Fix a Flooded Atomizer

A flooded atomizer happens to just about everyone at one point or another when vaping — and the results are never fun. Your atomizer pops and spits, or you hear gurgling sounds. Your coil doesn’t vaporize e-liquid efficiently. E-liquid may even leak all over your e-cigarette and your hand.

If you’re using a dripping atomizer, flooding usually happens because the wick no longer works efficiently or because you add e-liquid too soon after the last time you dripped. If you’re using a sub-ohm tank, flooding may happen because the tank has been assembled or filled incorrectly. Fixing a flooded atomizer is easy. Preventing it from happening in the future requires a better understanding of the cause.

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Why Is My Atomizer Flooded?

When we discuss flooded atomizers, we’re actually using the same term to describe two different vaping setups. You can flood a dripping atomizer, or you can flood the replaceable atomizer in a tank.

Flooded Dripping Atomizer

Flooded Atomizer RDA

306 atomizer and drip tip (left) and rebuildable dripping atomizer (RDA, right)

If your atomizer looks like either of the ones above, you have a dripping atomizer. The one on the left is a 306 atomizer with drip tip — those aren’t too popular anymore — and the one on the right is a typical rebuildable dripping atomizer. E-liquid reaches the coil through the drip tip at the top.

So, why is your dripping atomizer flooding? It’s flooding because you’re adding too much e-liquid. Your atomizer has a wick that brings e-liquid to the coils and a well that holds a bit of excess e-liquid. If you add more e-liquid than the well can hold, e-liquid will probably leak out of the atomizer.

You might add too much e-liquid because you’re new to dripping — or because you added e-liquid without realizing that there was already e-liquid in the atomizer’s well.

You might also add too much e-liquid because you’re getting dry hits. You assume that the wick is dry, so you add more e-liquid — and your atomizer floods. The actual cause of the dry hits is an old wick that’s either burned in the middle or no longer working efficiently.

Flooded Tank Atomizer

Flooded Atomizer Tank RTA

Sub-ohm tank (left) and rebuildable tank atomizer (RTA, right)

If your atomizer looks like either of the ones above, you have a tank. The unit on the left is a standard sub-ohm tank with a pre-made atomizer that you twist into a hole in the base. The one on the right is a rebuildable tank atomizer.

Why is your atomizer flooding if you’re using a tank? Since a tank gives you a visual cue as to how much e-liquid you’re adding, it’s rare for a tank atomizer to flood due to overfilling. It’s actually much more common to flood a tank atomizer because of an error in putting it together or in building the atomizer coil.

Now that you understand why you have a flooded atomizer, let’s fix it.

Fixing a Flooded Atomizer

Fixing a Flooded RDA

If you experience a flooded atomizer constantly, it’s likely that you’re using an RDA. An RDA is easy to flood because you’re the one controlling the amount of e-liquid that reaches the atomizer.

If you’re new to dripping, it’s possible that you’re flooding the atomizer because you’re simply overestimating how much e-liquid the atomizer requires. A typical RDA holds enough e-liquid for quite a few puffs. While you become accustomed to dripping, you should remove the top of the RDA periodically to see if the wick is actually dry.

If you’re flooding your RDA constantly because you continually get harsh dry hits, it’s likely that there is a problem with the atomizer coil(s) or wick(s).

Faulty Coil Build

Flooded RDA Coil Hot Spot

If a portion of an atomizer coil doesn’t touch the wick, you may flood your atomizer.

Take a look at the picture above. Do you see how the area of the coil inside the red box is uneven with the rest of the coil? That area of the coil doesn’t have full surface contact with the wick. When you puff, that area of the coil will quickly become dry and glow red. You’ll experience a hot, harsh sensation. In the photo, you can see that the wick is already very wet. If you were to add more e-liquid to this setup, you’d flood the atomizer.

