Product spotlight: Jeep JK snorkel options

It doesn't take much to hydrolock an engine, especially given the location of the Jeep JK's air intake. A snorkel provides cheap insurance against a costly repair. (Photo courtesy jeepforum.com)

It doesn’t take much to hydrolock an engine, especially given the location of the Jeep JK’s air intake. A snorkel provides cheap insurance against a costly repair. (Photo courtesy jeepforum.com)

Jeep likes to point out in its marketing literature that Jeep JKs are capable of fording water that’s up to 39 inches deep. And, while it’s technically true the JK’s air intake sits 39 inches above the ground, it’s equally true that Jeep’s engineers picked an extremely vulnerable location to place that intake, at the right leading edge of the hood. Sooner or later, Jeepers who frequent water crossings or other underwater obstacles are bound to start considering a snorkel, which raises the height of the air intake to virtually eliminate (when used in conjunction with raised axle, transmission and transfer case breather tubes) the risk of hydrolocking  the engine.

We’ll evaluate popular options from well-known manufacturers, and weigh their pros and cons in the following six measures: cost, aesthetics, quality, ease of installation, noteworthy features and interferencewith other popular Jeep accessories. For consistency’s sake, all prices are from Quadratec unless otherwise noted.

American Expedition Vehicles

AEVAEV’s simple polyethylene design has become perhaps the most common snorkel among Jeep JK drivers. It’s compatible with the 3.8- and 3.6-liter six-cylinders, as well as the 2.8-liter CRD diesel, if you’re fortunate enough to own one of those. There’s even an optional airbox to allow use with vehicles that have undergone a Hemi engine swap. As with most AEV products, the AEV snorkel’s fit and finish look like it could’ve rolled off the factory floor.

Cost: $400 (updated from $379, Nov. 2016)

Aesthetics: If the AEV snorkel has any drawback, this is it. Many enthusiasts don’t care for a long black plastic tube hugging the side of their hood and A pillar. And, while AEV’s choice of polyethylene construction helps make the snorkel body impervious to even serious off-road impacts, it also means the snorkel body will not hold paint. The snorkel body features a bold embossed AEV bison logo along the outside.

Quality: As previously mentioned, the AEV snorkel is made of rugged polyethylene and is rigid enough to survive rock scrapes, stray tree limbs and other trail obstacles. The current second-generation AEV snorkel features a more chiseled form and a much wider air passage for maximum clean-air delivery.

Ease of installation: By reusing the stock air box (you’ll seal the drain vents in the bottom of the box), AEV has kept this as close to a bolt-on process as possible. There is some minor, if nerve-wracking, cutting to be done to the hood, but all other attachment points use existing holes and bolts. The snorkel does come with a trim piece to cover any unsightly hood cuts and an anti-rattle sleeve for the factory FM radio antenna.

Noteworthy features: AEV offers two intake heads with this snorkel: A familiar ram-air head comes with the unit standard, while an optional cyclonic pre-filter is available for drivers in dusty climates. It’s also worth noting the first-generation AEV snorkel is also sold by Mopar as its own snorkel, if you prefer a smaller-diameter air intake and paying an extra $50.

Interference issues: While the base snorkel system is compatible with most roof racks and A-pillar lights, the pre-filter head will not work with popular roof racks, including the Gobi rack. The Kargo Master rack requires some trimming to fit.

Website: American Expedition Vehicles

ARB Safari Snorkel

ARB Safari 4wdcoCOMAustralian manufacturer ARB has long been a leader in the off-road accessories industry. Their Safari Snorkel, like AEV’s design, is crafted from high-quality polyethylene for resiliency and to prevent the cracking and brittleness that come from long-term exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Like most snorkels in our rundown, the Safari is designed to expel rainwater to prevent ingestion.

Cost: $520

Aesthetics: The Safari design is a familiar one, extending the length of the snorkel body at a steep downward angle before cutting back into the engine bay. In doing so, it leaves the hood lines unmarred. This comes at a cost, however, as the Safari enters the engine bay through the right front fender well, taking up valuable real estate and necessitating a more difficult installation.

Quality: The Safari’s polyethylene construction make it rugged enough to withstand hard trail use, and fit and finish are reported to live up to ARB’s reputation for excellence.

Ease of installation: While still a job easy enough for any do-it-yourselfer who’s comfortable with a Dremel or grinder, the ARB design does require cutting out a perfectly sized hole in your fender and quarter panel. A paper template is included.

Noteworthy features: Aside from the in-fender routing, which will be a nonstarter for some, ARB’s snorkel includes the option of a ram-scoop or pre-filter head.

Interference issues: The ram-scoop head will work with most roof racks, though you should check your specific application before attempting installation.

