How to Troubleshoot Coil Problems
One of the most unpleasant occurrences in vaping is taking a hit and, instead of getting a wonderfully sweet mouthful of vapor, you instead receive a burnt, scorching taste accompanied by a horrible throat hit. Another unpleasant occurrence is leaving your vape on the counter and coming back to find it mired in a pool of its own spilled e-liquid. Both of these could be related to problems with your vape coil.
If this has never happened to you, that’s great! Unfortunately, problems like these do occur. If it happens to you, don’t stress it. We're here to help things go right.
For new vapers, be aware that most of our discussion is going to focus on vape mods that come with clearomizers (tanks) that have replaceable coils. With more basic devices like cigalikes and pod mods, chances are that coil problems mean it's time to retire the entire liquid delivery system from the battery connection on up.
Clearomizer-style vape tanks with disposable coil heads (including atomizer, coil, and wicking, all factory pre-assembled and ready for install) have a finite lifespan as it is. You might get anywhere from a dozen to a few dozen tank refills out of a coil, depending on your liquid choice and vaping style. Here, we're going to talk about some of the problems you might encounter, and how to avoid them to get the most out of your coils.
Dry hits occur when your vapor device heats up a coil when the wicking that's supposed to be drawing e-liquid in to produce vapor has gone dry. Harsh and unpleasant, you'll know right away when you're experiencing a dry hit condition.
Unfortunately, most popular wicking materials like organic cotton are prone to burning when contacted by a heating coil when they're dry. Once you've burnt your wick, there's no way to un-burn it - in the case of a disposable coil head that means you're going to have to replace it.
There are two situations which can lead to a dry hit, the first is not priming your coil properly, which could lead to accidental damage in a new unit. Read our linked tutorial for a quick and easy guide to avoiding this situation.
Dry hits also occur if you've forgotten to keep an eye on the liquid level of your tank and vaped it dry. Paying close attention to how much liquid is left in the tank, and topping up when you get below ⅓ or so full is a good practice to ensure you never vape your tank all the way down. Mods with temperature control settings will also allow you to specify a maximum temperature for your coil that produces a comfortable vape but cuts power before you'll ever generate enough heat to burn a dry wick. If you're having trouble remembering to refill, it's worth looking into a device with temperature control settings, or learning to use the settings on a device you already have.
Eventually, your coil is going to wear out, even if it's properly cared for. If you're noticing a lack of vapor or flavor production, or an "off" taste to your favorite liquid and it's been a week or more since your last coil change, take the tank apart once it's empty and inspect the coil. Black or brown buildup around the interior wicks or the coil itself are a sign it's time to change the coil head. While methods do exist for re-wicking old coils or attempting to clean them, these generally involve a considerable amount of time and effort - you'll have to decide whether the $3-4 savings of simply opting for a fresh coil are worth the time cost.
Another common but easily avoided problem with vape tanks is leaking e-liquid. Your coil head interacts with other components of the tank to create a seal that allows air in, but keeps liquid from getting out. Every time you interact with your coil, however, there's a chance to break that seal, allowing liquid to seep out the bottom of your tank.
One frequent fault point occurs when installing a replacement coil head. You'll notice when disassembling and inspecting your new mod that most pieces of the tank are held together by fine steel threads. Screwing a coil into the tank base at an incorrect angle (cross-threading), or doing the same with the top of the tank and coil, can not only cause permanent damage to the tank but also create a gap for air to flow through. It's therefore crucial to take care when unscrewing an old coil and re-threading its replacement - never force threads, and nothing on a vape should ever require more torque than two fingers can easily apply to make a connection.
Rubber o-rings at the base of your coil head, and where the glass tank walls connect to the metal top and bottom caps, are another barrier between your e-liquid and the outside world. Mis-aligning tank parts and forcing them back together can pinch or cut these o-rings, rendering them defenseless against your e-liquid's escape attempts. Most tanks will come with at least one spare set of rubber washers and gaskets specifically designed to fit your clearomizer, if you suspect yours may be damaged they're quick and easy to swap out on an empty tank.
Finally, the refill process offers up a few opportunities for leaks. While some older devices require the removal of the tank from the mod (and the bottom cap from the tank) to complete a refill, most modern clearomizers have a "top-fill" system that involves unscrewing or sliding aside the top cap while the rest of the tank remains attached to the mod. Make sure you're squeezing refill liquid into the juice ports at the side of the tank and not down the center tube - there it'll just run right through the coil and out the bottom airflow holes. Also, ensure you're fully closing the device, because any gaps will allow air in and force liquid out when the tank is pressurized by the act of taking a draw.
Hopefully this tutorial helps address two of the most common complaints related to vape coils and clearomizer tanks. You can also check out Breazy’s vast library of vaping resources here, where we explore several other tips and trick for optimizing your coil's performance and lifespan in greater detail.