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There are lots of choices when it comes to coils, and a lot of confusion when it comes to which E Liquids and tanks are compatible with them. A little heads up, there’s a fair bit of vaping jargon ahead so you might want to open our Jargon Buster while you read on (just in case you need a reminder of what some of the terms mean). There’s no shame in being confused though. Before vaping, the only people who needed to know about Ohms and resistance were electricians or students. Thankfully, when it comes to the coils used in vaping, it’s a lot more straightforward.

What Are Vape Coils?

In layman’s terms, the coil is the bit of your vape kit that turns the E Liquid into vapour

Pretty simple right? So let’s break that down a little.

When we talk about a “Coil” we’re usually referring to the entire atomiser head you pop out of the blister pack and put into your tank. This includes the outer casing, the wicking material, the connectors, and of course, the resistance wire. If we’re going to be technical however, the coil is actually just the bit of resistance wire inside the atomiser.

The standard wire used for vape coils is primarily made from Kanthal or Nichrome (which we’ll get into later). This wire is coiled (wrapped in a ‘coil’ shape) around a wicking material (which is usually made from cotton). When E Liquid is added to a vape tank, the wicking material inside the coil begins to soak up the E Liquid. 

Still with me? Ok, good. So what happens when you fire the mod?

The electrical charge from the battery makes the coil heat up which, in turn, vaporizes the E Liquid soaked inside the wicking material (it turns the e liquid into vapour). When you inhale, you draw the vaporized E Liquid from the centre of the coil into your mouth or lungs. This draws more E Liquid from the tank into the cotton, so you should get a continual flow of E Liquid replacing the vaporized juice each time you take a hit.

The Different Types of Coils

 This is where things can start to get confusing. Thankfully in recent years, coils have become much more standardised. When vaping was first conceived, manufacturers were constantly innovating to try and find the best possible coil for taste and cloud production. This led to several categories of coils that, while not as popular as they once were, still exist and therefore should be explained.

Kanthal Coils

Kanthal is the most commonly used material in coils due to it’s exceptionally fast heating time and high maximum heat absorption. Kanthal is made from Aluminium, Chromium and Iron which makes it extremely malleable too. This makes creating the coils much easier, which is another reason it’s preferred by manufacturers, and why it’s so popular with vapers who make their own coils. Kanthal coils should only be used in wattage mode, not temperature control.

Stainless Steel Coils

A popular choice among DIY coil enthusiasts, Stainless Steel coils are extremely durable and long lasting. They offer a crisper taste at the cost of a slower heating time compared to Kanthal or Nichrome. Their durability is really where they shine through however, according to various reports, when cared for correctly a well made stainless steel coil could last more than 20 years.

So what about pre-made Stainless Steel Coils? They do exist, the SMOK Mini Coils all use Stainless Steel as their coil material but they’re usually a more expensive option if you’re not making your own coils. Since pre-made coils usually expire because the wicking material becomes oversaturated, it doesn’t really matter how long the coil itself lasts… but the taste difference is noticeable.

Nichrome Coils

The second most popular material for coils is Nichrome. This alloy is made from Chromium and Nickel, a combination that actually helps stop oxidation inside the coil which can cause a brown colouration to the E Liquid inside the tank. As with Kanthal, Nichrome heats up extremely fast and can take much higher temperatures than standard coils. This again makes it an ideal material for Sub Ohm vape coils. Nichrome coils should be used in wattage mode.

Titanium Coils

Titanium is rarely found in pre-made coils as it’s quite obviously an expensive option. For DIY coil enthusiasts though, the extremely soft and malleable nature of this alloy means more intricate coil designs can be created which (on the DIY market at least) are worth a lot more money. For all it’s benefits however, Titanium is a precarious choice for a coil. It’s much more flammable than all the other materials listed and is even used in the production of fireworks.

