How to Extend the Life of Your Atomizer Heads
By Lindsay Fox Posted August 5, 2016
With tanks of all types being most vapers’ go-to atomizers, the lifespan of your pre-made atomizer heads is probably a big concern. As well as the inconvenience of having to order more coils too regularly, the increased cost when you’re getting through your atomizer heads too quickly can make vaping way more expensive than it needs to be. So, if you find a brand new atomizer head is only lasting you a few days – rather than the 1 to 2 weeks you can ordinarily get out of them – what’s the problem? Can it be fixed? Here’s a brief guide to getting the most out of your atomizer heads.
How Do You Know When An Atomizer Head is Dead?
Before we move on to how long your coils should last and what you can do to increase their lifespan, it helps to have an understanding of what kills coils and how you can tell they’re done for.
The biggest sign your coil is done for is a burnt taste, or even just diminished flavor and vapor production. When your coil dies, it’s usually because of the wick rather than the coil itself. The coil is basically just a piece of metal that gets hot, and while it can (and does) degrade over time, the wick is the most fragile part of your coil. All it takes is the occasional “dry hit” to burn your wick (especially with cotton) and the performance will start to suffer. Another problem is that wicks tend to get gunked up with juice over time, and this reduces their ability to do the job and impacts on the flavor and vapor production you get from them.
This is why users of rebuildable devices tend to get a lot more use out of a specific coil: with rebuildable devices, you can easily change the wick. The same is ultimately true for pre-built coils too, but it tends to be a little more difficult to accomplish.
How Long Should an Atomizer Head Last?
There are a lot of problems with doing estimating how long it will take for your coil to die, which largely come down to the coil itself – both the overall design and the possibility of sub-par coils making it off the production line – and how often you vape. We’ll address the user-related factors through the rest of this post, but in general most coils will last between one and two weeks. This can vary, though, with some vapers reporting getting a month or even longer out of a coil.
If you find yourself only getting a few days’ worth of use out of your coils on a regular basis, then it’s probably down to how you’re vaping rather than anything wrong with the specific coils you’re buying (unless they’re cheap, third-party copies).
8 Tips for Getting More Out of Your Coils
1 – Prime Your Coils Before Vaping
This is the most important point. Although it’s a simple one, getting it wrong can even lead to you never getting an enjoyable vape out of your coil.
When you screw in a new coil and fill your tank, you need to give the juice a few minutes to saturate the wick before you hit the fire button. It’s that easy. Waiting five minutes or so before you take a vape might not be ideal, but it makes all the difference to the lifespan of your coil.
The reason for this is that a fresh coil has a completely dry wick, and vaping without burning the coil depends on it being soaked with e-juice. When you fill up the tank, there are normally some sections of your wick exposed to e-juice, and these will soak up liquid really quickly. However, there is also a lot of wicking material that isn’t in direct contact with juice. And because the coil is usually in the center of the atomizer head, the most important sections of wick are rarely ever in the prime position to be soaked. You have to wait for the juice to soak throughout all of your wick before you hit fire, otherwise it means dry hits and possibly burnt wicks.
If you’re inpatient, you can directly soak the wick in e-juice before you fill up your tank. You can ordinarily see the wick (and coil) through the opening in the top of the atomizer head. Dripping a small amount of juice onto this can get the internal parts nice and soaked before you fill up. You just want to add enough to get it wet, though. If you add too much, you can flood your atomizer and may end up with leaking or gurgling issues. Add a small amount and let it soak into the wick, then add a tiny bit more before filling your tank. It’s still better to wait before you vape, but this will reduce your waiting time to a couple of minutes.
2 – Try Lower-VG Juices
Although many modern tanks can cope with the additional viscosity of VG-based juices, you might still run into problems with high VG mixes. The problem here is that the thicker nature of an 80 % VG juice, for example, means that it can’t soak into the wick as quickly or efficiently. After priming the wick, you’ll be able to get a few tasty puffs out of the coil, but soon afterwards you’ll start running into problems.
The problem is that every puff vaporizes some of the juice that’s in contact with the coil, meaning that the most important sections of wick go dry. Before you can get a nice vape again, it has to soak up more juice. With PG-based juices, this is rarely an issue. The liquid is really thin and it wicks very efficiently, so you’re unlikely to have an issue with e-juices with a 50/50 PG/VG ratio or anything with more PG.
3 – Turn Down The Power
You can also burn your wick and ruin your coil if your setting is too high for your atomizer. The reason for this is similar to the previous point: if you’re vaporizing e-juice faster than it can be replenished, you’ll eventually expose a dry wick to a glowing hot coil.
The key is that you need to balance the wicking ability of your atomizer and juice combination with your power setting. This is because the power going through your coil is what removes juice from the wick, and the wick’s ability to soak up juice is what replenishes it. So if your juice is too thick for your atomizer, you’ll run into problems at a lower power setting than you would with a more capable atomizer. And, conversely, if your power is too high for your atomizer’s wicking ability, you’ll run into problems for effectively the same reason.
Many coils for modern devices indicate a recommended range of power settings, and you can use these as a guide to help you avoid damaging your coil. The best advice is to adjust your settings based on the flavor you get, though – before you hit the coil-destroying “dry burn” stage, the flavor you get from your juice notably diminishes. If you notice the flavor drop on your second or third puff, you probably have the power set too high.
