If you’ve been vaping, you’ve been using a coil. But if you’re using a disposable device or a prefilled pod, you may never have thought about them before.
However, when you move to a refillable vape device, it’s worth learning a little bit about them.
With some very basic knowledge, you can ensure you can vape for longer, know when to replace the coil or pod and even change the coils you use for a better vape experience.
- What is a vape coil?
- Fixed v. replaceable coils
- Key things to know
- High v. low resistance coils: What’s the difference?
- Matching coils to e-liquid - what you need to know
- MTL v. DL
- Coil resistance: A beginner’s guide
- Coil ports: Why they matter
- Matching power to coils
- A quick look at coil materials and designs
- Key takeaways on coil care and usage
- Related posts
A vape coil is the part of the device that heats up e-liquid. It consists of three parts:
1. The coil housing, which has holes in it called ‘ports’
2. An absorbent material such as cotton which soaks up e-liquid
3. A coil of wire
When you add e-liquid to a vape tank or pod, the e-liquid enters the coil through the ports. The e-liquid is absorbed and held by the cotton. When you inhale or press the fire button, power goes through the coil and heats it up. In turn, this heats the e-liquid, turning it into vapour.
Do note that coils are sometimes also called atomisers.
Many vape pod devices come with a fixed coil pod.
That simply means that when the coil comes to the end of its life, you replace the whole pod.
If you have a replaceable coil, you can choose to replace just the coil instead of the whole pod.
This is often cheaper than replacing a whole pod, and creates less environmental waste. It’s slightly less convenient - but as most coils today come with a push-pull design, it only takes a few seconds to change the coil over.
1. Prime your coil - the single most important thing you need to know
The single biggest mistake people make when vaping is not priming the coil.
With entry-level devices, all you need to do is:
1. Attach the coil to the pod or tank (if using a replaceable coil device).
2. Fill the tank/pod with e-liquid.
3. Leave for around five minutes before vaping.
For more advanced ways to do this - which you typically only need to do with low-resistance coils - see our guide to priming coils.
2. Keep your tank filled to avoid burning the coil
It’s important to always keep the level of e-liquid in the tank above the base of the coil. This is sometimes indicated by a fill line. This ensures the coil doesn’t dry out, which can cause it to burn out.
A small side note here - we recommend choosing clear tanks and pods, so that it’s easy to see how much e-liquid is in your device.
3. Know when it’s time to change your coil
Coils are consumables. Typically, coils in entry-level devices last about two weeks, while those in high-powered devices may only last a few days.
If the vape starts to feel scratchy, the taste diminishes or there isn't enough vapour, the coil needs to be replaced.
If you have a fixed coil pod, you can simply replace the whole pod.
If you’re using a fixed coil device, there’s a good chance you won’t need to worry about resistance, as the pods match the power of their compatible device.
However, if you want to use a higher-end device, you may find you have a choice of coil resistances.
Coil resistance is measured in ohms. Explaining how this works is a bit too complex for a beginner’s guide, so if you want to get into the details check out our post Voltage, Watts and Ohms.
In essence: the lower the coil resistance the more vapour can be produced per puff - though as a result you will go through juice, battery charge and coils more quickly.
The key differences in performance are shown in the table below.
|Low resistance||High resistance|
Most vapers use nicotine salts or regular 50:50 e-liquids and don’t have to worry too much about matching coils to high VG e-liquids. However, if you do want to use high VG e-liquid, it’s worth learning a little more about the coils you need.
|High VG e-liquids||Nicotine salts/ High PG e-liquids|
|Use coils: |
Labelled DL or:
Have a low resistance and larger port holes
|Use coils: |
Labelled MTL or that:
Have a higher resistance or smaller port holes
If you have a more advanced device, you can often choose different coils for use with different e-liquids.
Some coils are labelled MTL (Mouth-to-Lung) and DL (Direct-Lung). You can learn more about these in our guide to vape inhaling.
If the coil is labelled MTL, it will work best with nicotine salts and regular (freebase) 50-50 e-liquid. If it’s labelled DL, it will work best with high VG e-liquids.
If the coils aren’t labelled MTL v. DL, but you want to switch between coils and e-liquid, it’s worth learning a bit about which resistances match which e-liquid.
Higher resistance coils are best for nicotine salts and regular (freebase) juice with a roughly even VG:PG mix such as 50:50. When used with regular e-liquid, they produce a stronger hit on the back of the throat. They are best used at lower wattages.
A few years ago, anything with a resistance of less than one ohm was considered a low-resistance ‘sub-ohm’ coil. However, nowadays, many coils with a resistance of 0.8 or even 0.6 ohms will work with nicotine salts and regular e-liquids.
Low resistance coils are generally best for high VG e-liquids such as those with a VG:PG ratio of 70:30. They produce larger, airier clouds of vapour. These coils can go as low as 0.15 ohms.
The different coil resistances available allow you to adjust the vape to your preferences. If you are not fully satisfied with your vape, we recommend experimenting with coils to find the right one for your needs.
The ability of a coil to work with different e-liquids isn't just about resistance - it’s also about coil ports. Coils with small ports work best with e-liquids with a VG:PG ratio of around 50:50. High VG e-liquids are thicker, and work best with coils with larger coil ports.
Many devices nowadays automatically set the power for the coil you are using. However, if your device has variable power output (measured in watts) you need to manually select the right power level.
You may find your device has a ‘smart mode’ which, when activated, will automatically select the right wattage, or wattage range, for your device. This is a great way to get started if you’re new to vaping.
If your device doesn’t have this, or you want to set the power manually, you’ll usually find the recommended wattage displayed on the coil itself or on its packaging. You can also find the recommended wattages on individual coil pages on our website.
Coils have typically come in many different designs and with many different materials.
Nowadays, most coils come in a mesh format. This tightly woven material has proven one of the most efficient at vapourising e-liquid.
You may occasionally see a choice of kanthal and stainless steel materials. In our experience, kanthal delivers a better taste. However, stainless steel usually lasts longer.
If you’re interested in learning more, see our advanced guide to coil material and design.
That might seem a lot, so let’s just recap in a few sentences.
The most important things to remember with coils are to change them when performance deteriorates, to keep your tank topped up and to allow e-liquid to soak into the coil (in the tank) before you use it for the first time.
If you want more vapour, try switching to a lower resistance coil - and if you want to use high VG e-liquids, drop the resistance further again.
How long should vape coils last?
Vape coils in a low-powered device will typically last around two weeks, while low-resistance coils in a high-powered device will last a few days. Do note that coil life depends on many factors, including power levels used, the type of e-liquid used and puff frequency and intensity.
How do you clean a coil?
The simplest way to wash a coil is to remove it from the tank and soak it in hot - but not boiling - water. Allow it to dry thoroughly before using it again. You can also soak it in white alcohol.
How do you make a vape coil last longer?
The most important thing to do is to prime the coil by allowing e-liquid to soak into it. For more tips, see our guide to extending the life of a vape coil.