THE CASE FOR A SNORKEL
Why you should snorkel your 4WD, and not just because it looks cool
In my early days of wheeling, I thought that the intake snorkel was one of the coolest things you could mount to a 4WD. It portrayed the vehicle as a true off-roader, a vehicle that gets well into the depths of Canada’s wilderness and whose progress would not be stopped by any creek or stream.
My views on the snorkel have changed over time, however. On a gasoline-powered 4WD, I thought that the snorkel became more of a poser’s add-on, since the distributor would cut spark from going to the spark plugs once water got to that level regardless. It really only seemed to make any sense on a diesel-powered 4WD.
So let’s look at the pros and cons of mounting a snorkel.
The cons: Another expensive bolt-on modification to add to the already out of control list. You have to cut through the fender, which is hard for some to do and if not properly sealed, will promote rusting. If you don’t properly seal the snorkel, water and debris will still get in, negating the entire purpose of the snorkel.
Yes, it does look cool. A snorkel is grabbing cool fresh air from outside the engine compartment. A snorkel creates the ability to add secondary filtration for extremely dusty environments. The most important reason for a snorkel, you raise your intake up out of the way of water.
This is why we recommend a snorkel; water getting into your engine usually ends in certain doom, and I’ve seen my fair share of hydro-locking carnage. Air can be compressed to create a precision explosion to keep the pistons moving up and down – water can not. Once you get water into the combustion chamber, one of several catastrophic consequences can occur when the intake valve seals shut. The resulting inability of the water to compress will either bend a connecting rod, blow you head gasket to pieces, shoot your sparkplug straight out of the head or even lift the head up off the block. Long
story short, the engine is going to bend in some way before the water disrupts the laws of physics.
Theory would say that a wet distributor or coil pack would shut down the engine before water bypasses the air filter and works its way into the combustion chamber. Problem is, not all vehicles, even off-road focused ones, put an emphasis on water getting into the engine bay. While air filters may sit higher in the engine bay than the ignition sources, many intake systems pull air from the fenders or even down below the engine, scooping up water before the level rises in the engine bay. Water is also a very dynamic variable in and of itself. It does what ever it wants to, and if there is any kind of weakness in the intake system, it will find its way in when sloshing around inside the engine bay. It splashes and sprays into every nook and cranny.
Now, we’re not saying every 4WD must have a snorkel on it, it is just very important to know why you may need one. If your usual off-road trails are void of water crossings, or at least any that will challenge the published wading depth of your particular make and model, then there is no point in cutting into a perfectly good fender. However, if you like to challenge the posted wading depths on a regular basis, minor intake modification should be looked at as a minimum, and the addition of a well built and sealed snorkel should put all fears at ease. As we like to say, the installation of a snorkel is much cheaper than rebuilding the engine… or at least that is what we like to tell our better halves.
If you do manage to suck some water into the intake and have managed not to blow your engine, tune in next issue when we’ll give you the trail fix to get you back up and running, dry combustion chambers and all.
While also looking very cool, a snorkel will help fend off hydrolocking your engine.
A simple sealed extension to the intake system helps grab air from high above any possible water line.
A snorkel also allows the option of a secondary filter, a popular piece of equipment in the dusty deserts of Australia and Africa.