Grab your fins and masks - it’s time to talk snorkels.

A raised air intake, more commonly known as the “snorkel” (a really fun word to say), is one of those overland tools that explorers the world over have used for many decades. But why? They’re not just for looking tough when you’re parked downtown. They can have real benefits for your vehicle both on road and off.

A Fresh Air Pipeline

A raised air intake, like its name implies, moves the path of fresh air into your vehicle’s air filter up high out of your engine bay. The extended pipe that emerges from the fender and is bolted to the windshield pillar gives the snorkel its name, but the real business happens under the hood.

High quality raised air intake kits replace the stock air filter housing with a sealed unit that funnels the air from the snorkel into the intake. Some of these air boxes are sealed against water in the case of submersion, but not all.

What all snorkels do have in common is an intake mouth that’s located above or in line with the top of the windshield. This ensures a constant stream of cool, fresh air, and can even create a mild ram effect for the intake. Many snorkels feature a “goose neck” intake that can be rotated to face forwards for maximum air flow, or backwards to protect the engine in the case of extremely dusty conditions. Others have a conical intake at the end of the snorkel that can include a pre-filter for separating dirt and water from the primary air flow to the engine.

What A Snorkel Does and Does Not Do

Contrary to what the name might suggest, for the most part, a snorkel’s primary purpose is not for preventing water from entering the engine during a deep water crossing. While they can functionally increase the fording capabilities of your vehicle, there are other variables to consider on this front. The airbox in your engine bay is only one of many components that need to stay above the waterline when attempting a water crossing. Your battery, alternator, cooling fans, ignition system (if so equipped), and other sensitive electronics all need to stay dry as possible. So, installing a snorkel may keep deep water out of your air intake, it won’t magically turn your rig into a submarine by itself. We’ll cover good water crossing techniques in a future article.

Rather, raised air intakes function best at keeping dust and airborne dirt particles out of the air stream, and funneling cool, fresh air through. Cooler and cleaner air makes for more power, better efficiency, and longer engine life. If you travel in desert environments regularly, or other particularly dusty places, a snorkel can be much more functional than aesthetic. However, I think we can all agree that they look pretty darn cool, too.

Snorkel Installation 

On most vehicles, installing a snorkel is an awfully involved undertaking. You need a steady hand a brave heart to take a drill and a huge hole saw to the fender of your shiny new Jeep Gladiator. In most cases, the snorkel needs to emerge from engine bay through your rig’s fender, so a big hole is unavoidable. Good kits like those from ARB and AEV provide clear instructions and all the hardware and seals you need for a clean install. But, this may be one of those projects you may want to farm out to a professional. They also require replacing part or all of the stock air filter housing.

A number of newer vehicles on the market, like Land Rover’s new Defender and some Dodge Ram models have pre-installed outlets and hardware for adding a raised air intake without drilling at all. In any case, if you’re looking to install a raised intake on your rig, it pays to use one that is designed specifically with your vehicle in mind, rather than a generic version that may require more extensive modifications. As always, the expert crew at Overlander can help guide your decision and answer your questions.

Questions about snorkel installs? Stories from the field about sketchy water crossings? Drop them down in the comments!