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Liquid Cooling vs Air Cooling Motorcycle

Liquid cooling vs air cooling is a critical aspect of heat removal in a motorcycle engine. While most of the heat released during fuel combustion is dissipated into the environment, the method of heat removal plays a vital role in the engine’s longevity. If the heat removal process is ineffective, the motor will quickly fail, and this is where the choice between liquid cooling and air cooling becomes crucial.

The cooling system prevents overheating and maintains the optimal operating temperature of the engine, as a rule, at the level of 167-194 °F. It is this range that ensures the most efficient operation and long service life of the motor. Cooling can be air or liquid.

Some riders prefer liquid cooling because it helps to keep the engine cooler, while others prefer air cooling because it is less expensive and easier to maintain. Ultimately, it is up to the rider to decide which type of cooling system is best for their motorcycle.

Also Read: How Often to Change Motorcycle Oil

How Do Liquid-Cooled Motorcycles Work?

Liquid cooling is one of the best ways to cool a red-hot engine. The principle of cooling motorcycle engines according to this scheme is the same as that of cars. The coolant acts as a coolant – antifreeze. Antifreeze simultaneously has an anticorrosive and lubricating effect.

Water in the cooling system is used only in case of a malfunction and an urgent need to continue driving in the absence of coolant. At the same time, there should be no impurities in the water, and it should be replaced with the recommended coolant as soon as possible.

Also Read: Oil on Spark Plugs Motorcycle: What You Need to Do?

The coolant is pumped by a pump through channels in the cylinder walls, and the cylinder heads of the engine take heat from them and give it to the radiator. An incoming stream of cold air passes between the radiator plates and cools the radiator.

One of the most important elements of the system is the thermostat. It divides the cooling system into two circuits – small and large. When the engine is cold, the thermostat valve is closed. The coolant circulating, in this case, moves along a small contour. This allows you to cut off a large volume of coolant, providing a faster engine warm-up. At a temperature of approximately 194 °F, the valve opens, allowing fluid circulation along a large circuit and more efficient engine cooling.

Also Read: Should You Start Your Motorcycle in the Winter?

An electric fan is usually installed on the radiator. It turns on when the coolant temperature rises. For example, when a motorcycle moves at a low speed when the incoming airflow is not enough.

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  • Provides a higher engine life
  • It is necessary to change the oil and filters less often than in the case of air cooling
  • Allows you to reduce thermal gaps and get a higher specific power

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  • The probability of failure is higher
  • More expensive than the air system



How Do Air-Cooled Motorcycles Work?

The air cooling method is a simple but quite effective way to cool a heated engine. The motorcycle motor is cooled by oncoming air. Since heat removal occurs through the surface of the engine, it is increased with the help of fins in the most heat-loaded places. Cooling fins are located on the cylinder head and cylinder, but on the crankcase, where temperatures are not so high, they may be absent.

If the engine is positioned in such a way that an oncoming air flow does not enter it, deflectors are used for cooling, redirecting the incoming flow of cold air to the engine.

Also Read: Fuel Injector vs Carburetor Motorcycle

The practice of using oil radiators cooling engine oil is widely used, one of the functions of which is to cool engine parts.

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  • The air system is cheaper than the liquid one
  • Does not require maintenance
  • Simplicity and reliability

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  • An engine with an air cooling system has smaller resources
  • Oil and filters will have to be changed more often than in the case of water cooling
  • The air cooling system is less efficient



Air or Liquid Cooling Motorcycle: Detailed Comparison

If you still have questions, don’t worry. Later in the article, we’ll take a closer look at each of the cooling systems and compare them to each other.


In terms of maintenance, liquid cooling is more demanding. Because it has more units in the system. From the fluid itself to the radiator cooling fan.

But in terms of maintenance of consumables such as filters and oil, air cooling is more demanding.


Liquid cooling is designed for more powerful bike engines. This is due to the higher efficiency compared to a conventional air system. But it is worth bearing in mind that liquid cooling needs electrical power for the cooling fan.


