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Ch. 5 Clearos, and Cartos, and Tanks (Oh My)

Part of what makes e cigs so great

is the fact that they’re so customizable – but that’s also what may make them seem a little confusing (okay, a lot confusing). Once you have your battery picked out, you’ll need an “atomizer” (it’s how we’ll generically refer to different types of e cig heating element/tank combinations out there) to transform your e juice liquid into tasty vapor. But with all of the options out there, how the hell do you choose? There’s all these weird words like clearomizer, cartomizer, atomizer, and burger-meister floating around (ok, not burger-meister, but it rolls off the tongue – doesn’t it?). The good news is if you choose a battery with 510 threading AND ego threading, then the majority of atomizers will probably screw right on to your battery. But even if they all fit, you’ll still want to know what they are, what to expect, and how to choose.

Get Down and Dirty With the Basics

Alright, all atomizers essentially do the same thing. They connect to a battery, there’s some sort of e juice reservoir that draws the e juice to the heating element, the heating element gets hot, and vapor is produced – that’s it. The difference between atomizers is in the different types and placement of materials used to execute this procedure.

Now you might be thinking: “If that’s all that happens, can clearomizers, cartomizers, and any other type of mizer really be that different? Does it really matter which one I choose?” The answer to both questions is a resounding YES! Different atomizers have different advantages and disadvantages. Some will be easier to use, some will taste better, and some will produce better vapor. Now that we have a general understanding, let’s take a closer look at two of the most common atomizers for a beginner e cig set up.

1. Clearomizers – Also Known As “Clearos”

Clearos consist of a tank (plastic or glass), a heating element called a coil, and a wick that draws the liquid to the heating element. There are top coil and bottom coil clearomizers, describing the relative coil placement in the tank. Top coil clearomizers are less expensive but arguably produce less flavor than bottom coil clearomizers.

Clearomizers Come in Disposable and Replaceable Coil Options

Do yourself a favor, and get ones that you can purchase replacement coils for. This will save you money in the long run so you can spend your money on sampling delicious e juice. Replaceable coil clearos are great because you can extend their life by cleaning them. But when the time comes to replace your coil, it’s usually only around 1-2 USD a piece (depending on your make and model).

You Can Purchase Either Glass or Plastic Clearos

While plastic clearos are undoubtedly cheaper, we definitely recommend splurging the extra dolla bills on a glass clearomizer. Acidic juices, and some cinnamon based flavors, are known to destroy plastic tanks. Don’t worry, those flavors won’t destroy your lungs, it’s just the chemical makeup of different flavorings that react with the plastic. It’s best to purchase a glass unit, so all you have to worry about is which delicious flavor to try next – instead of worrying about which juices might crack your tank.

Clearos Are Extremely Easy to Fill With Juice and Maintain

If you want to switch flavors all you have to do is clean it out and fill it with your new e juice. While certain strong flavors might be difficult to completely remove, you shouldn’t have any issues if you follow this method.

  • Plastic Clearomizer

    Plastic Clearomizer

  • Glass Clearomizer

    Glass Clearomizer

  • Sub-Ohm Tanks

    Sub-Ohm Tanks

2. Cartomizers – Also Known As “Cartos”

Cartos are metallic cylinders packed with a dense poly-fill material surrounding a heating element. Cartomizers produce great flavor. While clearomizers are the most popular option for new vapers, cartos don’t get that same love. You can learn even more about cartomizers, cartomizer maintenance, and why we adore them here.

Cartomizers Are Next to Impossible to Clean

They have a tendency to either burn up or flood (when juice gets into the air hole and you can’t inhale properly). Once a carto burns up, there’s no bringing it back – you have to replace it. Luckily cartomizers range from 1-2 dollars a piece, so it’s not hard to have a few on hand.

Cartos Can Only Hold Around 1-2 ML of Liquid at a Time

If you want to switch between non-compatible flavors, you have to use another cartomizer (remember, they’re impossible to clean). Since happy cartomizers are damp cartomizers, you need to top them off a few times a day to keep them from burning out.

You Need to Properly “Prime” Your Cartomizer Before Its First Use

There are a lot of instructional videos out there about different priming methods (and an onVaping article coming soon), so just make sure you watch one before using your first cartomizer. I prefer the condom method (also referred to as the push method – but condom is funnier so that’s why I used it).

Most people prefer thinner e juice (e juice with a higher Propylene Glycol content) since the polyfill surrounding the heating element absorbs thinner liquids better/faster than thicker liquids. However, it’s not impossible to use a thicker e liquid, and there are people out there who prefer it.

2 ½. Carto Tanks (Not used much anymore)

Carto tanks have all of the positive qualities of cartomizers, without the need to constantly refill it. Carto tanks surround your carto with liquid to keep it damp throughout the day. Just like clearomizers, they come in plastic and glass options – use glass unless you’re willing to research all of your e juice options ahead of time to make sure they won’t crack your tank.

Different Types of Carto Tanks Require Different Types of Cartos

Flanged, unflanged, short, long, regular, etc. So if you decide to get a tank, do a little research and figure out which type of carto is required.

Regardless of the Type of Tank, ALWAYS Use Naked Metal Cartomizers.

DO NOT use colorful cartomizers in your tank because the color will be in direct contact with your juice, and you don’t want to inhale whatever coating they use into your lungs.

Carto Tank Cartomizers All Need Holes Punched in the Side

This is so the juice from the tank can flow in (otherwise the tank would just be a useless waste of juice – though it would look pretty cool). You can either punch/slot your cartos by hand with a carto punch or dremel tool (which I personally think is a huge pain in the ass – then again, I’m a little lazy), or you can purchase them pre-punched. Different e liquids with different viscosities may require different sized slots/holes. Thicker e liquids may require bigger holes, while thinner liquids may require smaller holes – it takes some practice if you’re punching your own holes and you’ll have to learn how to harness your inner Goldilocks to avoid dry or flooded cartos.

Maybe now you can understand why clearos are getting all the love. They’re just a tad easier but don’t mistake that for better.

  • Cartomizer


  • Carto Tank

    Carto Tank

The Right to Bear Ohms

When choosing an atomizer, regardless of the type, you have a few different electrical resistance options to choose from – measured in ohms. A lower ohm resistance atomizer requires less volts to get hot, while a higher ohm resistance requires more volts. If you choose a variable voltage/wattage battery, don’t bother with low resistance atomizers since you’ll be able to adjust the heat yourself, and they’ll only drain your battery more quickly.

Double Coil Trouble

Sure, it might seem that more is always better, but you should probably choose a single coil atomizer (unless you have a more powerful e cig mod than an MVP 2 or Ego) over a double coil. Single coils produce great flavor and vapor, require less power (amperage), and are much less demanding on a beginner battery than a dual coil.

More Heads are Better than One

When it comes down to it, different atomizers have different advantages and disadvantages – so it’s up to you to decide what’ll fit best in your life. If you’re in it for the flavor, go for a carto/carto tank. If you’re in it for ease of use, go for a clearo. However, I recommend that you get one of each and try them out for yourself. Even if you’re in it for the flavor, there might be some e juices out there that are just too strong and taste best with a clearo. Or if you’re just in for ease of use, there might be some days where you have really bad cravings and you just need to taste some deliciousness to get by. The good news is, e cigs are customizable and they’re specifically designed to be interchangeable, so the world is yours – explore it!

P.S. Clearos and cartos aren’t the only options in this world. You may see some people blowing clouds larger than the ones you’ve seen in hurricanes. They are using RBA’s (ReBuildable Atomizers) and RDA’s (Rebuildable Dripping Atomizers). You won’t want to start with those….yet.