The Snorkel's relevance to North American overlanding

Dalko43

Explorer
A broad thread title on my part, but I thought it would make for an interesting topic.

I recently listened to a 4x4 podcast (High Sierra 4x4) which is basically geared towards the traditional jeeper-type offroading culture that is so prevalent out west. The hosts and many of the guests actually own a variety of vehicles, not just jeeps, but the overall vibe I get from the discussions is that they're focused on technical, rock-crawling with perhaps a few longer trips thrown in every now and then. Basically, they come across as hardcore wheelers who will go on overland trips from time to time. I'm not at all judging the focus of their hobby, rather just providing context for where I heard this interesting discussion. During this podcast, the hosts received a comment from an Australian 4x4 enthusiast who had just completed a very long trip through his country's interior. He had mentioned the utility of the certain aftermarket modifications, to include snorkels, which sparked an interesting dialogue between the three hosts. All three of them admitted that while snorkels had their "coolness" factor, they didn't see much practical reason to have them installed on their 4x4/weekend rigs. The reasons they gave:

- They acknowledged that snorkels provide some safety margin for water crossings, but also pointed out that most areas where they wheel explicitly forbid water crossings and they could only think of 1 or 2 legal water crossing areas where a snorkel would provide a real benefit. They also noted that their vehicles already have decent clearance with oversized tires, and thus with careful driving they could likely navigate most water hazards without worrying about flooding the intake.

- They acknowledged that snorkels might allow for cleaner (less dusty) air to be ingested during long dirt road trips, but they also pointed out that the overwhelming majority of their driving is spent on pavement and so the dust isn't an issue. Whereas an Australian 4x4 can go hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles, without ever seeing pavement, in America you'd be hard-pressed to go more than a 100-200 miles without getting back onto a paved road. Basically, they were making the point that dust intake, while perhaps a factor in theory, may not be so prevalent for the practical offroading/overlanding that takes place in most of North America.

- They claimed that they had seen and heard of dyno tests which demonstrated that there is some power loss with the addition of a snorkel. This point caught my attention, and they didn't get into the specifics of how much power was lost nor which type of snorkel (cyclone or ram air) they were referring to. But all three seemed convinced that power loss, however minor, was a disadvantage associated with aftermarket snorkel setups.

Anyways, I was interested in hearing other people's takes on the three points they brought up. From my own experiences traveling through parts of the northeast US and Canada, I'm inclined to agree with the first point. I can only think of one instance where deep water actually prohibited my forward progress on a trip; it was a flooded out power line road in a remote part of Ontario, and I ended up diverting a dozen or so miles to bypass that stretch of road. Most of the areas I have visited have well established roads and bridges for bypassing water obstacles, and most areas do forbid intentionally going into the water.

As for the dust intake not being a big deal, I couldn't really say whether my lack of a snorkel has really been an issue for my 4runner. I've driven at least several hundred miles (not consecutively) over a variety of dirt roads and my air filter didn't seem to gunk up any faster than normal. I was solo for a lot of that driving, so I'm not sure if I would have seen the same results in a group trip. I do know that in the northeast (where heavy rain and/or snow is the norm) people with snorkels have at times turned their ram air snorkel away from the direction of travel or have put a cap over it to prevent water ingestion during periods of heavy precipitation. That issue, more than anything else, has dissuaded me from putting a snorkel at the top of my mod wishlist.

As for the third point, I have no idea and I would be interested in hearing other people's views on the supposed issue of power loss.
 
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rayra

Expedition Leader
If you drive solo or slow and far apart, dust is not much of an issue. But drive in convoy with several others in the desert southwest and you'll wish you had a snorkel. Or have onboard air to blow your filters out every day.
 

hemifoot

Observer
i fail to see how a snorkel would help when you're tail end charlie going down a dusty road,unless your snorkel is 30 feet tall.other than deep water crossings it serves little purpose,at least around my neck of the woods.you just don't see too many,and it's usually attached to a bro truck.if i need to cross deep water i crawl.plus a snorkel would look really stupid on my ram.
 

Dalko43

Explorer
If you drive solo or slow and far apart, dust is not much of an issue. But drive in convoy with several others in the desert southwest and you'll wish you had a snorkel. Or have onboard air to blow your filters out every day.
Perhaps, but how much dirt road convoy driving do you need to do in a year in order to realize the advantages of a snorkel? Are you going to see any significant bonus from a snorkel over a hundred miles of dirt road convoys? I'll put it out there that while there might be some owners who legitimately need a snorkel due to how much time they spend on dusty back roads, the majority of North American overlanders are weekend warriors (and I have no derogatory intent by using that label, as I'm part of that crowd) who probably spend a a few days per month driving dusty roads, and it's likely that not all of that driving is in convoy or consecutive fashion. Yet for some reason, perhaps the coolness factor, snorkels seem to be among the first mods that appear on an overlander's rig.

Plus, some companies are putting out cold air intake systems that actively detect for moisture and dust and adjust the how the air is brought into the intake (Ram's active air system is one example).
 
