Getting Started: Rebuilding a ProTank atomizer

When I initially set out to write this post, I had intended on building a basic coil on an IGO-L, but figured that while I was at it, I’d rebuild a ProTank atomizer or two with cotton wicks for my On The Go Kit. While doing that, I was on the phone with a friend, and we got to talking about the number of tanks that use a ProTank atomizer. I figured I’d be doing all of the people using those a disservice if I didn’t make a post that covers how to rebuild one. As a bonus, this particular build is both fairly easy (though as depicted does require some special tools, which you should have anyway), and produces one of the best Vapes that I’ve ever had. So, let’s build!

Supplies (Click to enlarge)

Supplies (Click to enlarge)

I’m using 30g Kanthal A1 (because I want a coil that is between 1.7 and 2.4 ohms), CVS sterile rolled cotton, an original ProTank, an 18g blunt tip syringe, and a generic ohm meter (if you don’t have one of these, I highly recommend picking one up, they are rather inexpensive, like $20, and very convenient). Not shown is a butane torch (I don’t know why I left that out of the photo).

Disassembled atomizer (Click to enlarge)

Disassembled atomizer (Click to enlarge)

Pull the atomizer apart (pop the chimney off, and then remove the positive pin, and everything should just pull apart), and discard the old coil/wicks. Rinse and clean the parts that you are keeping in preparation for the new build (I usually just wipe them down real good).

Nothing terribly over complicated here. First torch the kanthal until it glows to both clean it, and to remove some of the springiness to make wrapping easier. I start with a 6-8″ piece of wire. You can always cut it shorter, it’s real hard to get it longer once cut. I leave 1.5-2″ legs at this stage (better too long than too short), and just wrap around the 18g blunt tip needle between 8 and 12 times depending on the resistance I want to end up with.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

You can see here that I’ve done a 9/8 wrap. This should get me between 1.7 and 1.8ohms on the final coil. Next you want to compress the coil at one end and hold it there for a few seconds. This makes it much easier to get it compressed in the pliers later.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Now we need to torch the coil to get it to retain its shape. Slide it off of the needle, and carefully grip it in some pliers. I hold the hottest part of the torch flame on the coil for a solid ten seconds once I get it in the pliers straight:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Here is where this pays off, put the coil back onto the needle, and mount it into the atomizer base, as shown below:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

This makes mounting coils on these atomizers a cinch. The needle is thin enough that it places the coil at the bottom of the channel in the sides of the atomizer base. This is the perfect position. Get the coil centered and put the insulator ring and positive pin back in place (remember that one leg of the coil goes inside the insulator ring, and the other goes between the insulator ring and the atomizer base).

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

As you can see from the image above, I don’t push the positive pin all the way in. I leave it sticking out enough that it can be seated correctly once the atomizer is installed in the tank base. At this point I will twist off the excess coil leg lengths, so that the they are flush with the base. You can clip them off, but I find that a little spin and wiggle will break them off more cleanly. Make sure the coil is centered in the split, and not touching the sides of the atomizer base, and remove the needle.

Centered coil (Click to enlarge)

Centered coil (Click to enlarge)

Let’s test it out real quick:

Perfect!

Perfect!

Now we need wick! Here is how much cotton I will need (this is actually a bit more than I’ll need):

IMG_0878

Click to enlarge

You can see that it doesn’t take much at all. I’ll tell you now, you should go wash your hands with a non scented soap. I use sterile cotton and I can taste the difference in my wicks when I do wash my hands at this point and when I don’t. Once you are ready, tear about half of that cotton off lengthwise, and roll it into a wick shape that will fit inside the coil you mounted. You don’t need terribly much cotton here.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Again you can see that it doesn’t take much. Once you have the wick twisted, you just slide it into the coil. I find it helpful to clip off the very tip of the wick, and spin it as you insert it, so that it slides in easier. Once mounted, clip both sides off flush with the outside edge of the atomizer base like so:

First wick trimmed

First wick trimmed

I then use the rest of the cotton as a “flavor” wick. This does a couple of things; it keeps the coil wetter, it prevents hot juice popping into your mouth, and creates a better seal in the tank. I make the wick tails long on purpose, like so:

Second wick added

Second wick added

Now we need to prime the wicks. Cotton’s one drawback is that it burns rather easily. make sure you get it wet, and keep it wet. Burned cotton is nasty.

Prime the wicks

Prime the wicks

Reassemble the atomizer, and tuck the wick tails into the atomizer base.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Make sure that your top wick is not too dense, as you want juice to easily flow through it, but it should provide some barrier to juice just pouring into the atomizer. Let’s test it one more time and fill her up!

No changes is a good thing!

No changes is a good thing!

Now we can fill and prime the atomizer. Once the tank is full you need to either let it sit for about five minutes, or give it a few long draws to get all the air out of the wicks and ensure they are saturated with juice.

Let the air out (Click to enlarge)

Let the air out (Click to enlarge)

That’s it, this should now be ready to vape.

Delicious vapor!

Delicious vapor!

I personally think that this is the apex build for ProTank atomizers. It is flavorful, and easy enough to build.

end

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PSA: What tanks use Kanger Protank atomizers?

1In 2013, Kanger apparently invented the replaceable atomizer head to which all other BCC heads pale in comparison. It’s not perfect, buy the lowly Protank Atomizer Head has apparently become something of an industry standard. These come in single units, or packages of five, and retail for anywhere between $1.10 – $3 each, depending on vendor and quantity.

