A burnt hit is what every vaper dreads. They can happen unexpectedly and literally leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Experienced vapers are experienced because they have taken burnt hits and then went on to discover what was causing them and how to prevent them.

Table of Contents

  1. The Why and How of Burnt Coils
  2. Prevention Techniques
  3. The Role of Coils and Wicks
  4. A Quick Explainer
  5. Closing Thoughts

Why Burnt Hits Suck

Inhaling any smoke is unpleasant. The harshness of inhaling a plume of burnt cotton smoke is about as bad as inhaling smoke from a burning cigarette, especially for those wanting to quit the latter.

Burnt cotton smoke is not what people want to inhale when they are vaping. They want to taste the carefully-crafted flavor profile of their new e-juice or take a hit of a nic salt e-juice to catch a nicotine buzz.

It is something no vaper should have to experience, even though they sometimes do. Inhaling smoke is something that all vapers want to avoid, which is why many vapers transitioned to vaping.

The Mechanics of a Burnt Hit

Burnt hits happen for many reasons, like:

●       Coils (stock and rebuildable) not being primed (more about that later)

●       Not enough coil saturation

●       Coils being vaped beyond their stated wattage limit

●       Chain-vaping

Fortunately, all these scenarios are preventable with a few simple remedies. There are also a few ways to tell if your coil build (whether it is a rebuildable or a stock coil) either needs a new wick, a deep clean or a new coil altogether.

Signs of a Spent Coil

The signs of a bad coil can include things like:

●       Burnt taste

●       Reduced or low cloud production

●       Diminished e-juice flavor

●       Gurgling noises coming from the tank

Whether you are vaping pre-made, stock coils, or your rebuildables, the signs can apply to both. Stock coils are much easier to maintain and replace than a rebuildable coil, which is also not that difficult to clean or change if you know what you are doing.

Why Coils Go Bad

Stock and rebuildable coils are not meant to last forever. Their longevity varies. Stock coils can last between one or three weeks, under normal conditions. While some rebuildable coils are made from near-indestructible metals like nickel and titanium, it is not the metal part of the coil that burns.

Coils need metal as well as wicking material to operate. It is the wick, not the actual metal, that absorbs e-liquid and that ultimately produces a bad hit, if it is not primed or if it is too dry.

Popular wick materials include:

●       Organic Egyptian or Japanese cotton

●       Wood pulp

●       Silica

●       Flax and bamboo pulp

The wick is the material that most often needs to be changed. How often depends on how frequently a person vapes, at what temperature or wattage and what kind of e-liquid they are using (high-VG e-juices tend to be the hardest on wicks)

Coil Longevity

Coils have varying lifespans. Stock coils have a limited vape life, which can increase or decrease under certain conditions.

1)      Stock coils typically have a wattage range recommended by the manufacturer.

●       Vaping under or within this range can ensure the coil lasts as long as it can although it is not a guarantee.

●       Vaping beyond this range, however, can tax the coil decreasing its life.

2)      Rebuildable coils, especially with heavy-duty metal wires, do not have a recommended wattage range. They are made to endure the highest temperatures and wattages, but the wick material is what makes them vulnerable.

3)      Wicked coils need to be replaced but, again, the frequency depends on the vaping conditions. High temperatures or wattages, high-VG e-juices (which can create a residue on wires) all contribute to the lessening of vapor quality. Chain-vaping (where users take many quick, consecutive hits) can also lead to a degradation of the wick or deposit residue onto the coils.

Stopping the Burning Before It Starts

There are many ways vapers can prevent a dry or burnt hit. A “dry” hit is a precursor or a sign that the wick is not saturated enough and will eventually burn the cotton if heat is applied. A burnt hit is when the cotton does burn and creates smoke that a user inhales.

Other ways to stop the burning of a wick include:

●       Priming your coils

Priming coils refers to introducing a few drops of e-liquid onto the stock or rebuildable coil before vaping, so the coil does not have to work as hard to create vapor.

●       Letting the coil soak

After priming, users with stock coils and sub-ohm tanks can install their atomizer and then fill the tank. With the tank full, they should wait up to five minutes for the wick to fully absorb as much e-liquid, preventing a dry hit.

