Beginners Guide to Coils

There’s a lot of terminology to learn when you start vaping, which can be especially confusing when there’s often more than one word for the same thing. Adding to this, there’s often several varieties of each product, from e-liquids to tanks to batteries - here, we’ll have a look at the heart of your vape - the coil.

What is a vape coil?

The coil is one of the most important parts of an e-cig, their function is to heat the e-liquid in your tank and turn it into the vapour that you inhale. How does it do that?

  • The wicking material (the bit of cotton you can see inside the metal casing) absorbs the liquid in your tank when you fill up your clearomiser.
  • The wire in your coil (the little spiral of metal you can see inside the wicking material) is heated with power from the battery, which then starts to vaporise the liquid in your wick.
  • As you take a drag on the drip tip, the vapour travels up the chimney of your vape and into your mouth or lungs.

Pretty simple, right?

The metal part of your coil can be made from a few different metal wire types, depending on the function of the vape. Usually though, it’s just stainless steel wire, steel is a good conductor, but it’s also heat resistant so won’t burn out as quickly as some other metals.

What’s an atomiser head?

This is a bit of a trick question - like we mentioned earlier, there are a few vaping terms that actually refer to the same thing. Atomiser heads are the same thing as coil - they’re the replaceable bit of the tank that serves to turn e liquid into vapour.

Are there different kinds of coil?

Short answer is, yes there are. The long answer is a bit more complicated. Not only do coils differ between brands and models (we’ll cover that in a bit) but you can also have vape kits with multiple coils. Most of your standard vapes are just single coil, but you can also get dual-coil, quad-coil etc. However - the more coils you have, the more battery power you need to keep them going. This is more of a “thing” for Sub-Ohm vapers who are into coil building though, so generally speaking, the process of changing a coil is pretty straight forward and you’ll only need one.

There are also different kinds of material used - not all brands will have both but there are two types - regular wire coils and ceramic coils. The main difference between the two is longevity - the ceramic material protects the wire and also acts as extra wicking material, meaning a ceramic coil can sometimes have a better lifespan than a standard wire one.

What’s the difference between standard coils and Sub-Ohm coils?

As mentioned - there is a difference in the kind of coils you can get depending on the function of your e-cig - standard coils and sub ohm coils. The difference between the two is the resistance and the method of vaping you use - standard coils have a higher resistance meaning less charge and juice pass through them, Sub Ohm coils have a lower resistance, less than 1.0ohms, meaning more current can go through.

What are Ohms?

We’ll need a little bit of physics to explain this one - in simple terms, it’s the unit of measurement of resistance. The greater the resistance (or number on your coil) the less charge that can pass through. The equation used to explain it is: I = V / R.

Where ‘I’ represents current, ‘V’ is voltage and ‘R’ is resistance, you can see when the voltage is higher, and the resistance (ohms) is lower, so the current will be stronger. Likewise, when the voltage is divided by a higher number (i.e. a standard rather than sub-ohm coil) the current will be lower.

As a real world example, think of it like cars on a road. If you have fifty cars travelling down a single lane, they’re going to have to go one after the other. This is kind of like how a coil of 1 ohm or greater works. If you have those same fifty cars driving down a highway with four lanes, they’ll be able to move through much more quickly - which is what happens when you have a Sub Ohm coil (a resistance of less than one ohm).

What does that mean for your vaping experience?

Sub Ohm vaping is best suited to DTL (direct to lung) vaping - where you bypass having any vapour in your mouth on the inhale, and get the flavour on the exhale instead.

Whilst this does mean your battery needs more power, it also carries a lot of benefits:

  • Big vapour production - that means clouds big enough to fill your kitchen while you’re making dinner.
  • Adjustable airflow - you can find vents on the devices that carry sub-ohm coils. Wider ventilation means more vapour and (sometimes) slightly less flavour, closing the vents has the opposite effect.
  • A bigger impact - by this we mean you’ll feel the nicotine hit more, which is why if you use a sub-ohm vape you’ll want to go for a lower nicotine strength.
  • Bigger devices - you can get Sub Ohm pen vapes, but the best models are the box mods. They’re a bit more weighty, but give you a lot more options too.

Sub-Ohm devices often come with wattage and temperature control, when it comes to choosing the best number to go with for your own device and coil, usually your e-cig will come with a guide and it’s often written on the coil itself too.

Standard coils are better suited for MTL (mouth to lung) vaping - they’re a lower power and better suited for people who still desire the feeling of smoking. This method is when you draw vapour from your e-cig, let it sit in your mouth momentarily before inhaling into your lungs. You’ll have less vapour (due to a higher resistance coil) but you also get some great benefits from this method too:

  • Cooler vapour, this is because there’s less power and therefore less heat travelling through your device.
  • More flavour - yep, when you have a standard vape (particularly when accompanied by a higher PG liquid) you’ll be able to taste your juice better.
  • They’re discreet (for those vapers who want to try sneak a puff in the pub, you daredevils) you’ll be able to fit them in your pocket more easily, they fit in your hand nicely and as you produce less vapour, you won’t be as obvious on the exhale.
  • Because of their higher resistance, they also consume less e-liquid and battery power, meaning your tank stays fuller for longer and you don’t need to recharge so often.

Knowing the brand/model of your coil

This part is important - getting the wrong coil for your tank is like trying to fit a square peg into a circle hole. Even within brands, the coil you need will vary massively depending on the device you have. Vape kits come with your first coil (sometimes two) to get you started - so check on the box the one you need and make sure you order the same again to get the best vaping experience.

How do I know when to change the coil?

When you know, you know - and it’s pretty obvious when it’s time to change a coil. You’ll get less vapour production and this is eventually accompanied by a “burnt toast” kind of flavour (which is about as pleasant as it sounds). How long your coil will last is a bit like asking how long is a piece of string - it depends on how much you use your vape, the wattage, the juice you use, however, the general bracket is 1 to 2 weeks. You can help them last longer with a few simple techniques, which brings us nicely onto our next point...

Is there anything I can do to make my coil last longer?

There sure is - right from the word go when you put your new coil in, the best way to help get the most out of it is to prime it. It’s very straight forward, all you need to do is add a few drops of juice to the wicking material so it can sink in a little first. Then, once the coil is placed securely in the tank, fill the tank with your e liquid and let it settle for a few minutes. Taking a few drags through the drip tip without activating the battery will also help draw more into the coil. Following this we would advise starting off on a lower power setting and as the cotton becomes more saturated you can gradually raise the power. This helps prevent dry hits (when you get a hot, metallic pull from your vape - not nice) and means you’ll be heating the juice nicely, rather than burning cotton.

Making sure you’re using the right power setting for your coil is important too - this is often stated on the coil itself, providing the full range (a minimum and maximum wattage) as well as the optimum range.

Taking a break between drags also helps - especially with Sub Ohm coils as they need a little more time to reabsorb some liquid. It’s easy to chain-vape without realising, especially if you’re only out for a quick break at lunch, but giving your coil some time to rest will make it last longer and help avoid dry hits too.

The choice of liquid matters too - those with a higher PG level (look for a 50VG:50PG blend) will burn through coils more slowly as it’s a thinner consistency. If you have a Sub Ohm vape, you’ll be able to go for a higher VG level if you want and the coil is better suited for tolerating a thicker juice. For a more comprehensive explanation of what this means, have a look at our Beginners Guide to E-Liquids.