4 – Take a Break From Chain Vaping
Following on directly from the last point, chain vaping can also lead to your atomizer being unable to replenish your juice quick enough and thereby damage your coil. The solution is very simple: put your e-cig down for a little while! This can be exacerbated by the issues from the last couple of points, too, so you can also consider switching to a higher-PG juice or turning your power down a little.
5 – Don’t Let Your Juice Level Get Too Low
Among the most basic ways you can ruin a coil too early is by trying to vape when you’re too low on e-juice. Again, the problem is that when there isn’t much juice soaked into the wick and you try to fire, the temperature increases dramatically and you risk burning your wick. Not having enough juice in your tank means that the wicks probably aren’t completely soaked, so hitting the “fire” button can easily screw up your coil.
This is easy to rectify: either fill up your tank (you can empty the previous juice first if you want to minimize mixing of the flavors) or rotate your tank to manually soak the wicks with e-juice before you vape. This latter strategy doesn’t really work for too long, though, because eventually your juice level will be too low to properly soak the wick, no matter how hard you try.
6 – Switch to a Juice With Less Sweetener
The actual flavoring in your juice can also impact on your coil’s lifespan. The most common issue like this is with e-juices which use sweetener. The sugars in the e-juice caramelize when you vape, and this leads to a gunky build-up in your wick. This build-up then reduces the ability of your wick to soak up more e-juice, and this can lead to dry hits and problems similar to those in the preceding points. Sadly, there isn’t much you can do about this other than switch to less heavily sweetened e-juice blends.
7 – Clean Your Atomizer Heads
But what if you’re doing everything right and you still want more use out of each coil? Things get a bit more difficult, but you can still extend your coil life notably with some basic cleaning.
The core idea, which is maintained across all the different methods used, is to remove your atomizer head and soak it thoroughly, before letting it completely dry out. Letting it dry properly is essential, so it’s better to leave it overnight (or even longer), and just use a spare atomizer head while it’s drying.
The differences in approach largely relate to what you use to soak or clean the atomizer head. Letting it “bathe” in hot water for 15 minutes or longer is the simplest approach, and although it’s recommended that you use distilled water, you don’t really need anything special to do this. Just let it soak for a while, then remove it and leave it somewhere to dry – preferably overnight.
Other vapers recommended soaking the atomizer head in vodka or Everclear. Alcohol is a bit more effective at getting any remnants of old juice out of your coil, so if you’re willing to waste a little bit of alcohol (picking up a bottle of cheap vodka for the purpose is the most cost-effective method) then it’s definitely worth doing this. You should rinse the atomizer head under warm water before and after the soak in vodka, and again, let it completely dry out before you install it again and start to vape.
There are other approaches, too, including using ultrasonic jewelry cleaners. These aren’t too expensive, and are reportedly very effective, so it’s something to consider if you want to clean your atomizer heads as well as possible.
8 – Re-Wick Your Atomizer Heads
Your coil itself will last a hell of a lot longer than the wick. So one solution to maximizing the life of your atomizer heads is to replace the wick with some unbleached organic cotton. Alternatively, you can use one of the many types of cotton sold specifically for vaping.
How exactly to do this depends on your specific atomizer, but if you Google “rewick [your tank] coil” you’ll likely turn up plenty of results. For the Kanger Subtank, for example, this video gives a good run-down of how to re-wick the horizontal coils without a lot of unnecessary fiddling. It’s similarly simple on many atomizers. The basic goal is always to remove the old wick without deforming your coil and insert a new one in its place.
What makes this easier on the horizontal Subtank coils is that the wicking ports line up perfectly with the center of the coil, so you can easily pull it out and put the new one in its place without having to take the atomizer head apart. Other devices (and vertical Subtank coils) can’t be dealt with so easily, and you’ll have to disassemble the coil head and put it back together to get a new wick in there. You can also rebuild the whole coil on most atomizer heads, which is a bit more technical, but means you won’t really need to buy new atomizer heads again.
In some upcoming posts, we’ll address re-wicking and re-building pre-made coils specifically (we’ll add links here when they’re published). But until then, there are plenty of great resources that will give you more detailed instructions for your specific tank.
Temperature Control and Coil Life
For many of the points on this list, the key factor in extending the life of your coil is preventing burning of the wick, and temperature control devices make this concern a thing of the past. When you use a compatible coil, you can set a maximum temperature, which means your device will cut off before you reach the point of dry hits and ruined coils. Although getting a temperature control setup is a bit of an extreme solution to the problem, it’s worth mentioning that you’ll get more out of each coil if you upgrade.
Conclusion – Don’t Give Up On Your Coils Too Soon
The key lesson from this post is that if you’re running into issues with your coils’ lifespan, or you think you have a “dead” coil, you can probably rectify any ongoing problems and revive your coils. You aren’t condemned to paying for a new pack of coils every time you run out. This is the beauty of vaping – even though companies want you to buy new coils frequently, there is usually an enterprising vaper somewhere who’s come up with the solution you’re looking for. Vaping, as a hobby, rewards those willing to do a bit of tinkering.