Why does my clearomizer gurgle and leak?

This question is asked quite frequently. It's all about physics.

Diagram 1, below, shows the general construction of a standard, top-coil clearomizer. 

Note: Bottom Coil Clearomizers are constructed differently.  

If you have a Bottom Coil Clearomizer (BCC) please go to the END of this page.


Diagram 1

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Each clearomizer has a base attached to cylinder-shaped central core.  The cylinder itself is hollow, allowing a pathway through which air can flow. Constant airflow is essential to obtain a proper vape.  No air, no vape. Attached to the top of the cylinder is a metal heating coil through which a fiber-based or metal wick is placed. Above the coil and wick assembly, there is usually a plastic sheath (commonly referred to as a "condom").  This sheath protects the inside of the cylinder from getting liquid in it. E-liquid is drawn up through the wick by capillary action.  The coil is saturated by the wicked e-liquid and the e-liquid does not enter the hollow airflow cylinder. Most of the time, this works well.

However, wicks are both your best friend and your worst enemy.

 Diagram 2, below, shows a "normal" view of a clearomizer, the liquid is being wicked up to the coil and there is nothing in the center cylinder.


 Diagram 2

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Gurgling occurs when e-liquid is trapped inside the cylinder, mixing with air and creating a gurgle sound; it is similar to sucking on a straw when there isn't much soda left in your cup. Ask a kid, they know all about this :)

Gurgling can happen when liquid is trapped in the cylinder or when there is excess liquid in the coil area.

Now, explaining how it gurgles involves a bit of physics.  Since I am not a physics teacher, I'll give you the Cliff Notes version: 

Water attracts water. In other words, once a stream is created, more water will follow. Similarly, once e-liquid finds a path into the central cylinder, more will follow.  In fact, since e-liquid is more viscous than water, and will not simply 'evaporate' as water does,  it flows more easily.  Further, it tends to be "sticky" so will stubbornly stay near the lip and on the interior face of the cylinder.

If you tip your clearomizer upside down, there is a very good chance you will get more e-liquid than you need, the excess liquid will not vaporize on the coil-wick assembly but will instead drip back down into the cylinder.

With liquid both inside and on the lip of the cylinder, some liquid coming up from the wick will siphon off and "flow" toward the other liquid deposits, resulting in drier hits, as less liquid gets to the coil, and gurgling, as the air mixes with the inner cylinder liquid.

It's simple yet complicated at the same time.

Here is another diagram showing what happens:


Diagram 3
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The bottom line:  once you get liquid into your center post/cylinder you're hosed.  

You need to get it out.

To do this there are several options.  The first-- and most complete-- is to rebuild the clearomizer, cylinder, coil-wick assembly in its entirety.

If you have a rebuildable clearomizer like the Thor, Vision, Kanger, etc., it is easy to disassemble and remove the e-liquid from the center post.  Simply flush it out with water or alcohol, rinse and allow to air dry.

If you do not have a rebuildable, for example, a CE4 V2, then getting it out is trickier and doesn't always work. The easiest method is to blow out the liquid with a "reverse vape".  Simply blow into the drip tip with the clearomizer placed on a paper towel (to absorb any excess). Do this a few times, turn the clearomizer over, repeat and repeat again until nothing else comes out. Then turn it upside down and let it sit overnight with the drip tip off (again on a paper towel).

Hopefully, this will remove all the trapped e-liquid in the center cylinder, allowing you to return to your normal vaping pleasure.

This method also works well for flooded tanks and other similar issues that arise while vaping.

When in doubt... blow it out!


Bottom Coil clearomizers leaking?

If your bottom coil is gurgling then it may be due to the same cause described above.  There may be e-liquid in the center tube or seeping into the center tube.  Use the same "blow out" procedure described previously to clear it.

If your bottom coil clearomizer is leaking, there are a few other items to check:

1. Ensure that the base and coil assembly are fully seated, tight and straight.  In some cases a coil may attach slightly crooked, resulting in a leak.  Remove the coil and twist it on.  There should be no resistance and should take barely any effort to attach the coil to the base.

2. Check to make sure the o-ring seals are intact and fully seated. (See photos below)

3. Last, ensure that the base is on properly, with no gap between the base edge and the clearomizer.

Images (not all bottom coils are the same but these are images of what you should look for.)

1. Check coil o-rings

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2. Check that coil is tight and properly seated on base

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3. Check base o-rings

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3. Check BOTH o-rings

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4. Ensure no gaps between base and clearomizer

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One last thing, keep in mind that this kind of problem may simply be the result of a poorly designed clearomizer or shoddy workmanship. There may be a torn or cut sheath, or other defective piece in the unit.  It's not always your fault. Sometimes you just get a bad one :( 


However due to the ease with which someone can ruin an o-ring , for instance, by over tightening or not putting a coil on properly, these clearomizers are not warrantied for leakage.  We generally carry replacement bases for bad seals and o-rings to purchase when this happens.

If your clearomizer worked initially but is now leaking, it's most likely a seal or simply a bad coil.

In rare cases, leaking can actually be caused by the battery connection or even your e-liquid choice!

Because different manufacturers have different tolerances, there could be as much as 1mm difference between your battery threading and the clearomizer you have purchased.  This extra space can push the coil or center pin of your clearomizer UP, creating just enough room to cause a leak.  Check for this by screwing your clearomizer onto your battery and then backing off a half a turn. In some cases this will stop leaking immediately.


In even rarer cases, the e-liquid composition and/or your device voltage-ohm combination can be a factor.  

For example, excess heat may thin the liquid,  allowing leaking where there might not have been any before. If you want to test your clearomizer or liquid for this, stop vaping; clean the clearomizer and connection; take one vape every 30 seconds and repeat for several minutes.  If the clearomizer stops leaking, it may have been due to the liquid or the voltage-ohm combination.
 

- Eric