Rebuildable atomizers are some of the most varied components in vaping. In addition to a wide selection of different atomizers, each one can be built in a number of ways. Rather than replacing a premade coil, rebuildables require you to wrap your own coil. You can choose the wire type, size, wicking material, etc., and that means that rebuilding is the most effective way to perfectly tailor your vape the way you want it.
There are several types of rebuildable atomizers (RBAs). The most common is the rebuildable dripping atomizer (RDA). RDAs are made for dripping, and don’t hold any more liquid than the wick and drip well can absorb. RDAs are usually the best for cloud-chasing, but also offer great flavor. Rebuildable tank atomizers (RTAs) do hold liquid and are generally larger than RDAs. They’re slightly more difficult to build depending on the particular RTA you’re using, but the majority of modern RBAs are relatively easy to build. Last, we have rebuildable dripping tank atomizers (RDTAs). It may sound counter-intuitive, but RDTAs are a sort of hybrid between RDAs and RTAs. They will usually have a deck similar to an RDA, but also some sort of reservoir to hold a bit of e-liquid.
That’s a lot of letters to remember, so let’s make it easy: RDAs, RTAs, and RDTAs all fall under the RBA, or rebuildable atomizer, category. RDAs are dripping atomizers, RTAs are tanks, and RDTAs take some features from both.
There are pros and cons to each type of RBA, but keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and there are a few exceptions. RDAs are the easiest to build and use. This is mainly due to the fact that you’ll be dripping liquid directly on the coil, so you don’t have to worry about wicking. RDAs are also the best type of atomizer for cloud-chasing. Many are designed with huge airflow potential and have the most room for large coils. On the other hand, RDAs are the messiest RBA. Because of the nature of RDAs, the liquid isn’t held in a sealed tank, and it tends to “spit” or splatter out of the airflow holes when fired. This is generally a small price to pay for the performance that you get, but in certain circumstances, it might be inconvenient to keep your device upright at all times.
RTAs offer the most convenience, but can be difficult to wick correctly. Instead of simply absorbing liquid like an RDAs wick, the wick in an RTA but move your e-liquid from the reservoir to the coil. Depending on the design of the tank and the thickness of the e-liquid that you’re using, you may need to adjust the amount and/or length of wick you’re using. If it’s too loose, your tank can leak. Too tight, and you’ll get dry hits. In addition, many RTAs have smaller decks, which means you’ll need to build smaller coils and they may be more difficult to install. Tanks generally have less airflow potential compared to RDAs, and that can provide better flavor. However, the comparison of flavor and vapor production between RTAs and RDAs is going to depend on many things, so make sure to research any RBA you’re considering before buying.
RDTAs are surprisingly varied when it comes to design and what they’re designed for. For the most part, they will have a large build deck, similar to an RDA, and as such will accept RDA builds. However, they’ll also have a reservoir that holds a relatively small about of liquid; usually less than an RTA. Longer wicks are usually required, and that means you have to worry about dry hits, but it’s more lenient than an RTA. RDTAs are difficult to make blanket statements about since they’re all very different. However, many are top-coil and resemble a Genesis-style atomizer with the deck on top and the reservoir below. Unlike traditional Genesis tanks, RDTAs have an RDA deck and work best when wicked with cotton as opposed to stainless steel.
Speaking of wicking materials, there are a handful of options. The most popular is organic cotton. It’s affordable, easy to find, and minimally affects the flavor of your e-liquid. There are many different brands of cotton, but the 2 main styles are cotton balls and Japanese cotton pads. One isn’t inherently better than the other, but I encourage you to try both and find what works best. Another option is rayon, which is basically synthetic cotton. Like cotton, it’s extremely inexpensive, but you may need to search the internet to find it since it is more rare to find in stores. While cotton will expand when e-liquid is applied, rayon will actually shrink. This means you’ll need to wick it tighter than cotton to compensate. Again, it’s impossible to say which is better, so you’ll need to try it for yourself to make a determination. Silica and stainless steel can still be used for many RBAs, but they’ve largely fallen out of popularity over the last few years. Silica doesn’t burn, but it tends to be more expensive and harder to find than cotton, while not being as absorbent and muting flavor. Stainless steel can offer some of the best flavor, but its extremely difficult to work with and must be treated before using it as a wick. Unless you’re using a traditional Genesis-style tank, avoid using stainless steel as a wick. With modern atomizers, it doesn’t offer any advantage.
