If you're getting started with your first RDA, RTA, or RTDA, you'll have to decide what sort of coils to use with your rebuildable. Choosing which coils to use can be a difficult task - not only do you have to choose between a seemingly endless range of brands (Coilology, Handmade Coils by Scott, Wotofo, Vaperz Cloud) and styles (Clapton, Fused Clapton, Alien, Framed Staple, etc.), but you also have to make the tricky choice between DIY and pre-built coils.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both pre-built and DIY vape coils and the choice will be unique to each vaper depending on their preferences, hardware, and budget. Neither type of coils is objectively better; in this article we'll simply explore the key pros and cons of each coil type and leave you to make up your mind at the end.
But before we get into the pros and cons, let's clear up some definitions.
What's the difference between DIY and pre-built coils?
The coil is the part of your vape that is powered by the battery, heating up and turning the e-liquid which saturates the wick into vapour for you to inhale.
Pre-built coils are coils that have already been twisted into shape and are ready to be added to your rebuildable deck and wicked for vaping. Pre-built coils come in a range of materials and configurations for your rebuildable atomiser; here are some of the most common ones:
Supposedly, these coils are named after Eric Clapton because they resemble a guitar string. These have a large low gauge wire with a thinner higher gauge wire wrapped around the outside.
This is similar to the original Clapton with one key difference: instead of one thick wire in the middle, Fused Clapton coils have two low gauge wires that are fused together.
Alien style coils are similar to Fused Clapton coils - they feature multiple wires fused together with a smaller wire wrapped around them. These have a unique appearance because the outer wire is made out of a de-cored Clapton that has been re-wrapped around the inner wires.
In summary, pre-built coils can come in a range of different styles, but the key point is that they are already twisted into shape so that you don't have to do much before you start vaping.
On the other hand, DIY coils are vape coils that you have to create yourself out of wire. Vapers will make these by cutting wire (usually Kanthal, Nickel or Stainless Steel) to size and then using tools to shape them, fit them on the deck of the RDA / RTA / RTDA, and then add the wicking material. Kanthal is the easiest material to work with so this is often the material favoured by vapers building coils for their rebuildable atomisers for the first time.
Now you understand the key differences between DIY and pre-built coils for your RDA or RTA, let's consider the pros and cons of each coil type.
Pro: pre-built coils are less effort
When it comes to ease of buying, installing, and cleaning coils, pre-built coils are a clear winner. Just pick some coils that are compatible with your vape, order a couple of packs, and you're ready to vape! Your coils will have their ohm rating on their packaging, making it easy for you to adjust your settings to get the best performance out of them.
This means that pre-built coils are perfect for anyone who is new to rebuildables, providing a convenient and high quality introduction to the joys of RTAs and RDAs. With a wide range of coil types, materials, and resistances (ohms) available, you won't struggle to find coils that you love vaping with.
Pro: pre-built coils are high quality
There's no doubt that pre-built vape coils are great quality and can provide an amazing vaping experience. To get great flavour and vapour from your favourite e-liquids in your RTA or RDA, pre-built coils do a perfectly fine job.
Opting for vape coils that come pre-built also provides you with peace of mind that these are well-made, high-quality vape coils that have gone through thorough safety checking. This means that you don't have to worry about anything going wrong with your vape coils.
Pro: pre-built coils are less messy
Is there anything worse that realising your vape has started leaking e-liquid into the inside of your pocket? Pre-built coils significantly reduce the risk of e-liquid leakage because they have been precisely manufactured to fit perfectly on your deck. On the other hand, DIY coils are harder to build perfectly and therefore are more likely to lead to e-liquid spills in some rebuildables.
Con: replacement coils are slightly more expensive
One downside of using pre-built coils is that you will have to buy new coils for your RDA / RTA / RDTA frequently. While these coils are often fairly cheap, the cost adds up over time. Some people are fine with this - after all, vaping is significantly cheaper than smoking! Others might start looking for a cheaper option such as DIY coils after some time.
Con: pre-built coils are less customisable
The biggest downside of choosing pre-built vape coils is that there is less opportunity to customise your vaping experience. While you can still tailor your RTA or RDA vape to your preferences with mods featuring variable wattage, temperature control, and a range of other modes, as well as choosing your preferred e-liquid flavours, pre-built coils don't give you as much flexibility as DIY.
For many vapers this may not be an issue, although if you're a vaping hobbyist you might find that pre-built vape coils start to feel limiting after a while.
Pro: the cheapest way to vape
One of the big reasons that many vapers start building their own coils is to save money. While replacement coils don't cost much, frugal vapers know that once you get the tools and equipment you can start making your coils for next to nothing.
With high quality wicking such as Cotton Bacon Prime (£3.99) and Vapefly Firebolt Cotton (£3.75) costing only a few pounds a pop and all our spools of coil wire costing below £4, building your own coils only costs pennies.
Pro: tailor your coils to your preferences
The other main reason that vapers may ditch pre-made coils and start tinkering with their own is the increased customisability and flexibility that DIY vape coils offer. Whether you're a cloud-chaser, a flavour-chaser, or somewhere in between, going DIY allows you to create your dream vape coils. With these, you can enjoy intense flavours, huge vapour clouds, and an all-round tailored vaping experience.
Pro: always be ready to build new coils
Once you've stocked up on coil wire and wicking material, you'll always be able to make new coils on demand instead of waiting for a delivery from your favourite online vape store. Stock up on a stash of wire and loose cotton or cotton threads and you'll always be able to make your favourite vape coils.
Pro: show off to your friends
Okay, this one isn't really an advantage of building coils, but we couldn't resist including it! Making coils out of wire and wicking material certainly gives you bragging rights over your pre-made replacement coil friends. Does it actually make you a superior vaper? No. Are you going to enjoy gloating about it anyway? Absolutely.
Con: you'll need to invest tools
To make your own coils, you'll need to invest in tools and materials including:
Flush cutters (small wire cutters)
A coiling tool, coil jig, or screwdriver
Resistance wire made of Kanthal, Stainless Steel, Nickel, Nichrome, etc.
Ohm reader or mod that can detect the ohm rating of coils
You'll also need some common tools that you likely already have around the house such as:
If you want to invest in a set of vape tools without breaking the bank, check out our selection of tool kits. Created by our favourite vape brands specifically for tinkering with your vape coils, these handy sets are a good way to start building.
Con: coil building can be difficult and fiddly
There's no getting around this one - coil building definitely takes some skill. Fortunately, a lot of vapers pick it up quickly and eventually find that they could make a coil with their eyes closed, but the unfortunate truth is that your first coil or two will likely be a bit wonky.
For some vape enthusiasts, this is all part of the fun. Building coils is all about learning a new skill. If you've got some time on your hands and want to learn a rewarding new skill, we think that coil building can be a rewarding challenge.
At the end of the day, the decision of whether to opt for pre-made coils or to make your own is a personal one. There's no wrong answer - it depends on your preferences and how you like to use your RDA or RTA.
In our opinion, half the fun of vaping is experimenting - trying new e-liquids, coils, vape tanks, mods, and vape styles to find your sweet spot. In the spirit of experimentation, why not compare some pre-built and homemade coils today to find out what's best for you?