Website: ARB USA

Red Rock 4×4

Red Rock XTA true entry-level snorkel, the Red Rock appears to be a reproduction of the first-generation AEV snorkel design, much like any of the Chinese-sourced units available online at similar pricing. The snorkel body is smaller than its peers, necessitating its use only on the less-demanding 3.8-liter V-6 found in 2007 through 2011 JK Wranglers.

Cost: $199.99 (Updated from $169, November 2016; price from Extreme Terrain)

Aesthetics: Like the AEV model it emulates, the Red Rock snorkel flows well with the JK’s mix of soft and hard lines, though it does stand out against the right side of the Jeep’s hood. The snorkel body includes an embossed “Wrangler JK” along its side. While only a minor point, Red Rock includes a standard unplated hose clamp to keep the air intake atop the snorkel body, while others use a black clamp to blend in. While many Jeepers won’t care about such a detail, those with a keen eye for presentation might want to consider ways to disguise this shiny bit.

Quality: While Red Rock doesn’t specify its manufacturing origin, it’s safe to assume this is made in China like similar-looking snorkels available across the interwebs. Given that assumption, it’s also safe to assume the construction uses the same lower-grade plastics AEV and ARB have decried for their lack of strength and UV stability. One doesn’t have to look far to find users who have cracked or broken their snorkel on a tree limb or rock. Fit-and-finish of these Chinese-made units has been a consistent issue, too. Again, we can’t say with certainty Red Rock is the same as these other snorkels, but given their similar price point and exact-copy appearance, buyers are warned to ask lots of questions and proceed at their own risk.

Ease of installation: Installation is straightforward, with the cutting of the hood as the most difficult part. The snorkel body attaches to two existing bolts under the hood and to two more at the windshield.

Noteworthy features: A ram scoop is the only air intake included with this unit. We’ve not seen anyone try to fit another manufacturer’s pre-filter, though it is possible one would fit.

Interference issues: As with the AEV and ARB snorkels, Red Rock’s design stays clear enough to allow most lights and roof racks to fit.

Website: Extreme Terrain (only known distributor)

River Raider Off Road cast snorkel

rr cASTKenny Hauk and his team at River Raider Off Road never do anything halfway, and that philosophy carries over to its line of Jeep JK snorkels, too. River Raider’s take on a traditional snorkel is made from cast aluminum. Its rigid form follows the windshield’s A pillar, cutting into the engine bay several inches in front of the stock FM antenna location.

Cost: $611 (riverraider.com)

Aesthetics: This snorkel’s exterior design is as simple as its under-hood components are complex. A simple aluminum body features a built-in air intake with a mesh covering. The “River Raider” name is reverse-embossed into the horizontal body.

Quality: Heavy-duty aluminum construction will withstand serious trail use, and its low-profile design minimizes the likelihood of trail contact.

Ease of installation: Online accounts report installation taking as long as eight hours, and with good reason. RROR’s design necessitates the removal or relocation of the FM radio antenna, drilling a hole into the right quarter panel, repositioning the battery and rerouting the airflow through the stock air box. This isn’t an install for the feint-hearted, but the appearance and function promise it’s worth the effort.

Noteworthy features: Having the air intake built into the snorkel body, means no pre-filter unit is possible. Additionally, this design reverses the air flow through the stock air box, so there’s a bit of reconstruction to do there. River Raider Off Road offers flexible or rigid air intake tubes.

Interference issues: After removing your stock radio antenna, you have several options: (1) leave it off, relocate it in between the inner and outer fender panels, relocate it to the driver’s side “Trail Rated” badge location, replace it with a “hidden antenna,” which can be placed behind the dash or in the sound bar.

Website: River Raider Off Road

River Raider Offroad Expedition Snorkel

RRExpeditionSnorkel2-500x500Reminiscent of military-style snorkels seen on HMMWV (Humvee) vehicles, this snorkel relocates the air intake to a small bell housing that sits just above the right engine cowl. The housing sits low to the hood for daily driving, but an 18-inch vertical extension is available to avoid water ingestion during trail use.

Cost: $520 (riverraider.com)

Aesthetics: The expedition snorkel is a love-it-or-hate-it design. Some will be put off by the notion of having an inverted bowl stick up over their cowl, while others will love the minimalist design.

Quality: We’ve not seen that a lot of Jeepers are running this snorkel, but River Raider’s reputation gives us every reason to believe the quality is up to par with the company’s stellar reputation.

Ease of installation: Like its cast-aluminum cousin, this RROR design is also a time-consuming affair. While this unit does not hinder the stock FM radio antenna, you will be drilling multiple holes into your engine cowl and fire wall, repositioning the battery and rerouting the airflow through the stock air box.

Noteworthy features: The optional extension tube allows users to decide whether raising the intake just a few inches is enough, or lift it 18 more for deep-water crossings.

