Why is my e-cigarette leaking?
Leaking vaping gear is unfortunately still a common issue. It doesn't matter if you are using a stock coil tank, a rebuildable tank or a pod system, it's something all of us have experienced at one time or another.
The causes and possible solutions are quite varied because e-cigarette devices themselves are so varied. It would be impossible to cover every vaping device and situation but I'll cover as many of the common causes of leaking as I can.
All e-cigarettes have a tank to hold e-liquid. It doesn't matter if that is a traditional tank, a pod or part of an all in one device. What they all have in common is that they have holes in them. They have holes to let air in and a hole to let the vapour out. It's impossible to make them without holes and as we all know things with holes in don't usually make the best things to store liquid!
Because of this design problem, tanks and e-cigarettes use a combination of a partial vacuum created inside the tank and well deigned airflow paths to keep the e-liquid inside the tank and not all over your hands. A well made vape coil and wick also help to act as a partial barrier to stop the e-liquid just pouring out of your device. A well designed and properly maintained e-cigarette should not leak.
What is the difference between leaking and condensation?
Condensation build up will often appear at the airflow holes, around the base of a tank, or underneath the pod. It is almost unavoidable with most vaping devices although it should not be seen as a big concern. A small amount of liquid moisture over days of use should be considered acceptable, and giving it a wipe with kitchen towel is considered part of normal use.
In almost all e-cigarette devices condensation will build up over several days of vaping. Often we will not really notice because we'll be changing the coil, or cleaning the tank for a different e-liquid before it gets to the point that it might become an issue.
More recently there has been some coil head designs that capture this condensation and redirect it back to the coil. I'm not 100% sure this is a good thing, it stops the condensation collecting in the base and coming out of the airflow but I'm not yet convinced inhaling recycled vapour condensation is actually the best idea.
Condensation is unfortunately a by-product of creating the vapour so try not to be overly concerned.
But if you have more serious leaking problems then where should you start to diagnose the issue?
Damaged and worn seals
A worn or damaged O-ring seal can cause frustrating leaking issues, It's why almost all tanks and 'all in one' devices come with spares in the box. It's important that your tank is sealed properly because of that partial vacuum mentioned earlier.
If your e-cigarette device has bad leaking issues it's time to strip your tank down and check for damage on all the rubber seals. Check for nicks, splits and anything that appears rough or worn. Sometimes O-ring damage and wear is quite difficult to see, if you can't see anything but the leaking persists, it's worth changing all the seals regardless. Often this will stop the leaking so you can get back to vaping!
Faulty e-cigarette coils
Sometimes vape coils can come with a manufacturing fault. I've seen push in coils with O-rings missing or broken, and screw in coils with faulty threading. I've also had coils where there seems to be an issue with wicking material. If the wick is too tightly packed it may cause it to burn due to a reduced liquid flow and if there's not enough it can cause the coil to flood (more about flooding later).
If your device suddenly starts leaking have a good look over the coil and check everything is as it should be. If your usual coils use O-ring seals then it's worth keeping a few spares. When your coil is finished, before chucking it away take the seals off to keep for spares. If there's a visible fault such as the threading, then you can take it back to the shop where you bought it or contact the manufacturer.
Issues with the wicking inside a coil head is more difficult to diagnose. Usually it's almost impossible to see well enough to judge whether it is causing a problem but if you've tried everything else then it could be the coil has been under wicked in the factory.
What is flooding an e-cigarette device?
Bad flooding is often a pre-cursor to bad leaking. "Flooding" in a vape device is a term commonly used to describe an over saturated coil or a coil chamber with excess e-liquid inside it.
Flooding can be caused by the same faults as leaking; a tank that isn't sealed well letting air into the tank reducing the negative pressure and pushing too much e-liquid through the coil or a badly wicked coil. Minor flooding occasionally isn't really an issue, if you leave a tank sat with e-liquid in for any amount of time you might expect a little flooding of the coil that needs to be taken care of before continuing to use the device.
Flooding can be dealt with by flicking the e-liquid build up out of the tip of the device. Hold the e-cigarette in your hand and flick it like you would flick paint off a brush and that should clear the coil head or chamber. It's best to do it either outside or onto a piece of kitchen paper. If you are continually experiencing flooding on a stock coil device then it's probably time to go back and check the seals and the coil itself.
Rebuildable vaping tanks
If you have a rebuildable tank then the vast majority of leaking and flooding problems can be traced back to bad wicking. When I say 'bad' that could be too little cotton to fully stop the e-liquid flooding into the chamber, or an incorrect method of wicking. If you are having problems it's worth looking on YouTube for a video demonstration of how to wick your specific tank in the best way. But as a starting point, try using a little more cotton than you usually do.
I hope that gives you some ideas where to look if your tank is leaking, it's something most vapers have experienced before and it can be frustrating. There is one more thing to mention and that's warm weather. VG does thin when heated, it's sometimes suggested that on a very hot days in the summer it may get warm enough to thin the e-liquid and that can cause leaking. While this may have some truth to it, I doubt it's rarely hot enough in the UK for it to make a huge difference and we can't change the weather, so in most cases there isn't much you can do about it. But if you experience leaking during a particularly hot spell this may be the cause.
If you have tried all the above and you still having leaking problems with your tank or AIO then it might be time to look for something different, especially if it's an older device. Vape tanks and e-cigarettes with top airflow are far less prone to leaking and some designs make it virtually impossible, so those are always good option. Generally speaking, coil designs have seen some improvements over the last couple of years too. Above all, don't let it put you off vaping, I can assure you that it is possible to have a device that doesn't leak.
Simon - My Vape Box