Just kidding. A snorkel (a.k.a. a “Dorkel” by some with a sense of humor) is actually a useful addition to a vehicle when used like we use our Tacoma. Granted, if you are (or know someone who is) a “Mall Crawler” than this addition is truly a waste of time, effort and money…unless all you are hoping for is to have people who know absolutely ZERO about offloading and/or physics look your direction and give you a thumbs up. When we find ourselves in “civilization” we regularly see what we consider to be mall crawlers. Freshly washed and waxed, not a single scratch or blemish on the paint, wheels or tires and lifted far enough that they then had to install steps to help themselves in and out of the vehicle. This is obviously something you can aspire to as well with your own personal property. Don’t get me wrong, your mall crawler looks Ab. So. Lutely fabulous. I, (a teeny, tiny, tad), envy how clean and nice and shiny your ride is. Betty White (our unoriginally-named Tacoma) hasn’t looked that good since before I bought her and its only gotten worse since then.
Most people with an opinion seem to think that snorkels are used merely to help during deep water crossings. I’ve even had several people come up over the years and ask me if it is the exhaust and I quickly explain its main purpose which is, for us, to allow cooler and cleaner air into the intake system than what it would normally get from the factory intake which is in the passenger side wheel well under the plastic fender liner. The snorkel relocates your engines air intake point from the relatively low and vulnerable position under the hood to a much higher location where a constant source of cool, clean, dry air is available. The use of snorkels for wading is actually only the secondary purpose. Also known as a “raised air intake” there are two main types: Ram or Vortex (which is for slower, dustier conditions and gives extra pre-cleaning that ram or other scoop types don’t give).
We chose a Ram type and the best option for our vehicle is the Safari Snorkel model# SS170HF. This is not a one-size-fits all product. They are specifically designed for individual vehicles for the best possible fit and look and I think they did well with my Tacoma. It is made with a UV stable cross linked polyethylene material which I translate to durable and longer lasting than “regular” plastic. In really bad weather like heavy snow, rain or sand the Air Ram top section can be rotated to face away from those conditions so you don’t flood or plug your intake. Plus this snorkel supposedly has a 10% higher CFM over other brand snorkels. Probably marketing fluff but I’ll take it.
The installation is not plug-and-play. You Do have to cut and drill Large holes in your perfectly good fender. This is truly one of those “measure 5 times, cut once” situations. I’ll spare you all the installation details but here are a few main parts. Cover the entire area you are about to molest in painter’s tape. Place a paper template that comes in the snorkel kit on your fender and make darn sure it is precisely in position. Drill the 5/8″ (16mm) holes for the mounting hardware.
Then, with a 3.5″ (85mm) bi-metal hole saw you do the dirty deed. Pay no attention to that ugly antenna hole. It didn’t want to come out easily so we…persuaded it with larger tools. I’ll fix it later, maybe. UPDATE: It has been over four years and the antenna has never been needed or replaced but I made a little rubber plug for it that looks and works great.
Put touch-up paint on the freshly drilled and cut areas to prevent future rust. Let the paint dry. During that wait there were a couple celebratory beers with my buddy who has detail-oriented OCD and helped greatly in the precision process. We cheers’d that everything so far had gone to plan and we didn’t have to rush out to a Pick-Your-Part to get a mis-colored replacement fender.
With the paint now dry we test fit the snorkel itself and it matched perfectly. Three more holes to drill in the A pillar for the bracket that attaches near the top of the snorkel arm. Pilot holes first then full size.
Then button everything back together
After four years of adventures with the snorkel I have seen evidence that, as far as plain old dirt goes, the intake filter inside the air box and my oil stays cleaner, longer. I have used both the K&N oiled filters and some “high-end” fiber ones but have lately just been using the regular OEM dry paper filters and just make sure to change them twice a year…or more like after our Death Valley and Mojave Road trips. I have noticed though that there are more insects than before on the filter and in the air box. They are easy to tap off the filter or vacuum out of the airbox after we get back home.
I sometimes worry about catching it and tearing it off on a branch when in tight forested areas but, so far, I have just slowed down and sacrificed the driver’s side of the Tacoma to move away from threats of that nature. It certainly has taken some abuse over that time and has the scars to prove it.
From what I can tell it does what it said it would and we are glad we put it on. We certainly don’t go looking to cross deep water but it is nice to have the option when that becomes inevitable. For regular, around town driving it seems no noisier (or quieter) than the stock intake position. It did not affect our gas mileage as far as I can tell but, if the Tacoma was meant to be aerodynamic and slippery with good gas mileage Toyota wouldn’t have shaped it like a brick to begin with.