Spitty Atomizers and Leaky Tanks: Let's Talk!
What is coil flooding?
To explain coil flooding, we must first review the basics of how an atomizer works. Atomizers are the “coils” you purchase for your unit. They're ubiquitous across Canada, the US, and most of the world. Those atomizers generally consist of a hard outer shell, with cotton packed on the inside, and a coil (or sometimes multiple coils) of wire are wrapped around that internal cotton--this is why, depending who you're talking to, people use "atomizer" and "coil" synonymously. Introducing liquid to your tank naturally starts the cotton absorbing the liquid, so when you press the fire button on your unit, power travels through the wire coil which in turn heats up and vaporizes the liquid that has been absorbed by the cotton.
Coil flooding occurs when the cotton in your atomizer absorbs more e-liquid than is being vaped away by the coil--hence, the coil is flooded with e-liquid. That juice then gets into the air passages of the tank or device (whether your unit is top airflow or bottom airflow) which can cause either “leaking” or “spit-back”. There are a variety of reasons why an atomizer might become flooded, and thankfully 99% of the time, the issue is fixable, and there's nothing wrong with the tank or device. Let's explore some common issues related to flooding.
1) Have You Changed Your Coil Lately?
As atomizers are used, the cotton within loses it's the ability to properly absorb and retain the e-liquid in your tank. Think of it like this: A fresh atomizer is a nice puffy cotton ball, that can absorb a fair amount of liquid before it becomes over-saturated. A used atomizer over time is like if you took that same cotton ball and pulled it apart gradually—the thinner the cotton gets, the less it can retain. Consistent high-wattage vaping, sugary-juices that can cause build-up on cotton and coils, as well as just leaving an atomizer submerged in e-liquid for long periods without use can all contribute to cotton degrading, which in turn leads to leaking or spit-back.
So how do we fix this? Well, this is our very first explored topic because it's the most frequent. When your tank starts leaking, or you're getting a lot of spit-back, the first thing you should be thinking is when did I last change my coil? Furthermore, your first problem-solving move should be to try changing your coil and see if that helps. Hop on over to your favorite location (whether it's Edmonton, Vancouver, or Toronto!) to get some extras (if you don't have any on hand), and be sure to properly install, and prime your coils. If your device does not call for coil priming, be sure to wait 5-7 minutes before the first usage.
2) Was Your Tank Filled Correctly?
Getting e-liquid directly down the center of your atomizer is not what tanks like. Be sure to only fill your tank or device through it's assigned filling port. Ensure all excess liquid around the top cap is directed into the tank, or properly absorbed or cleaned away from the top of the atomizer head. NEVER fill your tank directly through the atomizer head. When priming your atomizer, always focus on the visible, external areas of cotton to saturate. If you're confident enough that you can saturate the internal cotton of your atomizer without over-priming, our advice is to try the “barrel-roll technique” (rotate the atomizer with your thumb and forefinger in an elevated, horizontal position to try to get the e-liquid evenly distributed on the internal cotton). **Over priming your atomizer will cause automatic coil flooding** If you're uncomfortable priming your atomizer, allow your new atomizer to sit in the filled tank for 5-7 minutes before first use.
3) Power Settings, and Proper Use
Most devices, tanks, and atomizers have “recommended wattages” on them. This is to help consumers know where their new device should be sitting on variable wattage MODS to be functioning properly. While these wattages are just “recommendations”, they do serve a purpose, particularity on the low end. For example, the Aspire Cleito 120 0.15 ohm atomizers have a recommended wattage of 100-120 Watts. That means Aspire recommends you use these atomizers at a bare minimum of 100 Watts to get optimal use. I personally start at 86 Watts for about an hour, then generally go to about 90-95 Watts, where I remain. I do not follow their recommended 100 Watt guideline. However, continued use of my Cleito 120 at 86 Watts or lower does decrease its performance and cause a lot more spit-back, and leakage, as not enough power is going through the coil to properly vaporize the e-liquid in the cotton. If you find your also not following the recommended wattages—which is fine, to each their own—and your tank is leaking or spitting, try turning your wattage up closer to that recommended wattage, vape on it for at least half an hour, and see if that fixes it. Also, please please please always ensure that the tank, device, or kit you're purchasing is right for YOUR VAPING STYLE. Every single user is different, and there's no real right or wrong way of vaping. Whether you're a busy office worker or an always-on-the-go tradesman, there is a vape device for you! If you're a new vaper who prefers a cooler vape, getting a tank that can push 300 Watts probably isn't for you, and might cause you some headache. If you ever need help, always ask your friendly local vape store employee for some guidance, or message Steeped Monkey Brains on our chat app! We're here to assist you on your vaping journey. Ask away!
