Differences Between Air-cooled Vs Oil-cooled Vs Liquid-cooled Engines

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 11/09/2023

When most people purchase a bike, they tend to think only of the latest models and the engine capacity. Few think of other more detailed aspects concerning their vehicles. However, the functionality of a machine is impacted by several elements that come together to decide the power, efficiency, and running capacity. Understanding the difference between \ engines can help make an informed purchase decision. It can also help decide how comprehensive your two-wheeler insurance needs to be. Before understanding the difference between oil-cooled and liquid-cooled and air-cooled engines, let’s first understand why the engine needs cooling.

Why Does Bike Engine Need Cooling?

The cooling system in an engine is crucial because engines produce a lot of heat. Most individuals only realise the role of the cooling system when they are faced with the problem of engine overheating. There are three pertinent functions served by the cooling system of the bike’s engine:

  • The cooling system removes excess heat from the engine of your bike

  • It maintains the operating temperature of the engine in a manner that it would work in its optimal health

  • It works to speedily bring the engine to its right operating temperature

But why does the bike need cooling in the first place? The answer to this is: in the combustion process, a part of the bike’s fuel energy is converted into heat. However, for the engine of the bike to perform in a stable manner, it is important to lower the heat produced by combustion in an effective manner. In hot climates an efficient cooling system is particularly important as the heat can adversely impact the different elements of the engine as well as its lubricants. As the engine is one of the most important components of a bike, riders prefer to secure it with an additional engine secure cover in their insurance for two-wheelers. However, along with well-secured two-wheeler insurance, an efficient cooling system can help extend the lifespan of your beloved bike.

This cooling process can be commonly accomplished in three ways which are either through a liquid-cooled engine, air-cooled engine, or oil-cooled engine. However, out of these three, most bike enthusiasts are only concerned about the differences in the performance between air-cooled vs liquid-cooled engines. For a more informed purchase, let’s understand the differences between air-cooled vs oil-cooled vs liquid-cooled engines.

Air-Cooled Engine

The majority of Indian bikes employ air-cooled engines in their system. Essentially what this means is that they use air as the cooling agent for removing the excess heat in the engine. You can think of the air-cooled engine as a throwback technology which isn’t really technology at all. The premise of this engine is rather simple: it lets the airflow over the engine to ensure it remains cool.

These kinds of engines have fins that extend from the engine to remove the heat generated through combustion. The speed of the bike is enough to push cool air over the fins. These fins are placed around the cylinder of the bike’s engine that enables cooling by exposing an increased surface area to air. This helps bring the temperature of the engine down.


Easily manufactured


Can be maintained effortlessly


This type of cooling system cannot be relied on for high performance

They are amongst the least efficient cooling systems for the engine

They may cause engine seizure

Considering the aforementioned, if your bike has an air-cooled engine, you must use it for short-distance journeys as the engine might easily heat up for long-distance rides. Moreover, for an air-cooled engine bike, it is important to secure the engine with insurance for two-wheelers that includes the engine protection add-on.

Oil-Cooled Engine

You will often find people confused between an air-cooled vs liquid-cooled engine. And this confusion between air-cooled vs oil-cooled emerges from the understanding that an oil-cooled engine is basically the same as an air-cooled engine with the difference being that it comprises an external oil cooler. In simpler terms, in this type of cooling system, the oil in your bike’s engine is cooled separately by an oil cooler.

It works by removing the engine oil through a tube that is connected to the cooler outside of the engine. This cooler comprises capillary tubes that are surrounded by metallic fins which are similar to a radiator. As the engine oil passes through the oil cooler’s capillary tubes the heat is gradually dissipated because of the air passing through the fins of the oil cooler.


In air-cooled vs oil-cooled the latter is a lot more efficient

The technology is easy

It is cheaper than liquid-cooled engines and a lot easier to maintain


This type of cooling system is also not meant for high-performance bikes

While they are better than air-cooled engines, they are still not as efficient as liquid-cooled engine bikes

Weighing the pros and cons, it is easy to understand that an oil-cooled engine is better than the air-cooled one. However, it still may not be the best solution for those who prefer long journeys on their bikes.

Liquid-cooled Engine

The difference between oil-cooled and liquid-cooled becomes immediately apparent when one considers their functionality. The cooling system in liquid-cooled engine bikes is made of a water-based liquid. However, this is not just any regular water but a special kind of coolant that comprises alcohol that keeps the engine from rusting and freezing. This water-based coolant is passed through the passages that are in-built into the engine of the bike. To ensure the efficient functioning of this cooling system, a radiator is mounted to receive a running airflow. This lowers the temperature for the re-circulation of the liquid through the engine.


It is the most efficient cooling system as compared to the former two variants

This type of cooling system can ensure high speed and performance of the bike for a long duration


It is a complex mechanism and therefore costlier to manufacture

This type of engine is more expensive to maintain

It can be stated that while liquid-cooled engines are a lot more efficient when compared to their counterparts, they are also more expensive to maintain.

Wrapping Up

It is easy to understand that the efficiency and performance of the engine rely heavily on the cooling system. But regardless of the kind of cooling system installed in your bike, it is imperative to protect it with comprehensive two-wheeler insurance. You can further enhance the protection of your bike by investing in insurance for two-wheelers with an engine-secure add-on. Tata AIG offers a list of eight unique add-ons right from deprecation cover to help you beat depreciation to roadside assistance cover for breakdown services even in remote locations. You can customise your cover and calculate the premium payable using the free bike insurance calculator for a suitable and cost-effective policy.

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