When should I replace my e-cigarette coil?
One of the first questions I ever asked as a vaper was “When I do I need to put a new coil in?” the guy in the vape shop, who had been very helpful up to this point, told me that the coil should last a few weeks. In reality I changed that coil after a week as I felt it was starting to lose flavour to the point that I didn't want to use it. I've since been asked the same question several times and it's not an easy question to answer, although I completely understand that it's the very thing that new e-cigarette users want to know.
It sounds like a simple question that there should be a fairly simple answer to, or at least an answer that could give someone a rough idea. All they want to know is if it's going to be days or weeks? The truth is there are a number of reasons why you might want to change the coil, so let's explore those in some more detail.
The ability for the coil to give you the great flavour of your chosen e-liquid will usually start to drop off after vaping just a few tanks of e-liquid. This might be subtle and unnoticeable or it could be quite dramatic. Either way most people find that the second or third re-fill is usually the very best flavour and it will decrease from that point onwards. There are far too many variables to even suggest a length of time you might expect the flavour to be acceptable for. The coil type, construction, wicking materials, temperature of the coil and the flavourings in the e-liquid all affect how long the flavour will remain good. Some people will become dissatisfied with the flavour quickly and others won't really care as long as it's still providing the nicotine they need and creating some vapour. At some point though everyone will get to a point where they think to themselves “This isn't really tasting that great any more” and that is the time to replace your coil.
Simple 'lighter' flavours do seem to extend flavour life somewhat, simple mint or a light fruit flavour can help keep the coil in good shape. By contrast heavy tobacco, desserts and bakery flavours (which unfortunately are my personal favourites) seem to lose their flavours quicker.
As well as a fairly continuous but slow drop off in the flavour, you may also find the same happening to the vapour production. This might happen in tandem to the loss of flavour but sometimes it seems to happen independently. It can be quite frustrating when no matter how much you draw on your e-cigarette it just doesn't seem to produce the nice satisfying vapour that you are used to.
If you have a variable wattage device, you can try turning the power up a little and sometimes that will work and create more vapour for a while, unfortunately the downside of this is it will shorten the life of your coil overall. If you have got to the point where there is a significant loss of vapour then it's also time to change the coil.
Chloe has covered this topic in a previous blog, Why does my vape taste burnt? But it's worth reiterating that once your coil tastes burnt, it's almost certainly because it is burnt! Once the wicking material is scorched or singed, there's very little you can do to recover the flavour and that burnt taste will always be there.
Not priming your coil fully and not vaping within the recommended power for your coils are the most common causes of burning the wick. I've accidentally fired a 18w max coil at 40w before and the result was a very burnt tasting coil. I remembered to lock my power control buttons after that day! Once it's burnt, it's time to change it as it's ruined the coil, which you really don't want 2 minutes after putting a new one in.
In some respects this is a similar issue to a burnt taste but I distinguish it by the fact this isn't a result of burning the cotton wick or the result of doing anything 'wrong'. As you use a coil there will be a certain amount of build up of what many will refer to as e-liquid 'caramelisation' on the coil. I don't think it's technically the same process as caramelisation but it will do just fine as a description for what we are talking about. It's also quite normal over time for a white cotton wick to turn a dirty brown. The result is a dirty taste that means it's time for a fresh coil.
Very sweet liquids and dark tobaccos are particularly prone to getting 'dirty' quickly and may result in you needing to replace your coil quicker.
A Change of Flavour
A slightly different reason you may want to change your coil is when changing to a different flavour. Of course in this instance there's no need to throw the coil away, you can just remove it from your vaping device and store it in a small sealed bag. That will stop it drying out and when you want to change back you can just pop it back in. You don't have to change coils every time when changing flavours. If you are switching between similar flavour profiles, two tobacco flavours or two different fruits for example, then you might not feel the need to bother. However if you are changing from a menthol flavour to a tobacco flavour then it might be a good idea. Unless you like menthol tobacco of course, because that menthol will tend to hang around for a quite a while!
I've also experienced what I call 'flavour confusion' where I've vaped so many different flavours through the same coil it all ends up tasting like a big mess of everything. You might fill your tank with a lemon flavour and end up tasting traces of pastry, tobacco, mint, coffee, nut, strawberry etc. in the background, which come over like strange off-notes and really stops you tasting the flavour as it should be. I would highly recommend sticking to similar flavour profiles with the same coil.
I hope you can appreciate that there really isn't an easy answer as to when you should replace your coil. Other than “When you feel the need to.” … or maybe “Oh, you'll know when!” but neither of those will feel that satisfactory to a new e-cigarette user.
Some people will be happy replacing a coil every week or less and enjoying the crisp clean flavour that will bring. Other people might be able stretch a coil out for weeks or even months, especially if they use a very 'clean' liquid or are quite a light user. If that works for you then that's absolutely the right thing for you to do. If you are unhappy with the life you are getting from your coils then it may be worth looking for a new device that uses different coils, or a different liquid flavour.