Because of this, Titanium coils can only be used in a mod with temperature control mode, and even then they must be carefully configured so they don’t combust. If you have a high power mod, you might have noticed a setting called “TC Ti” while playing with the controls. This mode ensures your mod delivers the correct temperature.

Nickel Coils

One of the original material choices for coils due to its low resistance, temperature controlled devices will primarily use Nickel coils as they can be heated to precise temperatures much easier than other materials. Nickel Coils are rarely found in pre-made coils nowadays however since they can’t be used with variable voltage/variable wattage devices (and some people have reported allergic reactions to Nickel). If you do choose a Nickel Coil, make sure it’s Ni200.

Ceramic Coils

Ceramic Coils are rare, which is a shame since they’re reported to bring out the flavour of E Liquids more readily and create a super smooth vaping experience. These coils don’t use wicking materials such as cotton. The ceramic material is porous so it essentially replaces the need for the wick. They can take massive amounts of power too which means they can be used in Sub Ohm devices without any worry.

They last much longer than cotton coils too since the coil isn’t being oversaturated with E Liquid, which in turn helps prevent dry hits. With all of these benefits, why aren’t all coils made from ceramics? Quite simply, it’s not cheap to produce, so they’re not cheap to buy. This meant most manufacturers had to stick with what sold the best rather than what performs the best.

What’s this Resistance stuff about?

The resistance of a coil is pretty much what it sounds like, it refers to how much the coil resists the electrical charge sent from the battery. Coils with a higher resistance require less power to heat up than coil’s with a lower resistance. Electrical resistance is measured in a value called Ohms (Ω). As standard, all coils will fall into either high or low resistance. Coils with a resistance less than 1ohm are Sub Ohm coils, while coils with 1ohm or more are considered Plus Ohm coils.

What is a Sub Ohm Coil?

As stated, Sub Ohm coils require more power to heat up than their higher resistance cousins. Because of this, thicker E Liquids are required as thinner E Liquids will be vaporised too quickly meaning the coil will burn out faster, and you have more chance of taking a dry hit. As a general rule of thumb, Sub Ohm coils should only be used with E Liquids in a 70% VG to 30% PG mix since VG is much thicker than PG. 

The low power resistance allows for much higher temperatures to be used, meaning more E Liquid can be vaporized in one go. This combination allows users to intake massive amounts of vapour without any harshness on their throat (allowing you to “rip” those “fat clouds”, if you’re so inclined). This is also why most 70/30 E Liquids only come in a maximum strength of 6mg. Since you’re inhaling so much vapour in one go, you don’t need as much nicotine.

Because of this, Sub Ohm coils are designed to be used by DTL vapers. No, this isn’t some hip new group or an acronym for how cool we all are, it simply refers to the method of inhaling; Direct To Lung. DTL vapers won’t draw the vapour into their mouth before inhaling, they will inhale directly from the tank and straight into the lungs. This means the size of your ‘hit’ is only limited by the size of your lung capacity.

What is a Plus Ohm Coil?

Plus Ohm coils on the other hand are designed for MTL (Mouth To Lung) vapers. As the name suggests, people with this vaping style will draw the vapour into their mouth before inhaling (in the same way most people smoke cigarettes). Since the last thing you’d want if you vape this way is a powerful blast of vapour forced down your throat, the higher resistance ensures you need a much harder pull to get the vapour into your mouth.

The lower power means the E Liquid isn’t as easily vaporised when compared to the high power Sub Ohm coils. To combat this, thinner E Liquids are generally used to ensure the E Liquid is correctly vaporised at the lower temperatures and doesn’t “gunk” up the coil too quickly. As a general rule, you should use E Liquids with a higher PG content such as 50/50 E Liquids (50% VG to 50% PG). Since PG is much thinner than VG, it will pass easier through the higher resistance coil. 

MTL vapers are only intaking a small amount of vapour in comparison to Sub Ohm users so they can get their E Liquid in a variety of strengths all the way up to 20mg. Due to the similarities to smoking a cigarette, and the higher possible nicotine dosages, Plus Ohm coils are recommended for new vapers who’ve just made the switch to vaping.