Interference issues: You won’t be running A-pillar lights with this snorkel. The extension lifts the intake in front of any light bar, though there shouldn’t be any physical obstruction.

Website: River Raider Off Road

Rugged Ridge

RuggRidgeLike River Raider’s expedition design, the Rugged Ridge snorkel affords Jeep enthusiasts the choice to run a low-profile intake or go high on the windshield with either a ram scoop or pre-filter. With Rugged Ridge’s snorkel, though, this is meant to be more of a one-time (or at least infrequent) decision, as the modules are a little pricey ($82 for the ram-air extension) and there’s a little more work involved in securing the pieces together.

Cost: $405

Aesthetics: Modular is the name of the game for Rugged Ridge, and, in this case, the result is a series of stacked pieces that don’t look like they belong together. Additionally, there’s a noticeable gap left between the snorkel housing and the area where the windshield comes down to meet the cowl. From a purely visual standpoint, the Rugged Ridge design looks like an afterthought.

Quality: The quality of materials and workmanship is good, as you’d expect from most Rugged Ridge products. I’d prefer, though, to not have two pieces join together where a tree branch might try to pull them apart, creating an air gap.

Ease of installation: This snorkel feeds air behind the right quarter panel and up into a replacement lower air box. As a result, installation requires removal of the right fender, quarter panel and inner fender liner. It’s time-consuming, but not difficult.

Noteworthy features: We like having three intake options, as well as the selectable drain port at the bottom of the intake. We do take issue, however, with having any connections make below a potential water line, which increases the possibility of a failure.

Interference issues: The downward-facing low-profile intake will work with any rack or lights of your choice. The extended intakes, however, sit in front (rather that beside) the windshield, making it impossible to mount a roof rack, light bar or A-pillar lights.

Website: Rugged Ridge

Volant Performance

Volant JforumVolant has long made snorkels and cold-air intakes for Jeep Wranglers, so it’s no surprise to see them offer a snorkel for the current Wrangler. While the Volant snorkel is functional, it’s questionable aesthetic relegate it to also-ran status in our opinion.

Cost: $495

Aesthetics: Um, let’s see. How can we put this? Yuck! If you thought AEV’s and Red Rock’s hood-side plastic tubes were bad, how do you feel about moving that tube to the top of the hood and throwing in a section of flexible hose to give the hood flexibility to open? Jeep’s air box placement does make it tough on snorkel makers, but this one just doesn’t look well thought-out.

Quality: Like the industry leaders, Volant uses durable polyethylene in its construction. We’ve only seen a couple of folks running these (and none of those in person), so we can’t speak to its overall quality. That said, the few users we did find online stood by their purchases, so take that for what you will.

Ease of installation: The upper portion of Volant’s snorkel is held on by the usual windshield-mounted bracket. The horizontal portion of the tube includes several integrated through-hood bolts, while a new air box replaces the factory unit under the hood.

Noteworthy features: The Volant snorkel is available as a kit with the company’s well-known cold-air intake. The ram-air scoop is removable, though Volant does not offer a pre-filter at this time.

Interference issues: As with other snorkels, roof rack fitment will vary by manufacturer. The air intake will prevent use of a light bar or A-pillar lights.

Website: Volant Performance

Wild Boar Products

Wild BoarWild Boar’s entry into the snorkel market is meant to appear like a seamless part of the Jeep’s body, and it almost accomplishes the task. And, while it’s made from the same polyethylene base as other quality snorkels, Wild Boar promotes its smooth-bodied surface as being completely paintable, where others say paint is a no-no. Which is accurate? We’re no paint experts, so let the buyer beware. Several products exist that claim to adhere to polyethylene. But, for how long?

Cost: $600 (Extreme Terrain)

Aesthetics: We like the seamless integration into the right-side cowl. This snorkel looks like it belongs on the Jeep JK. The only real problem is that it doesn’t take into account the stock FM radio antenna, which must be bent or removed. Do you remember that project or art piece that had so much potential, but you just didn’t quite get the finishing details right? Yeah, Wild Boar has one of those, too.

Quality: Many JKers run and love their Wild Boar grilles. The snorkel should be of equal quality, and should stand up to regular trail use.

Ease of installation: Only minor drilling is required, and the snorkel reuses the factory air box. The only real issue is what to do with that factory antenna.

Noteworthy features: Like River Raider’s cast snorkel, the air intake is molded into the unit, so no pre-filter fitment is possible.

Interference issues: The large air intake is likely to interfere with most roof racks and light bars, Wild Boar’s own roof rack being a notable exception. Wild Boar does offer a kit to mount an A-pillar light on the snorkel side, but it does look a bit goofy.

Website: Wild Boar Products

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