Every vape has a coil. Our guide to vape coils breaks down everything you need to know, including the different types, how long they last, and how to keep yours in tip-top shape.
A vape coil is perhaps the most integral part of every vape kit. Also known as a coil head, atomiser, or atomiser head, your coil is a small metal piece inside your pod or vape tank which conducts electricity from the battery to heat the E-Liquid around it and produce vapour.
Vape coils can be built-in or changeable, they can be made of an array of different materials, and they’re measured by electrical resistance in a unit called “ohms” (Ω).
If this sounds complicated, fear not: our in-depth guide to vape coils will break down everything you need to know to have a seamless vaping experience.
What is a Vape Coil?
A coil is a metallic heating element inside your pod or vape tank which conducts battery power to create heat and vaporise the E-Liquid around it. It’s the most essential part of your vape device, and it will need to be replaced regularly.
For vape kits and tanks using changeable coils, this will mean removing and replacing the piece with a new coil. For vape pods which have the coils built in (or, integrated), you’ll need to discard the entire pod and replace it with a new one when the coil starts to degrade.
Coils come in a vast array of types, materials, and resistances, each with their own specific use.
How Do Vape Coils Work?
Vape coils work by conducting electricity from the battery through the coil wire to vaporise the E-Liquid.
Inside a coil’s metal casing, there’s an absorbent wick—usually made of cotton—which draws E-Liquid in from the pod or vape tank (think of it like a sponge). The coil heats the E-Liquid from this absorbent material and turns it into vapour. If you look closely at a coil, you can see small holes lining the circumference with bits of cotton inside—these are the wicking holes.
A vape coil is made of heat-resistant materials, though the wicking material inside the coil will degrade with time since its constantly absorbing E-Liquid. Just like a sponge, you’ll need to replace it when it starts to gunk up. You may notice that this material starts to turn brown, and the colour may permeate the E-Liquid inside your pod or vape tank.
Once you notice a burnt taste or your vape juice starts to lose its flavour, you’ll know it’s time to change the coil.
Types of Vape Coils
There are so many different types of vape coils varying in resistances, materials, wire types, wick materials, and more. The coil you choose will determine which E-Liquids you can use, which wattage you’ll vape at, and what vaping style you’ll need to employ—so it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.
All vape kits are designed to be paired with specific compatible coils. So, if you’ve just bought your first vape kit and you’re not sure what to get, your options will be much more limited than they seem at first.
Remember to always check the product description or user manual for your specific vape kit to ensure that you’re buying the correct coil for your vape kit and E-Liquid.
Without getting too much into the science of Ohm’s Law, coil resistance refers to the amount of electricity that can be conducted from the battery. This is measured in ohms (Ω).
To oversimplify a deeply complex topic, you’ll only need to understand that the higher the power output, the lower the coil resistance, and vice versa. This means:
- High-wattage devices require low-resistance coils (below 1 ohm)
- Low-wattage devices require high-resistance coils (above 1 ohm)
Both lower and higher resistance vape coils have particular uses and require specific E-Liquid types and vaping styles to function properly.
MTL Coils (Above 1 ohm)
Mouth-to-Lung coils are high-resistance coils which are designed for MTL vaping. These coils are ideal for use with E-Liquids which are high in propylene glycol (PG), including nicotine salts and freebase 50/50 E-Liquids.
A higher resistance coil offers less vapour production and a draw similar to that of a cigarette, which is perfect for Mouth-to-Lung vapers. Plus, less power output ensures you can enjoy a cooler vape and a high-nicotine E-Liquid without a harsh, uncomfortable throat hit.
DTL/Sub-Ohm Coils (Below 1 ohm)
Sub-ohm coils or Direct-to-Lung coils are for DTL (Direct-to-Lung) vaping and have a lower resistance, meaning they conduct more power. A sub-ohm coil (or lower-ohm coil) is designed to be used with vape juice which is higher in vegetable glycerin (VG), including shortfills and 100% VG E-Liquids.
These vape coils are used in sub-ohm tanks, mod kits, and advanced sub-ohm vape kits with high-VG liquids to produce large clouds of vapour. Sub-ohm vaping is great for advanced vapers who want lots of flavour and cloud production. In addition, sub-ohm coils tend to consume more battery life since they require more power.
Coil Wire Types
The two main types of wiring inside of a coil are wire and mesh coils. Each type of vape coil design has its own benefits. The wire is the part inside of your vape coil connecting the positive part of the battery to the negative.
Wire coils have a spiral-shape coiled wire to conduct electricity. These are the most common vape coils around (especially for sub-ohm vapers) and have been since the dawn of vaping, though they’re becoming less prevalent as mesh rises in popularity.
You’ll find wire in a single coil, dual coil, and even a quad coil—though these will all have the same spiral-shaped wire inside.
DTL/Sub-Ohm Coils (Below 1 ohm)
Mesh coils are made of a netted material which has a greater surface area for conducting electricity. They can therefore produce more heat and can create more vapour much faster than wire coils can. Their only downside is that they tend to consume more E-Liquid and battery power per puff.
Mesh coils are excellent for flavour and vapour production, and they’re becoming increasingly popular as of late, particularly in Mouth-to-Lung devices which have less battery power.
You can find a wide variety of coil materials on the market, though most standard coils are made of stainless steel. You can also find an array of other coil materials, like titanium coils, Kanthal coils, nickel coils, and nichrome coils.
Coil material dictates the conductive properties of the metal, how much vapour the vape coil can produce, your temperature control settings (if you’re using a vape mod), and the amount of heat your vape produces.
For instance, the only material that is versatile enough to be used in both wattage mode and temperature control mode in an advanced vape kit is stainless steel. Kanthal coils should only be used in wattage mode, while nickel coils should only be used in temperature control mode.
