Although significantly different, both petrol and diesel engines require a steady flow of air to operate. If the vehicle is not fitted with a snorkel, they do this by sucking air through the inner guard of the bonnet or just behind the grill. These open airways will also allow water to enter the engine if submerged - with disastrous results! In this article we look at the major reasons for installing a snorkel to a 4WD vehicle.

Why Use a Snorkel?

Clean air is important to any vehicle engine and one can only imagine the conditions a 4WD air system would be subject to when driven offroad. Harsh conditions such as driving deep through water crossings and driving on extremely dusty outback tracks will be detrimental to your engine without proper air filtration.

A snorkel is quite simply a raised air intake system and allows the vehicle to be completely submerged as long as the main intake is free of water. A snorkel is highly recommended if you intend to travel in the outback. Beside creek and river crossings, heavy rains or flooding can be a constant threat and roads could become underwater in considerably short periods of time.

Snorkels can protect the engine from dust because air that is drawn from the roof level does not have as much dust content as in the air lower to the ground. This results in a cooler and cleaner air intake, which will also prolong the life of the air filtration system.

Water and Engines

Water ingested into a vehicle’s engine will not only affect performance, it could stall the engine and even damage it. In some worse case scenarios and in particular with diesel engines, water can cause costly damage.

Water is incompressible and if this water gets into the cylinder chamber, it may stall the engine and potentially bend a connecting rod or worse. The damage potential could be increased exponentially with higher compression ratios. For example; a low compression petrol engine may possibly be restarted, by removing the plugs and cranking the starter motor so the water can be spit out (mind you – this doesn’t always work). With high compression engines of 20:1 or higher as in some diesels, water in the intake can have dire consequences. The damage to these engines from just a small amount of water (e.g. half a cup) could potentially end up in the thousands of dollars.

Dust and Engines

All vehicles have air filters to clean the air from harmful particles such as dust. An air filter is the first line of defense for your engine and the filter element which is usually paper-based is replaced when the vehicle gets a service. It is well known that a dirty air filter which hasn’t been changed in a while will cause poor engine performance. When traveling in the outback, fine desert dust could potentially work its way through a standard paper filter if it’s already full of dust. Some argue that this dust can act as an abrasive on the cylinder walls and may also contaminate the engine’s oil.

A Diesel engine with a dirty air filter will pose a higher risk then a petrol engine because of the need for an obstruction-free smooth and clean air stream for the combustion chamber. The injectors will keep spraying the same fuel amount, so if the combustion chambers are not getting enough air, a richer mixture of diesel will spark. This will lead to a hotter than ideal burn in the combustion chamber, which of coarse is not good for any engine.

Snorkel FAQs

Below is a list of questions that are frquently asked in regards to a 4WD snorkel.

Will rain go down the inside of a snorkel ram?

Even in a tropical rain storm, only a tiny volume of the impact moisture will enter the snorkel. The incoming rain droplets are broken up on entry. The high speed of the air stream, as it turns the 90 corner causes the heavier rain droplets to move to the outside surfaces. Here the rain is collected in the expanded lower body of the air ram (outside the snorkel body) and allowed to drain out, via the slots provided.

Can a snorkel be fitted in conjunction with L.P.G?

Snorkels are primarily developed to protect diesel and petrol engines. We suggest you ensure that your L.P.G installer has sufficient experience to use the correct LPG equipment, together with the necessary tuning knowledge.

What air filter element should be used in conjunction with a snorkel?

Most snorkels are designed to be used only in conjunction with genuine original equipment air filter elements. Be aware that some snorkel manufacturers do not recommend any type of oiled foam element, yet for others there is no restriction.

Snorkel Installation

While you can fit a snorkel yourself, presuming you have all the necessary tools, the installation time usually takes around two hours. It involves cutting a large hole (around 86mm) through the guard and attaching the snorkel to the guard and the A-pillar. Also consider that when a snorkel is fitted, the standard air manifolds will be removed.

It is highly recommended that you have a snorkel professionally fitted. Make sure you inspect the designs and ask how tight the connections are as to prevent dust and water ingress. When deciding on a snorkel, make sure it has been airflow tested for your particular engine. Diesel engines and especially a turbo diesel engine can require more than 40% more air than a petrol engine.

Snorkel Installation Diagram

The diagram below shows a general installation of a TJM snorkel on the side of a vehicle. Snorkel installations like the one shown, are quite standard for most vehicles.

Snorkel Manufacturers

There are two main brands of snorkels on the market and they are: Safari and Airtec.


Developed by Peter Luxon, the Safari snorkel has a raised intake which is level with the top of the windshield to help reduce dust ingress. They are made with UV stable polyethylene and include quality fixtures and fittings that ensure superior sealing. These snorkels are thoroughly researched and tested and tooled for most popular 4WDs in Australia.


The Airtec snorkel has an intake design that separates rain and moisture from the air stream. The snorkel design has a smooth inner wall which allows uninterrupted air flow. It’s manufactured with UV-resistant polyethylene for maximum strength and rigidity and incorporates stainless steel hardware. There is an optional pre-cleaner snorkel assembly that’s available for extreme dust conditions. The Airtec snorkel is available in a wide range to fit most popular 4WD makes and models.

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Created: June 2008
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