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quickfarms

Adventurer
Growing up on the east coast I did many water crossings that stalled many stock trucks with the factory grill mounted cold air intake. On my truck my cold air intake was modified so it was removable. Prior to a water crossing I would remove it and toss it in the bed
 

Dalko43

Explorer
Growing up on the east coast I did many water crossings that stalled many stock trucks with the factory grill mounted cold air intake. On my truck my cold air intake was modified so it was removable. Prior to a water crossing I would remove it and toss it in the bed
Where on the east coast did you grow up?
 

Joe917

Explorer
A snorkel is great for fording deep water as long as all breather lines are brought above water level and you don't mind fish in the cab with you.
 

MOguy

Explorer
There have been in situations where I have been with a group where water got into the airbox .

We not expecting to go though deeper water but **** just happened. Both vehicles were close to sock and had they much lift they may not have had a problem.

The first situation was in Alabama. We were out wheeling, it started to rain very hard. A tornado was seen in the area so we headed to low ground to wait it out. Once things passed we head out again, The rivers we crossed earlier that day had risen allot. On one vehicle water went into the airbox, through the filter and into the motor, he was done for the day. He was in a Tacoma.

The other was in an off-road park in Kentucky. There was a water crossing that was heavily traveled. Gravel was laid were you were supposed to cross. Somehow a rut developed that was deep enough to cause a problem for one person in our group. The filter ended up soaking wet and the engine stalled do to lack of air. No water made it through the filter. He took the filter out and it started up no issues. He was in a Jeep TJ.

Things happen. My Wrangler is high enough, I have lifted my breathers. The stock air box on a Jeep TJ is a good design. Air (or whatever else) enters below the filter and heavier things can settle. Not all air boxes are designed like this. I have had situations where I was in deeper water and the bottom of my air box had some water in it but the filter was completely dry.

I was planning on doing a snorkel, but I am concerned about damaging the snorkel itself. For the places I go having a plastic tube running up the side of my Jeep and expecting to escape damage just doesn't pass the common sense test. Many of the trails I go on aren't always that difficult but the can be tight. I ripped the radio antenna of my Jeep and it sits where the snorkel would sit. It I can rip of a little antenna I can rip off a snorkel a big snorkel.

If I were to do a snorkel it would be like the air intake on an H1. I would want it to come up through the cowl and not on the side of my Jeep.

The key to water crossings is never go first.
 
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Comanche Scott

Expedition Leader
Several JKUs have suffered hydro-lock when playing in the water/mud puddles. That is not just a JK thing, as I've pulled a few people out of holes where they've been overzealous with speed and locked up their engine from water/muck ingestion.
So for those who play first and think later, a snorkel could be quite a savings.

My personal interest relates to dusty trails. Using a snorkel that reaches up about 5'+ with a Donaldson Swirl type precleaner really makes a difference in how clean the air fiilter stays. I had a filter dirty enough to warrant replacement in about 500 miles of Moab and Mojave Desert dust.

But how many air filters does it take to pay for a snorkel?
The other downside is the really fine particulate dust still makes it way through the system and coats the MAF sensor, IAT sensor, etc..
So I'm not sure if the best answer is just to keep the vehicle in a well sealed garage with a huge HEPA filter, and enjoy looking at it. ;)
 

Dalko43

Explorer
Several JKUs have suffered hydro-lock when playing in the water/mud puddles. That is not just a JK thing, as I've pulled a few people out of holes where they've been overzealous with speed and locked up their engine from water/muck ingestion.
So for those who play first and think later, a snorkel could be quite a savings.
Yeah I've seen videos of that happening, but I wonder how much driving style has to do with that. It seems if you drive appropriately (not too fast, but with enough speed to create a small bow wave) you can mitigate at least some of those risks. And again, I wonder how realistic that risk is for most overlanders. How many places are there, other than dedicated 4x4 parks, where you're actually fording hood-high bodies of water?


My personal interest relates to dusty trails. Using a snorkel that reaches up about 5'+ with a Donaldson Swirl type precleaner really makes a difference in how clean the air fiilter stays. I had a filter dirty enough to warrant replacement in about 500 miles of Moab and Mojave Desert dust.
I haven't spent much time driving out west. Here in the northeast, you're encountering a lot of pavement in between stretches of dirt road, even in the remote parts of Canada. I just thought it was interesting that those High Sierra 4x4 hosts (all of whom live out west) didn't think the dust was really much of an issue for their vehicles.
 

lugueto

Adventurer
This is beating a beaten dead horse.

The only help you can give a person who wants one would be asking: "Do you really need it?"

This is because, well, want is subjective while and need is objective. If you're seeing dust enough to worry about it, get one. If you're crossing water enough to worry about it, get one. Its as simple as that.

Most naysayers will say that people only get one to look cool. That you'll lose power (which is a lie) and start creating doubt with comments such as "well you're gonna get dust in there anyway" or "if you cross water deep enough to need one, the snorkel is not going to save you either". This is because they simply don't see the need so they assume no one else will.
Yes, dust ingress is drastically reduced (more so if you use a prefilter) and yes, it will save your bacon when you decide to cross after inspecting the river/creek in front of you.

As for the podcast, I've never heard one let alone the hosts/guests, so their opinions or facts are irrelevant to me.
 

