Car Snorkels – What Do They Do? How To Install Them?

Are you considering off-roading as a serious hobby?

Every off-roader will tell you that this is a lot of fun. There are few things better in life than crashing across rivers or sandy dunes. However, there’s also an element of risk involved if you don’t care for your vehicle properly.

One way to enhance your car’s off-road capacity is to install a 4x4 snorkel.

Many people wonder what does a snorkel does to a car. This guide will explain everything about these useful accessories and why they’re a must for off-roading.

Let’s get started!

How Does a Car Snorkel Work?

A 4WD snorkel effectively works in the same way as a human snorkel. The latter allows people to breathe underwater as long as the top of the snorkel protrudes to the surface. This gives the swimmer a lot more freedom.

Car snorkels are very similar except that they provide relief for the engine.

Air passes through the snorkel into the engine and the combustion system. Without air, an engine will not run efficiently. Usually, oxygen enters the vents on the bumper but this isn’t always possible when off-roading.

If your vehicle passes through a deep body of water or a lot of sand over a prolonged period, the engine may struggle. In the worst-case scenario, it will cut out. As there isn’t any air, it will be impossible to start and could even flood.

Car snorkels use either a ram or cyclone effect to receive air and eject particles. The former is more common and forcibly ejects water and dust. Cyclone snorkels also do this but in a swirling manner.

These effects enable it to receive air more aggressively and sustainably. It’s a win-win situation!

How Does a Car Snorkel Work

What Are the Benefits of Using a Snorkel?

There are many benefits to using a 4WD snorkel.

Firstly, water won’t enter the front vents of the car. This prevents the engine from stalling and potential damage to the electrics. Many potential offroaders hesitate from participating because they fear the cost of these incidents.

Meanwhile, fuel efficiency will improve. More air passes into the combustion system. The engine burns fuel more sustainably than before. It will take a long time but you may even save money!

Finally, a 4x4 snorkel inhales cleaner air than the central vents. That’s because the air is higher from the ground. Furthermore, the ram effect discards dust particles instead of ingesting them.

This may reduce your visits to the mechanic too!

the Benefits of Using a Snorkel

How Much Do Snorkels Usually Cost?

Car snorkels vary in price depending on the quality and the manufacturer.

However, they usually cost in the region of $500. If you want to buy a premium snorkel it’s possible to pay over $1000. Cheaper options for about $100 are also available but these may not work as effectively and should be used with caution.

Remember, like everything in life, you get what you pay for. Your car’s engine is at stake here. Sure, you may save a few dollars now but the repairs could cost twice as much!

How To Install A 4x4 Snorkel

Now let’s look at the steps to learn how to install snorkel devices for your 4WD.
For a visual guide, check out this video via Outback Equipment.

How to install a stainless steel snorkel on a 4WD - Tuff Terrain

Remember that some steps may vary depending on the manufacturer’s specifications.

  1. Align the snorkel’s template to the vehicle before applying the protective tape.
  2. Outline the area using a marker pen.
  3. Mark drill hole areas.
  4. Next, remove the inner wheel guard and the airbox.
  5. Drill pilot holes in the marked areas.
  6. Cut out the traced template area.
  7. File away the edges until no trace remains of the marker pen.
  8. Paint the exposed metal to prevent corrosion.
  9. Test-fit the snorkel before removing the protective tape.
  10. Attach the provided pinch weld.
  11. Fit the snorkel and secure internal guard piping.
  12. Mark the bracket and rivnut holes.
  13. Drill rivnut holes before fitting them.
  14. Attach bracket and refit the airbox
  15. Use silicone sealant around all joints.
  16. Tighten everything!

Tools Required When Installing a Car Snorkel

The following tools will be necessary when installing a car snorkel. Let’s look now.

Protective Tape

This will reduce the risk of potential abrasions to areas around the cutout. Some people may skimp on this detail but they’re taking a chance!

Power Drill

A power drill is necessary for the rivnut holes.

Power Saw

Use a power saw to cut around the marked template area.

Vehicle Paint

This will cover the exposed metal that you have cut and prevent corrosion.


A file may be necessary to create an even surface after using the power saw.

