4X4 Snorkel Buyers' Guide

snorkel buyers guard

THERE’S no doubt any off-road-oriented four-wheel drive worth its salt requires a snorkel.

This vital tool in a four-wheeler’s arsenal not only allows vehicles to cross deep water crossings, but its elevated position allows cleaner, dust-free air to filter through to the engine.

“On a standard vehicle setup, the air intake is usually in the inner wheel arch or under the bonnet. The air from these locations is not always the best, as the air can be affected by external elements such as dust, heat or water,” explained Ironman 4x4’s product director, Adam Craze. “So, as a starting place, fitting a snorkel raises the air intake to allow the air to be taken from a higher, cooler location, that in most cases is less affected by dust.”

Engines require cooler, cleaner air to work to their optimum ability, so having an elevated snorkel filtering air into the engine when attempting to mount Big Red will make it a hell of a lot easier to reach the top.

4X4 SNORKELS
Jason Luxon, Safari 4x4’s marketing manager, agreed: “A positively sealed snorkel system is generally installed to protect your engine against water and dust ingression, providing cleaner, cooler air at all times. “Armax snorkel systems go one step further and have the ability to supply up to 40 per cent more airflow over a standard air-intake system, for increased engine performance.”

As well as protecting an engine from silty dust deposits, a well-designed snorkel also enhances a 4x4’s appearance. “The TJM Airtec Snorkel provides a pleasing aesthetic accessory that will enhance the look of any 4WD,” Brad Cooper, TJM’s category manager for mechanical components, told us. James David, Sherpa 4x4 technician, added: “The snorkel is an affordable upgrade which not only improves the appearance of the vehicle but also provides a practical upgrade to the factory vehicle airflow design. It is especially important for people planning to do touring or extreme adventures off-road.”

SEALED v UNSEALED

A sealed snorkel will prevent water and dust from entering an engine, while unsealed snorkels, designed as a multi-piece construction are, according to Airflow’s David Mellords, “made for the benefit of external air induction but not with water protection in mind”. Any serious off-roader will flick an unsealed snorkel in favour of a sealed one as soon as the keys to the new rig exchange hands, as an unsealed snorkel won’t be much chop when the tracks get dusty or wet.

The experts agreed: “We don’t understand why anyone would fit a snorkel only to leave it unsealed,” said Sherpa’s James David. “A sealed snorkel is the only snorkel to have,” added Adam Craze. “TJM Airtec snorkels are all positively sealed to the vehicle’s air box during installation,” said TJM’s Brad Cooper, adding: “It’s important to note that to ensure the warranty of your vehicle you must follow the manufacturer’s handbook to ensure you have complied with their recommendations for water wading and general vehicle operation.”

STAINLESS STEEL?

Other than the construction, there’s not a hell of a lot of difference between a plastic and stainless steel – typically made from high-grade 304 – snorkels. “There’s really not that much different between the two,” Phat Bars’ Paul Hanlen told us. He added that a main point of difference between the two constructions is style. “We look at the lines of the car from all directions, to make sure the product remains stylish.”

A stainless steel snorkel will afford structural rigidity and robustness, and it will be corrosion-resistant and of one-piece construction, meaning it’ll be just as capable as plastic snorkels for desert and river crossings. Phat Bar snorkels remain between 75 and 100mm all the way to the airbox – often 100mm the entire way. “There’s plenty of air going all the way to the airbox,” Hanlen said. “We also angle the rear of our snorkels so that they’re not facing totally backwards.” Phat Bars is a Queensland-based company specialising in a range of kit including snorkels, rear bars, bash plates and rock sliders.

SNORKEL FITOUT 4X4

QUALITY MADE VERSUS CHEAP IMITATIONS

WHY spend your hard-earned on a quality snorkel from a trusted manufacturer when there are imitation versions available for a fraction of the cost? For starters, quality made aftermarket snorkels are designed and styled to fit specific vehicle applications. Brad Cooper from TJM explained, “Most cheap imported snorkels are either copies or designed to suit foreign vehicles and will not fit your car correctly. TJM Airtec snorkels offer a range of intake (ram) heads to suit your particular style and application.”

Opting to buy an aftermarket snorkel from the specialists could be one of the smartest off-roading decisions you’ll ever make. Not only will the high-quality product be up to the task, you’ll have peace of mind that your engine will be protected from dust and water ingress, and the product will last the duration of your travels. “Purchasing from a trusted manufacturer and retailer gives you the peace of mind that your investment is protected wherever you travel. Why would you risk damaging the engine of your pride and joy by fitting a cheap, poor-fitting imported snorkel?” asked Cooper.

Sherpa 4x4’s James David added that experience and reliability are key reasons to stick with the professionals. “Choosing a Sherpa snorkel, you know the product has been proven and installed hundreds of times before, meaning it will fit your vehicle without trouble. You will also have access to aftersales support from a company that won’t do a Harry Houdini on you tomorrow.”

SNORKEL 4X4 SIDE
This level of experience across all brands is a key reason why consumers should lean toward trusted manufacturers. “Airflow has been designing, manufacturing and selling roto-moulded products for the last 30 years,” Airflow’s sales manager, David Mellords, told us. “We have been selling snorkels nationally and internationally for 26 years, and manufacturing them for the past 23 years. During that time we have undertaken a comprehensive study program into mould design, mould making, manufacturing techniques using the latest in Computer Aided Design (CAD) and, where necessary, even using imitation technology.”

Safari’s Jason Luxon concurred: “Safari 4x4 Engineering are passionate about the ultimate in 4x4 engine protection and performance and has over 35 years’ experience. Our history in the market place has proven the durability and quality of our products. The high standard and attention to detail is unmatched anywhere in the world.”

It’s also important to remember that hours and hours of testing, research and development goes into a quality-made product before it’s attached to the front of a 4x4.

