Why You Need a Snorkel Pre-Filter

Once you start to take your vehicle off-road, it is likely that you will become quickly enamored by the vast treasure trove of off-roading accessories that you can add to your vehicle.

One particularly popular piece of kit is the snorkel. This gadget allows your vehicle’s engine to get sufficient airflow, even if your vehicle is traversing through deep water or dust-ridden landscapes. 

Often advertised alongside these snorkels will be a snorkel pre filter, also known as a snorkel pre-cleaner. A lot of people tend to skip over them because they aren’t 100% sure what they do, or whether they need one. So, we decided to put together this page. 

We want to run you through the purpose of a snorkel pre-air filter, as well as give you an idea of some of the best options on the market.

What is a Snorkel Pre-Filter?

If you have a vehicle you take off-road regularly, then chances are that you either have a snorkel on it, or you are considering having a snorkel installed.

The purpose of a snorkel is to allow air to continue to flow through to the engine. They are often used to ensure that vehicles get air flowing to the engine when the vehicle is driving through deeper water. 

However, they can also be used to ensure that cleaner air flows into the vehicle. This is because the snorkel will be positioned higher than normal air intakes, and the air tends to be cleaner up there as it isn’t dealing with as much dust as lower down on the vehicle. 

A pre-air filter is a separate attachment that connects up to the snorkel. The pre-air filter, essentially, cleans the air before it flows down into the engine. This ensures that as little dust, water, and whatever else is flowing down to that engine. This helps to improve performance on the road.

How Does a Pre-Cleaner Work?

There are a couple of different types of pre-cleaner on the market.

You have the older style pre-cleaner which is commonly referred to as a ‘dust bowl’. These take in air from underneath the pre-filter. 

As this air is sucked in, some fan blades spin rapidly. This motion keeps dust and the like away from the snorkel inlet. Every so often (probably a couple of times per drive), you will have to empty the pre-cleaner.

The second style, and the far more common type nowadays, is a centrifugal pre-cleaner. It is still just a big dust bowl. However, it has the addition of an exhaust vent. 

With this type of pre-cleaner, the dust and air will flow in. A rotor inside of the pre-cleaner will spin incredibly fast. This forces the dust away from the snorkel inlet. 

The dust will continue to be pushed around until it leaves through the exhaust. These pre-air filters need to be cleaned out far less often.

Why Install a Snorkel Pre-Filter?

Snorkels do a decent job at trying to ensure that dust and water don’t clog them up. However, they are not perfect. If they are suddenly hit by a ton of dust or water, then they are going to get clogged.

If your snorkel gets clogged, then air won’t be able to flow into the engine. This means that performance on the road may be drastically reduced. In fact, your engine may just stop working altogether.

A snorkel pre-cleaner helps to prevent this. The pre-cleaner is able to handle the huge amounts of dust that the snorkel on its own wouldn’t be able to handle. 

This helps to keep the airflow unrestricted and will allow your vehicle to perform better in all conditions.

A pre-filter will also help to protect that filter inside the snorkel. This means a longer lifespan on the actual filter and, ultimately, a longer lifespan on the snorkel. you are going to save a lot of money over time. 

Why Not Install a Pre-Filter?

There aren’t really any huge downsides to having a pre-cleaner installed on your snorkel. There are a couple of downsides, but nothing that cannot easily be overcome. 

Obviously, the price is going to be the ‘big factor’ here. Pre-filters aren’t going to be cheap. However, you do need to remember that because they will increase the lifespan of your vehicle’s snorkel, it is likely that you will save money in the long term.

The only other issue is that pre-cleaners are just another thing that you need to maintain with your vehicle. 

You will have to clean them out every so often. Granted, this is something that will only take a couple of minutes, but it is still a hassle.

Top 3 Snorkel Pre-Filters Reviewed

There are countless snorkel pre-filters on the market. Far too many to count. Some of them are good, others not quite so much. 

Since we know you probably don’t want to spend too much time going through all of the options available, we have done the research for you. 

Let us introduce you to what we believe are the top 3 snorkel pre-filters on the market. 

Do bear in mind that there isn’t really a huge number of features on any snorkel pre-filter. It really is a huge dust collection bowl. 