Allen Keys/Screwdrivers/Spanners

These tools will be helpful when tightening nuts and bolts during the installation.

Silicone Sealant

This product will help prevent water from seeping through the drilled holes and cutout area.

Car Snorkels - Potential Risks

Many people mistakenly assume that their 4WD is now a submarine because they have a snorkel.

Yes, it will enhance and preserve the output of the vehicle’s engine - once it’s properly installed. But there are other factors to remember. Your 4x4’s electronics may still be vulnerable to water.

This is particularly true if water can enter the cabin. You must use the correct gear and torque to push through a body of water too. A snorkel won’t help you if this isn’t right. Also, strong currents will still have the power to sweep the 4WD away.

Avoid wading for long periods because this will reduce the overall dangers presented to your car. It’s also a good plan not to be first. Let somebody else take the fall before you!

Finally, always check your vehicle for leaks or water ingestion. It’s best to deal with a problem before it becomes serious and costs you a fortune.

Car Snorkels - Potential Risks

Points to Consider When Buying a Car Snorkel

Check out some important points to consider when buying a 4x4 air snorkel.

Rated Wading Depth

The engine is the first thing we are concerned about when offroading. However, water and sand present a risk to the electronics as well as other mechanical systems.

Check the rated weighting depth so that your vehicle faces less risk.

The RDA considers the vehicle cabin’s overall capability to prevent water from entering. Remember that this may deteriorate over time. It also relates to the aspects mentioned above. Usually, they are between 500 to 800mm in height but there are exceptions.

Remember that the height of the vehicle doesn’t decide the RDA. This depends on the manufacturer’s discretion. It may be the case that a taller vehicle has a lower RDA than a shorter one.

Rated Wading Depth

Vehicle-Specific Snorkel Systems

Many 4WD vehicles are compatible with specific snorkels.

It’s wise to check if there is one that’s designed for your particular 4X4. This may save you a lot of pain in the long term. The fit will be much better because they are created with your vehicle in mind.

Custom designs are another option, but the cost may be prohibitive. Here are some of the top snorkels for popular vehicles in Australia:

Rams vs. Cyclone Snorkels

Another point to think about is which type of snorkel to buy.

Ram snorkels are the most common because they’re cheaper to buy. However, there’s a strong argument that cyclone snorkels are more effective overall. That’s because they remove more dust before it arrives at the filter.

There may not be much of a choice to make depending on which snorkel is suitable for your vehicle. But it’s something to keep in mind if you have the option.

Cyclone Snorkels

Plastic vs. Stainless Steel Snorkels

There isn’t much to separate plastic and stainless steel snorkels in terms of performance.

However, it won’t come as much of a surprise to learn that the latter is more robust. Meanwhile, they’re resistant to corrosion so water won’t affect them. Another benefit is the aesthetic because typically they look more pleasing.

The downside is that they cost more than plastic alternatives and are heavier.

Ask an Expert

Some people simply aren’t good at DIY.

This is nothing to be ashamed of. But don’t take any risks when it comes to installing a snorkel. After all, it won’t do much good if you've drilled random holes in the body of your vehicle.

Once again, the cost of paying a professional may be less than the potential damage to your 4WD.

Final Thoughts

A car snorkel is a brilliant accessory for serious off-roaders.

There’s also no denying that they make any 4X4 instantly cooler. However, the primary significance of a 4x4 snorkel is its performance benefits. They may save your vehicle from a bad situation and provide economic benefits.

Remember to buy a car snorkel from a reputable dealership or provider. These products will come with warranties and guarantees in the case of a problem. There are a lot of risks when buying cheaper snorkels so don’t take that chance unless you like your insurance agent!

If you have any more questions about fitting car snorkels or their benefits, please leave a comment below.

This article may contain affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product or service after clicking on my link. This helps pay for the cost of running the website. You will not be disadvantaged in any way by using my links.

Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.

This article may contain affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product or service after clicking on my link. This helps pay for the cost of running the website. You will not be disadvantaged in any way by using my links.

Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.


While Louis does most of his trips near his home in south-east Queensland, he has been camping as far afield as South America and Africa. He loves researching, testing and experimenting with camping gear whenever possible.

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