Tankomizers – for some a consistent vaping experience, for others an emotional rollercoaster. This week has been “Odyssey cartomizer week” in Customer Service, and the over-riding majority of customer returns have turned out to be incorrectly primed. I decided it was about time I got to the bottom of what happens during priming. Lots of us think we know, but few have checked.
Let’s start with the basic idea. I’ve previously discussed the internals of the cartomizer. We have a heater coil wrapped in an effective “wicking cloth”, and surrounded by absorbent wadding material which mediates the fluid flow from tank to wick. The idea of priming is to fill the wadding material, but more importantly to fully wet the wicking material so that it cannot be burnt by the heater coil; and it really does burn with a foul taste. Worse than that, once the wicking material has been burnt the cartomizer will never function effectively again.
I devised an experiment, which looks a little amateur because the Product Development Lab is only half built, but actually gave me all the results I needed to understand what’s going on. It also helped me understand that cartomizers will burn dry wicking material almost instantaneously, and that the damage is irreversible.
I took a heap of new cartomizers, and primed them with different quantities of e-liquid, and left them for different time periods. I used Gold Standard pre-mixed Liquorice at 18 mg/ml because it’s dark, so I could see how far it had got. I then “fired” each cart on a fully charged Odyssey to see what happened, and quickly stripped the cartomizer to see where fluid had got to. First off was to use approximately 0.5 ml of fluid, and leave the carts for 5, 10, 15 and 20 minutes.
Predictably enough, the fluid quantity was insufficient, and I ended up with 3 burnt cartomizers. More interestingly, with too little fluid, leaving the cart for a long time makes little difference. Obvious? Well yes it is, but there’s a bit of a follow up to this. The other interesting thing is to see how permanent the damage due to burning is – these cartomizers are effectively pushing up daisies despite only having been fired for about a second. Further priming will not change that.
The second test was to prime 4 cartomizers with 0.5 ml, leave for 20 minutes, then to add another 0.5 ml and leave for 5, 10, 15 and 20 minutes respectively. I then fired each cart and stripped to inspect. I must say I was a bit surprised by the result:
The fluid had been absorbed far less than I expected by the wadding, but far more than I expected by the wicking cloth. The only cartomizer that could be described as remotely well primed was the one that had been left for 25 minutes with 0.5 ml (yeah, yeah, I know I said 20, but ended up with results turning up like buses just after 3.00 pm!), and then 20 minutes with another 0.5 ml. However, NONE of the 4 cartomizers burnt when tested briefly, as the wicking material had done its job so well.
Next up was to try some tests with more fluid and a longer soak time. I primed one cart with 4 shots of 0.5 ml, leaving 3 minutes after the first shot, and 5 minutes after each subsequent shot. This led to fairly complete priming. I also tried the same thing with 10 minutes intervals between shots, and this gave a very thorough prime without flooding the cartomizer.
Successful priming requires enough e-liquid to soak the wadding fairly completely.
It also requires sufficient time for the fluid to move through the wadding.
Pressing the button on an un-primed or unsuccessfully primed cartridge renders it useless.
I chased this up with Alain – a very experienced vaper as well as being the TW Sales and Marketing Manager. As ever he had a fool-proof method, but the way in which he used the method was difficult to elucidate – so had never made it into a manual. We’ve done some work on it, and here it is:
Before first use, every cartomizer must be ‘primed’ with e-liquid. Failure to do so will cause permanent damage to the cartomizer and affect both the performance of the cartomizer and the flavour produced by the device. Holding the tank at an angle as illustrated (FIG 1), drip e-liquid onto the inside wall of the cartomizer allowing it to run down into the wadding material whilst gently rotating the cartomizer as shown (FIG2). Continue to rotate the cartomizer whilst adding more e-liquid, watching it soak into the material and adding more as it is absorbed (FIG 3&4). Continue this process until fluid starts to emerge from both 1 mm holes close to the cartomizer base (FIG 5). This typically takes 5 – 10 minutes. After filling the tank, fit the mouthpiece. Without pressing the power button, take two short, sharp draws on the mouthpiece to initiate fluid flow from tank to cartomizer. Your tank is now ready for use.
I won’t get into syringe priming, but if you ask on any DCT forum they can tell you about it. It works really well, but only if you’ve got a syringe…
Next time, battery technology unclouded. Until then – Happy Vaping!