The ultimate beginner’s guide to vape coils and coil maintenance

It's no secret that vaping has been found to be a less harmful alternative to smoking[HD1] , with many people quitting smoking by transitioning to vaping.

While some people choose disposable vape kits, others prefer regular vape kits as they are more cost-effective in the long run, and allow vapers more room for customisation, tailoring their vaping experience to their preferences.

Often, people switching to vaping have questions on how to choose and use coils. In this post, you'll find out what coils are, how to maintain them and how to know when you need to replace your coil.

What is a vape coil and how does it work?
What we are calling the coil, is known by various other names. These include atomiser, atty or fuse.

The coil contains one or more metal wire coils surrounded by cotton. The cotton absorbs your e-liquid and allows it to contact the metal coil. This coil then heats up when you inhale on a disposable or when the fire button is held on a vape kit to vaporise the e-liquid. Because the cotton is constantly saturated with e-liquid it will not immediately burn, however, in time it will, at which point the coil will require changing.

How do mesh coils work?
Mesh coils follow the same concept as regular coils, however, rather than using coiled wire as the heating element, they use a metal mesh.
Many people will find that using a mesh coil will not only produce an exceptionally flavourful and dense vapour but will also last longer than its standard coil counterparts.

This is mainly thanks to the fact it provides more even heat distribution as there is a lot of surface area in contact with the cotton.

This means that the e-liquid gets very evenly vaporised, but also, that the cotton is evenly heated and will likely burn out more slowly.

Choosing the right e-liquid for your vape coil
One of the most important things when it comes to getting the most from your coil is pairing it with the right e-liquid.

E-liquids are available in different ratios of VG and PG. Vegetable glycerine (VG) and propylene glycol (PG) are the two base ingredients of all e-liquids. Known as diluents, they make up the majority of an e-liquid and are used to dilute the flavour concentrate and nicotine and to create a consistency that is suitable for vaping. Different e-liquids contain different ratios of VG/PG such as 50/50 or high VG, and these will be best suited to different types of devices. We delve further into this in our blog post ‘The different types of e-liquids explained’.

Devices like starter kits and pod systems usually utilise small coils which work best with a 50/50 or high PG e-liquid. This is because these e-liquids have a thin consistency that is easy for the coil to absorb and remain well saturated. High VG e-liquids on the other hand have a thicker consistency that is harder for small coils to absorb, which can lead to dry hits and decrease the longevity of the coil substantially.

High VG e-liquids are better suited to advanced and sub-ohm devices as the coils inside these devices tend to be larger with more exposed cotton. The thick e-liquid can be easily absorbed by these coils without drying out or becoming oversaturated. If you are unsure which type of e-liquid you should be using, take a look at our blog post ‘How do I choose the right e-liquid?’

Something you might not know is that the flavour and nicotine strength of your e-liquid can also have an impact on the life of your coil. Sweet flavours are delicious, but the sweeteners within the e-liquid can burn out the coil faster than other flavours. High nicotine strengths can also reduce the life of your coil, and these are things to factor in when thinking about how long your coil will last. If you are looking for an e-liquid that will help your coil last longer consider a menthol flavour. These have less sweetness and the strong flavour actually masks the taste of the coil starting to burn out so you can use it for longer.

How long do vape coils last?
Your coil's lifespan depends on a variety of factors such as how often you use your device, the components of your e-liquid and much more. If you are a heavy smoker who has just switched to vaping, you might need to replace your coil more frequently than someone who vapes occasionally.

Similarly, if you use a high VG e-liquid, your coil will need replacing more frequently than if you use a higher ratio PG e-liquid. VG is thicker and takes longer to evaporate which means it puts more strain on your vape kits coil.

Components like nicotine strength, the amount of flavourings, the amount of sweetener, the wattage you use, how much cotton your coil consists of and more will all affect the lifespan of your coil.

The average lifespan of a coil can be anywhere between one day to two weeks, but this can differ depending on how often you vape.

When to change a vape coil
There are several tell-tale signs that your coil might need replacing. Let's explore them!

Your e-liquid tastes burnt
Anyone who's ever experienced the burnt taste that comes with an old coil won't want to experience it again. It's a nasty taste that  signifies that the coil needs to be changed immediately.[HD1]  Also, if a coil becomes very burn out it can actually stop your vape from working as expected, as the device may not be able to recognise the coil any longer, or the e-liquid just can no longer be absorbed.

The vape juice tastes weird
If you've been using the same e-liquid for a while and it suddenly tastes different, that's another sign that your coil is running out of life—the taste changes when the cotton-wicking material surrounding the coil absorbs the flavour. This can be that either the e-liquid tastes more bitter than usual, or just that the flavour is dulled.

You can try a new flavour to see if it tastes better, but if you have the same problem, you should change the coil.

People also notice their e-liquid tastes better when they change the coil regularly, so it's worth making an effort as it enhances your experience.

Your vape device is producing less vapour
The coil isn't heating correctly and/or your device produces less vapour than usual. There are a few reasons for this happening, like using the incorrect wattage, but it usually comes down to an old coil.

