The importance of priming your cartomizer, and why things go wrong!

Posted by admin & filed under Electronic Cigarette.

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.

A few conclusions from the tests:

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!


Don't be shellfish...Tweet about this on TwitterPrint this pageEmail this to someoneBuffer this pageDigg thisShare on FacebookFlattr the authorShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on VKShare on Yummly
Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Cherstin Holtzman

    Excellent article, but it hurt my heart to see all those poor, defenseless cartomizers, even though it was in the name of science.

    After vaping for the past six months or so, I’m happy to say I’ve finally gotten the hang of priming. I wish I’d read this months ago, back when I thought “priming” meant to simply drip liquid into the whole top of the cart. I’m glad I stuck with it.

    Word on the street is that your carts used to come pre-primed. Any truth to that, and/or any chance you’ll ever go back? Thanks for a wonderful product.
    Currently vaping Caramel, 10mg, from a large, lime green tank with a passthrough battery. :)

    • admin

      Hi Cherstin, i will get back to you on the pre-primed carts… but thanks for taking the time to reply.

  2. Grolff

    Good article. I hate losing an atomizer because I didn’t soak it enough. I have about 20 tanks and have primed probably 100 of these things. I think you method is a pretty safe way to do it. You definitely want to see fluid come out the predrilled holes. I have my own method that lets me prime one of these in a couple of minutes. I use the following method. Use it at your own risk:

    Tilt the atomizer and fill along the sides, don’t worry if it goes down the hole in middle sometimes. You want some to go down the middle. Its fine because your going to blow on it and force the liquid down later. You are also going to coat the coils in fluid which helps prevent burnt out on your first hit.

    Once you have put about 40-45 drops and have got 4 or 5 drops down the middle, wrap a tissue around the bottom and blow on it until there is little to no “gurgling”. Fluid should come out the bottom and the predrilled holes in the sides.

    Add a few more drops, 10-15 depending on how saturated it looks, for good measure using the tilt method making sure none go down the middle this time.

    Do a couple of quick puffs to prime and you should be good to go.

    I used to just haphazardly fill the atomizer upright to the rim 3 or 4 times and then blow, but you waste too much liquid that way imo.

    *I don’t actually count the drops at this point but it should be around what I stated. It takes some getting used to but its fairly easy after a few times. Just remember its better to be overfilled and flooded than too dry because you can always blow out the excess!

  3. Zack

    Great write up! I experienced a burnt cart the first week I received my Odyssey. I did the same thing as I am a tinkering type of guy by nature and found the same thing. I thought I had primed it enough looking at how the wadding looked from the top and let it sit for about ten minutes thinking that should be plenty of time for it to absorb in but when i removed the wadding it looked the top pics in the post.

    I started turning the cart as I filled and then blowing through it to force the juice to the bottom ( I can be a little impatient at times:) and I can fill it in about 2min and let it sit about 5min and have had great success with this method.

  4. Rachel Goffinet

    Thanks for this article! Something I would like to add this article is about clearing the air flow. If someone overflowes their cartomizer, and the hole with the coil strats to close I found a way to clear it and make the cartomizer last longer. I take a paper clip and bend it straight and insert it carefully from the bottom of the cartomizer until it comes through the top. Then I move it around carefully to clear the tube. This also moves cotton back in place. After taking the paper clip out look through the cartomizer to see if you can see straight through it. If you can’t see through it or if it is off to one side repeat steps to aline the tube straight so you can see straight through it. I found if you overflow the cartomizer that the cotton inside expands and starts to clog the tube inside or moves it out of aliment and this obstructes air flow.

  5. Ashley

    What a great article, also I found all of the comments to be helpful as well! I’ve been vaping for about a month now & this is extremely pertinent information. Thank you so much to all who commented.

  6. Warren

    I also use the blow through method but I’ve also discovered another method that wastes less juice. I use the rubber end caps that come on the blanks, fill the cart with 4 drops while turning,then place the rubber cap on & slowly push the cap down,this forces the liquid down slowly. I repeat this process until a small amount comes out of the pre-drilled holes. then I had a couple more drops then instead of slowly pushing the last time I slam it down with the palm of my hand a couple times. this pushes excess out but doesn’t waste waste alot. then let it sit for 5-10 mins. Works well for me, I discovered this method after destroying a couple of Cartos. I hope this will help someone else, happy vaping everyone.

  7. Linda P

    One thing that no-one mentioned is filling from the bottom using the condom method.

    The rubber cap that usually comes on one or both ends of your carto can be filled half-way with eliquid and then the bottom of the carto slowly lowered in there.
    The carto soaks up the eliquid from the bottom – then fill the top till till it looks slushy.

  8. Brenna bee

    This was so helpful!! I definetly need to be patient and make sure it is soaked!