Snorkel’s are a hot topic these days and are often misunderstood pieces of equipment. Down in Australia and central and south America this is considered one of the top modifications to do to your vehicle for safety and longevity, ranking up there with other mods such as tires, lockers and winches.
Meanwhile, here in the United States, the Snorkel is either loved or hated by some groups and is commonly referred to as “farkle” (functional sparkle). As a guy that has researched and installed a snorkel on his own vehicle as well as removed the snorkel after some use, I feel like I can speak to this subject.
So why get a snorkel?
Contrary to popular belief, a snorkel isn’t just for water. Depending on your geographic location, a snorkel could be an excellent dust solution, good against water ingest or to keep intake temperatures down. Simply put, a snorkel is meant to raise the air intake of a vehicle to get it out of harm’s way. It has been a common preventative measure in the racing community for years and can be seen on anything from a rally car to a Dakar race truck.
Toyota Tacoma Snorkel in dust
How do Snorkels Work?
At a first glance one would think a snorkel is just a plastic tube, but there is a lot more engineering going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. The snorkel body is designed to allow air to flow freely without disturbance. Tube diameter, smooth surface and rounded corners are all aspects of a well-designed intake system to reduce turbulence and restrictions on the engine intake.
The snorkel head itself is designed in such a way to allow heavy debris and water to be sent to the outsides while cool clean air can travel into the engine. The opening should be at least 40% larger than the tube body for heavy debris to be separated from the clean air. At 15MPH and above, roughly 30% of the incoming air will be used to separate particles.
There are various snorkel heads to choose from ranging from the classic flat faced intake scoop to a cyclone filter meant to pre-filter dirt by spinning it to the outside of a catch bowl. Depending on your environment and speed the flat face may be more or less desirable than a cyclonic filter. In general, for faster speeds a flat faced intake head is better, while the cyclone will work much better at speeds under 40MPH. If you are worried about dust at slower speeds, a good compromise is to own both and switch to a cyclonic filter on the trial and keep the flat face for highway driving.
Are there any downsides to adding a snorkel?
While some like the adventure look of a snorkel, the style isn’t for everyone. Another note is that to install a snorkel, you will have to drill into your fender and A or B pillar. The thought of drilling into a brand new vehicle is daunting to some.
In addition to a snorkel being one of the more permanent modifications to your vehicle, snorkels are an extra piece of gear to get snagged on trees and bushes, and can get clogged in snowy conditions if ice builds up.
Lastly, they offer false confidence. You need to remember that even though you have installed a snorkel, this doesn’t mean you can instantly go up to the roof in water. If you have not prepped your vehicle for deep water crossings (think extended diff breathers, waterproofed electronics, etc.) your vehicle could still see damage in a deep water crossing. The main rule of thumb is to avoid water unless it is absolutely necessary. Water and mud are hard on vehicles. Know what you are getting into and accept the consequences.
In my opinion, a snorkel is an valuable insurance item. While some of us may never get close to hydro locking our engines, the peace of mind that we are providing our engines with the cleanest air possible is worth the couple hundred dollar investment. As with all modifications, know how your modifications change a vehicle and plan accordingly.