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Do I need a snorkel ?
July 2, 2018 | ABS

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QUESTION
I’m considering a snorkel for my 4×4. As far as I can tell, it appears to be a relatively affordable modification when compared to other off-road accessories. However, I’m not completely sold on the benefits, especially when so many people are unsure about whether or not a snorkel is even necessary. Apart from the “it looks badass” argument, is a snorkel a worthwhile investment?

ANSWER
Definitely! A snorkel offers many benefits to the off-road enthusiast, but (like so many things) it’s a misunderstood product; and that’s where the debate creeps in.

The argument generally starts with wading-depth. Contrary to popular belief, a snorkel will seldom increase your 4×4’s water-fording abilities. In theory, it is possible; but the reality is that your 4×4’s wading depth is determined by multiple factors, and not just by where the engine’s induction point lies.

For example, if your snorkel is installed correctly (with no air or water leaks) it will, in fact, raise your vehicle’s induction point and increase how much water your 4×4 can drive through before inhaling water. However, other factors − such as the height of your vehicle’s transmission breathers, diff breathers, and engine-management system − also determine how much water you can drive through. What’s more, it’s vitally important to remember that driving through water can be a very dangerous exercise, and that the safe way to look at it is: ‘If you can’t walk it, don’t drive it!’ Or, ‘When in doubt, DON’T!’

Coming back to the point of induction height… This is where the true benefit of a snorkel lies. By raising the height of the engine’s breathing point, we’re able to ensure that the motor gets a larger percentage of cooler, cleaner air, which means fewer filter changes, and a greater chance of engine longevity.
We’ve compiled a list of things to consider before going through with the fitment. However, in general, we wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of fitting a snorkel, and encourage our overland clients to consider it. As you mentioned before, it’s an affordable modification that does a proven job of increasing engine performance and longevity – especially for folks travelling to dusty places .

Here’s the list…

1) Know your vehicle’s wading depth, and be aware of what components are causing this limitation.
2) Buy a snorkel that’s designed specifically for your vehicle; avoid fitting a product that doesn’t install 100% snug.
3) Be sure that the installer fitting your snorkel is reputable; the last thing you want is a hack job with gaping holes and unsealed gaskets. This could, in fact, lower your vehicle’s wading depth, cause corrosion, and lead to possible water inhalation and engine damage.
4) Once installed, check that the snorkel works and that there’s no water ingress or leak.
5) Avoid overpriced snorkels that make ridiculous claims. All server the same purpose.
6) There have been reputable tests that show a reduced air intake temperature of up to 3ºC, simply because a snorkel moves the engine’s induction point away from the hot engine bay.
7) A Ram-type snorkel can also increase the speed of the air (flow) into the engine, which also improves performance.
8) Although the above-mentioned performance results have been noted in many tests, the chances of feeling any noticeable differences in engine speed and performance are marginal: they are possibly offset by the added wind drag the snorkel creates. Similarly, you are unlikely to note any changes in fuel economy. However, this could change if you compare it to that of a vehicle without a snorkel that’s breathing through a very clogged air filter.
9) A snorkel may increase engine and wind noise because of drag and a higher induction point.
10) It would be best to avoid any automated car wash facilities in which the snorkel may be knocked or bumped.

Snorkels have been in use for a long time on vehicles and craft. Before World War 1, they were used on tanks and later on submarines. After WW1 and the mechanisation of agriculture, they were fitted on tractors and transport vehicles with the unique purpose to supply the engine with air, free of water and contaminants.

Three main parts constitute a snorkel: a “hat” or “Air Ram”, a Snorkel tube or the “Body” and an air filter either “flat or cyclonic”. The three parts are designed to complement each other in their efficiency.
1. The Air Ram-  Air entering the Air Ram swirls violently, creating a cyclonic effect. The heaviest particles are ejected by the centrifugal force to the periphery of the swirl. There, they hit the vertical ribs where air pressure takes over to eject them out of the four slots at the base of the Air Ram. At this point, the air pressure pushes them out. The finer particles that are not ejected are removed by the vehicle air filter. Not all Air Rams are equal in performance.  It is preferable for the Air Ram to have an open face without a screen because the screen deflects the airflow.

  • The “techie” beef: The surface ratio of the open face to outlet aperture must be a minimum of 1.4:1. If the ratio is lesser, it will be insufficient to create the cyclone action that separates heavy contaminants effectively.  Approximately 30% of the incoming airflow (above 25kph / 15mph) is used in the separation process. Any deflection of the incoming airflow must be avoided since it dramatically affects efficiency.
  • Deflections may be caused by:
    1- Air Ram situated in close proximity to the hood of the vehicle
    2- Air Ram with a curved or foiled roof
    3- Turning Air Ram away from travel direction
    4- Where Air Ram design makes the air go back on itself at an angle greater than 100 degrees.
  • Incorrect Air Ram design may cause excessive induction noise, lack of separation and air blocking by vortex at various speeds. This air blocking will limit airflow. This is a common occurrence when “looks” take priority over functionality.  If the Air Ram is moulded on the body of the snorkel (for aesthetic reasons) it does not provide particle separation, thus all contaminants need to be removed by the internal air filter. This increases the maintenance cycle of the air cleaner. Furthermore, this configuration may cause a vacuum into the snorkel, thus increasing the risk of engine damage.
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2.The Body-  Now that the air is free of large particles, it starts traveling down the snorkel body in a straight line. The body may be of two types, induction or non-induction. In the induction case, the air slows down because it enters in a larger volume, the plenum chamber. The swirling created by the Air Ram diminishes, thus reducing friction losses. There, the air is buffered, immediately available for the air box at positive pressure. The engine management system can use it readily.  Not all bodies are equal in performance.  In the case of a non-induction body, the air passes down directly to the hood tubing and ducting into the air box. While this technique increases efficiency and engine performance, it is not as effective as the cold air induction type.

3. The Air Cleaner   Commonly, there are two types of air cleaner fitted to cars by manufacturers: the Flat Air Cleaner and the Cyclonic Air Cleaner, both are fitted with paper filters. While they conform to emission laws, they are not fuel or power efficient. The Cyclonic is the most effective of the two types. Some after market suppliers replace the paper filter by a foam oil filter to further increase airflow and thus power to the engine. However, what is gained in power is lost in filtration. Generally, a paper filter will suppress particles down to 30 microns while foam oil filters will not filter below 40 to 50 microns. Larger particle sizes will increase exponentially the risk of damage to the power of the engine.

Conclusion

Purchasing a snorkel ought to improve your car’s performance at most engine speeds. Furthermore, it should reduce fuel consumption and make your engine run cleaner. Not all snorkel body designs produce a cold air induction effect. This effect improves fuel efficiency while also improving engine power.  Once installed, your 4WD will be ready for new adventures and maybe some river crossings and let’s be honest….just look cool.

 

At ABS Offroad we stock various models of snorkels for almost any 4×4 vehicle in Trinidad and Tobago. Feel safe knowing that you are buying from the most reputable and established 4×4 shop in the country.

Call us at 1 -868-361-5829 lets help you Dominate the Trail!

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