tell, it appears to be a relatively affordable modification when compared to other off-road accessories. However, I’m not completely sold on the benefits, especially when so many people are unsure about whether or not a snorkel is even necessary. Apart from the “it looks badass” argument, is a snorkel a worthwhile investment?
Definitely! A snorkel offers many benefits to the off-road enthusiast, but (like so many things) it’s a misunderstood product; and that’s where the debate creeps in.
The argument generally starts with wading-depth. Contrary to popular belief, a snorkel will seldom increase your 4×4’s water-fording abilities. In theory, it is possible; but the reality is that your 4×4’s wading depth is determined by multiple factors, and not just by where the engine’s induction point lies.
For example, if your snorkel is installed correctly (with no air or water leaks) it will, in fact, raise your vehicle’s induction point and increase how much water your 4×4 can drive through before inhaling water. However, other factors − such as the height of your vehicle’s transmission breathers, diff breathers, and engine-management system − also determine how much water you can drive through. What’s more, it’s vitally important to remember that driving through water can be a very dangerous exercise, and that the safe way to look at it is: ‘If you can’t walk it, don’t drive it!’ Or, ‘When in doubt, DON’T!’
Coming back to the point of induction height… This is where the true benefit of a snorkel lies. By raising the height of the engine’s breathing point, we’re able to ensure that the motor gets a larger percentage of cooler, cleaner air, which means fewer filter changes, and a greater chance of engine longevity.
We’ve compiled a list of things to consider before going through with the fitment. However, in general, we wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of fitting a snorkel, and encourage our overland clients to consider it. As you mentioned before, it’s an affordable modification that does a proven job of increasing engine performance and longevity – especially for folks travelling to dusty places like Namibia and Botswana.
Here’s the list…
1) Know your vehicle’s wading depth, and be aware of what components are causing this limitation.
2) Buy a snorkel that’s designed specifically for your vehicle; avoid fitting a product that doesn’t install 100% snug.
3) Be sure that the company fitting your snorkel is reputable; the last thing you want is a hack job with gaping holes and unsealed gaskets. This could, in fact, lower your vehicle’s wading depth, cause corrosion, and lead to possible water inhalation and engine damage.
4) Once installed, check that the snorkel works and that there’s no water ingress or leak.
5) Avoid cheap knock-offs. Yes, they may look the same, and they may even do the job, but cheap (low rent) snorkels are often made from inferior plastics that weather badly and deteriorate – especially in the African sun.
6) There have been reputable tests that show a reduced air intake temperature of up to 3ºC, simply because a snorkel moves the engine’s induction point away from the hot engine bay.
7) A Ram-type snorkel can also increase the speed of the air (flow) into the engine, which also improves performance.
8) Although the above-mentioned performance results have been noted in many tests, the chances of feeling any noticeable differences in engine speed and performance are marginal: they are possibly offset by the added wind drag the snorkel creates. Similarly, you are unlikely to note any changes in fuel economy. However, this could change if you compare it to that of a vehicle without a snorkel that’s breathing through a very clogged air filter.
9) A snorkel may increase engine and wind noise because of drag and a higher induction point.
10) It would be best to avoid any automated car wash facilities in which the snorkel may be knocked or bumped.