e-Cig 101: How To Fill Cartomizers

One of the things people quickly learn after a short period of time using e-cigarettes is that filling your own cartomizer is a pretty good idea. Blank cartomizers and e-liquid is far less expensive in the long run than buying pre-filled versions.  Using your own e-liquid also opens up an incredibly wide range of flavor choices (see the ecig 101 article on e-liquid to learn more).

Obviously, some cartomizers are far easier to fill than others.  The new range of bottom-coil fillerless clearomizers require nothing special at all, just open and fill.  Other cartomizers like the CE2 and CE3 have their own methods using a needle and syringe.  But the traditional style cartomizers like the SmokTech, Boge and others all share a set of common filling techniques.

Cartomizer Filling Methods

There are a few different methods that e-cigarette users have come up with to simplify the filling process and ensure cartomizers are fully saturated. Each method has differing levels of complexity and efficiency. The most popular in order from simple to complex are drip filling, “condom” filling and syringe filling.

Drip filling a cartomizerThe easiest method to fill a cartomizer is to simply remove the plug at the mouthpiece end and drip a few drops of e-liquid into the filler material at a time.  Be sure to hold the cartomizer at an angle as liquid dripped into the center tube will leak through the battery connector. Repeat the process until the filler material no longer absorbs liquid.

I needed my other hand to take the picture

While simple to execute, there are some drawbacks to this method.  First it is a time-consuming process.  As the filler material becomes more saturated, it takes longer for the liquid to fully be absorbed.  Therefore, a wait of several minutes toward the end of the process may be required to ensure the material is completely wet.

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Dripping too fast when saturating the filling will result in liquid seeping out the battery connector end of the cartridge.  Most cartos ship with silicone rubber caps covering the ends of the cartridge, these covers are also referred to by some users as condoms.  Leave the cover on the battery connector when filling to minimize leakage.

The Condom Method

The “condom” method expands on the leaving the cover on the cartomizer concept. Execution of this method is fairly straightforward.  Take the bottom covering from the cartridge and place 8-10 drops of e-liquid into the condom.

Hold the condom when pushing the cartridge in

Insert the cartomizer part way in the silicone sleeve, until the bottom of the cartridge is nearly touching the liquid.  Quickly push the cartridge the rest of the way into the sleeve.  This push rapidly forces the liquid into the cartridge where it is absorbed by the filler material.

Repeat the process as needed until the cartomizer is completely filled.  This method requires a little bit of practice to learn the best way to fill the cartomizer with minimal wasted liquid.  This method does tend to be messier than other filling options.

The syringe cartomizer filling method

The syringe filling method is by contrast a very clean method of filling cartos with minimal wasted liquid.  The downside to this method is it requires the user to carry around syringe and needle (preferably blunt-tipped to avoid injury). Some users do not feel comfortable carrying around and using syringes.

Pull the syringe out as you press the plunger

Syringe filling is a simple process.  Draw up a little less than the amount of liquid your cartridge is designed to hold.  Cartomizers often hold slightly less liquid than their rated capacity. Insert the needle into the cartridge between the filler and the metal tube.  Gently work the needle to the bottom of the cartridge.  This can take a little finesse if the filler material is tightly packed.

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Once the needle is at the bottom of the cartridge, begin depressing the plunger and inject half the liquid while slowly pulling the needle out of the cartridge.  This will cause the filler to absorb liquid from bottom to top as the needle moves up the cartridge.

Repeat the process on the other side of the cartridge.  The filler may become fully saturated before the syringe is completely emptied.  Liquid will begin to pool at the top of the cartridge.  Let the cartridge rest for a few minutes to fully absorb the liquid.  Once the filler appears unable to absorb more liquid, the cartridge is full.

Overfilling Cartomizers

It is possible to overfill cartomizers.  This is likely to happen until the user has gained enough practice to intuitively know when a cartridge is properly saturated.  Overfilled cartos tend to make a gurgling noise, have a very stiff draw, or may even result in small amounts of liquid being pulled into the mouth when attempting to puff the e-cigarette.

There is no need to panic

The remedy for overfilling is fairly simple.  Pick up the cartridge and cover the open end with a paper towel or cloth.  Gently blow into the battery end of the cartridge, forcing excess liquid into the towel.

Once the cartridge is initially filled, the key to longevity is to ensure the filler material stays well saturated with e-liquid.  Saturated liquid will minimize the chance of the filler burning, ruining the cartridge.  Most users prefer to simply drip liquid into the cartomizer occasionally during use to keep the saturation levels steady.

Topping off Cartomizers
In general, most of the methods outlined above are meant for initial cartomizer filling. Once the cartomizer is filled, the game changes to simply keeping the filler material well saturated with liquid. While the filler inside cartomizers is heat resistant, when dry it will scorch if the material is exposed to hot coils.

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Drip tips come in many colors and designs

Keeping the material saturated is very simple. Using the drip method above, simply re-apply e-liquid after ever 10-15 drags on your e-cigarette. This will only require a few drops, just enough to replace the liquid consumed.  

Some vapers prefer to use drip tips to help with this process. This allows for easy top-offs without having to constantly remove the end cap. Simply drip your liquid through the hole in the drip tip and continue. Drip tips are available at most e-cigarette merchants that sell general supplies. Check the e-cigarette vendor list for a few options.

Start Filling!
Keeping your cartomizer properly filled can extend the life of the device considerably. While cartomizers are still considered to be disposable, and will degrade over time, you can expect to get several uses out of the average cartomizer. Using e-liquid will also help with the cost savings, allowing you to shop around for not only your favorite flavor, but good deals as well.

Once you start filling your own cartomizers, the cost savings really begin to add up. Be sure to check the e-cigarette hardware and accessories reviews category for cartomizer reviews. Visit the vendors page where you can find quite a few general e-cigarette merchants who stock both e-liquid and cartomizers.

If you want to learn more about e-liquid: eCig 101: e-Liquid
To learn more about cartomizers: E-Cig 101: More About Cartomizers

Title Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Steve K

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  • I already know the answer to this, but if the carto holds 1.5 ta' 2 ml of juice, WHY OH WHY am I having to drip every 10-15 puffs? This always had me scratching my head. If the filler is that inefficient, ya might as well be drippin', or "tanking". I went ego-T/C partly because of this.

    • It's not quite as inefficient as it may seem.  Most cartos hold a little less than they're rated for.  So figure a carto (depending on capacity) really holds between .8 to 1.4 ml of e-liquid.  1ml of e-liquid is about 20 drops.  So if you're refilling with 10 drops in a 1ml carto, that's pretty much half the carto anyway.  Topping off early is mostly a strategy to keep the filler from getting dry which could burn it, rendering the carto useless.  It's more a thing to prolong the life than something that HAS to be done quite so often.  That being said, I vastly prefer using cartomizer tanks like the Big Daddy or Smoktech I reviewed a while back, or juice feeders.  I just don't like to have to stop and mess with e-liquid if I don't have to :)

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