4WD Air Intake Snorkels
diagram - snorkel fitting to 4WD

If you are considering what might constitute a worthy upgrade for your 4WD then you could do far worse than beginning with the addition of a snorkel.

More than just a trendy visual accessory, a snorkel offers protection from the ingress of water into your engine and aids in supplying clean air in dusty conditions.


First used on submarines and tanks in WW1 the idea of getting the air intake up out of trouble quickly spread to tractors and agricultural equipment and then into the domestic four wheel drive market.

How It Works

Water does not compress or combust and even a small amount entering an engine can stall it and bend internal reciprocating components. By maintaining the air intake above the waterline a vehicle can be virtually driven completely submerged.

Cleaner Air

A positive by-product of fitting a snorkel is that the vehicle also immediately receives a cleaner supply of air. Most four wheel drives receive air from a point behind the grill or from the inner guard. Although the body of the car provides a degree of deflection from dust and contaminants it is often less than ideal.

dirt aerodynamics on 4WD

The picture on the left shows a borrowed landcruiser just 2 hours into a dirty trip through the Namib Desert in Namibia. It illustrates perfectly the aerodynamics of the car and exactly where the dust is the most concentrated within the vehicle air flow.

The red arrow shows the typical position of a 4WD air intake while the yellow arrow shows the modified position with a snorkel. We did not pass another vehicle on this day. The airborne dust would have been much worse if we had been travelling in convoy or passing other vehicles.

Another bonus is that the air taken direct from the atmosphere, at snorkel level, will be typically cooler and denser than that the air drawn from around the heated engine bay. Hotter air means less available oxygen for combustion and less efficient engine performance. Ever notice that your car is much more responsive, with crisper acceleration on cold mornings?

Keeping Out The Water

It may appear contrary to put the air intake on the outside the vehicle in order to avert water ingress when crossing creeks or rivers. Clever design of modern snorkels sees even the heaviest of storms and wind driven rain dispersed and drained before air enters the engine

If you have just spent $70,000 plus on a new four wheel drive you need to understand that the you or your installer is going to take a hole saw and drill a 3 to 4 inch hole right through the side of your new 4WD in order to fit a snorkel. Once it’s fitted you’ll never see the hole again and you can be confident the addition of a snorkel has given your 4WD a new versatility and enhanced its performance.

The price of a snorkel is relatively inexpensive when compared to the price of the car it’s likely to be fitted to. Be aware that plastics aren’t plastics and that you are going to put a hole in the side your car to fit a particular make of snorkel. Plastics have UV ratings much like sunscreen and a high UV rating on the plastic of a snorkel means it will have good resistance to the sun.


A good practise is to go through the fittings and fasteners on the snorkel on your vehicle once in a while to make sure it is sealed correctly especially where the unit enters the car body. A snorkel that is drawing air or water through a crack or damaged seal has the potential to allow real water and dust through the air cleaner and into the engine.

Further reading about crossing rivers and creeks can be viewed here.

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