A reader emailed in to ask us if a liquid cooled motorcycle would run well in the winter. The short answer is, of course! A liquid cooled motorcycle engine works just fine in the winter! Just look at your car, or if you have one, a snowmobile. If both are fairly modern, they are definitely liquid cooled, and they definitely run in the winter. Here’s a little more info on how liquid cooled motorcycle engines run in the winter time.
Thermostats are the key
Your thermostat is important. Ask anybody who’s had the misfortune of having to replace theirs. It sucks, trust me.
The reality is that your car, like a liquid cooled motorcycle probably has at least one thermostat. Some cars even have two thermostats. The thermostat sits between the engine and the radiator. It’s a gatekeeper between your coolant and your motorcycle’s engine. The thermostat controls the flow of coolant, waiting until the engine is properly warmed up to release it. If your motor is still too cool, the coolant won’t start flowing.
Fans play a factor too
Liquid cooled motorcycles also come with something that their air cooled brethren almost never do: Fans.
If you’re riding a liquid cooled motorcycle, it probably also has at least one fan or more. You’ve probably heard it start to whir on a hot day, when you’re stuck in traffic, and your motor is hardly getting any airflow. Luckily, motorcycle engineers are smart enough to program these not to come on when your motorcycle’s engine is cold, meaning you don’t have to worry about additional cold air cooling your jugs.
What about your motor oil?
Different motorcycle oils are rated for different temperatures. You could argue that oil is more important than an engine’s cooling type when it comes to ability to run in the winter.
Your motorcycle owner’s manual should tell you what kind of oil your bike takes. If you don’t have one, you can probably get one from your manufacturer’s website. If not, you can call up the nearest motorcycle dealership that carries your manufacturer and ask them. Typically inside your owner’s manual is a table like this, which tells you what kind of oil to use on the bike, and what it’s temperature range is.
What about your coolant?
Make sure you’re using proper coolants and not water!
Props to Ryan Warren who left that in the comments. If you’re using water instead of coolant, you could find the water freeze and start breaking and cracking critical motorcycle parts. Use the right stuff for your motorcycle. Again, see your owner’s manual or call your dealer if you aren’t sure what kind of green juice your bike likes.
Here are some other things to keep in mind, which apply to all motorcycles, whether liquid cooled or air cooled. These are good to know about and keep in mind for winter riding:
- The soft rubber of your motorcycle tires will harden up in the winter. Not only will cold roads and wet roads provide less traction, but adding cold hard tires and some wet leaves or salt to the ride can make things a little tricky.
- Battery output declines by about 50% at -18 degrees Celcius or 0 Fahrenheit, so a weaker battery may be fine in warm weather, but leave you stranded in cold air and cold temperatures.
- Your fuel mileage will drop, especially if you’re doing lots of shorter rides. This is normal. It’s because your motor is turning a little faster to warm up. Your motorcycle will run rich during this time.
- Your fairings are more susceptible to cracks and breaks because the plastic is cold.
- Watch out for the snowman!
Liquid cooled vs air cooled motorcycle engines
You may also want to check out this story we did years ago comparing liquid cooled motorcycle engines versus air cooled motorcycle engines.
What tires should you use?
If you plan on doing a lot of motorcycle riding in the winter time, you might want to check out this article about motorcycle winter tires.
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Watch out for the snowman!
Make sure your using proper coolants and not water!
Great tip Ryan. I’m going to update the article and give you credit for this, thanks!
What about using air-cooled bikes in the hot summer?
They get hot. You should check the link in that last line of the article for the comparison of air cooled vs liquid cooled motorcycles for more.