Hot-pops, spit-backs, and leaking might sound like names from some kind of hip-hop crime-fighting cartoon team, but they are the names of phenomena that, if you have spent any time vaping (particularly with higher-powered mods), you will have undoubtedly encountered. But what do they mean? What are the root causes of these common and sometimes infuriating occurrences? And can anything be done to prevent them?
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or have just started your vaping journey, or if you prefer tank mods, drippers, or anything else, keep reading this article for the ultimate guide in ensuring a smooth, pleasurable, and stress-free vaping experience.
What does leaking mean in vaping?
Leaking, as the name implies, is a broad term that, when used in the context of vaping, describes any situation where the e-liquid (“juice”) escapes from somewhere it is meant to be and ends up somewhere it isn’t, such as the airflow system, the inside of your coat or all over the work notes that were in your bag…
Like all calamities, leaks can vary in severity from a few drops that you may not even notice, to a full-scale deluge that ends up[ leaving everything in its wake sticky and smelling like a perfume truck has slammed into a French bakery.
Often it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact location of the leak, and this can lead to some frustrating (and messy) situations.
Fortunately, if your vaping device does spring a leak, there tends to be a few common offenders, some very easy steps you can take to remedy the predicament.
How to stop Leaks from Happening
Verify your seals
More often than not, leakage from your vape is attributable to user error. The most common error that can cause your e-liquid to make a break for freedom is simply not screwing your tank back together properly., The thread between tanks and their lids tends to be very fine, and even a slight misalignment of the grooves can result in an imperfect seal.
Store your tank vertically
Some tanks, particularly older models, suffer from a flaw in their design that means that they leak if stored horizontally for extended periods. Normally this is because of back-flow through the wick and into the airflow.
Fortunately, this sort of leakage is easily avoided by changing your practices. As long as you remember to keep your vape from being on its side as much as possible, you should be fine. Or just buy a newer tank that doesn’t have these particular sorts of issues.
Check your grommets
If your tank has rubber grommets or O-rings around the seals it’s a good idea to check the integrity of these as well. Rubber degrades over time, and micro-perforations can result in leaks that are very hard to detect.
Modify your vaping technique
Occasionally, leakage is not caused by any structural problem with the vaping apparatus itself, but instead through the habits of the user.
Inhaling too forcefully can cause numerous problems. Puffing too hard can lead to an overabundance of juice in your coil, which can in turn result in leakage from your device.
Avoid overfilling your vaporizer
Do not fill your tank all the way to the top. Leaving a small gap for air at the top can help prevent e-juice from escaping from the seals, mouthpiece, or air holes. If you experience leakage while filling up your tank, slowing down can help alleviate that.
Examine your vape for damage
Cracks in the glassware are usually one of the most obvious causes of leakage from your vape. Occasionally though, very small hairline cracks can develop over time that can escape detection. Be sure to inspect your vape thoroughly now and then to check for any signs of damage.
As well as cracks to the glassware, it can pay dividends to keep a close watch for any bent pieces of metal, particularly around the joints. Even small deformations in the body can, over time, cause vape juice to leak out (and probably all over your belongings!)
Make sure your juice ratios are right!
Cloud-chasing is the term used to describe vaping with powerful devices that can, as the name suggests, put out very large quantities of vape. The benefits (aside from looking badass) reported by vapers include a better mouthfeel and flavor profile.
Cloud-chasing uses coils that require a lot of power, and using any e-liquid with less than 70% vegetable glycerine can easily result in some leakage due to its lower viscosity.
Take care when making your coils
If you are deep enough into vaping that your method of choice is an RDA (rebuildable dripper atomizer) or similar, you are probably already aware of the importance of getting the quantity of cotton just right. If you use too much cotton you are liable to have a very restricted airflow and find it hard to vape at all. If you overdo it on the cotton front you may even experience dry and burnt hits.
On the other hand, using too little cotton can result in leakage of e-juice from your vape. Unfortunately, only trial and error can give you a feel for how much cotton is “right”. If you’re just starting with RDAs, resign yourself to the fact that you will probably smell like e-liquid for at least the first few times you make a new coil.
What is spitback?
If you’ve ever taken a nice deep drag on your vape, and instead of a satisfying hit of vapor, you were treated to a mouth full of ultra-hot droplets of e-juice that may well have left you gasping. If you’ve had this experience, then congratulations! You’ve encountered the painful world of spitback.
What Causes Spitback?