Liquid-cooled engine is noisier because it involves a fan which in any case will create extraneous noise. Therefore, your motorcycle will be noisier compared to an air-cooled motorcycle.


It is, of course, difficult to give an exact answer here. Some people like less massive air-cooled engines, and some people like big water-cooled engines.

And not unimportant is how the engineers of the manufacturer have implemented this or that system. That is why it is always necessary to look at this or that bike in person or at least in pictures to get a personal opinion.

Better for V-twins

As a rule of thumb, V-twins-type engines are best cooled with an air cooling system. This is influenced by its design features and maximum power. As an example, Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The main thing in such motors is not to forget to refill the oil and periodically clean the system from fouling.


Motorcycles with a liquid cooling system are generally heavier than motorcycles with an air system. This is influenced by two factors:

  1. As a rule, the liquid cooling system is used on more powerful engines.
  2. The cooling system itself is heavier.

Why Do Motorcycles Need a Cooling System?

Most people know that their car needs a cooling system to prevent the engine from overheating, but many do not realize that motorcycles need a cooling system as well. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Motorcycles typically have smaller engines than cars. This means that they generate more heat per square inch than a car engine.
  2. Motorbikes typically do not have a lot of airflow over the engine. This lack of airflow can cause the engine to overheat quickly.
  3. Bikes are typically ridden in hot weather conditions. This combination of factors means that a motorcycle cooling system is necessary to keep the engine from overheating.

The cooling system on a motorcycle typically consists of a radiator, a water pump, and hoses. The radiator is responsible for dissipating the heat from the engine coolant. The water pump circulates the coolant through the engine. The hoses carry the coolant to and from the radiator.

Liquid Cooled vs. Air Cooled Motorcycle Engines: Which Is Better?

As a general rule, water-cooled motorcycle engines are better than air-cooled ones. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Liquid-cooled engines run cooler than air-cooled engines, so they last longer.
  2. They are more powerful than air-cooled motors.
  3. Liquid-cooled engines are better at handling high speeds and hard riding than air-cooled engines.
  4. The engines are less likely to overheat than air-cooled engines.
  5. Liquid-cooled engines are less likely to experience engine knock than air-cooled engines.

So, if you’re looking for a motorcycle engine that will last longer, perform better, and be less likely to overheat, liquid-cooled is the way to go.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to the most popular questions.

Do air-cooled motorcycles overheat?

It can depend on a number of factors, such as the type of air-cooled motorcycle, the weather conditions, and the rider’s driving style. In general, however, air-cooled motorcycles are more likely to overheat than water-cooled motorcycles.

How long do air-cooled motorcycle engines last?

This is a difficult question to answer because it depends on a number of factors, including how well the motorcycle is maintained, the quality of the engine, and the riding conditions. Generally speaking, however, air-cooled motorcycle engines can last for many years if they are properly maintained.

Why do air-cooled engines burn oil?

Air-cooled engines burn oil because the oil helps to keep the engine cool. The combustion is due to the engine overheating and the oiled baking in the system.

Is an air-cooled engine good for a long ride?

An air-cooled engine is typically not as good for long rides as a water-cooled engine because it is more susceptible to overheating. However, if you are talking about a long ride in terms of distance, an air-cooled engine may be just fine.

Is a liquid-cooled engine good for a long drive?

A liquid-cooled engine is generally more reliable than an air-cooled engine, so it is good for long drives.


The bike’s cooling system allows you to keep the engine in its normal temperature range. Without a cooling system, the engine would quickly overheat, and damage would occur. With a properly functioning cooling system, a motorcycle can ride for hours in hot weather conditions without any issues.

Liquid cooling is mandatory for high-tech engines. This is an alternative type of cooling for sports motorcycles. For long-distance trips, when a good engine blowing is provided, air cooling may also be suitable. At the same time, the temperature of air-cooled motorcycle engines is less stable, it strongly depends on the driving conditions and operating modes, and this increases their wear.

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