Vape Coil Wire Types & Sizes Explained

Why Vape Wire Types and Sizes Matter?

The first thing we need to discuss is vape wire. Both the type of the wire and the size matter a lot because of three reasons – flavor, vapor production, and ramp-up time. Each wire type (and there are five) will give you a slightly different flavor, as well as present different building challenges and opportunities. Knowing the different types of vape wires will help you find the perfect one that will match your vaping style and preferences.

Wire Size

When talking about vape wire size, vapers are referring to gauge, the actual diameter of the wire. Most popular gauges that vapers use are 32, 30, 28, 26, 24, and 22 – a majority of vape coils, even the most eccentric ones and used in the best builds can be used with the above mentioned sizes.

The important thing to remember here is that bigger the numerical value of the gauge, the thinner the wire. 28ga is larger in diameter than 30ga but smaller than 26ga. Also, an increase in diameter will result in a decrease in resistance, which means that the wire will take longer to heat up.

That heating period is called the ramp-up time and it’s pretty important – do you want to sit on that button for ages or do you want to be able to vape as soon as you press fire? Keep in mind that exotic vape coils (i.e. the ones that use more strands of wire) will have a pretty lengthy ramp-up time, but the same will also be true for low gauge (larger diameter) wires.

Wattage and Temperature Control Vaping – Which Wires Should You Use?

You know by now that there are two different modes of vaping – the wattage mode and the temperature control mode. Of course, it would be great if we could just use any old vape wire type for both of these modes. Unfortunately, that’s not how it goes. Here’s why: some wire types behave differently when at room temperature than when heated. For example, nickel wire can be 0.15-ohm when at room temperature, but the resistance will go way up when you fire it in your mod, and that can cause problems.

Temperature control vaping works differently than pure wattage vaping, using Temperature Coefficient of Resistance (TCR) of a given wire to regulate the current delivered to a coil. To use the same example, nickel behaves predictably with regards to temperature increase – the wire will always be a certain resistance at given temperatures. A TC mod will use that stable increase to determine the resistance as the coil heats up, lowering the current in order to keep the coil at a safe temperature.

Wattage and Temperature Control Vaping – Which Wires Should You Use?

You know by now that there are two different modes of vaping – the wattage mode and the temperature control mode. Of course, it would be great if we could just use any old vape wire type for both of these modes. Unfortunately, that’s not how it goes. Here’s why: some wire types behave differently when at room temperature than when heated. For example, nickel wire can be 0.15-ohm when at room temperature, but the resistance will go way up when you fire it in your mod, and that can cause problems.

Temperature control vaping works differently than pure wattage vaping, using Temperature Coefficient of Resistance (TCR) of a given wire to regulate the current delivered to a coil. To use the same example, nickel behaves predictably with regards to temperature increase – the wire will always be a certain resistance at given temperatures. A TC mod will use that stable increase to determine the resistance as the coil heats up, lowering the current in order to keep the coil at a safe temperature.

Types of Vape Wires

There are five different types of vape wires generally used: Kanthal (FeCrAl), NiChrome, Stainless Steel, Nickel, and Titanium.

As you can tell, only one vape wire is versatile enough to be used in both vaping modes and that’s Stainless Steel. However, how do each one of these fare when it comes to flavor, cloud production, ramp up time, and ease of use? Let’s find out.

Kanthal Wire

Kanthal wire is popular for a reason, and has been for nearly a decade. It’s easy to work with, has good resistance to oxidation, it’s not springy so it holds shape, and it’s cheap and easy to find. Kanthal especially good for single coil builds, which are not extravagant but get the job done when you’re not in the mood for something fancy and time-consuming. Add to that the fact that it holds shape well when rewicking (which means that you can use a Kanthal coil a good long time) and you have a fan-favorite.

 

NiChrome Wire

Another fan-favorite for wattage vaping, NiChrome is an alloy composed of nickel and chromium. If you’re looking for fast ramp-up time, this is the wire you should look into. Other than that, it behaves similar to Kanthal wire – it’s easy to work with (slightly less spring then Kanthal) and holds shape well.

One thing to keep in mind when working with NiChrome is that it has a substantially lower melting point than Kanthal. Excessive dry burns can cause it to catch fire – and NiChrome fire is not something you want burning under your nose. That’s why you should slowly pulse a NiChrome coil at first. Also, some people suffer from a nickel allergy and should avoid using NiChrome wire.

NiChrome is a decent vape wire that experienced vapers use with ease. It’s a bit more difficult to find in local vape shops, but most online sellers will have it in stock. One thing to note – while NiChrome can technically be used in TC mode (and some mods boast that ability), its TCR is so low that even the most advanced chips struggle with it. So, if you read you can TC NiChrome with a specific mode, take that with some skepticism, at least for the time being.

Stainless Steel Wire

The only vape wire that can pull a double duty (work in both wattage and TC modes) is the stainless steel wire. It’s perfect for vapers that haven’t made up their mind between TC and wattage mode or fail to check the modes they’re firing in on a regular basis.  Stainless steel wire comes in various grades (410, 413, 316, 316L, 430, 304, and so on), which adds to the confusion a bit and makes it seem as if various vapers are either singing praises or talking down one and the same type of wire. Some grades of SS wire contain almost no nickel (SS is an alloy composed of various parts of chromium, nickel, and carbon), which is definitely a pro for people with nickel allergy.

Other positives include the fact that it can be easily dry burned (thanks to its high melting point), it’s relatively easy to work with, and it holds shape well. That said, some SS wire grades are more springy than others.  SS 304, 430, and 316 grades are usually recommended, as they do TC very well, despite the fact that they have a relatively low TCR (temp/resistance change that can make it harder for mods to regulate).

Stainless steel offers a faster ramp-up time, similar to that of Kanthal, and it produces a crisp and clean flavor (which, as always, is subjective). One of the bigger downsides of certain SS grades is that they are not readily available in usable gauges.

 

Nickel Wire

Nickel, also referred to as (Ni200 (pure nickel) or Ni80 which is a nickel chrome alloy 80% nickel 20% chrome), is the first wire used for temperature control. It has a TCR of 0.006, making it fairly easy for most chips to read and regulate. Ni200 should only ever be used in TC mode because of concerns of overheating and melting. Namely, nickel wire can leach and, at high temperatures (above 600F), can produce graphite, which is why some vapers are concerned about getting graphite lungs (a debilitating condition sometimes seen in people overexposed to graphite, usually pencil factory workers).

That said, most of the bad rep the nickel wire is getting is blown out of proportion. When used in TC vaping, nickel is a perfectly safe wire. It’s biggest downsides are that it’s rather soft, so it’s difficult to work with and that it doesn’t hold shape all that well. Also, people who have a nickel allergy should avoid it.

Titanium Wire

The most controversial vape wire on this list is definitely the titanium wire. It’s a scary one because it does, in fact, release titanium dioxide (which is toxic) when heated over 1130F. However, it has a stable TCR and if you have a functioning TC mod, titanium dioxide poisoning is not something you should ever be concerned about. One piece of advice that’s often imparted about using Ti wire is to heat it until it’s shiny and has a thin oxide layer that simply sticks to the wire.