“Buying from a trusted brand ensures the research and development has been done to ensure there are no negative effects on your vehicle and the raw materials are of the highest quality,” said Ironman 4x4’s Adam Craze.

INSTALLATION

Manufacturers typically provide customers with step-by-step instructions on DIY fitment of snorkels, and those with plenty of experience handling tools can fit their snorkels in a couple of hours. “Each Armax snorkel comes with comprehensive fitting instructions and can be installed by either a professional workshop or DIY,” said Jason Luxon. “Generally, fitting time is two to four hours depending on the model.” However, as Adam Craze explained: “Cutting the hole in the side of your brand-new vehicle is not normally something someone wants to do, so it is probably better left to the professionals to install.” So unless you know your way around sheetmetal and the front-end of a 4x4, we recommend dropping it off at a workshop.

“Ultimately it comes down to the customer’s ability, confidence and willingness in performing the task,” added Sherpa 4x4’s James David. “Many of our customers ask their local mechanic to fit the snorkel at their next vehicle service and this is usually a cost-effective avenue to having your snorkel installed by someone you already know and trust.” Brad Cooper from TJM repeated this sentiment: “We always recommend professional fitment by a TJM distributor to ensure seamless and problem-free integration with your vehicle’s air intake system. If you would like to fit it yourself, all TJM Airtec snorkels come with a step by step installation guide.” One of the most important things to remember during installation is to ensure all of the holes are treated for rust protection and all parts are fully sealed.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

TJM AIRTEC SNORKELS

TJM SNORKEL
TJM Airtec snorkels, made from UV-resistant, low-density polyethylene for maximum rigidity, are 100 per cent Australian made using a proven method of roto-moulding and high-quality aluminium moulds. To ensure long-term serviceability, all snorkels utilise stainless steel hardware. “TJM Airtec snorkels are engineered to suit the individual requirements of each engine to ensure that the new intake system works with the engine in the harshest running conditions,” Brad Cooper said. To this end, vehicles with an Airtec snorkel fitted are tested to ensure it doesn’t affect performance. TJM’s unit is unique as it offers an option of air rams on some models. “This includes the traditional forward-facing ram, along with the Wedgetail design available for popular vehicles,” Cooper added.

SAFARI ARMAX SNORKELS

sAFARI SNORKEL
Safari Armax snorkel systems utilise Australian-made industrial spec UV-stabilised polyethylene. “All snorkel bodies are rotationally moulded to Safari’s strict standards, using our manufacturing processes developed over 35 years to ensure every body fits perfectly and will last the life of a vehicle,” Jason Luxon explained. “All Armax snorkel systems are thoroughly engineered to ensure the required amount of air flow is achieved for each vehicles application,” he added. “Safari utilises CAD software in design including analysis of modelled flow data, 3D printed models are then flow-tested on our custom flow bench. In addition, each system is tested on our all-wheel drive dynamometer to ensure the vehicle performs as expected in a controlled environment. Finally, all vehicles are road tested both on- and off-road.”

SHERPA 4X4

Sherpa 4x4 snorkels are roto-moulded, under strict quality control, using the highest quality materials including the UV absorber and carbon black UV blocker. James David said it’s critical to use the best possible materials, regardless of cost. “Unfortunately, the good ingredients are also the costly ones,” he said. “We believe in spending a little extra during manufacturing process to achieve a higher quality end product and, as such, we don’t skimp on the expensive ingredients.” Sherpa 4x4 also invest plenty of time and effort to ensure the product is moulded to be strong and impact resistant. The company no longer manufactures in Australia, but the low-complexity moulding can be done anywhere in the world thanks to the brand’s Quality Management Plan.

IRONMAN 4X4

IRONMAN SNORKEL
All Ironman 4x4 snorkels use UV-resistant polyethylene, and all mounting hardware is stainless steel. “We use LLDPE (linear low density polyethylene) due to the excellent UV and impact resistance,” Adam Craze said.

“For the design we start with 3D scanning the vehicle, so we can ensure the perfect fit against the vehicle. We design the shape around the optimum airflow and vehicles features,” he said. “We ensure the snorkel doesn’t sit too high or too far out to ensure they are compatible with other accessories like side-steps with rails.”

The snorkel’s air intake is also higher and in front of the windscreen, and Ironman uses a four-inch head and intake to ensure sufficient air volume to the engine. Ironman snorkels are then tested – from the dyno to the real world – before and after fitment.

AIRFLOW

Airflow snorkels employ 100 per cent LLDPE. “The material is compounded (remelted) with additives for UV, ductility, hardness, impact strength and processing features,” explained Airflow’s David Mellords. Each snorkel goes through computer simulation and physical testing. “Taking into consideration the properties of the powertrain, design and structure of the vehicle, the snorkel is individually designed to get the best possible outcome,” he said.

The snorkel’s design produces a cold air induction effect, boosting power and improving fuel efficiency. R&D and manufacturing is done in a number of countries including Australia, and parts are sourced from all over the world. Airflow's snorkels also come with a breakaway system, which means A pillar bracket system will break away from the vehicle’s A pillar upon impact, reducing the possibility of catastrophic damage to the vehicle.

PRICING (RRP) & WARRANTIES

IRONMAN 4X4: 5-year warranty; $320
SHERPA 4X4: 5-year unlimited km warranty; $299 (approx.)
TJM: 3-year warranty; from $378
AIRFLOW: Manufacturer’s warranty (free of commercial manufacturing defects); $190-$352 (plus fitting)
SAFARI: Lifetime warranty; POA
PHAT BARS: 5-year warranty; $695-750

Opinion: Concerns for new 4x4s not fitted with snorkels

Get the latest info on all things 4X4 Australia by signing up to our newsletter.