You can fire your atomizer with the cap off to see if you have a faulty coil build. If the wick is wet — but a portion of the atomizer glows red — you need to correct your build.

Faulty Wick

You’re experiencing dry hits with your RDA. The harshness causes you to add e-liquid — even though the wick is already wet — and flood your atomizer. You remove the cap of the RDA and test the coil. The coil doesn’t glow red. The next thing that you need to troubleshoot is the wick.

Not Enough Cotton

How much cotton are you using when you build your coils? The cotton should be slightly difficult — only very slightly — to thread through the middle of the coil. If the wick goes through the coil very easily and moves freely back and forth when it’s dry, you haven’t used enough cotton. When you puff, you’ll quickly deplete the e-liquid that’s close to the coil. The puff will become harsh even though plenty of e-liquid remains in the drip well and the outer portion of the wick. When you add more e-liquid, you’ll flood your atomizer.

Burned Cotton

What if you see something like this when you remove the cap of your RDA?

Flooded Atomizer Coil Gunk

If you pulled the wick out of the coil, you’d probably see something like this:

Flooded Atomizer Burned Wick

 

Coil gunk impedes the flow of e-liquid through the wick. With less e-liquid reaching the center of the wick, the cotton eventually burns. Ultimately, there’s almost no material left in the middle of the coil. You begin to experience dry hits even though the wick still appears wet. You add more e-liquid — and the atomizer floods.

You try try to fix this problem by removing the wick and cleaning your atomizer with an alcohol soak or dry burn. For the best possible results, though, you should rebuild your coil.

Fixing a Flooded Sub-Ohm Tank

If you’re using a sub-ohm tank with pre-made coils like the one in the picture below, you don’t directly control the amount of e-liquid that reaches the atomizer. The absorbency of the cotton — and the pressure differential between the tank and the chimney leading out of the tank — do that job for you. These are the two most common signs that your sub-ohm tank has a flooded atomizer:

  • E-liquid leaks through the airflow holes at the bottom of the tank.
  • The tank gurgles and spits e-liquid into your mouth when you try to use it.

Flooded Sub Ohm Tank Atomizer

If you can afford to lose a little e-liquid, you should troubleshoot your tank by disassembling it completely. A typical sub-ohm tank has at least two threaded connections. One connects the atomizer to the base of the tank. The other connects the top of the atomizer or the base of the tank to the chimney or to a cage on the inside or outside of the glass. The threads prevent e-liquid from leaking out of the tank and control the flow of e-liquid from the tank to the atomizer.

Blot the atomizer coil with a paper towel to soak up excess e-liquid, and then carefully fill and reassemble the tank. Reassemble the tank slowly to avoid cross threading. Cross threading could lead to a faulty seal and flood the atomizer.

A sub-ohm tank generally has a few silicone o-rings that help to keep the e-liquid where it’s supposed to be. If you reassemble the tank and the atomizer continues to flood, try replacing the o-rings. It’s likely that one of them no longer creates a reliable seal.

Fixing a Flooded RTA

Rebuildable tank atomizers are notoriously finicky. They often have more removable parts than sub-ohm tanks with pre-built atomizers. To make matters worse, you wrap and wick the coils yourself — which means that you’ll flood the atomizer if you do something wrong.

If you use an RTA, all of the troubleshooting steps for a flooded sub-ohm tank atomizer apply to you, but that isn’t all — you also need to troubleshoot the wick.

An RTA most commonly floods because of wick problems. The fact that many RTAs include no instruction manuals only compounds the problem. Because RTA designs can vary greatly, you may find it helpful to look for a guide explaining how to build and wick coils for your specific RTA model. Lightning Vapes has an excellent series of tutorials covering many popular RTA models. For general help, though, look at the picture below.

