Life Hacks

Are Air Cooled Engines Good?

If air cooled engines were useless, then they would not be used in aircraft today. Air cooled engines are good, they even have a few advantages over their water cooled counterparts. The advantages are only good as far as there is sufficient airflow to keep the engines cool.

Insufficient airflow is the one major drawback faced by this type of engines; the perception among them is that they are inferior. However, thanks to Electric Vehicles, Air Cooled car engines are seeing a resurgence in interest.

The connection between Electric Vehicles and Air cooled engines will be discussed at the end of the article. The following paragraphs explain why air cooled engines may be better than water cooled ones.

Are Air Cooled Car Engines Good?

The following factors seem to support the idea that air cooled engines are better than water cooled ones in some scenarios. However, careful considerations must be made as to whether these scenarios apply to the individual reader.


With less expenses on the fabrication of the engine, air cooled cars are almost always the cheaper option. There is still plenty of potential for this; more auto makers, and even custom builders are turning to car cooled engines because they are cheap to make, and cheap to buy.

This is especially true for those on a budget; who just need a small car for their daily runnings. Interestingly, most air cooled engines of today are found in planes and heavy duty trucks. If they were useless, then they would not be put to such applications.

Another important advantage of air cooled engines is their simplicity.

Simple And Cheap To Maintain

Simple and cheap to maintain. An air cooled engine can afford one fewer trips to the mechanic; without the weight of a complex cooling system, such cars are less likely to breakdown. This is especially true because said complex cooling system is a regular cause of the engines breaking down.

Air cooled engines are therefore cheaper to maintain; they require fewer parts replacements, and a lot less expenses on regular checkups.

If one perhaps lives in a city, and only needs a mode of transport to work and back, then an air cooled engine is the best bet. Such a car would fit into a budget; the only major spending would be on fueling, without much cause for spending unnecessarily on maintenance.


This is the main reason why air cooled engines are popular with air craft; without the weight of a complex cooling system, they are very light.

The average person may not consider this particular fact to be very important, but the fact is that overall weight has a lot to do with fuel consumption. Lightweight vehicles are more energy efficient than heavier ones.

Lightweight vehicles are therefore more energy efficient.

Fuel Efficiency

Fuel Efficiency is another very important reason why air-cooled engines are better than their water cooled rivals; in scenarios where a tight budget needs to be followed, air cooled engines are the best bet.

A heavier body requires more energy to move. The advantage therefore comes from air cooled engines being a lot less bulky than their water cooled mates.

Why Aren’t Air Cooled Engines Used Anymore?

The decline in air cooled engines actually started sometime in the 80’s as fewer and fewer auto makers used them for their cars. This was because water cooled engines were deemed better.

However, some have cited economic reasons; the need for stimulation of the market through air cooled engines which are more complicated to maintain; and more likely to have parts that need changing – which would also be a revenue stream for auto makers.

However, it was regulation that put air cooled cars out of business; apparently they produce more emissions than their water cooled counterparts.

But let us examine that claim for a moment.  Why do air cooled engines produce more emissions? Apparently, the answer is that they do not completely burn the fuel in the cylinder heads. Why is that? Because they do not run hot enough.

But if air cooled engines do not run hot enough, then that means they are more efficiently cooled than water cooled engines, does it not?! It may be that realization that is making them popular again.

Why Are Air Cooled Engines Becoming More Popular?

Electronic Vehicles are to thank for the resurgence in interest for air cooled engines. Electronic vehicles have seen a lot of hype in the media and in the stock market, but have largely failed to live up to expectations in many regards.

Two key areas where these vehicles have failed to live up to the hype is mileage per charge, and capacity (weight) they are able to carry. These failings have led many to call these cars “unreliable.”

Proponents of electric vehicles have advised that users “work within the limits” of their EVs, leading some to point out that air cooled engines are more reliable, and where they are inadequate, the user could also just work within the limits.

With better understanding of thermodynamics, and more efficient fans, the limits of air cooled engines have improved drastically, but here is how to work with them.

How To Get The Best From Your Air Cooled Engines

Clean Regularly

Air cooled engines work with a general theory of forcing air through the surface of the engine.  The car will need to have openings for air to get into the engine cabin (bonnet, hood) so that a fan can then force it through the surface of the engine.

For that air to circulate properly, proper care will have to be taken to ensure that the openings do not become blocked with dust, debris, engine oil, or whatever else.

Therefore regular cleaning of the engine cabin should be a healthy part of the routine. The cleaning should not stop at the vents, but should also include the engine itself. The engine will have grooves in some places; cooling fins which may appear like extended teeth coming out of the engine.

Their function is to help dissipate the heat generated. However, they cannot remove the heat efficiently if they are covered with dust or debris. Therefore, it is important to clean the fins regularly to ensure maximum performance.

Operate In Energy Saving Mode

Computer users are familiar with the settings that have the above name; the goal is to minimize energy usage. In the case of air cooled vehicles, the goal is to minimize heat, which is not too different. Here is how that can be done:

Monitor Temperature: modern cars come with temperature gauges or thermometers that can help one monitor the engine temperature. A car does not even need to come with one as it can be fitted into an old car.

When the engines go hotter than required, they can be parked, and allowed to cool for a while. Of course that makes then somewhat inadequate for high intensity applications such as use as a get-away car after a bank robbery.

What Is A Disadvantage Of An Air Cooled Engine?

There is a possibilty that an air cooled engine may overheat and cease off when stuck in traffic, or while stuck in mud. This is because the engine needs a flow of air over it to stay cool, and some of that air flow is harnessed as the car passes quickly through air.

However, a car that is idle (standing) may not harness enough of that air to keep the engine sufficiently cool.

Possible Upgrade Idea

As engineers and car buffs throughout the world keep thinking of ways to make cars better, one idea that could greatly improve the performances of air cooled engines is the inclusion of misting fans in the engine cabin.

This would generate an additional flow of air in the engine cabin, and also produce mist, tiny water droplets which would reduce the ambient temperature in the cabin, as well as cool the engine itself.

Further Reading:


Air cooled engines are simple and efficient, but the problem has been that most cars have not been able to produce sufficient airflow to keep them within acceptable working temperature. Interestingly, air cooled engines today are mostly found on heavy duty trucks, and on air crafts- both of which have the advantage of generating sufficient airflow to keep the engines cool.

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