Next we have wire type, size, and shape. First, you should determine what type of wire you want. If you’re building for temperature control, you’ll want nickel, titanium, or stainless steel. Just make sure your mod can support the wire type. For wattage mode, Kanthal A-1 or NiChrome work best. Stainless steel is unique because it can be used in wattage mode or temperature control mode. The next thing you need to determine is size. Size in measured by the gauge of the wire, and 26-gauge is a good place to start. The higher the gauge, the thinner the wire and the higher the resistance. For example, compared to 22-gauge, 26-gauge is thinner and will give you a higher resistance if you use the exact same coil in terms of diameter and number of wraps. The most common size is 24-gauge, which is a good balance between resistance and ease-of-use. Remember, wire that is too thin will be difficult to wrap because of its “springiness” and tendency to break. Wire that is too thick will require a good amount of finger strength to manipulate, and may result in a resistance that is too low for your mod or batteries. Thick wire also takes longer to heat up and requires more power.
Last, you have wire shape. Round wire is the basic shape that’s perfect if you’re just starting out. Flat wire can still be found and offers more surface area that heats up more evenly. However, it’s more difficult to build with and has mostly been replaced with more complex wire in recent years. The most basic of the complex wire shapes is Clapton wire. Clapton wire is a thick wire with thinner wire wrapped around it so that it resembles a guitar string, hence the name. Almost all complex wire is based on the basic Clapton, and some people go as far as wrapping their own Clapton wire, although it is possible to find pre-made wire too. Fused Clapton wire is a parallel wire (2 round wires touching, parallel to each other) with a thinner wire wrapped around them. Alien wire is similar, except the thinner wire has been warped to give it a wavy look. There are many other similar wire shapes, but they lie beyond the scope of this guide. Just know that they are out there and mostly used by hobbyist vapers. However, there is a good reason to consider trying Clapton or fused Clapton wire.
First and foremost, it’s relatively easy to find on a spool, meaning you treat it as any round wire and don’t need to make it yourself. Secondly, Clapton wire actually absorbs some e-liquid. This gives a few advantages. First, it can improve flavor compared to round wire. The heat is internalized to where the liquid is and acts more like an oven. The difference is subtle, but worth it for some. Additionally, Clapton wire doesn’t produce dry hits as often as round wire since it has a greater surface area. It spreads the heat out, which also means it has a wider range of power that it works well with. And, because the wire itself absorbs some liquid on its own, it encourages improved wicking in tanks. So there are advantages to using some type of Clapton wire, but the difference may not be worth the additional cost or learning curve for new vapers looking to rebuild. More advanced users that don’t wish to make their own wire will most likely get some value out of buying pre-spooled Clapton or fused Clapton wire to wrap their coils.
When it comes to rebuilding, there’s a lot to learn. Most of this comes from experience, and just to get started, you only need to know a few basics. The result is the best vape experience you can get, because you can choose better quality material than what comes with pre-made coils, and you can tailor your vape exactly the way you like it. Many people find the learning curve well-worth the payoff, and many who start rebuilding never go back. That said, it’s definitely possible to continue using standard vape gear. Even hobbyist vapers with extensive collections of atomizers and mods occasionally turn to subohm tanks or even AIO devices when they need something more convenient or something less valuable if there’s a high chance of their vape getting lost, damaged, or stolen.
Every vaper should try rebuilding at least a few times. It’s not for everyone, but you’ll never know until you try and the learning curve has been greatly mitigated over the last few years with new designs making building easier and easier. If you’re wondering what you need to get started, the bare minimum will do. You can find everything you need right here at Madvapes:
• 24-Gauge Kanthal A-1
• Rebuilding Kit (Or scissors, screwdriver, and pliers as a bare minimum.)
• Mod Suitable for your Chosen RBA
• E-Liquid and Batteries (If Applicable)
If you need to know how to rebuild, a picture’s worth 1000 words, and a video is worth 1000 pictures. Be sure to check out our YouTube channel, which has several videos showing how to rebuild the most common atomizers.
There’s an RBA for every type of vaper. Your favorite vape is only slight dedication and a small investment away!