Snorkels for 4WD
Vehicles/Water Blinds or Water Bra/Diff Breathers
you need to know about vehicle snorkels and vehicle water crossing blinds
What is a diff breather and why do you need one?
Vehicle engines run best on cool clean air and in most
vehicles the air intake is located lower say behind the
grill or through the inner guard of the bonnet of the
vehicle. Lower air intake areas are more susceptible to
dust and although the air filter will trap most of the dust
the filter will need regular changing or cleaning to
maintain good engine performance.
Popular 4WD and RV destinations may require you to cross
over streams and rivers. If water is sucked through the air
filter and into the vehicle engine it can cause a hydraulic
lock. Only a small amount of water ingested into a diesel
engine, which has a high compression of about 20:1, can
cause it to lock and cause major damage. A petrol engine
has a lower compression of about 10:1 but water can still
cause serious damage.
strap a tarp or fit a vehicle water blind across the front of the
bonnet each time you cross a river in your 4WD but this can be
tiring especially if there are a number of crossings. Fitting a
snorkel can make the journey just that much easier.
designed to collect air from the top or air ram through to the air
cleaner or air filter thus providing cool clean
compressed or denser air for smooth engine performance.
Vehicle snorkels are made from polyethylene, are heat resistance
and UV ray resistant, have stainless steel and plated hardware for
corrosive resistance as well as a unique evacuation system to
disperse rain and unwanted moisture. Some snorkels are also
compatible for an optional precleaner.
A hole is
cut in the vehicle fender or front guard to allow access to the air
filter and the snorkel is bolted to the A pillar of the vehicle.
All connecting hoses should be air-tight.
Safari snorkel air ram can be rotated to prevent dust
ingress, say when travelling in a 4WD tag along tour or
convoy, as well as when driving in heavy rain and snow. The
air ram should be rotated back to the forward position for
normal driving as having it rotated backward can reduce
Safari Snorkel 7” or 10” Pre-Cleaner replaces the air ram
head on Safari Snorkels and as air enters the round clear
perspex chamber the dust particles are separated by
centrifugal force. The dirt then settles in the bottom of
the outside chamber before it reaches your air filter.
Donaldson TopSpin air filters fitted to vehicle snorkels are
also an alternative in dusty situations. This filter
increases the life of the vehicle's air filter by ejecting
dust particles before they reach the air filter.
Filter Australia supply a one size fits all Snorkel Ram Head
Cover which they state provides a locust barrier and
additional protection when in a 4WD convoy. Uni Filter also
supply a “Droopie” Snorkel Pre-Cleaner, a sock like sleeve
that drops down from ram inside the snorkel, which they
state does not affect air flow and removes 90% of dust
before it reaches the main filter. However, the Snorkel Pre
Cleaner Service Instruction on their website contains the
‘Warning: Unifilter’s snorkel pre-cleaners are not
suitable for highway use. We recommend use only in dusty
conditions”. If your vehicle is a turbo diesel talk to
a specialist before using these as they are coated in oil to
collect the dust and the oil sucked into the turbo may cause
Toyota Genuine Air Filters have a triple layer filtering
element which has a series of different gauge meshes such as
course, medium and fine to trap different size particles.
Toyota also manufacture a washable air filter or reusable
air filter so if you have two you can swap over the spare
and clean and wash the other out later.
Popular brands of snorkels are Air Flow Gibson RM Snorkels,
Airtec Snorkels and Safari Snorkels.
Wherecan I get a vehicle snorkel?
Vehicle snorkels are usually an aftermarket accessory and
are available from Safari Snorkels, TJM, ARB, Opposite Lock
and other 4WD accessory stores and eBay.
Step by step instructions on the installation of vehicle
snorkels are available from some manufacturer’s and
Vehicle Water Crossing Bra or Water blind
you are unable to afford a vehicle snorkel you could
consider a water crossing bra or water crossing blind to
straps over the front of your vehicle’s grill. There are
marine grade heavy duty, PVC backed water crossing bra that
attach to the vehicle’s side rear view mirror mounts. Three
large gills at the base of the water crossing bra allow
water to drain away after the crossing. The front of the
water crossing bra also has a built-in snatch strap pouch
and will conform to any vehicle shape including those with
winches and antennas.
Products (previously Michelle Sacs) make a product called a
water crossing bra and this is available from them or 4WD
after market suppliers such as ARB, TJM, Opposite Lock, BTA
4WD Centre, Active 4 x 4, Mannell Motors and Top Gear 4WD
Differential (Diff) Breathers
When attempting a creek or river crossing it is best to stop
for a while to allow the differential to cool.
Differentials have a breather to equalize the pressure in
the axle as the temperature in the axle changes. The stock
breather is a vent to the outside air with a cap over it to
prevent debris and water. When crossing creeks and the axle
is submerged in cool water the temperature in the axle and
the diff housing changes so when the axle is under water the
change in pressure can pull water into the axle housing.
those of you with some mechanical ability, extending the
diff breather may be a relatively easy job. You can do
this by removing one of your diff breathers (these are a
little plug screwed into the top of the differential), take
the diff breather to someone who can make you up a hose
fitting with the same thread as the breather.
Purchase some transmission cooler hose
(as this type of hose is manufactured to be fuel and oil
resistant) to suit the fitting as well as some small
cable ties or electrical ties and then replace the factory
breathers with the new fittings, run the hose to a high
position under the bonnet keeping it away from heat. Make sure you run
the hose high to the top of the firewall and where it will
not be subjected to impact.
Leave enough slack in the hose for any diff drop and
ensure the hose is positioned so there will be no cramping
of the hose. Another option, suggested on a 4WD forum, was
to cut the hose endfitting (not the diff end) and buy 2
double ended barbs to fit inside the diameter of the diff
hose. Then insert one end of the double ended barb into the
hose still attached to the diff and insert the extension
hose onto the other end of the barb. Use
clamps to make sure the hose or breather lines don’t
separate. The opinion on some forums is a filter is
not required for the end of the diff breather hose but some
have attached a lawn mower petrol filter to keep out dust.
Even when adding extended diff breathers it is still
considered necessary to allow time for the diff to cool down
before a creek crossing as there is no guarantee water will
not enter the diff with a sudden reduction in air pressure.
Kits are available to extend the diff breathers higher up
the chassis by using plastic tubing. Diff
breather kits are available from 4WD accessory stores and
is also a product called Creeper Breather – Differential
breather kit. This kit includes a bellows, a housing
fitting and clamp. The Creeper Breather fits all Toyota
Pick Up / 4Runner solid axle housings (front and rear).
Available from Trail-Gear.com or one of their distributors.