When To Change a Vape Coil?

This is one of those “how long is a piece of string?” questions I’m afraid. There probably is a scientific formula which takes into account the force at which someone vapes, the wattage/temperature of the device, the resistance of the coil and the viscosity of the E Liquid being used, but we haven’t found it (and we aren’t anywhere near good enough at maths to figure it out ourselves). But fear not, there are a couple of ways to tell when your coil is past its best and should be changed.

Discolouration

Depending on the Tank you use, you might be able to unscrew the top and have a peek inside the coil. If you have a bottom filled tank, this won’t work out for you mainly due to pesky gravity. If you can take the top off without leaking E Liquid everywhere, check the colour of the cotton.

It starts out pure white and will usually change to the colour of the E Liquid you’re using once it’s become saturated. As time goes on and it begins to clog, it will then begin to brown. This is a sign it’s close to the end of its lifespan. If your cotton is dark brown or black, you need to replace the coil immediately.

Change in Taste

As your coil becomes oversaturated and overused, you’ll notice the taste of your E Liquid isn’t as potent as it once was. This is usually a precursor to the next stage where it may start to taste slightly burned. If you still have E Liquid in your tank, this is the moment you should change your coil.

If you don’t, the next few hits could lead you to vaping a burned coil which is an extremely unpleasant experience. Of course, you can always do a Dry Burn when the bad taste begins and you might be lucky enough to extend the life of your coil by a couple of hours.

How Long Do Vape Coils Last?

As above, there’s no definitive way to tell how long a vape coil will last. Everyone vapes at different voltages with different resistance coils, with different E Liquid mixes and nicotine strengths. As standard though we’d expect a Sub Ohm coil being used a moderate amount to last around a week.

A Plus Ohm coil used around the same amount could last as long as 3 weeks. As you get used to your device and coils you’ll be able to tell the subtle differences in taste and vapour production which alert you that the coil should be replaced. After a while you’ll be able to judge just how often you need to buy a new pack. Unfortunately, it’s just as much of a personal thing as the flavours we choose.

If you use a POD device, your coil will still be a Sub Ohm or Plus Ohm, so you can still follow the same advise depending on the resistance.

Why Does My Vape Coil Burn Out So Fast?

There are a few reasons this could be happening with pre-made coils, and lots of reasons when it comes to DIY coils. Usually this is down to some form of misuse from either being too hasty to get vaping, or just not understanding how coils work. Here’s some of the causes, and their solutions:

Your Tank is Dry

As you’re vaping, you might not realise your tank is low on E Liquid. If you’re lucky you’ll notice a slight burning taste as the last bits of E Liquid are drawn out of the cotton. This is a warning to add more E Liquid, if you don’t the next hit could be pure heated cotton which is not a nice experience.

Usually if you add some E Liquid straight after noticing the change in taste and allow the cotton to soak up the E Liquid again, the coil will be fine and you can continue using it. Even the slightest burn will reduce the life of your coil though. If you do this too often, your coil will burn out faster than if you kept the cotton saturated.

Using The Wrong E Liquid

As stated above, the resistance of the coil will determine which E Liquid mix (ratio) should be used. If you’re using a coil with a low resistance (Sub Ohm), your E Liquid will need to be thicker so it is properly vaporised in the tank. Since VG is thicker than PG, you’d want a High VG mix. If you use High PG E Liquid with these coils, the E Liquid will be vaporised too quickly which will cause your coil to burn out faster.

On the other hand, if you use a high resistance coil (Plus Ohm) you want your E Liquid to be thinner so it can be vaporised at lower temperatures. Since PG is thinner than VG, you’d want a High PG E Liquid (such as a 50/50 mix). If you were to use High PG E Liquid with a Plus Ohm coil, the E Liquid would be vaporised too quickly, essentially burning your coil faster.

