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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Engines: Oil-cooled, Liquid-cooled, And Air-cooled

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Engines are the heart of machines. A commoner’s interest in motorcycles is restricted to keeping up with the newest model releases, their engine sizes, and their power ratings.

Some people like the air conditioner others prefer a pool.

Though the debate between air cooled and liquid cooled motorcycles ended some time ago with each advocate happy in their respective camps, the benefits of one over the other still elicit some passion among the faithful.

Even if most modern motorcycles have taken the liquid approach.

But those new to motorcycling might need a push either way and deciding on one over the other depends a lot on the type of riding, your mechanical ability and, perhaps most importantly, the availability of the type of cooling system in the style of motorcycle wanted.

Different Kinds of Cooling System for Bike Engines

The cooling tech for a bike has three categories, based on the cooling method deployed:

  • Air-cooled
  • Oil-cooled
  • Liquid-cooled

Air-Cooled Engine

Air-Cooled Engines are the most commonly used technology, present in the majority of bikes. They use air as the cooling agent for engine cooling.

They have fins around the engine cylinder that facilitate cooling by exposing the increased surface area to air for bringing the temperature down.

You can find air-cooled motorcycles in a lot of the older bikes like a Kawasaki Eliminator, as well as many new and older model cruisers, and the standard or classic style rides like the Honda Rebel and Royal Enfield Continental GT.

You can easily tell an air-cooled motorcycle by the “fins” built into the engine block that act as heat dissipaters.

Pros of Air-cooled Engines are:

  • Easy to Manufacture
  • Cheaper on Price
  • Cheaper and easier to maintain
  • Less parts
  • Operate in a wide temperature range
  • Best for cruisers

Cons of Air-cooled Engines are:

  • Cannot be used for High Performances
  • Are least efficient
  • May lead to Engine Seizure

Oil-Cooled Engine

Oil-Cooled Engines help maintain the viscosity and lubrication of the oil through an optimal operating temperature.

To do this, the oil is circulated between an oil cooler and is cooled by the flowing air, that, in turn, cools down the engine oil.

This cooled engine oil is rolled back via another jacket.

Pros of Oil-cooled engines are:

  • Much more efficient than simple air cooling
  • Technologically simpler
  • Cheaper and easier to maintain

Cons of Oil-cooled engines are:

  • This too cannot be installed on high-performance bikes
  • Better than air-cooled ones but not on par with the liquid-cooled option with respect to efficiency.

Liquid-Cooled Engine

Generally, liquid-cooled motorcycles belong to those bikes you see ripping down the freeway. Your higher performance machines like Ninjas, R6s, CBR600s and pretty much any Liter bike.

Liquid-Cooled Engines are used by all high capacity bikes. It ensures stable performance even in crowded traffic conditions, on uphill’s, and during high-speed riding.

In this system, there is a web of passages around the cylinder that circulates the coolant, which, in turn, keeps the engine temperature cool and under control.

Pros of Liquid-cooled engines

  • Keeps the engine cooler than the other two options.
  • Can maintain performance and high speed for a long duration
  • Consistent cooling
  • Better heat tolerance
  • Less pollution and noise
  • Better for sport bikes and commuting

Cons Liquid-cooled Engines

  • Much costlier and more complex to make
  • Costlier to maintain than the air-cooled or oil-cooled ones.

Final Comparison

In a nutshell, from the above discussion, it is obvious that the air-cooled engines are quite primitive and inefficient as compared to the oil and liquid-cooled options.

This technology is mainly used for almost all commuter bikes.

The oil-cooled engines come with an added cooling mechanism and are definitely better than the air-cooled versions, for commuter bikes.

However, even they are not suitable for high performance.

The best option for racer and dirt bikes, which require high performance and speed, is the liquid-cooled engines.

Although they work out to be a little heavy on the pocket, their efficiency and environmental friendliness make them extremely popular and most sought after; like the Dominar 400 vs the Duke 390, both of which use liquid-cooled engines.

Whatever cooling technology your engine bike may be using, you need to ensure three things most importantly:

An air-cooled engine should never be run near its red line for long spells.

Maintain the oil level regularly for oil-cooled engines by refilling them from time to time.

Keep checking on the coolant and its delivery systems in case of a liquid cooling set up in your two-wheeler.


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