Snorkels, Do They Actually Increase Fuel Efficiency or HP Performance?
Here is our deeper look into the benefits of installing a snorkel on your 4Runner, how snorkels work and most importantly, how they improve efficiency.
What’s up, guys?! Jared here, back once again. It is so awesome to be here with you guys.
Let’s talk about snorkels. They look cool, well most do at least. What else? What is its purpose? Are they functional or just aesthetically pleasing?
Before we start down that rabbit hole. I want to give you some background information to bring you up to speed on these common off-road and overland truck mods. I’m also going to try and answer a few general questions that often come up. The one I really want to find the answer to in particular is THE ONE. I know we all have thought about it.
Yes, that one:
Do snorkels really make a difference in efficiency and/or performance?
All of us have seen the pictures growing up. Those iconic images of the old Land Rovers. The ones where the spare tire is mounted on the hood and its dredging windshield deep through the water and mud.
When I was younger I always wondered, what that pipe is running up the A-pillar was for? I remember thinking how awesome it looked. When I figured out what it was for, I thought how ingenious it was.
I spent a lot of my time growing up watching my dad work. He tooled on everything from his truck to our a/c unit. Like most young mechanics in training, I was the gofer, the tool caddy.
Before we jump into it, let’s first understand the theory of why truck and SUV owners add a snorkel to their vehicle.
Why put a snorkel on a truck?
Snorkels raise the air intake on your truck to a higher level, usually above the hood and just below the roofline. Air intakes pull air into the engine then mix with a spark and fuel in order to run. With a raised air intake, you can theoretically drive through deeper water levels preventing water from entering/damaging your engine, which is referred to as “hydrolocking”. Snorkels have also been related to increasing efficiency.
Increased Efficiency: Fact or Fiction?
Over the years I started to grow into my own skillset. I started turning the wrenches and daddy started watching. It wasn’t till later that I cut my teeth in the diesel world. No, not the jacked-up pick-ups bulldogging and rolling coal down the road. I started working on workhorses and purpose-built machines.
The majority of them all have is some sort of external air intake system. It keeps the dust to a minimum, keeping it cooler and dry.
Whether it’s a mushroom top or the chrome set-up on big rigs, this system allows the engine to breathe cooler cleaner air while traversing off-road or the open road.
Snorkel Parts and Their Function
Your snorkel setup is made up of 3 major components, consisting of:
- Air Ram or Pre-Filter
- The Body & Mounting Bracket
- The Air Box
1st Stage of Filtration: Air Ram or Pre-Filter
Snorkels function as a two-stage filtration system which includes your air ram or pre-filter as your first stage of filtration.
This is the part of filtration where large particles are collected before they reach the second stage of filtration. This is your factory or aftermarket intake, or air box filter.
Universal Air Ram
This the 1st stage of filtration for the typical snorkel setup. The intake can have a number of different options. You have your most recognizable in the 4Runner and Tacoma world is the air ram.
For when you’re hitting the trails or happen to live in a dusty area, it is recommended to use a pre-filter option. But for the daily driver, the ram is a much more practical setup.
Air Ram Water and Debris Expulsion
As you drive, the air ram is taking in air. The change in direction and air pressure forces the water and debris out of the holes and drain slots holes. Poor design can actually cause rainwater and debris to flood your engine’s airbox. This can have the potential to hydrolock your engine.
Other than grating, the face of the air ram does not need to be covered. This actually diverts the air around the air ram. There is a discussion about this in different weather conditions.
Donaldson Vortex/Cyclone Pre-Cleaner Head (Pre-Filter)
Another option available is the vortex style pre-filter.
Vortex/Cyclone Head’s Water and Debris Expulsion
You will see these on a lot of heavy equipment and diesel trucks.
Air is drawn up through the bottom in which the angled fins start the air moving in the spiraling motion. The heavy debris is then forced to the sides and finally to the bottom of the filter bowl.
This type of snorkel filtration system will need to be cleaned regularly.
The Body and Mounting Bracket
The air ram is mounted on top of the body of your vehicle.
The body of the snorkel (the long tube portion) runs down the A-pillar along the fender and into the engine bay, where it connects to the air filter housing. The body is held in place by the mounting brackets.
These will come included with your snorkel kit.
2nd Stage of Filtration: Air Box
Your airbox is going to be the second (or the last) stage of filtration. A popular option available right now is the TRD Air Box which includes a flat filter element.
Find It On Amazon:
- TRD Air Box with a Flat Filter Element: Check Price
You can run a flat paper filter or a cone filter with this type of air intake. The type of filter will vary from brand to brand.
Donaldson External/Internal Mounted Air Box
For reference, this type of air filtration system is commonly found on diesel trucks and again, on construction equipment.
Here is what Donaldson air filters have to say:
On-road or off-road, you can trust Donaldson air filters to withstand whatever the environment throws their way. Since 1915, Donaldson has pioneered the development of nearly every major advancement in heavy-duty engine air filtration. Nothing else protects, performs and provides longer life for engines than our industry-leading filters.
Air Filter Restrictions Indicator
This Vacuum Indicator (seen on the TRD Intake) monitors filter efficiency and is a general indicator for filter service. This vacuum indicator indicates when the intake/ filter should be serviced.
