by Chad Lawrence
I had been toying with the idea of installing a snorkel since I put in a Ford 5.0l HO motor in my YJ back in '99 with a "less than protected" air intake set up, however, I just never got around to doing anything about it. In reality, I've not had too many occasions to think twice about taking "the plunge", but the seed was always there, that little "what if" voice that never seems to go away.
Fast forward to this year, the Jeep came out of hibernation and I was filled with fresh enthusiasm to tinker. Enter "the voice".
"Hey, I should do that snorkel I've been talking about for 5 years!"
And so it started. I had already ruled out a Safari Snorkel by ARB for two reasons, one, I hated the price of it, and two, I didn't utilize my stock Air Filter set up anymore so it wouldn't be a direct bolt in.
The premise of a snorkel is obvious; move your air intake up higher by relocating the stock intake. To do this you need to have some kind of filter box that has both an inlet (for fresh air to come in) and an outlet (to allow filtered air to get to the engine). This needs to all be connected using air tight (water tight!) fittings.
It took me all of an hour to decide on the basic set up. Under the hood I'd use some kind of home made air box to contain the air filter. This would be connected in some fashion using 2 1/2" flexible exhaust hose and/or assorted ABS fittings to the intake and to an exit point that would be cut in the hood. Under the hood it didn't have to be sexy, but it had to be functional. It would run up the passenger window rail via 3" exhaust pipe that was bent to fit. It'd be conceivable to use ABS all the way up too, however, I am not a fan of the connector elbows and crude looking joints that are left, but hey, that's just my personal preference.
To cap off the pipe, I settled on a Donaldson Pre-Filter. The pre-filter is an industrial (farm) application that is intended to "eject particles before they reach the air filter, resulting in longer filter life and lower restriction" (according to their website). This was preferable to me over a scoop because it ensured that no water would be entering the intake and dust to the air filter would be minimized.
Prep and Go
Time to crawl under the hood to figure out how this would all fit together.
First thing was first – the air box. I had read that a few guys used an old gallon paint can to house their air filters, while others reused their existing air boxes, and still others were more creative and pilfered stock air boxes from miscellaneous wrecks. I happened to have a bunch of paint cans lying around, so I though this is where I'd start and, hey, if it didn't work out, I wasn't out of pocket. Unfortunately, when I started conceptualizing how it would fit, I wasn't satisfied with how the fit and finish would turn out - it just seemed cheap and half assed. So I rummaged through the garage and low and behold I found an old humidifier with two sealed tanks…
I figured I could cut a 3" hole on one side to connect the filter and use the existing other hole for the exhaust line that would connect to the exhaust pipe. Perfect! The other nice thing I liked about this cannister is that it was transparent. This means I'll be able to see when the filter needs cleaning at a glance, or see other issues that may crop up (moisture comes to mind).
From the pics below you can more or less see my concept of where I would mount the thing so I could exit the pipe out of the hood and still get it to the intake!
To make the filter box, I cut the top off of the humidifier container, then I added some 'L' brackets to the canister that would serve to mount the box securely to the fender well. I then screwed in some smaller brackets and drilled through the lid so I'd have means to reattach the lid once the filter was inside. I'll use RTV silicone to ensure I have an airtight box when I install this to be trail ready. Last step was to drill a 3" opening in the lid for the filter to connect to.
After an hour of fiddling this is what I came up with:
Based on the dimensions of the filter box, I had already determined that my current beaten up K&N cone filter wouldn't fit, so I ran down to Lordco and ordered up one that would (P# RB-0910).
Voila (functional but not sexy, right?)
Point of no return – enter the Jig Saw
I had originally thought to exit the pipe just to the rear of the battery, but there was a support cross member on the hood I didn't really want to weaken, so I ended up moving it forward and down.
Measure twice, cut once, three minutes later I had my opening. I used a regular jigsaw with a Bosch metal blade and it made short work of the job. I also taped off the paint around where I was cutting so as not to leave any marks or rough edges.
