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Vape coil maintenance

Why Your Atomizer Coils Get Flooded and How to Fix It

Flooded atomizer coils are a fact of life for many vapers. The characteristic gurgling sounds or e-juice leaking from the airflow holes are both signs that e-liquid has flooded into your atomizer coil without being vaporized. As well as the irritation of gurgling and leaking, this can also lead to spitback, and generally makes your vaping experience pretty unpleasant.


So why do your coils get flooded? And what can you do to stop it? Here’s a run-down of the most common causes and how to fix it.


1 – Not Changing Your Coil or Wicks When You Need To


Old coils are particularly prone to flooding. As the wicks lose their ability to soak up e-juice, the liquid that does get pulled in isn’t absorbed properly and can flood the atomizer head. The same effect happens when your wick has gotten gunked up from using coil-killing e-juices (usually dark-colored juices and dessert flavors). The wick loses its ability to soak up new e-juice and this leads to your coil getting flooded.


How to Fix It


The simplest solution to this issue is to change your atomizer head (which contains the coil and wick) for a new one, or just change the wick if you’re using an RTA (rebuildable tank atomizer). If your atomizer head is having issues but you don’t have a new one, you can always rinse it under hot water (or using grain alcohol) and let it dry out to clean the wicks.


2 – Filling Your Tank Incorrectly


If you fill your tank in the wrong way, this can lead to your coil getting flooded. The most common mistake to make – and the one most likely to cause flooding – is getting e-juice down the central chimney. This leads directly to the coil, so if you get juice into the chimney you will flood your coil and probably end up with gurgling or leaking. As well as getting juice directly down the chimney, overfilling your tank can also lead to this same issue.


How to Fix It


As you’d expect, the solution to this is to take time to fill your tanks correctly. The best advice is to fill up so the juice runs down the inside of the glass tank, a little like you’re pouring a beer. The important thing is to avoid the central tube and make sure you don’t overfill the tank. This is much simpler if your tank has fill-holes, but even if it doesn’t, it’s easy to avoid as long as you know to avoid the central chimney.


3 – Puffing Too Hard


Flooding happens when too much e-liquid makes its way into the atomizer head. The examples so far have involved either the wick not soaking up liquid properly or juice directly making its way to the atomizer head, but it can also happen if you don’t puff in the right way. Taking too hard a draw literally pulls e-juice into the coil in greater quantities, flooding your coil.


How to Fix It


Try taking softer draws or opening up the airflow a little. Unlike with smoking, puffing harder when you vape doesn’t usually get you more vapor, because it depends so much on how well your wick is working and how much airflow there is. If you do want to inhale more sharply, make sure you have good wicking (any sub ohm tank or rebuildable atomizer is a suitable choice) and keep the airflow wide open. You could still inhale too firmly, but it’s much less likely with a high-airflow setup.


4 – Setting Your Power Too Low


You can also flood your atomizer if your mod isn’t vaporizing e-juice quickly enough. The higher your power (i.e. wattage) setting, the more e-juice your coils will vaporize. If you set your power too low, not much juice will vaporize but more will be pulled into the chamber when you inhale, and so the coil will flood.


How to Fix It


Turn up the power setting on your mod. Most pre-made coils have a suggested wattage range printed on them (for example 40 to 65 W), so make sure you’re at least in this range, and if you already are, turn up the power some more, approaching the top of the recommended range if necessary. For rebuildable tanks, there won’t be recommendations but increasing the power will still help.


5 – Damaged O-Rings or Loose Tank Connections


If your e-juice can find its way into the atomizer head or chamber in some way other than through your wick, then you could end up with a flooded atomizer. The most common cause of this is a damaged O-ring or a component of the tank that isn’t properly screwed in place and is leaving a gap that juice can leak through. This can be hard to check for because you’ll have to empty the tank first, but if you’ve tried everything else it may be your only option. For it to cause flooding, the problem would have to be somewhere around the central chimney or the atomizer chamber itself.


How to Fix It


Once you’ve identified the cause of the problem, it’s pretty easy to solve. Most tanks you buy have spare O-rings in them, so it should be easy to replace any broken, missing or degraded ones. If you have a suitable O-ring intended for another tank (or bought online) you can use it, but make sure it’s the right size for your tank. Ensure the ring fits snugly and everything reconnects as it should.


If a part of your tank wasn’t screwed in properly, this is much easier to fix: just screw it in properly, being sure to avoid cross-threading, and then fill up and vape as usual.


6 – (For RTA Users) Using Too Little Wick Material


If you’re using a rebuildable tank atomizer (RTA), then persistent problems with flooding could suggest a problem with your wick setup. If there isn’t enough wick in your coils, too much juice can get into the chamber and cause leaking, gurgling and spitting when you try to vape. If you had too much wick, you might get some dry hits, but too little can lead to leaking.


This could theoretically happen with a pre-made coil, but it’s much less likely because the wick setups are standardized.  


How to Fix It


Get access to your tank’s deck – emptying the tank first if you need to – and remove the old wicks from the coils. Insert new wicks as needed, with more cotton than you used last time. There should be enough that there is some resistance when you try to insert it through the coil, but not so much that it’s hard to pull it through without misshaping the coil.


Getting the right amount of wicking material in the channels out of the chamber is more difficult, but generally the gaps need to be covered but the wick needs to be loose enough that juice can be easily absorbed. This is explained clearly in this video.


What Should You Do About Atomizer Flooding That You Can’t Fix?


Although this post covers the most common reasons for flooded coils, it’s possible that none of the advice within it will work for you. If it doesn’t, the key thing to remember is that too much liquid is getting into the atomizer head or chamber somehow, and you may be able to investigate the problem for your tank specifically to identify the issue. Ordinarily it will be something covered already, but even if it isn’t, you should be able to get a general idea of where the problem is likely to be, and what you’d need to do to fix it.


But if nothing works, it could just be an inherent problem with your tank’s design that you can’t do too much about. It might not be what you want to hear, but a persistently flooding tank may be better off gathering dust on a shelf or sitting in the trash than giving you issues every day. Don’t hesitate to pick up something more consistent and reliable instead.  

Lee Johnson is a writer and vaper from the UK. He started vaping in 2012, and since then has contributed to E-Cigarette Reviewed, E-Cigarette Direct’s Ashtray Blog and Vaping360. He strongly believes smokers need accurate information about vaping and other reduced-harm alternatives to smoking. He has a degree in physics from the Open University and a passion for all forms of science.


  • Feb 1, 2018

    Thomas Trutt

    Hey thanks for this, new vaper here and I recently had problems. Went back and checked everything and found out my replacement coil wasn’t of the same wattage range I normally use and I was flooding constantly. Went and replaced the coil with one in my normal range and cleaned everything out and I’m back in business.

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