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Any off-roading enthusiast knows what to do with an air intake snorkel. But, if you’re new to the mudding scene, snorkeling may remind you of your last beach vacation. Today, we’ll highlight everything you need to know about how to use a truck snorkel.

What is a truck snorkel?

Let’s start with the basics. A truck snorkel is a modification that allows clean air into your engine. To operate efficiently, your engine needs to breathe. Clean and cold air is best to filter in order to keep your engine running optimally, reports 4WP.

Rookies often assume an air intake snorkel is only needed if one plans to venture into the water. However, trucks can benefit from snorkels in dry, dusty environments, too. So truck-lovers living in desert climates may also consider installing one.

Different types of truck snorkels

There are several types of snorkels, designed to fit a variety of 4×4 rides and engine types. A “Ram”-style snorkel intake is a common modification for Jeeps, for example. They’re designed to force air and dust or water through the snorkel system based on the forward motion of the vehicle. Debris exits through drain holes.

You may opt for the “Vortex”-style snorkel instead, as Driving Line explains. These are best for dusty environments. It’s a funny-looking snorkel but incredibly effective as it uses an internal fan to separate the particles from the air. Much like your vacuum cleaner at home, there is something satisfying about seeing how much dirt you can collect in the reservoir.

Does your truck need a snorkel?

A typical engine air intake is about the same height as the headlights. Modifying to include a snorkel can extend that height to just above the hood or even roof level. In doing so, you reduce your risk of taking water into your air intake, locking up the engine.

This can also relieve your air filter, should you spend a considerable amount of time among sand dunes or dusty deserts. Considering the conditions you plan to face will help you decide whether you need a snorkel, as well as what size and type will work best for you, according to Driving Line.

Just how deep can your truck go with a snorkel?

If you plan to venture across streams and mud bogs, there’s one glaring question to ask. How deep can you actually drive with a snorkel? Rooftop-height designs may make you think you can practically submerge your vehicle.

However, the general consensus among enthusiasts is to keep the water level below the height of the interior electronics. So while your truck snorkel may have a water-level limit indicated, remember all the other components of your vehicle that may take on damage below that level.

If you don’t have a truck snorkel installed, don’t drive through any water above your headlights. Combustion is designed to compress air and fuel. Any water that gets in there will seize up your engine. If you’re not sure about water depth, consider wading in yourself first. Anything above your waist is probably too deep for a truck without a snorkel.

The bottom line is, not everyone needs a truck snorkel. However, if you have plans to cross a creek, test your four-wheel-drive on a muddy back road, or have the itch to push your ride to the max, you can’t do it without one. If you don’t plan to go extreme with your truck, a snorkel can, at the very least, keep your engine at top performance wherever you drive.