Flooded RTA Atomizer

An RTA typically has a sleeve that covers the atomizer. The sleeve separates the atomizer from the e-liquid reservoir — and it has a few holes that allow e-liquid to pass through to the coils. The wicks are the only things that regulate the flow of e-liquid and prevent the atomizer from flooding. When you build RTA coils, make sure that you use plenty of cotton to prevent e-liquid from flowing through too quickly and flooding the atomizer.

Fixing a Flooded 306 or 510 Atomizer

We’ve moved this older content to the bottom of the article as few people use 306 and 510 atomizers today.

When fixing a flooded atomizer, there’s one very important fact that you must keep in mind: if the atomizer’s heating coil is going bad, nothing can fix it. It’s time for a new atomizer. As long as the atomizer is producing some vapor, though, you can clear the excess e-liquid when the atomizer floods and continue using it. All you need is a paper towel.

Disassemble your e-cigarette. If you’re using one of the more common e-smoking setups such as an eGo e-cigarette, this will leave you with a battery, an atomizer, a drip tip and possibly an atomizer cone. Use the paper towel to wipe down the surface of each item, paying special attention to the battery terminal. You may need to fold the paper towel to reach some tight spaces. If necessary, use more than one paper towel to ensure that you don’t get e-liquid on your hands.

Next, replace the drip tip on the atomizer. Fold the paper towel several times and hold it against the end of the atomizer. Blow gently through the drip tip until the atomizer stops gurgling. Reassemble the e-cigarette.

You should now be able to resume e-smoking. Add a little e-liquid, wait for it to saturate the wick and puff away.

Author: eCig One Staff

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31 Comments

  1. Great resource, and I would like to add something to it. You mention using paper towel for clean up, but the best tool is a ‘Q-tip’. I use the paper towel for catching drips and for placing wet parts, but the Q-tip absorbs the excess juice in all the tight spaces. You can even ‘dab’ the Q-tip on the paper towel or rinse/dry it and use it several times.. until it doesn’t look like a Q-tip anymore 🙂

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    • Phreak your right man I always and only use q tips.

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    • a little bit of liquid is on my battery after I detach the atomizer is that normal?

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      • Yes, Jeremy, that’s pretty common if you’re using a typical atomizer because the airflow hole at the bottom can also allow e-liquid to leak when the atomizer is overfilled. For this reason, most e-cigarettes designed for direct dripping with atomizers have sealed battery terminals. This prevents the e-liquid from causing damage to the battery.

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    • I thought the qtip would work better but it kept getting little fibers stuck deep into the terminal, I wasn’t gonna give up, so I took most of the cotton off and flattened the end. Not only did it clean it without leaving an fibers, it was flat enough to get down all the way around the terminal.

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    • What I do in the case of gurgling and it always works is to invert my e-cig ( mouth piece down when not vaping).

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  2. that is great info but. i got a brand new cermamic coil yesterday and cleaned it the e cig all parts so u saying to dump it out the e juice when this happens every time or what thanks

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  3. My vaporizer isn’t working it’s not giving any vape I have an evod bcc and an evod vv what do I do

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    • I have a evod vv and it just quit producing smoke, like 5 mins ago it was fine and the battery isn’t dead, but I wanted to ask if you got yours to work or you know how to fix it, also I tried the flathead screwdriver thing and it didn’t work

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  4. My atomizer ‘flooded’ I use the kangetech areotank and a I had to do was disassemble the clearomizer clean it out and out a new duel bottom coil in it works brand new no need to buy anything new just replace the coil every so often I find that I need to replace mine every week because I vape constantly

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  5. I just recently purchased the starter kit. Its been working great for about a month now, I’ve only changed the liquid cartridges due to one being able to change the coil without buying whole new cartridge. Today after my charge, I inhaled and it tasted horrible. Not burnt but just 100% too strong than normal. I use classic mint 1.8 nicotine but this taste is now way too strong it hurts. Please help. Use to love this taste, now it makes me sick.

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    • Hi Andrew, which e-cigarette tank are you using? If you’ve just changed the coil, it sounds like the new coil might have a lower resistance than the coil you were using previously. That would result in a much hotter, stronger tasting vapor.

