It's Time for Mechanical Mods to Go Away
Jason Artman is the owner and author of eCig One. This article reflects the author's personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Exhale Cigarettes.
Some years ago, I embarked on a project that would go on to consume many, many hours of my time. I decided that I would attempt to compile a list of every e-cigarette explosion that's ever been reported in the English-speaking media. In creating the list, I would examine the circumstances surrounding each explosion and attempt to document what went wrong. The resulting report, I hoped, would paint a succinct picture of why e-cigarette batteries explode and provide a few simple steps that anyone could follow to minimise the chance of the worst occurring to them.
My list of e-cigarette explosions was the first of its type and remains the most comprehensive resource on e-cigarette battery explosions available anywhere. It is the most important document on eCigOne.com, and maintaining it is a significant time investment. Before I compiled the list, I was very aware of the amount of work that lay ahead. What I didn't know, though, was that I'd end up forming an opinion held so passionately that I'll preach endlessly about it to anyone who cares to listen: Mechanical mods need to go away.
The Dangerous Truth About Mechanical Mods
To date, I've documented 274 e-cigarette or e-cigarette battery explosions reported in the media. I still have dozens more that require research. Of the events that I've documented, though, 73 (26.6 percent) happened during use. An e-cigarette explosion that happens during use is the worst possible kind.
- These are the explosions that happen during inhaling.
- These are the explosions that knock teeth out and cause permanent oral damage.
- These are the explosions that have caused at least two confirmed deaths.
When an e-cigarette explodes during use, it is almost always a mechanical mod.
The Mechanical Modís Place in History
To understand why mechanical mods gained such a foothold in the vaping industry, you only need to consider the poor quality of the mass-produced vaping devices that were available in the early days. Cig-a-likes have never had the power or battery life necessary to support serious vaping. Slightly more powerful devices ñ such as the eGo e-cigarette ñ appeared in 2009, but even those devices couldn't produce the power that many vapers craved.
Vaping hobbyists with a bit of electrical know-how looked at commonly available rechargeable batteries such as the popular 18650 cell and saw an opportunity. The 18650 battery was a popular power source for flashlights. It would be simple enough to adapt a flashlight body for vaping by adding a 510 interface at the top and a simple mechanical switch at the bottom. At the then-common atomiser coil resistance of 1.5 ohm, a single 18650 battery could easily supply the necessary power for all-day vaping while providing top-notch vapor production.
It didn't take mechanical mods long to catch on. Hobbyists around the world built their own. Some of those hobbyists formed small businesses and earned reasonable money selling mechanical mods. Before long, overseas factories were producing inexpensive mechanical mods in bulk. Since mechanical mods have no electronic components, they're cheap to produce. Today, Chinese-made mechanical mods remain some of the most affordable vaping devices on the market.
There's just one problem: today's vaping tanks and atomisers have almost nothing in common with what was available before the sub-ohm vaping era began. Atomiser coils have fundamentally changed, but mechanical mods remain the same.
The Demands of Modern Vaping Coils
If you use a mechanical mod, the electrical relationships put forth in Ohm's Law should be near and dear to your heart. Let's use Ohm's Law to see how the vaping world has changed over the past decade. You've got a single-battery mechanical mod with a fully charged 4.2-volt battery.
- If you connect a 1.5-ohm atomiser, your mechanical mod will operate at 11.76 watts and produce a current of 2.80 amps.
- If you connect a 0.3-ohm atomiser, your mechanical mod will operate at 58.80 watts and produce a current of 14.00 amps.
The demands that vapers place on their batteries have increased exponentially since the early days ñ and the above example is a relatively tame usage scenario. Some people build coils as low as 0.1 ohm for mechanical mods. A 0.1-ohm coil draws a current of 42.00 amps at 4.2 volts. That's well above the safe continuous discharge limit of any 18650 battery.
Isn't User Error the Cause of Mechanical Mod Explosions?
Because mechanical mods are inexpensive and commonly available, many new vapers buy them. If you're still fairly new to vaping, there's one fact about mechanical mods that you must keep in mind: The fact that mechanical mods have no internal electronics means that they offer no safety protection whatsoever.
If you're a long-term vaper, you already know that mechanical mods have no safety features. You've studied the circumstances surrounding e-cigarette explosions, and you've concluded they're the regrettable ñ but preventable ñ result of user error.
- If only he hadn't connected the wrong tank to his hybrid modÖ
- If only he hadn't built a coil that stretched his battery past its safety limitsÖ
- If only he hadn't inserted a battery with a damaged wrapper into a metal tubeÖ
While it's true that you can attribute most e-cigarette battery explosions to user error, you're deluding yourself if you conclude based on that information that an explosion can't happen to you. Do you check the resistance of every coil you build? Do you check the pin on the bottom of your tank to confirm that it's safe for use with a hybrid mod? Do you check your battery for damage to the wrapper? Do you test your batteries voltage? Do you put your battery through a test suite to confirm that the manufacturer's stated discharge limit is accurate? Do you do all of those things every time you vape?
The safety circuit in a regulated mod runs through all of those checks each time you press the fire button. A mechanical mod, meanwhile, does absolutely nothing to keep you safe and a failure in any of the areas mentioned above could lead to a dangerous situation. User error could very easily happen to anyone.
The Benefits of Mechanical Mods Are Increasingly Irrelevant
Many experienced vapers hold fast to their mechanical mods in spite of the danger. A mechanical mod is a tube with a battery. Vaping laws may change, but no government regulation can take a battery tube away from you. Mechanical mods can just about last forever. A mechanical mod fires instantly when you press the button. Mechanical mods are also very cheap to buy. Those are real benefits. In the modern vaping landscape, though, several of the primary selling points of mechanical mods simply aren't as relevant as they once were.
- Many modern vaping tanks don't work well at 4.2 volts. Without the ability to vary your device's power level, you'll either burn your tank is wick because the power level is too high, or you'll experience poor vapor production because the power level is too low.
- A modern chipset for a regulated mod can fire a coil more quickly than you can blink your eyes. The instant firing of mechanical mods is no longer a major selling point.
- Most single-battery mechanical mods can ít deliver more than 100 watts of power. To get that kind of wattage, you'll need to use a dual-battery mod ñ and using two batteries means double the chance of failure.
- The price difference between regulated and mechanical mods is minimal because regulated mods are much less expensive than they once were.
It's Time for Mechanical Mods to Go Away
Regulated mods have changed over the years to keep pace with the latest tanks and rebuildable atomisers. Mechanical mods have not. We demand more than ever out of our vaping devices, and a mechanical mod does nothing to ensure that it can meet your demands safely. A good regulated mod, on the other hand, looks after your safety while providing a far better vaping experience than a mechanical mod could possibly manage. Why are you still using a mechanical mod? It ís time for mechanical mods to go away. Leave them behind in the history of the vaping industry where they belong.