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Snorkels for Your Overlanding Vehicle

Probably, like most people, one of the very first thing that we did to the 4x4Explorer vehicle, was fit a snorkel. To me, this seemed reasonably obvious, but whilst researching this article, I came across varying opinions and arguments for and against.


A snorkel is probably a bad way of describing what we are going to be talking about in this article. It is really a raised air intake. So why would you want or need a raised air intake?

Photo 1 of Snorkels for Your Overlanding Vehicle

Well to start with, they look great and make your truck look likes it ready for anything. I have used various vehicle out fitters and have been told, on more than one occasion, of people coming in with a two wheel drive Ute, asking to have a snorkel fitted but not actually attached to the airbox. I worked for a guy in Auckland, who had a Ute with all the bells and whistles. I asked him if he ever got off road and he told me “no”, because it wasn’t 4WD. He’d spent around $30k on accessories, and whilst the vehicle looked the part, it wasn’t any good for anything apart from cruising around town….


So apart from looking the part, what does a raised air intake do? Well obviously, it raises the point where air is drawn to enter the engine.


There are two principal benefits of having a snorkel and these are, greater wading depth and cleaner, cooler air being supplied to the engine.


Let’s have a look at wading depth. On a lot of modern 4WD vehicles, the air box and air intake are behind the radiator and in the firing line during a river crossing. In the 4x4Explorer vehicle, the standard air intake is under the front wing and protected by the bonnet. With our 2” lift, the air intake is about 1.2 meters from the ground. That’s above waist height on me. So, if you apply the rule that “if you can’t walk it, you shouldn’t drive it”, you might ask why the snorkel is needed.

Photo 2 of Snorkels for Your Overlanding Vehicle

The reality is that when you cross a river, you create a “bow wave” which may be considerably higher than your air intake and you never know if you are going to fall into a hole, if you haven’t walked the crossing.


A diesel engine will only have to ingest about a teaspoon of water before the engine will be destroyed. Diesel engines rely on compression and water will not compress, leading to lots of bent engine parts and an expensive rebuild!


If you’re out there doing as much as we do, chances are that sooner or later, you’re going to come unstuck and your snorkel could save you a lot of embarrassment and money.


The second reason for having a raised air intake, or snorkel, seems to be a little bit more controversial. The common thinking is that a raised air intake will provide your engine with cooler cleaner air and therefore make your engine run better.


There are many videos on YouTube which give contradictory opinions on this. I’m not going to get involved with the debate, but will present what seems to be widely accepted.


Imagine that you are travelling down a dusty road anywhere in New Zealand. At the end of the day, your engine bay will be full of dust. A lot of this dust is thrown up by your front wheels and into the engine bay. Without a raised air intake, your air filter may quickly become clogged, reducing the amount of air the engine has to use for combustion. Our air intake is about two meters off the ground, considerably reducing the amount of dust taken on board.


If you travelling in convoy, you should always hang back from the vehicle in front of you to make sure that you are not driving through a dust cloud. If you’ve had a particularly dusty day, it is always useful to give your air filter a good shake out at the end of the day.


The other reason sited, is that a raised air intake will allow your engine to suck in cooler air. Some would argue what the 70cm, or so height difference, is negligible in air temperature, but remember that the air in your engine bay will be much hotter due to the heat generated by the engine.

Photo 3 of Snorkels for Your Overlanding Vehicle

So should you fit an raised air intake for Overlanding? The answer is an overwhelming yes, subject to some considerations.


I have heard a few horror stories about snorkels in the past. A friend of mine bought a fully equipped 4WD and discovered a few months later that the snorkel wasn’t actually connected to the airbox, rendering it useless. Another friend had bought a brand new vehicle and dropped into a hole. The engine was beyond repair and the mechanic noticed that the ,factory fitted, raised air intake was not attached to the air box. Fortunately, it was factory fitted and he was able to claim a new engine.


If you have a new vehicle, be aware that fitting an after-market snorkel may have an impact on your warranty rights.


Once again, we hope that you have found this article interesting and useful. We look forward to seeing you out on the tracks!


This article is part of the Building an Overlanding Vehicle Series.

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