How Does A Jeep Snorkel Work? (Keep Rain Out)

This article discusses how snorkels function and how it prevents rainwater from entering your Jeep’s engine while driving. It’s compulsory to have a snorkel fitted to your Jeep before you venture off-road. Are snorkels a gimmick or do they add some advantage? Also how effective are they at restricting rain and river water from entering your Jeeps engine?

Snorkels work by raising your Jeep’s air intake above engine bay height. It assists the vehicle’s engine to suck cleaner, cooler, dryer air from a higher point without allowing rain, water, or dust debris to enter into the engine intake by means of its pre-filtration and water drainage design through tiny water outlets below the head of the snorkel. This enables rainwater to drain off before it reaches the air intake. Your Jeep also has a water drainage plug inside the airbox that allows water to flow out before it reaches the engine.

Snorkels use different methods to filter the air, one typical method is a process called “pre-filter” where the air is filtered before it gets to the engine. A common “pre-filter” method is by allowing the water to drain out of the snorkel pipe well before it reaches the air filter, thus protecting the engine. Snorkels play an important function, it is not just an aesthetic upgrade to make your Jeep look macho, like a set of 35 inch tires

If you would like to know more about Jeep snorkels and how it affects performance, continue reading!

Does A Snorkel Improve Performance?

How does a Jeep-Snorkel work

Instead of sucking warm air from behind the front grill of your Jeeps engine bay, a snorkel is molded out of robust weather-proof plastic or steel pipe that is securely mounted on the side of the vehicle and plumbed directly through the Jeeps body directly into the air intake which is situated in the engine bay.

The snorkel improves your Jeep’s fuel economy by helping the engine run more efficiently. The air induction effect created by the snorkel increases the lifespan of your turbo and engine by allowing it to operate at cooler, more optimal temperatures. Snorkels also improve the vehicle’s breathing abilities which allow your turbo to spool up faster, thus reducing turbo lag.

Are there any disadvantages of mounting one on your Jeep or any other brand of 4×4? Who should strongly consider mounting a snorkel and for what applications are they perfectly suited?

What Is A Jeep Snorkel Used For?

Snorkels are not just a good idea when you regularly wade through deep water but a very necessary modification when you regularly drive in dry, dusty conditions like gravel farm roads. This is true especially if you are driving in convoy, your Jeep will not suck in as much dust and clog up your air filter as quickly since it is sucking air from a raised position. Snorkels extend the lifespan of your air filter by keeping them cleaner for longer. A clogged air filter will negatively affect your Jeep’s engine performance and fuel consumption. very similar to fitting bigger tires like 33″ or 35″ tires to your Jeep.

Extra Filtration

Depending on the type of snorkel, you get designs that add extra filtration through a vortex filter mounted on the top of the snorkel. This added filtration is beneficial for your Jeep as it traps fine particles and dust before it reaches the engine. If you venture off-road regularly or drive and live in a dusty environment, then this type of snorkel is definitely recommended for you.

Watch: How to fit a Jeep Snorkel (Video)

Snorkel Myths Debunked

Most people believe that when a Jeep is fitted with a snorkel they can fully submerge the vehicle in deep water. Now that is not entirely 100% true. The reality is when you wade through deep water there are other factors to consider, besides your air intake, like the following:

  • engine plugs
  • electrical alternator
  • differential breathers
  • electronic fuses
  • electronic sensors (if you are driving a modern 4×4.)

“a snorkel…does not automatically transform your vehicle into a submarine on wheels”

Simply installing a snorkel, does not automatically transform your vehicle into a submarine on wheels. However, there are workarounds to most of these issues like installing diff breathers and sealing the snorkel as best you can to increase the vehicle’s maximum factory wading depth. That said, you are better off sticking to the manufacturer’s guidelines by trying your best to stay within the maximum wading depth for your Jeep to prevent any risk of hydro-locking. If you do decide to submerge your Jeep deeper than the manufacturer’s recommended maximum wading depth, always ensure it is not for extended periods.

What is Hydro-locking?

Hydro-locking is when an engine seizes or suffers catastrophic mechanical failure due to the ingress of a substantial volume of water in the cylinders. This does not need to be liters of water but a few milliliters in a diesel engine could mean a complete engine rebuild and thousands of dollars of damage later.

Is A Snorkel Practical?

The only time a snorkel could become a hindrance is when you are doing really rough bundu-bashing in the heavily overgrown bush where low-hanging tree branches are growing across the track. These can get caught in between the snorkel and the body of the vehicle, risking damage. This is a very unlikely scenario and not really a major concern.

Garage Door Test

Have you considered the fact that it’s possible your Jeep might not fit in your garage once the snorkel is fitted? Highly unlikely but still a point for consideration. Because the snorkel intake is slightly higher than the roof of your vehicle in most applications, if you have a limited height or often drive where height restrictions can pose a risk, you want to be aware of this.

What Are The Drawbacks Of Fitting A Snorkel?

Ok, so there are a few factors you need to consider before taking the plunge.

Warranty Void

If your vehicle is still under warranty by the manufacturer you might want to relook this and see what the implications are. Some manufacturers offer OEM factory-installed snorkels as an optional extra these days. If the vehicle manufacturer does not offer a snorkel as an after-sales add-on, you want to make sure you are not voiding your engine warranty if you do fit a 3rd party snorkel. First, consult your dealership as you might run into complications later if you need to claim for any engine-related repairs. So do your homework first.

Permanent Fitting

When you have the snorkel installed, there are quite a few holes that need to be drilled into body panels. The main hole for the intake usually exits the side of the front fender somewhere near the airbox. This cannot be undone if you ever decide to sell the vehicle or you want to revert back to stock or remove the snorkel, you will need to replace the complete fender. There will always be evidence left behind as mounting brackets needs to be fitted along the side of the windscreen to secure the snorkel pipe to the vehicle.

Increased Wind Noise

The increase in wind noise in the cabin caused by the air suction of the snorkel can be a drawback. You definitely will hear the difference as the intake is now raised and is situated right above either the driver or passenger door. Wind noise will also be noticeable at high speeds. If you opt for the steel pipe snorkel, they are LOUDER than the plastic derivatives, and driving with the windows down or slightly open exaggerates the noise. Something to think about.


Snorkels are popular and commonplace on most Jeeps and other 4-wheel drives today. It seems like it is one of the first modifications to make once you buy a 4×4. However, there are a few things to remember.

Not all Snorkels are made the same.
Ensure you select a really good brand because this is one area you do not want to go cheap on. They might all look the same on the outside but it is behind the scenes on the inside where it all counts. It just takes a few drops of water, like a few millimeters of water to totally destroy a diesel engine. Make sure the snorkel fits snugly onto the body and looks almost factory fitted. Also, ensure the snorkel marries up well with the intake unit and seals 100%. This is key!

Increased Performance
Sucking cooler air from an elevated level that gets rammed into the intake increases performance slightly and ensures your engine always gets good cool air to perform optimally. There is no need for heat shields to prevent sucking hot air from the engine bays.

Engine Longevity
Having a raised air intake allows your engine to take in cooler, cleaner air which is advantageous for engine longevity, reliability, and overall performance.

Happy 4 Wheeling and remember, Safety First!!!!!

Jade C.

4-Wheel drives and off-road driving techniques has been my passion for over 20 years. Here we strive to provide the most accurate, up-to-date, information about the functionality, common faults and latest technology built into most 4 Wheel Drives.

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