●       Vaping in the recommended wattage range

Staying within stock coils’ recommended wattage range is another way to prevent dry/burnt hits. It is the range recommended by the manufacturer, based on the coil and wick material inside the coil head, which can vary, but is typically Kanthal wire and cotton wicks.

Rebuildable coils are still subject to heat and pressure and they can still get clogged with residue from e-juice components like flavorings, sweeteners, or nicotine. When that happens, it will be most notable from poor vapor production and a loss of flavor. It is also visible from looking at the coil, which may be covered in clumps of black-ish residue.

●       Using the right e-juice

E-juice build-up can happen over time. The chemistry of the e-juice – if it is high-VG or high-PG, the type of nicotine it uses, or other ingredients – also affects coils differently.

High-VG e-juice are notorious for their ability to clog rebuildable coils, even though they are the juices most favored by cloud-chasers.

Using the right e-juice with the right coil build is another way to ensure not only the longevity of the coil but the quality of your e-juice comes through. 

How Coils Work

The basic setup of all coils is the same across all platforms. Every coil head, whether it is a stock coil or a rebuildable function on two main parts:

●       The wick

●       The coil or wire

The wick absorbs the e-juice, while the coil heats from the power sent by the battery. The way the coil heats but does not burn, the saturated wick is where the delicate art of vaping enters into the equation.

This is why vaping at the right wattages or temperatures is so important. Vapers with variable wattage devices can start at the lowest settings and then gradually increase it to find the right balance between power and vapor quality.

Temperature control vaping is also a balancing act between the resistance of the wire, the power of the device, and the saturation of the coil so they all produce quality vapor. Only stainless steel, nickel, and titanium wires can withstand the heat of temperature control, but the wicks could also burn out if the proper settings are not in place.

A Close Look at Coils

Coils are the engine of any vape tank or mod. Without them, no device could produce vapor. But not all coils are alike. They come in different sizes; they also feature different build materials, different designs, and can achieve different things.

Stock Coils

Stock coils refer to pre-made coil heads that come with sub-ohm tanks or regular MTL tanks. They are the easiest coils to use as they are replaceable and do not need to be cleaned or otherwise maintained.

Even though they have a similar appearance, internally stock coils have different designs. Traditional coils used the simple combination of a cotton pad/wick that had a spring-like, Kanthal wire wrapped around it. Those early designs have given way to more innovative designs.

Coil makers have recently introduced:

●       New, absorbent wick materials (wood, bamboo, flax pulp)

●       Different coil builds (mesh wiring)

●       Larger juice ports for better absorption

These new coil types offer various experiences, including better flavor production. They do not necessarily last longer than usual coil heads, but they offer more variety than the standard design.

Rebuildable Coils

Rebuildable coils are DIY coils made by vapers themselves. The variety offered by rebuildables is one of their main draws, as they can use several different types of wire material, as well as a wicking material. The most standard wire types include:

●       Kanthal

●       Stainless steel

●       Nickel

●       Titanium

These are the base materials, but their configuration can also vary. Not all wires are made the same. Wire gauges and construction vary across the different materials, as wires can be fused, staggered, or have the Clapton coil design that resembles the thickness of a guitar string (hence the name Clapton).

Rebuildable coils are usually the domain of experienced vapers who want to control every aspect of the vape. While it is not a recommended pursuit for new vapers, with time and experience, even new vapers can graduate to vaping rebuildable coils, providing they follow the important rules of coil-building.

Conclusion – Breathe Easier by Taking Care of Your Coils

People get into vaping because they want an alternative to smoking. When they unexpectedly get a dry or burnt hit, it can completely turn them off of vaping. But, luckily, burnt hits are a one-time occurrence.

They are also a sure sign that something is wrong with your coil build. We went through the various signs that a coil needs to be replaced (for stock coils) or rebuilt and cleaned for rebuildable ones. Taking these steps is also a good way to prevent the rare occurrence of a dry hit.


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Thanush Poulsen is a Sweden correspondent who writes detailed reviews, guides, and lists for VapingDaily.

Looking for healthier ways of living, he discovered electronic cigarettes and joined not only the vaping community but also the VapingDaily team. Using his experience, he helps people all over the world and spreads information about a healthy lifestyle.

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