The two main types of wicking material are cotton and ceramic. You can find other variations such as rayon and silica in the wild, though these are usually for vapers who build their own coils.
Cotton is the standard wicking material used in most vape kits and is the most prevalent type. Cotton offers the best balance of absorption, longevity, and flavour. You’ll find that a majority of vape kits on the market nowadays use coils with a cotton wicking material.
Ceramic coils last longer than cotton ones do and are more absorbent due to their porous material. A ceramic coil differs from other coils in that there is no wick; instead, the wire is coated in a layer of ceramic. Ceramic coils consume more E-Liquid, though they produce a more even flavour and last longer than cotton.
How Do You Know When to Change Your Coil?
You can usually tell when it’s time to change your coil when your vape starts tasting burnt, the flavour becomes muted, or the device is producing less vapour.
If you notice your vape coil burning or your juice tasting strange or muted, it’s time to change out your old coil.
How to Prime Your Coil
Before you start vaping, you’ll need to prime your coil. You’ll only need to do this once for every new coil.
To prime your coil, identify the wicking holes around the circumference. Place a drop on each of these juice holes and allow the wick to soak it up. A single coil should only need a few drops of E-Liquid.
Next, place a drop down the middle of the coil to saturate the cotton inside. Not all replacement coils have an exposed centre, so this step is optional.
Then, install your vape coil and fill up your tank or pod. From here, you should allow the new coil to sit in the E-Liquid for about 5 minutes to allow the wick to fully saturate. Once you’ve done this, you won’t need to prime again until you have to change the coil.
How Long Does a Coil Last?
Generally speaking, replaceable coils should last you roughly 1 to 2 weeks. Pods with built-in coils will likely last you about a week before they need to be replaced.
However, time isn’t the best way of measuring coil life. A vape coil’s lifespan will vary depending on how much you vape, how you vape, and most importantly, what type of E-Liquid you vape.
Factors Affecting Coil Life
Many people (wrongly) assume that high-VG E-Liquids kill vape coils faster than anything else. They’re wrong. Let’s break down the true factors that are guaranteed to affect coil life. For more on this topic, check out our coil life guide.
Do you like your vape juice extra sweet? If so, you might be killing your vape coils.
The number one coil killer is sweetener in an E-Liquid. As your coil heats up, the sweeteners in your juice will caramelise around the coil, causing a gunky build-up which will affect how well your coil functions. And eventually, you’ll start to get that dreaded burnt taste.
Consider what happens when you heat sugar in a frying pan. It doesn’t cook; it burns. That’s what happens to your coil when you vape ultra-sweet E-Liquids.
If you find yourself changing vape coils more often than expected, you may want to consider trying a less sweet E-Liquid. You could also try switching to a different wicking material (preferably ceramic) if your device or your vape tank is compatible. Otherwise, you might just have to accept that you’ll need to replace your vape coils more frequently.
Chain vaping—or continuously vaping without allowing your device to cool down—is another factor that’s bound to affect your coil’s lifespan.
If you don’t allow your coil time to cool down between puffs, the wick inside won’t have enough time to re-saturate. The wick will dry out between puffs, and when you go to fire your vape, the coil will “Dry burn” the wick.
If you notice your pod or tank getting warm during a vaping session, your best bet is to set the vape down for a few minutes (and be sure to leave the device upright). This will allow your wick time to re-saturate so you can get back to puffing.
If you’re using a device with adjustable wattage, you’ll want to ensure that you’re using the right setting for your vape coils. All vape coils have a recommended wattage range, which would be stated in the product description, on the box, or on the coil itself. Even different coil resistances within the same range will have different recommended wattage settings.
Vaping a coil at too high a wattage can cause your coil to burn, among other unpleasant side effects. If your vape kit doesn’t offer adjustable wattage, you don’t have to worry about this—but if you’re using a kit with these settings, it’s recommended that you follow the suggested wattage range.
Using the wrong type of E-Liquid for your coil can affect coil life, especially if you’re using sub-ohm coil with a high-PG E-Liquid. Always check the product description before buying to ensure that you’re using the correct E-Liquid for your vape coils.
What E-Liquid Should I Use With My Vape Coil?
All vape coils are designed for use with specific E-Liquids due to the fact that some vape juices are thicker than others and require more power to vaporise. For more information on which E-Liquid to buy for your coil, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Vape Juice.
A mouth-to-lung coil should only be paired with an E-Liquid that has a PG content of 50% or higher. This includes nicotine salts and freebase 50/50 E-Liquids. This is because MTL coils require thinner E-Liquids to function properly and may dry burn if you use an E-Liquid that’s too thick.
You should not be using a shortfill or other high-VG E-Liquid with a low-resistance coil. This will lead to a burnt taste and an overall unpleasant vaping experience.
A sub-ohm vape coil should only be paired with an E-Liquid that has a VG content of 70% or higher. This includes shortfills and 100% VG E-Liquids (though not all sub-ohm coils are compatible with PG-Free E-Liquids).
Because 100% VG is even thicker than a standard shortfill and offers greater vapour production, but it doesn’t work with all sub-ohm vape coils, so it’s crucial to understand the best vape kits for 100% VG E-Liquids if you wish to vape PG-Free.
Buying replacement coils can be awfully daunting given the sheer number of factors you’ll need to take into account, from vaping style to coil resistance to materials to which E-Liquids you plan on using.
Hopefully, our beginner’s guide to vape coils has helped clear up your choices.
If you’re new to vaping and are still struggling to find what you need, we recommend checking out our Beginner’s Guide to Vaping for loads of useful information.
And if you’re still struggling to decide which vape coils to buy, feel free to reach out and contact our customer support via live chat, phone, or email. Our expert team of vapers is on standby to help customers find exactly what they need to have a smooth and painless vaping experience.
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