You Vape A Lot

Pretty obvious I know, but if you’re allowed to vape while you work for example you can easily vape away oblivious as to how much you’re actually using your device. Each time you take a hit, you’re pulling E Liquid from the tank and through the cotton inside the coil which causes the cotton to slowly clog up.

You’re also heating up the wire which, in time, will begin to break down due to the thermal activity. The more continuously you vape, the faster the coils will degrade since the cotton doesn’t have time to saturate correctly, and the wire doesn’t have time to cool down.

You Didn’t Prime Your Coil

To prime a coil you just have to let it soak in the E Liquid for between 5 to 10 minutes before using it. This isn’t really priming though, this is more of a soaking. You’re supposed to drop E Liquid directly onto the cotton so it soaks in completely before putting it in the tank. Some pre-made coils like the Innokin Endura T18E Prism Coils have small holes in the side of the casing which allow you to add the E Liquid directly to the cotton first, if you so choose.

This method isn’t recommended with most pre-made coils as it’s very easy to get E Liquid in the wrong place and flood your coil (more info on that below). We’d recommend just letting the coil sit in the E Liquid for a while before vaping. If you’re really in a rush, you can gently suck the air through the tank without hitting the fire button.

Your Device Is Too Powerful

All pre-made coils will come with a recommended wattage or temperature range in which they should be used. In fact, 99% will have this stamped on the side of the coil itself. If you’re not using a Variable Voltage/Wattage device this won’t be an issue for you, but if you are, you really should stay within the guidelines. 

The higher the wattage the higher the temperature, which means the E Liquid is vaporised faster. This means if you vape above the top limit you’ll be burning off all the E Liquid before the cotton has a chance to pull in more. This is a great way to instantly kill your coils.

Sweet Sweet E Liquid

We all love a nice sweet E Liquid, but your coils almost certainly don’t. The two most common sweeteners used in E Liquids are Stevia and Sucrose, both of which are used regularly in commercial food products. While these are ideal sweeteners for E Liquids, they don’t vaporize as well as the other ingredients which leads to coils becoming clogged up faster. Unfortunately, if you prefer really sweet E Liquids there isn’t much you can do about it except trying another flavour.

You should be cautious of any overly sweet E Liquids. As with food, if you want your product to taste better, you add more sugar to mask the poorly blended flavours. Here at Vapoholic we use the least amount of sweetener as possible to ensure the flavour profiles of the other ingredients get their chance to shine through.

Why Is My Vape Gurgling?

This happens when your coil has been flooded. Just as you can run out of E Liquid in your tank and burn your coil, you can also draw too much E Liquid into the cotton making it impossible to vaporise. This is indicated by spluttering when you inhale, usually leading to small amounts of warm E Liquid spitting into your mouth. 

To avoid flooding a coil, make sure you use the recommended temperature/wattage to ensure all the E Liquid is vaporised when you activate the mod. If your wattage/temperature is too low, the E Liquid won’t be vaporised correctly leading to the coil becoming oversaturated and flooded. 

Again, make sure you’re using the correct E Liquid mix for your coil’s resistance. If you’re using a High PG E Liquid with a Sub Ohm coil, the E Liquid will not be vaporised correctly. Flooding can also happen if you get E Liquid into the middle of the atomiser. If this happens while you’re filling your tank, I’m afraid you’ll need to replace the coil.

What About DIY Coils?

In a nutshell, DIY coils as the name suggests are coils you make yourself by coiling your own wire around your own wicking material, and using it with a special tank known as an RBA (Rebuildable Atomiser). We don’t sell DIY vape materials here at Vapoholic, but we do have a couple of DIY enthusiasts working for us. If you’re interested, our guide to building your own coils is super easy to follow and covers all the basics so you can see if it’s something you’d be interested in.

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Marketing & Research at Vapoholic
Graham has been a vaping for 7 years after quitting smoking, and he's never looked back. He's been in Marketing & Research for over a decade and has been working in the vaping industry for just over 4 years.
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