Updated: June 2016
Over the last couple of weeks, Steve and I have been working on a comprehensive guide to tanks, illustrated with pictures and video tutorials, which will cover everything a newcomer to vape tanks needs to know – and a bit more!
This guide covers:
- What is a tank?
- Anatomy of a Tank
- Types of tanks:
- How to prime a coil
- How to fill a tank.
- How to clean tanks
- Tank life & how to know when to replace them
- How to change the coil
- Using Adjustable Airflow Tanks
- Troubleshooting Tanks
- A Bit More Advanced: Ohms and Resistance
- Sub Ohm-ing
- Common Terminology and Abbreviations
This is a long guide, so please bookmark it so you can come back to it in the future. Alternatively, just click on the link above to navigate to the section you want.
What is a Tank?
Before exploring the world of tanks, it may be helpful to understand what we’re talking about. In the simplest term, the original clearomiser is a contraction of clear cartomiser (US: cartomizer). The primary trait of clearos is, well, being clear. Since then, the word clearomiser has increasingly been replaced by the word tank
Naturally, there’s more to the story than lack of opacity. The forerunners of the original tanks were in fact, metal. The defining trait of a tank is really the lack of filler material.
Traditional cartomisers have an absorbent filler material that holds the e-liquid that is transferred to the built-in atomiser. Tanks lack the filler and instead rely on a reservoir that holds the liquid which is transferred directly to wicks that run through the heating coils.
Anatomy of a Tank
Although available in many shapes and sizes, most modern tanks follow the same design principles.
- Tank section, usually glass or plastic, the reservoir where the liquid is stored.
- Top section and chimney, the chimney attaches to the coil and provides an airway through the tank.
- Drip tip, the mouth part, quite often replaceable for a more customised feel.
- Bottom section, this is where the coil screws and makes a connection with the battery. The pictures shows a bottom section with adjustable airflow.
- Coil, this is the part which heats up to produce the vapour, very often replaceable with different versions offering differing experiences.
Types of Tanks
The first tanks to get attention in the market (and overcome technical limitations) were known as the CE2. These clearos were roughly the same size as their traditional counterparts. The hallmark of the design was a stem that ran the length of the tank. At the top of the stem was a ceramic cup which held the heating coil from which wicks protruded and ran the length of the tank.
These models proved to perform well and allowed users to easily see how much e-liquid remained at a glance. However, filling these models was somewhat cumbersome, generally requiring a syringe to fill. Cracking issues with the clear tubes also proved to be problematic with this design.
Third Generation Tanks
Before we got to the point we are now, there was an awkward stage of cartomizers where factories experimented with a number of designs. One of the major changes that was attempted was moving the coil to the bottom of the tank. It was a good theory, but the first attempts were lackluster at best.
The CE3 came to be during this time. That design was a radical departure from the CE2 design featuring a bottom coil. The design didn’t have some of the leaking issues of its contemporaries. However, because of the addition of a tiny stopper, the design proved very difficult to fill and never got much traction in the market.
Aside from rearranging the coils, manufacturers also began experimenting with designs similar to the CE2, only larger. This began the trend of large tanks. A number of entries hit the market, some worked better than other.
One design eventually came out which moved the industry toward the modern landscape.
The Vivi Nova tank was the first modern clearomiser tank. The Nova was a radical redesign of an utterly forgettable CE2 tank. The new innovation in the Nova tank was a modular design.
All parts of the Vivi Nova could be changed: the top cap, the tip, the bottom assembly and tube. But more importantly, the heating element, called the head, was fully replaceable. That meant users no longer had to throw away a clearomiser when the head became unusable, they just replaced that it and carried on.
Another advantage of the replaceable coil design was variety. Not only did the concept make it easy to replace worn out coils, but coils were available in a variety of resistances. Previously, if a user wanted a lower resistance tank they would need a whole new unit.
With the advent of coils, changing the resistance of the tank was as simple as swapping the coils. The idea was so popular that it did not take long for the industry to start putting replaceable coils in nearly every new tank to come to market.
