What Are Rebuildable Atomizers?
Rebuildable atomizers are advanced devices that allow vapers to create a vaping experience that's uniquely theirs. If you’ve been around vaping for long enough to know the ins-and-outs of how devices work, getting into rebuildables offers a hobbyist component to your vaping. It can also be a great learning tool to help vapers explore how different coils, wicks, and airflow adjustments interact in order to create the perfect vape.
So, what are they? Basically, a rebuildable atomizer contains positively and negatively charged connection points. You build your own coil and supply your own wicking material, as opposed to purchasing a disposable coil head that contains the atomizer, coil, and wicking all pre-assembled. Rebuildables of all stripes are intended to be used with full-performance vape mods, but they're not compatible with beginner-level devices like cigalikes or pod mods.
There are a few types of rebuildable devices, but the concept is the same. Rebuildable dripping atomizers (RDAs) have nothing but a build deck with positive and negative connections. Once built, they are coupled with a cap to cover your coils. You'll remove the top cap or drip tip and use a bottle of e-liquid to wet your wicks every few draws. Because of the bigger build deck and connection points, these are both the easiest devices to learn on, and the preferred device for serious cloud chasers seeking the most space to install massive, cloud-chucking coils.
Rebuildable tank atomizers (RTAs) have a smaller build deck whose cover is surrounded by a glass tank, allowing you to fill it up like a traditional clearomizer tank. This alleviates the need to constantly drip liquid on your coil. Rebuildable dripping tank atomizers (RDTAs) combine the two styles, with a tank sitting below the build deck. In this design, your wicks are left long enough to drop through slots into the build deck, sopping up liquid to draw to the coil and relieving the user of constant dripping duty.
The DIY element to rebuilding atomizers can be daunting at first, but ultimately it can become a rewarding long-term investment and experience. Once you begin making your own vape coils, there’s a certain connection to them that you won’t get with vapes that are already built for you.
Rebuildable Dripping Atomizers (RDAs)
As alluded to earlier, these are the most popular type of rebuildable device, particularly among cloud chasers and new builders. The tradeoffs: extra space allows for more margin of error with beginners and bigger, more intricate coil designs in the hands of pros, but there's a constant need to drip liquid to keep your wicks wet.
Another class of user that might benefit from dripping are vapers that like to change flavors frequently. If you don't want to end up with a muddled mess and like to switch between fruity and bakery flavors, just pop off your top cap, discard your old wick, and slip a new one in. With practice you'll have this down in just a minute or two, making sampling a whole batch of different new flavors easy as pie (and then cake, and then banana, and then custard...).
Rebuildable Tank Atomizers (RTAs)
If constant maintenance isn't your thing, RTAs offer many of the customization options of an RDA in a package that requires much less maintenance. You can still choose your own coils and wicks, changing them at your discretion, but with a full tank of liquid feeding your atomizer you won't have to be refilling it every few minutes.
Vapers with RTAs swear by their incredible flavor and vapor production, and a lot of purists suggest that once you get into building your own tank system, you’ll never want to go back. The downside is that RTAs have multiple parts and require some practice to assemble, with less room for error on build decks that are considerably smaller than their RDA cousins.
RDTA (Rebuildable Dripping Tank Atomizer)
By combining elements of both RTAs and RDAs, vapers have developed devices that borrow elements from tanks and drippers. Instead of e-liquid channels that run from an RTA, these devices use extra-long wick tips from top-mounted coils into the tank. The biggest advantage to this is that it adds even more airflow to your device, and guarantees massive amounts of vapor in every draw.
The drawback? RDTAs may be one of the most finicky styles, requiring not just skill in coil building but also in crafting the perfect wick that won't let your coil run dry while also preventing liquid from leaking through the tank into the bottom of the build deck.
Okay, so now you know what a rebuildable atomizer is. But, you might be asking, why would anyone want to go to the trouble of building their own atomizer? After all, factory-built disposable atomizers cost just a few dollars, and take just a few minutes to replace with no fuss and virtually no mess.
Here, we'll refer back to to the hobbyist aspects. Some people are natural born tinkerers, and being able to play with a vape in a hands-on fashion can be rewarding. Some of the coils advanced users build could almost be considered works of art. And anyone who's ever vaped on a hand-built coil can attest to the fact that, when done right, flavor and vapor production is far superior to even the best factory-built coil head.
There's also an added cost benefit. While a replacement disposable coil head might cost just a few dollars, a handmade coil can be had for just pennies. They can also be cleaned and re-wicked several times before needing replacement, and cotton or rayon wicking is so cheap when bought in bulk the only real cost of refreshing your vape at will is the few minutes you'll spend performing the work.
A word of caution: rebuildable devices are not suitable for entry-level vapers. To successfully assemble and use a rebuildable device you'll need to do your homework, developing an understanding of Ohm's Law and other basic electrical theory. You're also going to need a specialized set of tools to help you with your builds, and your own supply of resistance wire and wicking material.
If you're interested in learning more, we suggest starting with our three-part series introducing vapers to the world of rebuildables. You can find those installments here, here, and here. You can also check out Breazy’s vast library of vaping resources here.