4) How Charged Is Your Battery?
This is an especially important point for devices that have internal batteries. If your battery is not fully charged, then it is not able to output the voltage necessary to run your device. If your battery is at a low charge (30% or lower) there is an increased likely-hood of flooding, as not enough power is being outputted to vape the excess e-liquid in the cotton. You may also notice that your flavor output diminishes as your battery life decreases. Keeping your battery as charged as possible ensures that it's always operating at its peak performance level. While the same can be said for external battery devices, devices with external batteries can “switch out” their dead batteries for fully charged ones in a pinch, while internal batteries rely on the user to keep them fully charged.
5) Damaged Accessories, Loose Connections, and Upside Down Glass...?
You heard it here; damaged or missing o-rings, loose connections (specifically where the atomizer connects to the base of the tank), and even upside-down glass can affect the vacuum seal of your tank or device, which can lead to flooding and leaking.
O-rings can be worn down over time—primarily due to over-tightening—or even lost during cleaning.
While o-rings are small, they play a key role in keeping your e-liquid contained in the tank where it should be. Ensure the o-rings on the atomizer and on the tank are not missing or severely damaged, and a helpful tip to not lose O-rings down the drain while cleaning your favorite tank: take a clean washcloth, or paper towel, and lay it across the drain. This allows you the freedom to clean your tank while making sure you don't lose vital components of your vape. It can also be done anywhere. Gosh forbid you need to clean your tank out in public, but if you must, it's a good tip to keep things sanitary!
Keeping on the topic of o-rings a little bit, loose connections can also play a role in atomizers flooding and tank leakage. If your atomizer isn't installed correctly, there are many places e-liquid can worm its way into to wreck your day. Always remember, liquid (not just e-liquid, all liquid) is looking to escape its container, and if it finds a way, it'll take it. Having a loose connection is akin to not screwing the cap on a bottle of pop on all the way. It's gonna leak. So, don't over-tighten your devices, but make sure atomizers sit flush, and that any and all o-rings are where they should be while tightening your tank or device together.
Lastly, glass. I don't see this point being brought up often, but I've personally experienced it and helped many others who have experienced it. For some reason, SOME pieces of glass for SOME tanks do seem to have a “top” and “bottom”. It is generally not labeled, but if you've recently changed your glass piece, and your tank seems to be leaking suddenly, empty your e-liquid and try flipping the glass. If it stops the leaking, congratulations, your tank is one of those weird tanks. When I helped another lady who had this happen to her in-store, what I noticed on her tank was that I could see pinprick sized air-bubbles between the O-ring seal at the base of her tank and her glass. We rinsed her tank off, flipped the glass, and re-filled her tank and those air-bubbles were gone. The leaking stopped completely, and she still uses that tank to this day.
The last one is kind of a buzz-kill, so that's why I left it for last. If you're power-vaping (purposefully inhaling to the maximum of your lung capacity to produce clouds), chain-vaping (either intentionally or unintentionally using your device non-stop without allowing it time to cool or re-wick properly), or pulling too hard on your device (a good example of this is when an internal battery starts to die, and you're not around a charger, so you're pressing the button and hauling on your vape harder because it's not producing the vapor you're used to at a full charge): doing any and all of these things draws more juice into the atomizer, which can lead to coil flooding and spit-back, and over-time cause faster degradation on your coil. In short, it's killing the life of your atomizer, and costing you money.
I KNOW buzz-kill. But, it's all preventable.
Power vapers. Get a tank that can handle more wattage and produce more vapor so you don't have to haul on your device to get that cloud. Chain-vapers, you should at least try going up in nic strength so you're not chasing the nicotine your body is used to. And for those of you who might be pulling too hard, whether it's from the above scenario, or because you need more airflow to be satisfied; keep your batteries charged, or adjust your airflow and/or purchase a new tank or device with adjustable airflow.
Tank leaking and hot juice spit-back are as annoying as it gets when it comes to vaping but don't give up. As we've shown above, 99% of the time, these issues are fixable and there's nothing wrong with your device. If you need any further help or have questions, always ask your nearest (Canadian) local vape store employee, or better yet: ask us!