Novas also had another feature that improved the older designs. It was dead easy to fill. There were no gaskets in the way that required a syringe to fill these models.
Easy filling became the trend from that point on. The CE4 (and later CE5) designs came to market shortly after the Nova. These strange-looking tanks featured a tapered design and improved e-liquid capacity along with the easy-to-fill design. They also were designed with larger eGo-style batteries in mind, fitting over the battery connector for a finished look.
Bottom Coil Tanks
One of the biggest changes for tanks in recent years is the bottom-coil design.
These models have the coil at the bottom of the tank, rather than the top. Less wick is required as gravity helps feed the coil. This means liquid can get to the coil faster and more evenly, helping to avoid dry burns and extending the life of the tanks.
Instead of a fixed bottom assembly and removable top, the top of many bottom coil models is fixed while the bottom unscrews to allow filling and coil replacement. This allowed solid gasket designs that prevent e-liquid from escaping the tank through the battery connector.
Bottom coil designs come in many shapes and sizes, and most come with replacable coils.
Dual Coil Tanks
Another way to increase vapour production is by using a dual coil atomiser in your tanks.
With dual coil atomisers, an equal amount of electricity is sent to two coils instead of just one coil. This lowers the resistance.
Well, let’s use an analogy. Imagine you have a tap connected to a hosepipe. If you add another hosepipe, the water is now running through two channels, meaning you can send twice the amount of water through.
Now let’s go back to atomisers. If the coil has a resistance of 3.6 ohms, and you add a second coil with the same resistance, you can send twice the amount of voltage through the coil. The total resistance would drop – in this case to 1.8 ohms.
Once again, dual coil tank use more power, so we recommend using a more powerful battery.
Do note that since we first wrote this post, dual coils have become virtually obsolete. While a game changer in their time, new vertical coil designs are extending the surface area of the coil upwards and achieving even better performance.
Vertical Coil Technology
In traditional tank design, the coil which heats the e-liquid sits across the airflow, which can cause airflow resistance and uneven heating of the coil. Some tanks, such as the Aspire Nautilus Mini, have a coil sitting vertically over the airflow, reducing resistance, improving vapour production, and increasing vaping pleasure.
One of the newest e-cig tanks available is the Aspire Cleito. By extending the coil upwards where you would originally have the chimney the Cleito achieves incredible vapor production and performance – although it is rather heavy on juice usage as a result.
Sub-ohm tanks (explained in more detail below) such as the Aspire Cleito use coils with a resistance below 1 ohm and have a much more open airflow. This allows for a huge increase in the amount of vapour produced.
However as more power is required, they will also drain a battery much faster.
Temperature Control Coils
At the point of writing, temperature control coils are the newest technology to hit the market. The coils themselves are close in design to other tanks. However, the wire inside is made out of a different material – usually titanium or nickel rather than kanthal.
Often available as replacement coils for tanks such as the Aspire Triton and Triton Mini, they require special Temperature Control batteries such as the Aspire Pegasus.
The combination of coils and battery allows you to control the temperature the coils heat up to. This has a number of benefits, users will often find that coils last longer before they have to be replaced, the e-liquid may last longer and battery life may be increased.
For more information see Temperature Controlled Vaping: Everything You Need to Know.
How to Prime a New Coil
If you use a new tank straight after filling, you may get a burnt taste. To avoid this, let the tank stand for a couple of minutes, or swill the e-liquid around the tank to make sure it is absorbed by the wick before using.
With bigger coils it is usually a good idea to try and completely soak all of the wicking material.
This is done by applying liquid to the exposed cotton at the base of the coil, as well as dropping some liquid down from the top of the coil to soak the material around the side.
Do be careful not to fill the coil with unabsorbed liquid, though. The aim is to make sure none of the wick is dry, so it is less likely to burn.
How Do You Fill A Tank?
Whether filling a top or bottom coil tank, the same principles apply. While there is considerably more space between the tube and mechanics of the tank, some care is still required for filling.
