Updated February 2021
It’s a familiar experience.
You buy a pack of expensive coils for your Direct-Lung tank, install the coil and take a puff, expecting a delicious cloud of vapour from your favourite e-liquid.
Instead, you get a strange burnt taste, leading to disappointment and anger.
There are many factors which can cause a burnt coil, but the number one reason is failing to prime your coil correctly.
What is priming a coil?
A vape coil is the heating element in your vape device. Priming your vape coil simply refers to ensuring that enough e-liquid is soaked into the coil and the wicking to ensure that it does not burn out when power and heat are applied.
The care and time involved in priming usually depend on the resistance of the coil, which is measured in ohms (Ω). This is because the lower the resistance of the coil, the more cotton/wicking it has. The increased wicking material leads to more potential for dry spots on the cotton, and therefore an increased chance of burning it.
Indeed, this is one of the reasons high resistance coils last a lot longer than low resistance coils, the others being the smaller surface area of the coil and the VG:PG ratios of the e-liquid used.
How do you prime pre-filled pods and cartridges?
Pre-filled pods, like the Hexa Pods, and disposable cartridges do not usually need to be primed, as they have already had enough exposure to e-liquid to ensure that the coil and wicking are saturated.
The exception is when pre-filled pods are designed to keep the e-liquid separate from the coil until ready to be used. When that happens, you should allow the pod to stand for a few minutes before using it.
Every other kind of coil, whether fixed or removable, needs to be primed. However, the care taken and the time needed varies significantly.
If you’re using a high resistance coil with a low powered battery, the priming process is quicker.
On the other hand, low resistance coils need more care because, as mentioned above, the increased cotton and wicking increases the chances of burning. It’s one reason why we recommend that high powered devices and low resistance coils are best used by experienced vapers.
How do you prime fixed coil pods and tanks?
Fixed coil pods and tanks, such as the Novo X pods, generally have high resistance coils.
With these devices, it’s usually a simple matter of filling the device and leaving it to stand for five minutes or so.
It’s best to stand your device upright to ensure that the e-liquid is always in contact with the coil and the coil wicking.
How do you prime removable coils?
If your coil has a high resistance (for example, above 1.2 Ω) you can choose to simply leave it in the tank and allow it to soak into the coil.
You can also remove the coil and prime it by hand. When you remove it, look closely at the coil – you should see some holes in it. Drip e-liquid into these holes. You’ll also see a hole at the top of the coil – put a little e-liquid in here too, until the wicking is saturated.
After adding e-liquid to your tank, you should still leave the coil to soak for a few minutes before using it for the first time.
How do you prime sub-ohm coils?
If your coil has a resistance of lower than 1 Ω (these are known as sub-ohm coils) it’s worth taking extra care to prime the coils.
The lower the resistance of the coil, and the higher the power levels you are using, the more care you need to take.
Ensure that you add plenty of e-liquid via the ports and the top of the coil. Once again, after doing this, and adding your e-liquid, leave the e-liquid to soak into the coil further – the lower the resistance of the coil, the longer you should leave it.
You can also take a couple of priming puffs. To do this, inhale without pressing the fire button. This helps draw the e-liquid into the coil. 1 or 2 puffs should be enough, though, as you don’t want to flood the coil.
The video below demonstrates the process in more detail:
How long do you prime a coil for?
The length of time you need to prime a coil for depends on the coil and the resistance.
If you have a high resistance coil, for example one above 1 Ω, then you only need to prime it for five minutes or so.
The lower the resistance of the coil, the longer you need to prime it for. For a low resistance mesh coil, with a resistance of 0.15 Ω, for example, I’d recommend leaving it to soak for 10 minutes or longer.
What is auto-priming?
Even with the best care, coils can sometimes get dry and burn. To counter this, vape manufacturer Innokin have developed technology which auto-primes the coil called C+ mode. See auto-priming technology for a full explanation of how this works. At the time of writing this technology is only available with the Innokin Sensis.
What if you forget to prime your coil?
We all forget to prime a coil at times! If you have a low resistance coil, and you have forgotten to prime it, don’t panic. All you need to do is let it sit there for a minute.
If you’ve taken a puff and you don’t get a burnt taste, you might have got away with it. It’s still worth letting the tank sit there for a while, though, to ensure the juice thoroughly soaks into the e-liquid.
If you do get a burnt taste then you have burnt the coil. Sometimes, though, all is not lost. If the burnt taste is not too bad, allow the coil to soak in, or remove the coil and soak it in some strong white alcohol. This might help save the coil, but if you do get a burnt taste, do stop using it.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll find coil priming both easy and effective. But there are another 6 ways to maximise the life of your coil. To find out what they are, check out our guide, 7 Ways to Stop Your Coil From Burning.