So, we have purely selected these options based upon how much dust they are able to remove, plus their robustness. You will find that we have an option for each of the most popular snorkels on the market too.

Rugged Ridge XHD

Rugged Ridge produces a huge range of off-roading accessories for Jeeps. The Rugged Ridge XHD Pre-Filter is designed to be paired up with their Jeep snorkel system.

This particular pre-filter uses a clonic action to stop all that dust from getting into the main snorkel. This is just a really fancy term for spinning the dust around incredibly fast. 

While there is no exhaust on the Rugged Ridge XHD, there is enough space inside of this pre-filter to give you hours of driving on even the dustiest surfaces before you need to give it a clean. 

The reason why we have put the Rugged Ridge XHD at the top of our list is due to the huge amount of dust that it is able to remove from the air. 

Normally, when you use lesser pre-air filters, there will be some sort of restricted airflow down into the engine. You may see that gauge for engine airflow to stutter a bit. 

You don’t get that with the Rugged Ridge XHD, even if you are driving through a cloud of dust. This goes to show just how hard it is working to keep that snorkel nice and clean.

It is an easy install too. It takes barely two minutes to get it connected up to your Rugged Ridge snorkel. This is fantastic because it means the whole cleaning process should take no longer than 5-minutes. This is perfect after a long, tiring day out there on the trails.

If that wasn’t enough, this is a solidly built piece of kit. A lot of people are concerned by the fact that the Rugged Ridge XHD is made of glass. 

However, it is robust glass. Barely anything is going to crack it. It really helps to add to the aesthetics of the snorkel pre-filter too. If something does go wrong, then you will be pleased to know that Rugged Ridge offers a rather substantial 5-year warranty. 

This is how confident they are that their pre-filter is going to stand up to the perils of the trail. 


ARB Safari Snorkel Pre-Cleaner

The ARB Safari Snorkel Pre-Cleaner works in much the same way as the previous one. However, this has been designed to fit onto Safari snorkels which, of course, fit far more vehicles than just a Jeep.

Perhaps the biggest difference between this pre-cleaner and the one from Rugged Ridge is the construction material. This one actually uses tough plastic rather than glass. 

Some people have found this to be a little bit durable. However, to be honest with you, the glass of the previous option was tough enough that we don’t see a major difference.

If you do want to use this on your Rugged Ridge snorkel, then you may be able to do so. However, it can involve a small amount of tinkering, and most people don’t find it worth the effort. 

So, stick this snorkel pre-filter on your Safari and you should be ‘good to go’. 

The dust collection is sublime and, once again, you should be able to get a whole dusty drive out of it before you have to empty the filter, which barely takes a couple of minutes. 

This is so effective at dust collection that you likely wouldn’t even notice a drop in the performance of your vehicle either.


Donaldson Pre-Cleaner for Snorkel 

We want to wrap up with the Donaldson pre-filter. First-fit choice of OE’s.

This is a little bit different from the previous two options because this one uses centrifugal force in combination with an exhaust to kick that dust right out of the pre-filter. 

This means that you likely will never have to empty it yourself. 

Although, you may need to do a spot of cleaning if you have driven through an immensely dusty area. Although, it would have to be really dusty.

This pre-filter has been designed to fit on 4″ snorkels. Although, adapters are available to let you fit it on a snorkel of just about any size below 4-inches.

It has been made from tough polymer, which means that it is capable of putting up with some pretty horrendous conditions with ease. 

You do not have to worry about it rusting. You do not have to worry about it cracking. All you need to do is focus on driving.

Airflow should be fairly stable into the Donaldson Pre-Filter too. It should be 100 to 275 CFM depending on the conditions. This is more than enough to not see a drop in performance for most situations. 


Final Word

A snorkel pre-filter isn’t really the most sophisticated gadget in the world. However, if you have a snorkel on your off-roading vehicle, it is probably one of the most useful that you can have. 

It will allow you to dart around some rugged trails without the fear of tearing your snorkel to shreds with mounds of dust piling up into it. 

It will allow air to flow properly into the engine. This means that you never see a dip in performance. They are, in our opinion, a must buy.

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