If you've tried all the other troubleshooting steps and you're still not getting enough vapour, it might be time for a new coil.

It's hard to inhale
Some people might have to pull hard on their device to get vapour, which signifies the coil needs replacing. You shouldn't have to put in too much effort when vaping, so if you are, there's something wrong.

Changing the coil can help a great deal, making the experience better because you won't put in so much effort.

The device is leaking
When your device starts leaking, it might indicate the seal isn't as tight as it used to be. This can be for many reasons, but one of them is definitely an old coil.

If you've been using the same coil for a while and your device starts leaking, it's time to get a new one.

If you’re using a new coil, it might be that it’s not been installed correctly. Try drying your coil off and re-installing, ensuring it’s screwed into the tanks base hand-tight.

Gurgling sounds
If you start hearing gurgling sounds, it can signify an issue with the coil - along with other things. Sometimes, it might be simple, such as over-filling the tank, but you should check the coil before investigating further.

Some gurgling sounds could also be signs of serious issues with the components in your vape kit, so make sure you replace the equipment if it's not the coil.

How to change a vape coil
Now that we know how to tell when a coil needs replacing, let's take a look at how to do it. The process is pretty simple and only takes a few minutes. Please note that prefilled pod devices such as the Vuse Pro or Elf Bar ELFA PRO are not refillable and the coils cannot be changed.

·Remove the tank from the device and unscrew the base
·Empty any remaining e-liquid from the tank
·Drip a couple of drops of e-liquid onto any exposed cotton on the new coil, this is called priming your coil
·Unscrew or pull out the coil from the base and dispose of it
·Screw or push in the new coil as instructed by your vape kit manufacturer
·Fill up the tank with e-liquid
·Reattach the tank to the device
·Wait 10 minutes
·Turn on the device and start vaping!

If you're still having issues after changing the coil, we would recommend popping into your local Evapo vape shop so an expert colleague can take a look for you.

How to clean a vape coil
If you are using a device with replaceable coils we do not recommend that you attempt to clean them. This is because once the cotton is burnt out, there is no way to unburn it, so the coil will never be able to return to its former glory. Attempting to clean a replaceable coil can also be dangerous as any residual water remaining in the coil can be released as a hot steam when the coil is used, which could be quite unpleasant or even painful. It is best to just change the coil once you notice it is starting to burn, so you can continue to enjoy the best possible vaping experience.

Rebuildable coils on the other hand can be cleaned when they start to taste burnt. These types of coils should only be used by advanced vapers with a good knowledge of ohms law.

Let’s go through the steps to clean a rebuildable coil:

·Remove the cotton – although rebuildable coils can last much longer than standard coils, they will still need to be re-wicked regularly. You can change the cotton without having to replace the who build.

·Lightly dry burn your coils – this is when you remove the cotton and e-liquid from your rebuildable coils, and gently fire the device. Do not let the coils glow too much, just gently pulsing the fire button a few times will cause some of the burnt on gunk to fall from the coils.

·Brush with a cleaning tool – if your coils are not too bad then a dry burn might be enough, but if there is still some burnt on residue you can lightly brush this off with a coil cleaning tool or small wire brush. In a pinch, a clean toothbrush will also do the trick. Make sure that the coils have had enough time to cool down before you brush them.

·Clean around the base of the tank to ensure there is no residual gunk that was released when you cleaned your coils

·Re-wick the coils with fresh cotton and saturate them with e-liquid

Regularly re-wicking and cleaning your coil build will help ensure you get the best possible flavour production and vapour production, as well as avoiding unpleasant dry hits.

Reasons why vapes can taste burnt with a new coil
If you have only just changed your coil and are already noticing a burnt taste, this could be down to a couple of different things.

When you first insert your new coil it needs time to absorb the e-liquid before it can be used. We recommend that you prime your coil by adding a couple of drops of e-liquid to the exposed cotton before inserting it, and then letting it sit in the full tank of e-liquid for 5-10 minutes. If you insert a new coil without priming or waiting you are effectively burning dry cotton, which can not only taste very unpleasant but will cause the coil to burn out almost straight away.

Chain vaping can also cause a coil to burn out prematurely. This is because the cotton does not have sufficient time to re-absorb e-liquid between draws, causing what is referred to as a dry hit. We recommend waiting 15 – 20 seconds between pulls to make sure your coils remain well saturated.

If you are vaping at high wattage settings you need to make sure that your coil can handle it. Coils will have a recommended wattage range at which they will perform best, which can be found on the box and also printed on the side of the coil itself. Using a wattage setting that is too high for your chosen coil is a sure fire way to burn it out quickly.

Finally, if your previous coil or wick was pretty burnt when you replaced it, the e-liquid in your tank can actually take on the burnt taste. This means that even if you put in a fresh coil and follow all of the right steps, the e-liquid itself tastes burnt. You can usually tell if this has happened if your usually light coloured e-liquid has become very dark brown. We always recommend removing any remaining e-liquid when you replace your coil and starting with a full tank refill for the best results.