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Should I Really Buy a Snorkel for my 4x4?

Updated: Apr 11

Safari 4x4 snorkel

As instructors and guides in the 4x4 world, we often get asked the question, “Do I really need a snorkel?” or “I’m not completely sold on the benefits of a snorkel, especially when so many people are unsure whether or not it's even necessary. Is a snorkel a worthwhile investment?"

The simple answer is: Definitely! A snorkel offers many benefits to the 4x4 enthusiast, but it’s a very misunderstood product, and that’s where the debate comes in.

The argument usually starts with wading depth. The wading depth is how deep your 4x4 can go into the water without “drowning“ it; this depth varies from vehicle to vehicle but is usually around the 400mm mark. If you’re unsure of your vehicle's wading depth, check the owner's manual or ask your local dealer for advice. 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 many factors determine your vehicle's wading depth, and not just by where the engine’s air intake point is.

Is a snorkel on a 4x4 used for air or water

For example, if your snorkel is installed correctly, with no air or water leaks, it will, in fact, raise your vehicle’s air intake point and increase the depth of water your 4×4 can drive through before inhaling water into the engine. However, other factors, such as the height of your 4x4’s transmission breathers, diff breathers, engine-management system and electrics, 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!’

Back to the point of the air intake 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 engine gets a larger percentage of cooler, cleaner air, which means fewer air filter changes, and a greater chance of engine longevity. We’ve even noticed better fuel consumption after installing a snorkel!

What is a Snorkel used for on a 4x4

A list of things to consider before going through with the fitment of a snorkel.

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% correctly.

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 even do the job, but 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 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.

9) A snorkel may increase engine and wind noise because of drag and a higher induction point.

10) It would be best to avoid automated car wash facilities where the snorkel may be knocked or bumped.

If you want to learn more about your 4x4’s wading depth and its ability to cross water and rivers safely why not join us on one of our Introduction to Off-Road Driving courses? For more information, please check out our website here:

SA Adventure Off-Road Tour and Training

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Keep the Rubber Side Down

Big Love, the SA Adventure Team.

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