Differences Between Air Cooled vs Oil Cooled vs Liquid Cooled Engines

A commoner's interest in bikes is limited to keeping themselves updated regarding the latest model of bikes launched, their engine capacity, or the power rating. Seldom will you find people with comprehensive knowledge about how power gets generated or what technologies are used to ensure the smooth running of bikes.

Why is Cooling essential for an Engine?


The cooling system of the engine in a bike keeps it working on its most efficient temperatures. Cooling is vital for all engines to operate and function properly. Cooling is important, especially in hot climates as high temperatures tend to damage engine materials and lubricants. Hence, it would not be incorrect to say that the lifespan of an engine, and its survival, rests on its cooling system.

Additional Read: Long Stroke Vs Short Stroke Engines

Different Kinds of Cooling System for Bike Engines


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

  1. Air-cooled
  2. Oil-cooled
  3. Liquid-cooled

1. Air-Cooled Engines

Air-Cooled Engines are the most commonly used technology, present in the majority of Indian 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.

Pros of Air-cooled Engines are:

  • Easy to Manufacture
  • Cheaper on Price
  • Easy to Maintain

Cons of Air-cooled Engines are:

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

2. Oil-Cooled Engines

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.

3. Liquid-Cooled Engines

Liquid-Cooled Engines are used by all high capacity bikes in India as well as abroad. It ensures stable performance even in crowded traffic conditions, on uphills, 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
  • Their efficiency is much better than their air-cooled and oil-cooled counterparts.

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.
Additional Read: Different Types of Motorcycle Engines

Having had a comprehensive idea about all the different ways of engine cooling for bikes, opt for the one which suits your needs the best. Also, keeping in mind the price tag of bikes, you can apply for a bike loan once you have narrowed down your search window to the model you wish to invest in and own.

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