Troubleshooting The Most Common E-Cigarette Problems
Electronic cigarettes offer a variety of benefits over smoking, but they do require some maintenance to keep them up-and-running smoothly. Unfortunately, you can't just purchase an e-cig and expect it to work forever, without a little bit of TLC. Once you understand the basics of how to care for and troubleshoot an e-cig, they're relatively easy to maintain. Here are some of the most common e-cigarette problems and how correct them:
#1 – Device Suddenly Stops Working
Let's start with the most terrifying issue… your device suddenly stops working! There are lots of things that could cause your e-cig to die, so we'll start with the most obvious problems and then work down the list.
Complete Loss of Power (No Lights)
If you're getting no power through your device, with no power indicator lights at all, there's an issue with the battery or charger. Here are some things to check:
- Battery is turned off: It may seem like common sense, but if your battery has an ON/OFF switch, you may have inadvertently turned it off. Maybe you didn't know it had an ON/OFF switch? Turn that bad boy back on!
- Battery needs a recharge: This is another common sense thing to check if you completely lose power. If you have one, try a backup battery to see if your device works, then throw the dead battery on the charger.
- Charger may be faulty: Do the indicator lights on your charger work? If they're not working with the dead battery, try a slightly depleted backup battery to see if the indicator light switches from green to red (applicable for most chargers.) If you get no lights, or the lights aren't switching, you might have a charger problem. If you have a volt meter, you can verify with that, or maybe a local battery supply store (or vape shop) could check it for you.
- Dead or faulty battery: This is another situation where a backup battery will come in handy. If you're not the electrical-type and don't feel comfortable with a volt meter or battery tester, just plug in your backup battery and see if it works. If everything works OK and the other battery won't charge, the battery is definitely the problem. Get it replaced!
Power Lights On, But No Vapor
In some situations, the power indicator lights may work but you'll get no vapor or any indication that the coil is heating. This could be caused by several issues:
- Poor battery contact: If your atomizer / tank isn't fully secured, it may not be making contact with the battery terminal. Make sure it's fastened, but not too tight! In other situations, leaking e-liquid and dirt can buildup on the terminal, causing a poor connection. Clean it with a cotton swab and a bit of rubbing alcohol. Lastly, there may be a physical problem with the terminal or atomizer. Sometimes the terminal can stick in a depressed position, and a flip with the edge of a knife or small screw driver can pop it free.
- Bad coil: If you have good contact between the battery and atomizer and your battery is working fine, you may have a faulty or burnt out coil. The easiest way to check is to replace the coil (if replacement coils are an option) or try another cartomizer or tank with a fresh coil installed.
#2 – Limited or Weak Vapor Production
If your e-cigarette is beginning to produce less-and-less vapor, a few things could be causing the reduced performance. Here are some issues to look for:
- Depleted or weak battery: The first sign of a weak or depleted battery is reduced vapor production. You may just need a recharge, but over time the performance of an e-cigarette battery will slowly diminish and even a fresh recharge may not resolve the problem. Try a backup battery to see if it improves the situation and consider replacing weak batteries.
- Dirty wick / filler / coil: If your battery is fine and vapor production has been progressively getting worse, it's a good sign that the wick, cartomizer filler and /or coil in your e-cig needs to be cleaned. Over time, vaporization causes residue to build up on the components and it slowly weakens the performance. The cleaning process varies for each product, so consult the manual, ask the seller, search Youtube or visit online vaping forums.
- Improper components: If you're using a high resistance atomizer at too low of a voltage, it will produce cooler, weaker vapor. Raise the settings if you have a VV/VW device, consider a better battery, or try a lower ohm atomizer. More about atomizer ohms / resistance →
- Low VG e-liquid: If you recently switched your e-juice and suddenly noticed a change, there's a good chance you chose a product with less VG. Vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol (PG) are the two main ingredients used in e-liquid, and each has different qualities that will impact it's performance. PG tends to produce more “throat hit” and cleaner flavors, while VG produces more vapor. Most companies use a combination of the two (ie: 60/40, 50/50, 30/70, etc.), so if you'd like to increase the vapor production of your e-cig, consider something with more VG.
- Coil needs to be replaced: If you've cleaned your device, checked the battery and your e-juice hasn't changed, there's a good chance that the coil needs to be completely replaced. Most of the better cartomizers, clearomizers and atomizer systems include replaceable heads, but if yours does not, you may need an entirely new clearomizer or cartomizer.
