Taking a hole saw or air saw to the fender of your ride is a big commitment. A snorkel looks cool, and has it’s benefits, but just what are those benefits, and are they worth it to you?
Despite common belief, a snorkel's main benefit is not to prevent deep water from killing your overland rig, but rather to get cooler, cleaner air into your vehicle's engine. The snorkel does this by allowing the air to be ducted to the engine from outside the confines of the heat underneath the hood, or from pulling dirty air from inside the fender wells.
On our current platforms, Toyota 4Runner and Toyota Tacoma, the manufacturer has done just that. The factory air inlet for the engine is in the passenger side, behind the fender, but above the plastic fender liner, mounted above the tire. This means that whether you are splashing across a river crossing, or driving across the dry dusty desert surface, your engine is being subjected to whatever your tires are kicking up. Best case scenario, this just means your air filter gets dirty quicker. Longer term, this means a higher likelihood of having those dirt and dust particles make their way into the heart of your beloved overland vehicle, causing scoring on the cylinder walls and accelerated engine wear. Worst case scenario, that beautiful water crossing you just made has forced more water into your engine than it can pump out, resulting in catastrophic failure called "hydro-locked".
A snorkel essentially raises the air intake inlet for your engine, and gets it as far away as possible from some of the elements that can and may cause expensive damage to your vehicle. ARB/Safari has done a great deal of research in designing their newest models, released for the 2016+ 3rd Gen Tacomas and the 2010+ 5th Gen 4runners. The head of the snorkel has an aggressive forward mounted scoop that produces a "ram-air" effect, and directs the incoming air down into the large neck and chamber. Secondly, it separates water from the air, and diverts it to the sides of the head to be forced out engineered "drain slots." This ensures that, even when driving in pouring rain, water will not be forced into your beloved engine.
When driving in dry conditions, like when traveling in groups (never wheel alone, right?) where each vehicle in front of you is bellowing out a monstrous cloud of dust, a snorkel helps to keep your engine's air inlet as far away from the dust as possible, as it is mounted in an elevated position. By having the opening as close to undisturbed air as is available, you allow the larger particles of dust that would otherwise clog your air filter to settle out quicker, providing longer intervals between air filter maintenance and fewer engine rebuilds, due to a preventable condition.
Although a snorkel is not a mod that is right for everyone, the benefits of cooler, cleaner air, compounded with the peace of mind knowing we're not taking a risk at each water crossing in Idaho, or subjecting our engines to the accelerated wear from the dust we disturb when traversing the backcountry trails of Utah or the Uwharrie Mountains of North Carolina, just makes sense for us.