The basic golden rule of tank filling, no matter which type you have, is simple. Don’t get e-liquid down the centre tube. All modern tank have some kind of air tube (or chimney) running down the middle inside the main tank section.
Getting liquid down the tube can cause performance problems by flooding the heating coils with too much liquid, or simply leaking liquid, causing a mess.
Taking care while filling is key. Depending on the design of the tank, it may be helpful to use an e-liquid bottle with a fine tip. This allows for more precise dispensing of e-liquid. The best way to fill (with or without such a tip) is to tilt the tank and let the e-liquid run down the inside of the tank itself.
If there are markings on the tank, avoid filling past the top marking. This will ensure e-liquid does not overtop the center tube when putting the tank back together.
If you use a new tank straight after filling, you may get a burn taste. To avoid this, let the tank stand for a couple of minutes, or swill the e-liquid around the tank to make sure it is absorbed by the wick before using. (See the section on priming below for more detail.)
Should you find you’ve overfilled and hear a gurgling sound when using the tank, or find liquid leaking, don’t panic. This situation is easily resolved. Remove the tank from your battery and place a paper towel over the battery connector. Then blow through the mouthpiece stiffly a couple of times to clear the excess liquid from the airway.
When filling a bottom coil tank, turn the tank upside down and, as the name suggests, fill it from the bottom. DO NOT TAKE THE TOP OFF, as this can cause a real mess! (Yes, I’m talking from experience here 😉 ) Again, be careful not to get eliquid into the center tube.
Check out the video below for a video tutorial on how to fill the Aspire BDC tank.
How Do You Clean Tanks?
Naturally, tank like most e-cigarette components have a finite lifespan. Buildup accumulates on heating coils, plastic cracks and parts wear down. However, you might be able to extend the life of your products with a little extra maintenance.
Do note that this is controversial. Some vapers believe that it is not worth cleaning coils. Some modern vertical coils are difficult to clean without damaging them. However, we believe that in general most coils can be improved with a careful clean.
Basic cleaning is simple. A simple rinse is typically enough to keep buildup to a minimum in most cases. Just take apart all the components of your tank and run them through hot tap water to get any buildup removed.
Wicks on the head can be rinsed as well, but special care must be taken in drying. Wet wicks will not perform well as water does not vaporize as readily as e-liquid. Remove as much mixture from the wicks as possible with a paper towel. Then let the wicks dry thoroughly for at least 24 hours.
If you have a replacement head, you could always pop that in and rotate the heads. If you’re in a hurry to dry the wicks, try placing them in a sealed container of rice overnight. The rice will absorb the moisture speeding drying time.
For particularly gummed up heating coils, you could try using pure grain alcohol, or a strong, clear liquor to soak the heads and break up some deposits prior to rinsing. Do not use standard rubbing alcohol.
How Do You Change the Coil On A Tank
When a coil burns out, it’s usually much cheaper to buy a new replacement head and wick for a cleaomiser rather than buying a new tank.
While models do vary, this is usually a simple process of unscrewing and replacing the head. In the video below, I demonstrate how to do do this with the Aspire Bottom Dual Coil tank.
Using Adjustable Air Flow Control
This sounds complicated, but adjustable air flow control is really easy to use with devices like the Aspire Nautilus Mini.
Adjustable airflow devices come with a range of different air hole sizes. To use, simply adjust the outer ring to line up with the desired air hole size. This allows you to fine tune the amount of air flowing through the device to suit e-liquids with different pg/vg ratios (thickness) or flavour and temperature.
For a detailed instructions on using airflow control, check out our Aspire Nautilus tutorial.
We live in an imperfect world – sometimes things go wrong. Here’s some tips if you find your tank isn’t working at all.
First, make sure all connections are tight and not cross-threaded. Most leaking issues can be traced back to a poor seal.
Also, check the fit of the silicone gaskets on the heating coil assembly and other parts. These small white rubber parts have a tendency to shift with time and can cause performance or leaking issues.
If your tank won’t activate at all, make sure the head is securely screwed into its base. Sometimes the head can gradually come loose with use. It’s a part many people don’t think about and can be a tricky issue to figure out.
