Air-Cooled Engine: How Does It Work?

Since my article in the Wall Street Journal has been released, I realized some people have no idea what an Air-Cooled Engine is! In the article, I talked about my 1980 Porsche 911 named Sally and they mentioned she has an air cooled engine. So, let’s dig into what it is and how they work!

Air-Cooled Engine: How Does It Work?

First off, thank you to everyone who has reached out after reading the Wall Street Journal article! I am still getting phone calls and am blown away by the response from just one article; so thank you!

Ok, let’s get to car talk.

The concept of an air-cooled engine is pretty cool and I quite enjoy driving one myself. As the name implies, air-cooled engines rely on the circulation of cool air to…well cool the engine down! Metal fins sit around the outer surface of the head and cylinder block which increase the airflow to keep the engine cool and running properly. While this is a great idea, most cars use water to keep the engines cool; which is why if you overheat easily, keeping distilled water on hand is a good thing. The nice thing about an air-cooled engine is the fact that you don’t have a radiator, cooling jacks or coolant so the car is naturally lighter/less to worry about.

The disadvantage… it’s temperamental. Of course, the engine relies on constant cooled air coming in to keep it from overheating, and in some cases that just doesn’t happen. Think about when you’re idling in the middle of summer. If it’s hot and humid outside not much air gets circulated inside, so overheating is pretty common.

In other words, air-cooled engines have no water and or coolant to keep the engine temperature cooled. Other engines rely on water to circulate coolant throughout the system to keep the engine cooled.

That’s why most cars don’t have an air-cooled engine; the bigger the engine the less likely it’ll survive without coolant. Companies like Porsche (with the popular 911) and VW have successfully created air-cooled engines, however, I will tell you from experience Sally gets hot and can overheat pretty quickly!

But, most car fans still love them! I know I do 🙂

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