Comanche Scott

Expedition Leader
Forget the vehicle, I want one!

Yeah I've seen videos of that happening, but I wonder how much driving style has to do with that. It seems if you drive appropriately (not too fast, but with enough speed to create a small bow wave) you can mitigate at least some of those risks. And again, I wonder how realistic that risk is for most overlanders. How many places are there, other than dedicated 4x4 parks, where you're actually fording hood-high bodies of water?
Hence why I wrote "... for those who play first and think later..." ;)
If they want to play hard, and buy things that protect their rigs so they can, that makes sense to me.

I haven't spent much time driving out west. Here in the northeast, you're encountering a lot of pavement in between stretches of dirt road, even in the remote parts of Canada. I just thought it was interesting that those High Sierra 4x4 hosts (all of whom live out west) didn't think the dust was really much of an issue for their vehicles.
Over the past 3+ decades of wheeling the Sierras, I've not used a snorkel either. But I wouldn't use that as a bell weather.
I've been in the Sierra Nevadas when the dust hung over the trail so thick it was like Tule fog. While I've never had a snorkel, when I got home and looked at the air filter, sometimes I wish I did. I have gone as far as using Vasoline around the airfilter gasket to help keep dirt out of the intake tract.

Carbureted rigs can really take advantage of the cooler air drawn in by a snorkel. It's amazing how hot the engine compartment can get when crawling along a trail. A phenolic spacer can only do so much to keep the heat away from the carb, when it's sucking 250*F air.

So yeah, I can definitely see where a snorkel can be an advantage, even overlanding North America.

Sometimes I wish that snorkel was on my nose and mouth!
Oh man, not to be gross, but I've blown my nose days afterwards and had blackness fill the tissue. :eek:
Screw the rig, I want to breath clean filtered air... :elkgrin:
 

Eagle05

Adventurer
The only time I've ever felt I needed a snorkel versus just wanting one for the aforementioned "cool factor", was when I stupidly found myself stuck in Houston after Harvey flooded the city. I know I don't plan to cross rivers, and I don't plan to drive hundreds on miles in a dusty convoy, but the worst case scenario fairy in my head sure wished I had one that night. Just in case.
Of course based on that logic, I should carry two spares, a plethora of parts, and a professional mechanic in the backseat - or at least the bat signal to call for help.
The easier solution for me next time is simply better planning and avoidance.
 

MOguy

Explorer
Even if it is only for the cool factor and you want one get one. My only issue is the vulnerability of the plastic air tube.
 

Dalko43

Explorer
Most naysayers will say that people only get one to look cool. That you'll lose power (which is a lie) and start creating doubt with comments such as "well you're gonna get dust in there anyway" or "if you cross water deep enough to need one, the snorkel is not going to save you either". This is because they simply don't see the need so they assume no one else will.
Yes, dust ingress is drastically reduced (more so if you use a prefilter) and yes, it will save your bacon when you decide to cross after inspecting the river/creek in front of you.
The podcast hosts mentioned dyno tests showing that there is a loss of power. I've haven't seen the hard data myself, but I could understand how the straw effect reduces the efficiency of the airflow into the engine, especially with a cyclone type snorkel. I have no idea how noticeable such a power loss might feel, if it exists at all, but in theory I know what the podcast hosts were getting at.

For the water hazards, again in theory I understand a snorkel's use. I just don't see those types of situations being all that common in most areas of North America, due to the road infrastructure and the prevailing environmental regulations. Also, I'd think that if you're going into deep enough water that your risking water ingestion, you're probably also risking ruining the electronic systems that are common to nearly all modern vehicles.


Over the past 3+ decades of wheeling the Sierras, I've not used a snorkel either. But I wouldn't use that as a bell weather.
I've been in the Sierra Nevadas when the dust hung over the trail so thick it was like Tule fog. While I've never had a snorkel, when I got home and looked at the air filter, sometimes I wish I did. I have gone as far as using Vasoline around the airfilter gasket to help keep dirt out of the intake tract.

Carbureted rigs can really take advantage of the cooler air drawn in by a snorkel. It's amazing how hot the engine compartment can get when crawling along a trail. A phenolic spacer can only do so much to keep the heat away from the carb, when it's sucking 250*F air.

So yeah, I can definitely see where a snorkel can be an advantage, even overlanding North America.

Sometimes I wish that snorkel was on my nose and mouth!
Oh man, not to be gross, but I've blown my nose days afterwards and had blackness fill the tissue. :eek:
Screw the rig, I want to breath clean filtered air... :elkgrin:
Fair enough. Again my experiences are mostly relegated to the northeast. Yes, there are dusty back roads out here, but like I said earlier you can only go so far on them before you're back on pavement. I'm also interested in hearing more about how the newer OEM air systems compare to snorkel setups. Ram has an Active Air system, with 2 different intake routes; the ECU detects for dust and moisture and adjusts to receive air from either intake route as deemed appropriate.


And I can relate on wanting a snorkel for my nose and mouth; my nostrils got quite clogged after leaving my windows open for a long stretch of dirt road on one trip.
 
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