- Poor battery connection: A bad battery connection can keep your device from working altogether (above), but it may just reduce it's performance and limit vapor. Make sure your atomizer setup is securely fastened to the battery and verify the battery terminals are clean.
#3 – Leaking E-Liquid & Gurgling Sounds
These issues are often related and can be caused by a variety of different problems:
- Flooded atomizer: If you're getting gurgling sounds and e-liquid is leaking from the mouth piece or from the bottom of your cartridge or tank, you may have forced too much e-liquid into the atomizer chamber. This can be caused by a variety of different things and is quite common, depending on the type of atomizer or tank you use. Each product is slightly different, but if you get leaking e-liquid and gurgling sounds due to a flooded atomizer, here is a common way to address the issue:
- Remove the cartomizer or clearomizer tank from the battery
- Place a piece of paper towel or toilet paper at the battery end, then blow briskly through the mouthpiece. Any excess e-liquid will be blown out of the atomizer and on to the paper
- Repeat several times until no e-liquid appears
- Cracked tank or broken seal: Leaking e-liquid could also be cause by a cracked tank or broken rubber seal between components. Give your setup a good thorough inspection and make sure the components are tightly secured in place, including the replacement head / coil (if applicable).
- Thin or overheated e-liquid: If you recently left your device in the sunlight or excessive heat, it could have thinned the e-liquid and caused it to seep through the tiny openings between components. Let your device cool to see if the leaking / gurgling stops. If you're using an thin, high-PG e-liquid, try a little more VG or use thicker wicking material (rebuildables only).
- Overfilled device: Overfilling your tank is an easy way to flood it. Accidentally dripping liquid into the center tube can also cause gurgling and a leaky mouthpiece. Pour the excess out and flick your device a few times to help clear the center tube. Try the method listed above, if all else fails.
#4 – Burnt / Bad Flavor
Occasionally, an e-juice that tasted great will suddenly taste horrible. Maybe you're getting a burnt or stale flavor, or maybe it's lost it's flavor altogether. In other situations, an e-juice may taste bad right from the start. Here are a couple possibilities that could be affecting the flavor:
- Dirty wick / filler / coil: Not only will a dirty wick, cartomizer filler and / or coil affect the vapor production of your device (above), but it can also impact the flavor of your e-liquid. Over time, the vaporization process causes residue to build up on the components and it can leave a funky stale or burnt taste in your mouth. Time to clean your components or replace the coil (if necessary). Cleaning procedures vary, so consult the product manual, contact the seller, search videos on Youtube or visit helpful online forums.
- Dry hits / wicking problems: If you let your e-juice run dry, you'll get a nasty burnt flavor known as a “dry hit.” A dry hit can also occur if the wick isn't working properly due to excess residue or an e-juice that's too thick. Clean your device regularly, make sure it's filled and consider a thinner, higher PG e-liquid if your wick isn't absorbing it properly. You can also dilute e-liquid with distilled water to make it thinner, but this may reduce it's potency.
- Improper components: If you're using a low resistance atomizer at too high of a voltage, it can burn your wick and / or e-liquid providing a nasty burnt flavor. Lower your settings if you have a VV/VW device, or consider a higher ohm product. More about atomizer ohms / resistance →
- A case of “vapers tongue”: At one time or another, most vapers will experience a phenomenon known as “vapers tongue.” This is a strange condition that occurs when the olfactory system, responsible for allowing your brain to decipher different flavors, becomes overloaded and completely shuts down. It's definitely more common for recent smokers, but anyone can get it and it results in the complete loss of flavor for hours or days at a time. Be patient, drink lots of water, and experiment with new flavors until your sense of taste returns. More about vapers tongue →
- Your e-juice needs “steeping”: If an e-juice tastes horrible right from the beginning, it's likely that it needs to “steep.” Many e-juice companies mix their e-juice fresh, prior to shipment, and if you have a fresh batch it may need to sit for a while (2-4 weeks) for the flavor to fully develop. If it's a new juice, give it a little time to steep! Learn more about steeping →
#5 – Limited Battery Life
Obviously, if your battery is getting weaker and the run-time is slowly diminishing, it probably needs to be replaced. It's possible that a dirty terminal is preventing a full charge, so make sure it's clean and free from debris. Don't wait until the last minute to purchase a replacement! Even if you have a backup, it's always wise to have several batteries on-hand at all times. If you're looking for more battery life, consider a larger, higher capacity battery as an upgrade.