Fortunately, spitback has a fairly straightforward cause. When the cotton wick inside a vape becomes oversaturated with e-liquid, some of the liquid can begin to pool around the metal part of the coil itself. When this happens and the device is fired, heat isn’t transferred evenly to all of the e-liquid, and some of it remains in liquid form rather than turning into an aerosol. Similar to the way a hot frying pan will spit like crazy if water is introduced to the surface, these superheated drops can make their way through your mouthpiece and onto your unfortunate palate.
What Is Popping?
The gentle popping and crackling as you fire up your vape is an experience that many people (including myself) find quite relaxing. Reminiscent of an open fire, or maybe the sound of a burning cigarette, popping can add a pleasant soundtrack to an already pleasant moment.
Popping can be thought of as a milder form of spitback, and often comes along with it. The cause is the same as with spitback, but instead of making its way up through the mouthpiece, the super-heated drops of e-liquid either strike the sides of the chamber or transform into vapor entirely.
How to Minimize Spitback and Popping
Unless you settle for a very low-powered vaping device, such as a pen or stick vape, it is unlikely that you will be able to eliminate spitting and popping from your life. Fortunately, however, there are many steps you can take to at least minimize popping, and more importantly, spitting.
To avoid a mouthful of burning hot e-liquid:
Don’t overdo “priming”
Priming should be done any time you change your coil. Essentially, priming a coil involves manually dripping e-juice onto the cotton wick of your coil before fully installing it and filling up your tank for first use. The idea is to make sure the wick is fully coated, which can help create a wicking effect that speeds up the absorption process and gets you vaping down those delicious flavors faster.
Slow and steady wins the race
When you take a puff on your vape, ensure your inhalation is gentle and consistent. Putting too much force into your in-breath can result in flooding of your chamber. If you practice soft inhalations and still encounter issues with popping or spitting, try adjusting the airflow valve (if your tank has one).
Crank up the volts
If your coil doesn’t get sufficiently hot to rapidly transform the e-juice into an aerosol, spitbacks and popping can quickly follow. Fortunately, the kinds of vaping devices that are most likely to experience these phenomena also usually come equipped with variable power. Simply crank up the power by a few watts at a time and see if this resolves your issue.
Down with the thickness
PG and VG are both used in varying ratios to form the base of all e-liquids. VG is a lot thicker than PG at room temperature, and this higher viscosity means it is less able to seep through small gaps. If you are having issues with spitting, switch to an e-liquid with a higher ratio of VG to PG.
Stick with regular coils
As well as the standard round wire, there are some different coil styles available, such as twisted coils and Clapton coils. Many users report worse popping and spitting with these types of non-regular coils, so your best bet is to stick with the tried and tested round kanthal and cotton combination.
Switch up your drip tips
The drip tip, also known as the mouthpiece, provides a buffer between your breathing parts and any rogue drops of super-hot e-liquid that try and escape. If you use a drip tip and still encounter spitback, you could try using a drip tip that is specifically designed to counteract spitback.
Good drip tips to use if you want to avoid spitting come in a few different designs. Many will have a steep bend, curve, or angle to them. Others rely on their extremely long length to achieve the same spitback-reducing effect.
Keep everything clean
By far and away the leading cause of spitting is due to excessive amounts of e-liquid entering the coil from the reservoir. However, if your chimney is particularly gunked up, juice can collect and roll back down into the chimney which causes a similar pooling effect. The solution to this is thankfully simple: Using a wad of kitchen roll (toilet paper can shed fibers into your device – Not ideal!) remove your drip tip and clean down into the chimney. As well as removing any residue, using a kitchen towel can help soak up any excess e-juice that might otherwise linger.
When all else fails, fire away
If you think you may have over-primed your coil or sucked on the mouthpiece a little too hard, there’s an easy solution that will prevent any unpleasant and potentially painful spitback. Simply fire up the device a few times by “pulsing” the power button until you hear the popping sounds diminish entirely.
Vaping technology has come a long, long way since it first became a thing. Nevertheless, some degree of customization and trial and error is usually required to achieve your perfect vape. Most of the causes of spitting and popping are eminently avoidable by taking the steps outlined above. However, if you work through all of the troubleshooting points we highlighted and still experience issues, you may need to purchase a new tank.
As the technology inside vapes continues to evolve and develop, spitback may become a non-issue in much the same way that many of the problems associated with the earliest vapes no longer exist. Until then, the occasional pop or spitback is a small price to pay for the myriad benefits that come with making the switch from smoking tobacco to using an electronic cigarette.