It is hard to say how many times I have seen the movie, “Dante’s Peak” in the 18 years since its release. While it is a bit on the cheesy side, the one thing that keeps me coming back is the modified Suburban with what I have come to refer to as, the “Lava Snorkel”.
Watching Pierce Brosnan fumble around to get the rig into 4-wheel drive while already floating down the river, is hilarious… But, he finally engages it, and the big red Sub emerges from the river unscathed and running like a champ because, “it’s okay… this thing’s got a snorkel”.
To be honest, when I think about driving into volcanic ash raining down from the sky, the last thing I would want is a giant air intake outside the vehicle right there in front of God and everybody… I’m going to skip that little downfall and just cross my fingers on that one because frankly, they’re cool.
Let’s be clear, I have a lot of blood, sweat, a few expletives and money invested in my adventure-rig (as I am certain many of you do too) and I have no intention of taking it swimming as if it were an amphibious military vehicle. Systems on modern 4WD vehicles are extremely sensitive, and I will personally not be submerging my Toyota into water deep enough and/or for long enough to submerge the interior and computer components unless it’s absolutely necessary to get home or to a hospital. It will be nice though, to be able to take a well thought out dunk in a river without my former cold air intake potentially taking water into the supercharger and possibly hydro-locking the motor…
Another benefit of course, is that the air intake is far higher (generally above the windshield) than stock. Whether you’re following a buddy on the trail, or on an African safari, the amount of dust that enters the intake will be lessened.
If neither of these benefits seem like a priority, I’ll go ahead and point out the coolness factor…again. Seriously, raise of hands: How many of you off-road and overland enthusiasts have seen one on the trail or street, and have not secretly yearned to have one on your vehicle? Crickets…
While there are several manufacturers of snorkels, like ARB, who’s off-road products are second to none (and who’s price tags can often reflect that reputation), I chose a cheaper model I found on Amazon for about a quarter of the price. Not really knowing what to expect when it arrived, I was pleased to see that it looked quite well made. I’m sure there are several models for different vehicles, but for the 3rd generation 4Runners, it is most commonly known as the Hilux 167. At the time of this writing, it is retailing for $109 USD, and in my opinion, is a bargain.The reason for the Hilux 167 name, is pretty obvious—it was made for a Toyota Hilux. While a 3rd gen 4Runner is closely related, this is not a perfect fit. When you see the Hilux template you’ll have to modify in the box while you prepare to cut a 3 5/8-inch hole in your fender, you’ll be concerned… Trust me. But before you drive it back to the post office, there are resources available to help guide you through the installation, and more detailed information is being added often. If you need more convincing, just have a friend hold the snorkel up to the fender for you, and you’ll be running to the local hardware store for a hole saw.
If you go to T4R.org and type Hilux 167 into the search engine, you’ll find a great ‘how-to’ write up by Nick Catalana (@NJCatalana) where others, like myself, continue to update with new photos, tips and tricks to get the job done well. The key is to measure everything 20 times, and cut once. That is why this should be about a four-hour job, when it could be done in two. The installation takes more nerve and patience than skill. Once you start your initial pilot hole, though, there’s no turning back.
While I did say that it is not a perfect fit, it really is quite good. There is a small gap between the very forward-facing edge of the snorkel, and the fender, but all the other lines seem to match really well. In fact, it looks awesome. The rubber boot that connects the snorkel to the stock air box is a tight fit, and should keep water out well. For the price, I couldn’t be happier with the quality and fit of this product. Maybe in time the company will see how many 4Runners are starting to use this snorkel and make a template that works well for a 3rd generation? I would quickly give it a five-star rating if it weren’t for the template modifications that must be made, but in all fairness it wasn’t specifically designed for a 3rd gen and probably fits a Hilux perfectly.
There are other modifications that can be made to further the water-fording abilities of a vehicle that I won’t go into here, but it’s safe to say that when faced with my next river crossing, it will no doubt add to my confidence. In fact, as soon as I can source some lava-proof tires and someone willing to hang out on the hood with a leaf blower to keep the ash out of the intake, I’ll be set to begin my own “Dante’s Peak” adventure… Any volunteers?