Snorkeled

Sir Clax-a-Lot, Breathing Underwater

At first blush the entire concept sounded absurd. Then I remembered a few unexpected water crossings we’d taken the low-riding Forester through on previous trips. The car made it across just fine, but I’ll admit a few more inches of depth might have spelled trouble. Do I think a (non-rallied) Foz really needs a snorkel? No…but considering how inexpensive they are, the unexpected performance gains, and the looks a Forester with a snorkel gets on the trail, it was worth it. Absurd, but worth it.

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This guide is written based on a non-turbo 2003 model. If you’re doing this on the turbo version or a different model year you might find a different story under the hood and need to adjust your install accordingly. As always, this article is for educational purposes only and I assume no liability if you screw up your car, set your garage on fire, or drown your Scoobaru doing something stupid.

Here’s What You’ll Need

  • A snorkel for a 1990-1997 Mitsubishi Pajero Diesel. These can be found on eBay for under $140 USD shipped. I ordered mine from this guy down in Australia, and it arrived within the week.
  • The correctly sized allen key, wrenches, and a rivet gun for the snorkel’s hardware…figure these out after you receive the snorkel so you know you have the right sizes.
  • An 8mm, 10mm, and 12mm wrench and/or socket-and-ratchet.
  • A flat-head screwdriver for the hose clamps.
  • A 3-inch hole saw.
  • A drill, with various sized bits for the snorkel’s hardware.
  • Sandpaper and/or a dremel tool come in handy for smoothing out the rough edges.
  • Assorted 3-inch intake ducting and elbows, or flexible intake tube (recommended).
  • Silicone, rated for use near oils, fuel, and high temperatures since it’ll be under the hood.
  • Lock-tite (red).
  • Push-on weather strip, rubber trim, or an old 1/4-inch hose to pad any rough edges.

Prepping the Car

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You’ll need to remove the air box and a portion of intake tubing (see photos above), as well as the fender liner so you can access the backside of the fender. Alternately, if you’re really worried about rain getting into the motor, you can keep the air box, cut a hole in the side of it for the snorkel, and figure out how to close up the original intake at the front. I chose to remove it, as other owners have reported no issues with rain getting sucked in, and there are at least two other drain points along the intake before the filter. With all the bits removed you’ll notice a conveniently sized round hole right where the snorkel will come through, it’s like the Forester was meant to have a snorkel.

Installation

The Pajero’s snorkel is surprisingly close to being a perfect fit right out of the box. Tape the included cutting template into position on the snorkel, then line up the top half so it’s in position flush with the A-pillar. From there, rotate the snorkel until the bottom lowers into place on the fender. You’ll find the sweet spot here: where the snorkel just clears the bulge of the wheel well, the bottom half is parallel with the top of the fender, and the top half is a few inches from the A-pillar. Double-check that the door opens: it should come very close, but never actually touch the snorkel. Ignore the top half for now, it’s easier to bend that into place with the snorkel mounted on the car. Carefully tape the cutting template onto the fender, remembering to measure twice so you can cut once.

Drill or cut the holes for the mounting studs and cut a three-inch hole for the intake pass-thru. Next, smooth out and paint up the rough edges, then install the mounting studs into the snorkel while the paint dries. Use lock-tite, even if you remove the snorkel later you shouldn’t need to pull the studs out. When the paint is dry grab the included nuts, line everything up, and attach the snorkel to the fender. The fender should fold slightly to the snorkel’s contour, but still maintain good lines with the rest of the car. Go ahead and tighten it all up, you’ll want it secure for the next step.

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Next comes the heat gun. Keep a pitcher of ice water handy, set the heat gun on high, and move slowly but smoothly over the surface of the snorkel at the bend to soften it up. Stay 3-4 inches from the surface: you want the material to become flexible, but not melt. If the plastic gets shiny you’re too close or too slow. It took about 25 minutes under the heat gun before the snorkel was flexible, but I recommend checking every 10 minutes or so. Be patient, I’ve been told this step can take hours to get right. Once it starts bending force it backward until the top half is lined up with the A-pillar. When you’re happy with the angle, dump the ice water over the heated bend to cool the plastic off before it can return to it’s original shape.

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Grab more ice water, then repeat the process with the snorkel’s tube above the bend. You’ll have to twist this part a bit too, after some effort it will line up with the A-pillar like it was made for a Forester. Dump ice water on it again to stiffen it back up, then measure, drill, and install the upper support to the A-pillar. The support will help keep the snorkel in place while you make the final bend. With more ice water at the ready, begin heating up the top-most bend in the snorkel and adjust it forward and outward until it’s pointing almost straight up. Use your own judgement here: you want it level enough so it looks proper and doesn’t scoop up rain, but tight enough to the body it won’t become a tree magnet. Test fit the ramscoop until you’re happy with the look, then cool it off to stiffen it up. Congratulations, the hard part is over.

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Making the connections to the remainder of the air intake takes a bit of finagling, and might require a few trips to the auto parts store. A step-down adapter from 70mm to 60mm proved helpful as the snorkel has a slightly larger diameter than the intake. A flexible intake tube from the local auto parts store worked for the rest—not elegant, but it gets the job done. Apply the silicone liberally to ensure a good water-tight seal at each connection. Use the push-on weather strip, rubber trim, or an old hose sliced down one side to protect the intake from any sharp edges that might rub through.

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You’ll probably need to make a small bracket to help secure the longer intake tube. It’s easy enough to do, and there’s a convenient mounting spot on the side of the strut tower (see photo above). Grab some angle aluminum—I used some 1x1x0.125″ scrap—cut it to about six inches long, and drill appropriately sized holes in each end. Pull one of the bolts from the brake line bracket, slip your new bracket in, and bolt it back down. Then zip-tie the intake tube to the new bracket.

Go Play

Naturally aspirated Subarus are known to respond very well to intake and exhaust modifications, and the snorkel is no exception—it’s effectively a cold air intake. We immediately noticed quicker throttle response, a bit more torque on demand, and a noticeably louder boxer rumble resonating out of the ramscoop. Now go find a puddle and have some fun!

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A big thanks to my friend Bryon Dorr for several of the action photos, and for a bit of advice on angles and timing during the shoot.