Air Cooled vs Oil Cooled vs Liquid Cooled Engines

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 24/11/2023

Bikes are an engineering marvel. Bike enthusiasts all over the world swear by the incomparable feeling of slicing through traffic and feeling the breeze while riding.

Part of the fun of owning a bike is knowing about the various components that keep it functioning smoothly. One such influential element is the cooling system in bikes.

In all vehicles (including bikes) that comprise an internal combustion engine, the cooling system reduces the risk of overheating. Let’s understand this in some detail.

Why is the Cooling System in Bikes Important?

Every time you fire up the ignition, countless explosions take place in the cylinder that combine with the frictional forces of the moving elements within to generate immense heat.

Without a cooling component that keeps the temperature in check, the internal parts of the engine will overheat. If you continue to neglect signs of overheating, it can lead to warping and/or swelling of the engine block and head, which can cause significant damage to the bike.

Vehicle manufacturers have experimented with various ways to control heat. However, only three have moved on to become popular: air-cooled engines, oil-cooled engines, and liquid-cooled engines. Let us explore the differences between oil-cooled vs liquid-cooled vs air-cooled engines.

Types of Cooling Systems in Bikes

By understanding how the cooling system in your bike works, the performance of the bike can be boosted, and you can prevent expensive fixes.

Essentially, there are three methods of cooling the engine of a bike:

Air-Cooled Engines

The air-cooled engine is the most common technology employed in Indian bikes. You may have noticed the fins on the engine of the bike. Aside from being an elegant design feature, these fins play a fundamental role in the performance of your bike. When the bike is in motion, the air passes through these aluminium fins to cool the engine.

Pros  Cons
Easy Manufacturing Not optimal for high-performance
Affordable Inefficient
Easy Maintenance Can cause engine seizure 

Some air-cooled bikes that you can buy include TVS Apache RTR 160, Suzuki Gixxer, Hero Xtreme 160R, Yamaha FZS-FI, Royal Enfield Bullet 350, etc.

Oil-Cooled Engines

There is one similarity between air-cooled and oil-cooled engines: the cooling fins channel the airflow in the engine. But that is where the similarity ends. In the oil-cooled bikes in India, a small oil cooler is externally mounted.

Oil is then circulated between an oil cooler and is cooled by the flowing air, which cools the engine oil. This cooled engine oil is circulated again through a different jacket.

Pros  Cons
More efficient than air cooling Cannot be used on high-performance bikes
Simple technology Not more efficient than liquid-cooled
Easy and affordable maintenance Can add weight to the vehicle

Some oil-cooled bikes in India you can buy include TVS Apache RTR 160 4V, Royal Enfield Interceptor 650, Royal Enfield Continental GT 650, etc.

Liquid-Cooled Engines

Liquid-cooled (aka water-cooled) engines are installed in high-capacity motors because they rev high and, therefore, generate a higher amount of power. In liquid-cooled engine bikes, a coolant is circulated through the internal channels and absorbs the heat from the engine.

To bring down the temperature of this coolant it is pumped towards the radiator where air and additional fans cool it down before circulating it around the engine again.

Pros  Cons
Highly efficient for engine cooling Costly and complex manufacturing
Can maintain performance and high speed for extended periods Expensive maintenance 

Some of the most popular liquid-cooled engine bikes include the Yamaha R15 v3, the KTM Duke and RC series, the Bajaj Dominar 400, the Honda CBR250R, etc.

Comparing Air-Cooled vs Oil-Cooled vs Liquid-Cooled Engines

Air-cooled, liquid-cooled, or oil-cooled - which is better? This is an important question that buyers might have to tackle, and the answer lies in their purpose of buying a bike.

  • With the information disclosed above, it is evident that air-cooled engines, although cheaper, are primitive in their technology and are not as efficient as their oil-cooled and liquid-cooled counterparts.

  • The difference between air-cooled and water-cooled engines becomes apparent when the rev is higher, and the bike is ridden for a long duration at high speed. In this scenario, the air-cooled engine would overheat, whereas the water-cooled engine would continue for much longer.

  • And so, unless you are purchasing a commuter bike where the engine would not be stressed, the difference between liquid-cooled and air-cooled engines does not hold much consequence. It only pertains to situations when the engine of the bike would be stressed.

  • This leaves the comparison to oil-cooled vs liquid-cooled engines. Although oil-cooled engines have an added mechanism for cooling, they are still not suitable for high-performance vehicles.

  • And so, if you are wondering, “liquid-cooled or oil-cooled, which is better for racer bikes, dirt bikes, and other high-performance vehicles?” The answer would undoubtedly be liquid-cooled engines.

In Conclusion

Knowing the functionality of the various parts of your beloved bike, like its cooling system, can help you drive the best performance out of it. However, regardless of the bike that you buy, it is important to secure your purchase with a comprehensive two-wheeler insurance policy.

To legally ride on Indian roads, a third-party bike insurance policy is mandatory. However, third-party insurance for a 2-wheeler does not cover damages to one's own vehicle. Therefore, for complete safety on the road, it is important to compare two-wheeler insurance policies and invest in a comprehensive cover.

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