Now that I had my exit point, it was off to Hoegler's exhaust shop to have them bend up some 3" pipe for me. Great guy, I showed him what I wanted and he was more than happy to let me get hands on so it came out just how I wanted it. I tossed on a quick coat of Tremclad and started fitting it up.
Right away I realized by bending the pipe into the engine compartment I had created some issues. First, I'd have to hack more of the hood out in order to allow it to swing up and down freely. Second, I was having a difficult time mating the exhaust pipe to the filter box.
The flexible hose was too pinched, so I took out the box and replaced the flexible rubber hose with a fixed 90 degree elbow, the thought being it should go nicely together with the exhaust pipe. Unfortunately, I just couldn't make it all fit together nicely under the hood. Time for "Plan B". I decided to cut off the 90 bend in the exhaust pipe and use a length of flexible hose to connect it to the filter box.
Using the flexible hose meant I didn't need to cut away anymore of my hood and it also meant I could still easily connect the exhaust pipe to the filter box without restricting air flow. In reality, I just went back to "Plan A" on this front, I had never intended to bend the metal exhaust pipe into the engine compartment until I got to the muffler shop and figured out that it might work.
In order to mount the exhaust pipe, I made use of 2 'U' brackets that I had in my box of old bibs-and-bobs. I screwed the brackets to the windshield (where my light mount bracket attached) and to the fender to support the pipe in a cradle type fashion. I had originally intended to make some kind of 'T' bracket and use hose clamps or weld them on, I may still go that route, but for now this is very solid and I am pleased with it.
Finishing it up
Once I was comfortable with the fit of the components it was time to address the finish. I sealed all the connections with silicon around all the seams just for good measure. A coupla coats of gloss black Tremclad took care of the snorkel.
Where I had hacked through the hood, I sanded the edge of my cut to clean it up and applied Tremclad to it. I then ran a strip of chrome door trim I had lying around around it to take any sharp edge off and to make it look all blingy. ;)
So how did I know if this thing was air tight? Well, I fired up the engine and plugged the top of the snorkel and the motor chugged and stalled out. Good enough for me.
With that, I clamped on the Donaldson Pre-Filter and that was that!
I can't say that I've gained thousands of horse power, or that I even notice a difference. In normal driving conditions everything works the same – that's a good thing – no overheating, gas mileage is the same, etc. The only noticeable change is a funny looking snorkel that makes this funky sucking noise when I punch the accelerator! I have also gained a tiny bit of piece of mind for the next time I decide to fjord water that is on that "should I or shouldn't I" level, but that was the intended outcome of the project!
You'll note I titled this article "Universal Snorkel Install", even though this project was done on my Feep (part Ford, part Jeep). That is because I can't think of a reason you can't take this project and apply it to your vehicle. Sure air intakes are located all over the place, and body components will be in different locations for different makes and models, but fundamentally you can use the same method to make your own snorkel using basically the same stuff I did.
In terms of time, I did this project start to finish in about 3 or 4 hours (minus time spent at the exhaust shop, Home Depot, Lordco and "rain delays"). Luckily this isn't precision machining or setting up ring and pinions!
So what did this cost??
Not dead cheap, but not bad. I could have cut costs by using ABS all the way up and forego a $70 investment there in lieu of about $10 or $15. I could have used a 90 elbow at the top instead of the Donaldson Pre-Filter for another savings of $46. That would have brought the project in under a hundred bucks easily, but I opted to go with the exhaust pipe for aesthetic appeal and strength. I opted for the pre-filter because it would stop all kinds of things entering the system both on and off road, from rain and mud, to bugs and anything else airborne that would funnel down the intake using only a scoop.
One final thought, a snorkel does not make you a submarine. Just because your air intake is 5 or 6 feet off the ground doesn't mean you can drive in water up to your neck. There are many other factors to consider from breather lines on your differentials, to distributors, to interior electrical components to name a few. Luckily if you are reading this, you are probably smart enough to know that already, just don't say I didn't warn ya!
If you want to contact me with questions, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]
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