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2 Stroke Diesel Engine Piston Cooling

Updated on April 12, 2010


The coolant used for removing and conveying the heat from a piston may be either fresh water, distilled water or lubricating oil. Water has the ability to remove more heat than lubricating oil. his can be seen from the fact that the specific heat of water (in SI unit) is approximately 4 while specific heat of lube oil is about 2. Further, the temperature range ( t2-t1 ) for cooling water passing through a piston may be of the order of 14 degree Celsius while for cooling oil i will be 10 degree Celsius for a similarly rated engine.


Q = quantity heat removed in any given time


Q = weight of coolant used in time T x ( t2-t1) x specific heat

Assume the weight of water passing through the piston in time T is equal to unity. Then

Q0 = 1.0 x 14 x 4

Assume the weight of oil passing the piston in time T is W0. Then

Q0 = W0 x 10 x 2

If the same same amount of heat is removed from the oil cooled piston as from the water cooled piston in the equivalent time T then,

Q0 = Qw

and W0 x 10 x 2 = 1.0 x 14 x 4


W0 = (1.0 x 14 x 4) / (10 x 2)

= 56 / 20

= 2.8

From this it can be seen that for the same cooling effect, the amount of cooling oil circulated will be nearly three times the amount of water. In actual design practice there are many other factors to be taken into account when designing and comparing the relative meris of water or oil for piston cooling systems.

Piston Cooling Media

Fresh Water


  • Relatively easy to obtain, and does not require special reserve storage facility.


  • Contain Hardness salts which could form scales on internal surface of the piston.

Distilled Water


  • Absence of scale forming matters.


  • Must be produced by evaporation of fresh or salt water and condensation of vapour produced.

  • Strict supervision of evaporation control necessary to keep the contaminants carried over to a low order - in parts per million (ppm)

Fresh and Distilled Water Piston Cooling Systems


  • Water has the ability to absorb large amounts of heat


  • The piston cooling water conveyance pipes and attendant gear must be kept out of the crankcase as far as possible, because of the danger of contamination of the crankcase lubricating oil by water leakage. Because of possible contamination of he jacket cooling water with oil, the jacket cooling water system must be made separate from the piston cooling system. The necessities of duplication of cooling water pumps, pipings, motors, wiring, starters, coolers and control equipment.
  • When an engine has water cooled pistons the piston cooling system should be drained off water after the engine is shut down for an extended period. A drain tank is necessary to hold the piston cooling water. This is often incorporated with a cascade type filter for separation of oil and scum from the piston cooling water.
  • Generally, water cooling of piston makes for added complication, and a higher risk of contamination of the crankcase lubricating oil system.

Lubricating oil Piston Cooling Systems


  • The piston cooling oil pump is combined with the lubricating oil pump and the piston oil cooler is combined with the lubricating oil cooler. This makes for overall simplicity in ancillary pumping and piping system, and in the control equipments associated with these systems.
  • Internal stress within the material of the piston is generally less in oil cooled pistons than in water cooled pistons, but good design in a water cooled piston can negate this advantage to some degree.
  • No risk of crankcase system oil contamination, even if piston cooling oil telescopic pipes are fitted in crankcase.
  • Simpler arrangement such as telescopic pipes for cooling oil conveyance piping with less risk of hammering in pipings and a bubble impingement attack.


  • Large power requirements for pumping cooling oil.
  • Larger amounts of lubricating oil required in lubricating oil system, if oxidation is to be kept down.
  • Increased period of time to cool down after stopping main engine, if coking in piston is to be avoided.


"Lamb's Questions and Answers on the Marine Diesel Engine" by Stanley G Christensen

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    • profile image

      Cooling System 7 years ago

      Hi Admin

      Thanks for unique info on Piston Cooling. I was searching for Piston Cooling info, google referred me to your great post.

      Really unique post..................thanks again

    • profile image

      Andrew 7 years ago


      Regarding oil cooling of pistons you are mostly correct. There are systems that supply water to the underside of a piston. This form of cooling is found in large 2 stroke diesel engines either burning diesel for heavy fuel oil. these engines are usually found in the marine industry but are also found in stationary plants. The piston rod only moves straight up and down connected to a slipper block which is then connnected to a connecting rod transmitting the force to the crankshaft. The water or oil used to cool the piston is supplied to the underside of the piston by telescopic pipes. Oil is the preferred medium because there is no concern of water mixing with the oil. Doxford engines sometimes used water cooling for pistons.

    • Earnie profile image

      Earnie 8 years ago

      I have been a Diesel Tech (Master Certified) for over 30 years. I've worked on many 2 stroke diesel engines. I just wanted to pass a little info on to you. Water does in no way contact the cylinder pistons. The liners may be (wet liners)surrounded by coolant. or (dry liners) which have a wall between the liners and cooling jacket. ALL pistons are in direct contact with the engine oil, Either by direct injection or splash tubes. FYI, :)