The Bigger Picture
Alright guys, hopefully, you get the idea here.
What we are trying to do here, is supply the engine with the cleanest, driest and coolest air possible.
Through our factory “cold air” intake, the engine naturally draws its own air but from the wheel well inlet. Or in the case of an open box intake, from the actual engine bay – technically drawing in hot air. By moving the intake out of the engine bay, we automatically drop the temperature of the air. There is less radiant heat from the engine and driving surfaces.
Cooler air is sometimes confused with the air being oxygen saturated or rich. The location and altitude are what determines the richness of the air. Cooler air is denser and the air molecules are closer together.
What does that mean to us? It allows you to put more air into the same airbox then you could hot air.
How To Get a Cleaner, More Complete Burn
At higher speeds, this is force-feeding the engine with air.
With the air so readily available, it crams itself into the cylinder. At the same time, your exhaust valve is open for a short time, the fresh air helps push the exhaust gases out. This is where you get your cleaner, more complete burn. We want to burn every ionized droplet of gas as possible.
Keep a Spare Filter For Off-Road Driving
Off-road, you are looking for clean dry air.
You are not always going to be moving fast enough to get that cyclonic action. Your air filter will take the brunt of this. Yes, dust will be ingested, it’s going to happen. Oiled filters will clog and probably need to clean frequently.
What a lot of people may not know is that once you spray oil onto your filter, it has to “dry” before installing. It may be a good idea to carry a spare one. Even a spare paper filter wouldn’t hurt. Two is one, one is none.
Your Mass Airflow Sensor will more than likely need to be cleaned once in a while as well as the throttle body depending on driving habits. Some argue that with a snorkel you may need to clean these areas or maintain them less frequently.
Top Snorkel Kit Options for the 5th Gen 4Runner
ARB 2010+ 4Runner Safari Snorkel Kit
The Safari Snorkel has been around since the ’80s.
Designed and tested in one of the world’s most unforgivable environments. The Australian Outback. Sporting a completely UV stable cross-linked and colorfast polyethylene construction. You won’t need to worry about color fade or abrasions on the trails. Its air ram is designed for 360 degrees of rotation, allowing you to drive in any weather conditions up ahead.
Find It On Amazon:
- ARB Safari Snorkel | 5th Gen 4Runner: Check Price
Dobinsons 4X4 Snorkel Kit For 5th Gen 4Runner
The Dobinsons 4×4 Snorkel is roto-molded (like Yeti Coolers) from CNC routed aluminum dies.
This means accurate high-quality replication every time. Made with UV resistant LLDPE (Linear low-density polyethylene). You have years of off-road reliability without deformation and color fades.
Find It Online:
- Dobinsons 4X4 Snorkel Kit For 5th Gen 4Runner: Check Price
TJM 2010+ 4Runner Airtec Snorkel Kit
Out of all of the snorkel kits available for the 5th Gen 4Runner, I like this set up the best.
TJM Airtec Snorkel Air Ram
The air ram design takes full advantage of all the air running over the windshield.
TJM Airtex Snorkel’s air ram is designed to allow the right amount of air to have your engine run at its best. Stainless steel mounting hardware and fasteners allow endless hours off the beaten path. The Airtex Snorkel follows the 4Runner’s body curves for a more eye-pleasing appearance.
The color compounding process injects pigment into a molten resin, ensuring no color bleed or rub off. The construction incorporates special additives and bonding process that makes it tough and impact resistant.
Find It Online:
- TJM 2010+ 4Runner Airtec Snorkel Kit (+Air Ram): Check Price
Extreme Dimensions Duraflex Replacement Fender
The installation process is fairly simple, although you will need to cut a massive hole in your factory fenders. If you don’t have a problem with cutting a large hole in your fender, then you are good to go. Check out a recent install of the Dobinsons snorkel done by High Sierra Overland (also pictured on this page). If you don’t want to cut into your factory fenders, you have a couple options below. Buy a set of fiberglass fenders and cut your own hole or buy a set of pre-cut fiberglass fenders like the ones pictured here.
A Fender That is Designed to Accept a Snorkel
I know, it is not a snorkel. I think with this fender and the right snorkel is used, maybe even color match it. This could be a seamless and even factory looking mod.
Find It On Amazon:
- Extreme Dimensions Duraflex Replacement Fender: Check Price
Final Thoughts – Do snorkels increase efficiency?
So, there you have it! Looking at the functions and design, snorkels, at the very least, do what they are designed to do, keeping our heads above water and breathing in the fresh air.
- Efficiency? To a degree, yes.
To make the best possible decision, we will need to see real numbers. We need a 4Runner that is dialed-in perfectly. Throw it on the dyno without a snorkel vs one with a snorkel. Then, possibly run it with each brand snorkel.
That is where you’ll get your true questions answered.
- Do snorkels increase efficiency and/or performance?
- How much?
- What brand outperforms the rest?
Only a real back to back comparison will tell but hopefully, this gives you a better idea of how they work and at a bare minimum, if you do run a snorkel, you should see some improvement depending on your driving habits.
If you are really looking to increase performance, you may also want to refer to this performance overview article where Brenan broke down a few options.