Should you experience an unusual or burning taste from your tank, there may be built-up deposits on the coil. These deposits tend to burn causing very unpleasant flavours. Simply replace the coil to resolve these issues.
How Long Do Tanks Last & How Do You Know When They Need Replacing?
Tanks don’t last forever. In our experience, tanks can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, depending how often you use it. Cleaning may extend the life but eventually you will either need to replace the whole thing if its a disposable, or replace the coil if it is a rebuildable.
You know the tank needs changing when it starts to give a burnt taste, give weaker vapour production or just stop working.
Tank with replaceable coils usually turn out to be cheaper in the long term, since instead of purchasing a whole new tank you can just replace the coil/head on the tank.
While models do vary, this is usually a simple process of unscrewing and replacing the head. In the video below, I demonstrate how to do this with the Aspire Bottom Dual Coil tank.
A number of tank now come with replacable coils. Things get interesting when you can use different atomisers in the tank to vary the vaping experience.
How Do Atomisers Create Heat?
Heat is created by the atomiser inside your tank.
Electricity is passed through the heating coil wrapped around your atomiser. The coil provides resistance to the electricity. As the energy can not be fully conducted, it has to be turned into a different form. In the case of an atomiser, it is turned into heat.
Resistance and Ohms
The amount of resistance an atomiser offers is measured in ohms (symbol: Ω).
If the resistance is high, less electricity will pass through the coil. So to produce more heat, you can use a coil with a lower resistance. However, as more energy is used in producing the heat, a battery with a higher amp output is required and you will use up your battery more quickly.
People’s preferences are very different, so a resistance that works for one person might not work for you. To find the best atomiser for you, you will need to experiment with different resistance atomisers.
- more heat
- more vapour
- reduced battery life
- stronger throat hit
- increased eliquid usage
- less heat
- less vapour
- smoother throat hit
- longer battery life
- reduced eliquid usage
At ECigaretteDirect you can choose between 2.1, 1.8 and 1.6 ohm coils for the Aspire BVC tank, but you can also find coils as low as 0.2 ohms for tanks such as our Aspire Cleito.
The chart below gives a starting point for the voltages you can use with different ohms. However, the best place to get ideal power ranges for different resistances is from the manufacturer. That’s because subtle changes in the material used for the coils can affect the ideal power range used.
Sub-ohming is very simply when the resistance of the coil is below 1 ohm. This may drastically increase the amount of vapour produced from a tank.
Clouds are vapour are not the only result – you’ll also find a big increase in temperature! Vapers normally overcome this by having a much less restrictive airflow. This helps cool the vapour down as well as allowing for much bigger “lung-hits” and even more vapour production.
As the resistance of a coil decreases, the amount of power needed increases, draining the battery faster but more importantly increasing the amp draw from the battery. If the tank is trying to draw too much power from a battery, the battery may very well over heat. It is very important to use a compatible battery when sub-ohming such as our Coolfire 4.
For more information see How to Produce Massive Clouds of Vapour From Your E-Cig.
Common Terminology and Abbreviations
Clearomiser, clearomizer, clearo, tank: Different words for vape tanks. Increasingly, the word tank alone is being used.
Cartomiser, cartomizer, carto: The cartridge technology preceding the word tank
E-liquid, liquid, e-juice, juice: Words for the liquid designed to be used in an e-cigarette
Coil, atomiser, head, heater: The bit of the tank (often replaceable) that heats the liquid
BVC: Bottom vertical coil
BDC: Bottom dual coil
AFC: Airflow control
TC: Temperature control
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If you are new to electronic cigarettes, I recommend you read the following:
The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Electronic Cigarettes
Five Quit Smoking Side Effects You May Experience: An Essential Guide for New Vapers
Are Electronic Cigarettes Safe: The Shocking Truth
Nicotine In Electronic Cigarettes: 10 Facts All Users Should Know
The Electronic Cigarette Glossary: Essential Words, Phrases and Slang for New Vapers
How to Stop Your Tank Leaking: Downloadable Cheat Sheet
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