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  6. I HAVE NOTHING BUT PROBLEMS bought mine not even a week ago the e- vapor i keep getting a mouth drips of the liquid majorly gross ive cleaned ive took apart let it dry took qtips took a little t.p pushed it through the mouth piece tip it angle to one squeeze nothing is working shoot i want to stop smoking but this is really upsetting.

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    • Answer to this is to spend more on the initial equipment, sorry to say. It can be quite expensive, but how much do you value your life?

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  7. I borought ego one starter mini kit and all i keep getting is gurgling and leaks into mouth..any help please.

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    • My dads did that it was a small oring that was broken allowing the eliquid to leak into his mouth

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  8. Is it normal for my GT mustank to get filled with vape?

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    • No. You must have something cracked

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  9. I got a panzer Blackhawk clone and it was working fine and then all pigs the sudden is stopped working! Help?

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    • Hi Logan, I’m afraid that we don’t have any direct experience with this particular mod. We do plan to publish a general troubleshooting guide for mechanical mods in the near future, though. We would strongly suggest trying a different battery in the meantime, and if you’ve already done that, perhaps you could tell us a bit more about the specific problem you’re having.

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  10. Hi i use a tron-s but this comment is almost general. I did a test. My cig works ok, no gurgling and leaks all perfect. I stop smoke and i just open and close the atmo. I dont refill liquid. Than the atomizer is getting flooded. I cannot understand that.

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  11. Everytime I inhale from my e device the flavor comes in my mouth I am using evod mt3 atomizer and it leaks in the battery area too its new and everytime I use it gives this problem. How can I get rid off it?

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  12. Close the air holes when refilling and changing coils.

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  13. I just bought a vape pen used it one day working fine after refilling it’s leaking into middle chamber, have cleaned it about 20 times and still doing it, is it a faulty pen or what am I not doing right I’ve tried all the tips but still no joy, any advice plz

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  14. I bought an e cig yesterday. It’s a vaptio. I have filled it several times. And it keeps leaking the juice out into the area where the air holes are. Can anyone help. Cheers

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  15. I have the Halo Reactor 50w vape mode.I absolutely love it,no complaints about any leaking,or flooding ect.My only question is..I have the super tank 5ml.I fill it up an by the end of the day the whole 5ml is almost gone? Where or why does it disappear so quickly? It’s a 6mg juice

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    • Hi Jamie,

      It’s not unusual for a sub-ohm mod like the Halo Reactor to use that much e-liquid in a day — or even more. If you’re using 5 ml of e-liquid in a day with a high-powered device, you may actually be using less than the average e-cigarette owner!

      A device that generates big clouds is going to use e-liquid quickly, though.

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  16. Dude I accidently put the e liquid into the atomizer… I mean, that little hole when we remove the mouth piece…. Is that what u call flooding?

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    • Hi Daniel,

      Flooding the atomizer basically describes any situation in which the atomizer contains so much e-liquid that the wick can’t hold all of it. If the atomizer is flooded, the coil will not vaporize e-liquid efficiently and e-liquid may leak out of the atomizer. Putting e-liquid in the center hole will definitely cause flooding.

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  17. I have owned several vapes over the past few years nothing but maintenance always problems. I solved the problem a couple times by going back to smoking where there is no maintenance but just yesterday I decided to try the vaping thing again and what do you know very same day this brand new unit started malfunctioning right away. I took it back to the store they cleaned it out did a few things and guess what ? It did it again so therefore 65.00 wasted dollars..that is a carton of Marlboro’s never again will I waste money on these things trust me they will make you want to smoke due to aggravation.

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    • Brian, it’s awful that you’ve had such bad experiences with e-cigarettes so far. We find that most modern e-cigarettes work almost flawlessly. What sorts of setups have you tried, and why didn’t they work for you?

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