Remember that first hit from your brand new coil, back when you started vaping? Remember how juicy and flavoursome the taste was, those big clouds and that feeling of satisfaction?
Does it still feel like that? If not, it may be time to replace your atomizer.
Due to the subjective nature of vaping, it’s impossible to give a definitive time frame after which you should consider replacing your atomizer. The ejuice you use, the temperature you vape at, how often you vape and your actual coil setup can all affect the speed at which your atomizer degrades.
So how can we tell when it’s time? Here are some things to keep an eye out for.
Reduced Flavour and Vapour
One of the first signs of a dying atomizer is a reduction in flavour. As the coil is used it will collect a film of carbon, interfering with its contact with the wick and ejuice. You’ll notice a slow reduction in flavour, until eventually the vapour clouds are almost tasteless. A reduction in flavour is commonas your taste buds become saturated with your ejuice flavours, switching between two ejuice flavours regularly can help alleviate this.
Another thing to look out for is the cloud volume lowering, as with the flavour the carbon buildup on the coil will interfere with vapour production, causing a drop off in the size of your clouds. This is most likely the beginning of the end for your atomizer, so keep an eye out for some of the more serious problems below.
Uh oh. This is one sign you can’t ignore. A burnt flavour means you’ve probably had a dry hit; that’s the term for what happens when you take a pull on your ecigarette when there’s not enough juice in the wick. You’ll know a dry hit because the taste is absolutely abysmal.
This can happen for a few reasons; you may have let the ejuice get too low, meaning there’s not enough for the wick to pull up with its capillary action. If you’re building your own coils you may have the wick too tight, which will significantly reduce the capillary action of the wick. You can also simply have the voltage on your mod set too high.
When this occurs your coil will heat up faster than normal, and eventually reach a temperature where it begins to burn the juice or wick, once this happens you will nearly always need to clean the coil, replace the wick, or replace the atomizer if you’ve left a burnt residue on the inside of the metal casing.
Rarely, you may overheat your atomizer to the point where you degrade the rubber sealing rings. In this case you will need to replace the whole atomizer itself. They will also lose their seal over time naturally. This is easily avoided however; use a temperature setting on your mod or simply ensure you choose an appropriate voltage setting for your atomizer. If in doubt, start low and work your way up.
If you pull the detachable top off your atomizer and look at the coil you’ll be able to make a decent visual assessment of its vitality. One of the first signs of degradation is a build up of black gunk on the coil and wick itself, creating a foul taste in your vapour. This is a far more common occurrence with sweet or creamy ejuices, but nearly all juices will cause a buildup over time.
If you use a non-rebuildable atomizer you’ll have to consider switching the head at this stage. If you built the coil yourself you can pull out the wick, rinse the coil under distilled water and pulse it to burn off the gunk. Replace the wick and you’ll have a working atomizer again, although this process can only be repeated a few times before it will be worth switching in a new coil rather than washing it, as the gunk will never be completely removed.
For varying reasons, buildup on the atomizer can cause the atomizer to heat up unevenly, causing ‘hot spots’, these are areas of the coil that heat up much faster than the rest, burning the ejuice they come into contact with. As before, you’ll need to replace the head or clean it if it’s a rebuildable atomizer.
This is a rare one, but can still happen. Gunk can fall off the atomizer head and lodge itself into the airways the atomizer uses for drawing air. If this happens, you can rinse the atomizer under water, or use a toothpick to clear the airways. You’ll probably have gunk on the coil by this stage so it will probably be worth doing a full clean or a replacement of the coil/head.
What can I do?
There are two approaches to atomizer problems; prevention and cure.
Keep your mod at an appropriate voltage for the atomizer. If in doubt check the manufacturers website for information on the safe voltage range for your atomizer.
Don’t take extremely long pulls on your ecigarette. The longer you’re drawing, the hotter the coil is going to get. Unless of course you’re using a mod with temperature control. The hotter the atomizer gets, the higher the chance of gunk buildup or even a dry hit.
Clean your atomizer regularly using distilled water if the manufacturers directions allow this.
Some ejuices build gunk faster than others, if you’re regularly replacing your atomizers try switching ejuices.
Don’t mix ejuices or change flavours without changing the atomizer. Combining different ejuices can cause unexpected byproducts that can damage your atomizer.
Cleaning with distilled water is the most common way to clean an atomizer, you can also use a soft metal brush very gently on the coil and surrounding parts to clean away dirt, debris and gunk. Be very careful to not distort the coil’s shape.
If possible, removing the wick, rinsing with distilled water and pulsing the coil to a red/white hot temperature will burn off most off the gunk. You may then rewick, add juice and use as normal.
If you’re building your own coils, often the simplest solution is to replace the coil. It takes about a minute and you’ll have fresh new atomizer and that fresh new clean flavour like your first hit.
Vaping, like many hobbies, takes some level of intuition and an accumulation of small tidbits of knowledge to understand the broader landscape and make informed decisions. We hope this article has given you some help in understanding when it’s time to replace your atomizer.