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What is an ecig coil or atomizer?

11 January 2020

The coil is a small part in an electronic cigarette which gets hot. A coil head is also known as an atomizer head. These are words for the same thing, the heating element inside an e-cigarette.

This heating element most often has absorbent wick, cotton or wadding inside (along with wire) which soaks up the e-liquid and when it gets hot enough, it converts the e-liquid to vapour which is then puffed out by the user and looks similar to smoking.

There are numerous different types of coils made by many manufacturers and they come in various shapes and sizes.

Technology is rapidly advancing so new ones are being introduced on a regular basis, and their performance is being improved all the time.

Most of us are the same, we get something new and exciting and we want to use it straight away, and we may not take the time to understand the basics before we’re trying it out. However, when it comes to electronic cigarettes and their components, if the correct steps are not taken to ‘prime’ the new equipment it can result in poor performance, a burnt out coil, and shortened life of coils.

To avoid problems, it’s really important to ensure the coil is properly primed (procedure explained further down).

How long should coils last?

These little components have a limited lifetime, typically 1-2 weeks. If you're not a heavy vaper they may last a lot longer but thicker liquid will gunk them up quicker. Ensure you carry out the necessary regular maintenance so you prolong the life of these consumables as much as possible.

The general rule is to keep coils moist with liquid - they shouldn't be too wet, ie flooded but they shouldn't be allowed to burn dry either. Dry burning is a big subject in itself, and experienced users do deliberately dry burn certain types of coils in order to clean them. We are not recommending this process as there are so many variables but if you want to know more about this subject Google will help you.

Tips to make coils last longer

Several factors affect the typical lifetime of a coil, this includes the voltage, the resistance, the amount of use and the e-liquid used in the device will also influence its life. Using the best (the purest) e-liquid and lower nicotine strengths will help to extend their life, but bear in mind that even the purest liquids, flavours and nicotine will leave residues.

A predominantly VG liquid will leave more residue that one with more PG.


Please see our most recent information about priming coils.

The information below is a little dated now but still relevant to some users.

Priming new coils and those that haven’t been used for a while

  • Fill the tank or cartridge with e-liquid
  • Ensure the battery is disconnected and then insert the filled cartridge into the coil
  • Puff and blow through the cartridge mouthpiece until a slight gurgle is heard to ensure liquid has reached the coil
  • Wipe away any excess liquid from the coil threads (the underneath) using a soft paper towel
  • Reassemble the device and you should be away!

Important note!

Sometimes, even after you’ve carried out the initial filling of the cartridge and priming of the coil once, it’s still necessary to prime again to ensure that no air bubbles are blocking the flow of the liquid.

A good example (of very old devices) of when this can be necessary is the eGo-T system (and the Joyetech eCab has the same system). In the eGo-T there is a spike directly in the centre of the coil that protrudes into the cartridge containing the liquid. If the cartridge is less than half full and the device is left in horizontal position for a period of time (this would take some time), then the liquid level could fall below the level of the wick (the spikey bit).

So if the wick area doesn’t have liquid around it, it could dry out because the liquid has been replaced by air. When the e-cigarette is turned upright again, the air bubble could stop the flow of liquid from getting back to or through the coil.

Priming the coil again by puffing and blowing air through the cartridge/coil is the only way to ensure that the proper flow of liquid has resumed.

How to clean a coil

Expect your coils to become clogged with residue from vapourised e-liquid ingredients over a period of time.

Some liquids will cause more residue than others due to the different ingredients they contain, but in general darker colour e-liquids tend to clog coil more quickly than lighter colours, but this isn’t true for every single e-liquid.

As coils becomes clogged, they will exhibit signs that tell you they need cleaning:

  • Vapour production has drastically reduced (or stopped) compared to when the atomizer was new
  • It has become difficult to draw air through
  • The flavour has changed or it tastes burnt or unpleasant

If any of the above issues are happening, it’s recommended that you clean the coil before using it again.

By carrying out what is effectively preventative maintenance, you may be able to extend the life of the coil and improve or restore performance.

There are several methods for cleaning coil:

“Blowing out” the coil is usually the first recommendation and can fix many issues without further ado. Simply remove the coil from the tank/device, place your lips at the top end (not the screw or bottom end) and blow firmly to push the excess liquid or residue onto a paper towel at the other end.

Ensure you wipe the area clean before you put your lips on it!

If this does not solve the problem, here are a couple of alternative methods.

Water soaking (recommended, will fix many problems, but takes a bit of time)

  • Soak in water for about 60 minutes
  • "Blow out” coil to remove excess water
  • Soak in water for a second time for at least 2-3 hours
  • "Blow out” coil again to remove excess water
  • Sit upright and allow to dry for 24 hours (it's best if it isn't bone dry but it should not be wet)

Hot water rinse (much quicker but may not solve as many problems)

  • Run under VERY hot water (boiling water is not a problem but be careful)
  • "Blow out” coil to remove excess water
  • Sit upright and allow to dry for 24 hours (it's best if it isn't bone dry but it should not be wet)

Having problems with coils?

How to avoid problems with eCab and eGo atomizers

The devices detailed below are becoming absolete but the information can still be helpful.

If you’re having problems with your eGo or eCab coila because the e-liquid isn’t getting into the coil, this information might be helpful.

If you’re experiencing, after putting a new atomizer in your unit, a few good hits, followed by a few bad hits, then no hit at all, in all likelihood the coil has been vaped dry and it may be ruined.

When you’re about to use a brand new out-of-the-packet coil (or using one that hasn’t been used for a while), follow these tips and prevent this happening to you.

  1. Check your new coil before you install it. If you can see it’s wet, that’s a good thing. This doesn't mean soaking wet, just damp. If it’s not wet, add a drop or two of your e-liquid into the spike on the top so it absorbs into the wicking inside the coil, and add some liquid to the base of the coil (the underneath that heats up).
  2. Ensure the cartridge is fully inserted and in place. There’s a thin ridge around the cartridge and this needs to be flush with the rim around the top of the atomizer cone. If the cartridge isn’t properly in place, the e-liquid can’t flow into the atomizer head correctly (the spikey bit). Also ensure that the coil punctures a clean hole in the cap on the end of the cartridge and that this hole isn't obscured by bits of plastic.
  3. When you fill your cartridge, only fill it to 80% of its capacity. The space you leave by not completely filling the cartridge with liquid will improve the flow of liquid into the coil head.
  4. When everything’s assembled as above, take 3-4 good hard draws WITHOUT PUSHING THE BUTTON and powering the atomizer (this is called priming). This will start the process of the liquid flowing into the coil. The fail safe way to do this is to take the battery off.
  5. The above process should resolve most problems, even so, sometimes, for some reason or other, the liquid doesn’t feed, and this could happen with a new atomizer or one that hasn’t been used in a while. So, if you get a few good hits again followed by bad hits all of a sudden OR you can see your e-liquid isn’t coming through you need to act. DON’T TAKE ANY MORE DRAWS, right away take the whole thing apart again and reassemble it as above – it only takes a few hits to burn the atomizer out when it’s dry so don’t push your luck when you know something’s not right.
  6. If you’re still struggling, try giving the assembled device a good hard shake-up. This sounds basic and a somewhat crude solution but this can often knock whatever is off or out back into place.
  7. The last option if all else has failed is to adjust the wick in the coil. Use tweezers or a pin (and a steady hand!), and push through from the bottom up, and through the top spike down to get the wick into a better position. If the wick is too high and sticking out of the spike or too low and you can't see it in the spike, this will cause problems with the flow of the liquid.

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