When I was choosing my first rebuildable clearo, I discovered that both the EVOD and Protank could use the same atomizer heads. I like the idea of commonality of spare parts (incidentally this is also why I shoot Glock pistols; I can use the same magazine in four different pistols). Since then, Kanger has decided to stop making EVOD specific heads, and now produces 4 different BCC tanks that use the Protank atomizer (soon to be five when the Mini Protank 2 is released).

But Kanger is not the only one making tanks that use this atomizer. So which tanks on the market can use the Protank atomizer head?

Kanger Protank

Protank

This is the one that started it all. See my review here.

Kanger Protank 2

protank2

This is the latest evolution in the Protank line, a Protank that not only uses no glue, but that is user serviceable with replaceable parts. Review coming soon.

Kanger Mini Protank

PTMini

The recently released Mini Protank comes in an eGo threaded version only at this point, though the box has a check box for a 510 version, which Kanger has said is in the works. Review coming soon.

Kanger Mini Protank 2

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

This is the forthcoming Mini version of the Protank 2. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these.

Kanger EVOD

EVOD

The EVOD is essentially a plastic and metal version of the Mini Protank. Review coming soon.

AnyVape Davide

davide

This is clearly a clone of the Protank design, with some of the features of the Protank 2.

AnyVape Mini Davide

MiniDavideThis is like the AnyVape version of the Mini Protank 2.

DBox Puritank

dbox-puritankI think we can all draw our own conclusions about where this design came from. I have to wonder if this is a clone, or the night shift at the Kanger factory moonlighting.

Kamry X9

x9This is just a blatant rip off of the original Protank.

Kamry X10

x10This is some weird clone of the DCT carto tank that uses Protank atomizer heads rather than a carto. I feel like there is just something wrong about this at a fundamental level, but it does look kinda cool.

Vision V-Tox

v-tox

Despite so obviously being an EVOD clone, I really like that it has four windows into the tank rather than the two that are on the actual EVOD.

Tatroe Tank

tatroe

The Tatroe tank is one of the most awesome tanks I’ve seen. It’s really clean looking, and comes in several variants. This started out as a replacement top for the original Protank, but they now offer complete tanks with bases too. The Tatroe tank is a bit pricy at ~$35 for just the top, and you can’t see your juice level, but I like it. If you’re interested in the Tatroe Tank you can pick one up here.

That’s all of the tanks that I am aware of that currently use the Kanger Protank Atomizer.

I’m sure five more are just around the corner.

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Hardware Review: Kanger Protank (original model)

pt1_Retail

The Kanger Protank was released in 2013, and was fairly revolutionary for what it was; the first glass tank bottom coil clearomizer. This was the first tank I bought outside of the CE4s that came with my first starter kit.

Personally I love the Protank, but that doesn’t make it perfect.

The Protank comes in two types of packaging; a “kit” and a cardboard box (as seen above). The contents of these are the same but with the “kit” you get a decent quality hard case (that is rather larger than it really needs to be, but is fairly useful for storing some gear, though it’s not really large enough for mods or eGo type batteries larger than about 650mAh at best). Price difference is a couple of dollars.

Specs

Length: 60mm (2 11/16″)
Diameter: 19mm (3/4″)
Capacity: Nominally 2.5ml (it actually holds more like 3ml or so)
Battery Connection: 510 threads
What’s in the box:

Protank package contents - click to enlarge

Protank package contents – click to enlarge

  • 1x pyrex glass tank with non removable chrome drip tip
  • 1x steel base
  • 1x eGo threaded beauty ring
  • 2x replaceable atomizer heads (sometimes both 2.5ohm, sometimes one 2.5ohm and one 1.8ohm)

Pros

  • Don’t have to worry about “tank cracker” juices.
  • Replaceable atomizer heads (they run between $0.99 and $2 each depending on vendor and how many you purchase).
  • Easy to clean.
  • Easy to fill.
  • Don’t leak (this sometimes requires minor adjustment from the user).
  • Capacity.
  • Cooler draw (bottom coil clearomizers tend to be this way).
  • Airy draw (some people don’t like that, it can be adjusted, see the errata section for details).
  • Atomizer heads can be recoiled and rewicked for even greater savings.

Cons

  • Non removable drip tip (this is changed in the Protank 2).
  • Occasional leaking or gurgling when less than 50% full (this can be fixed).
  • Some units have had issue with tanks separating from the caps (this has been fixed in the Updated Protank released at the end of July 2013, all original Protanks now use a glueless design).
  • Base 510 threads tend to snap off with relatively minor impact (bases are replaceable, and Kanger says this has changed with the Updated Protank release as they are using a “reinforced” base design, as does the Protank 2).
  • Glass tank is prone to breakage if dropped.
  • Airy draw (which can be adjusted, see the errata section for details).
510 threads - click to enlarge

510 threads – click to enlarge

Maintenance

You’re really only going to have three common maintenance tasks with a Protank:

  • Assembling or disassembling the tank.
  • Filling or topping off the tank.
  • Cleaning it.

Assembling/Disassembling the Protank

This image shows correct assembly order of the parts:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Filling or topping off the tank

This is probably the thing you will do most often.

Filling the Protank - click to enlarge

Filling the Protank – click to enlarge

Simply invert the tank, remove the base (including the atomizer head) and fill to just below the center tube as shown in the image above. Careful not to get the juice in the center tube. That tube leads directly to the drip tip, and if you get juice in it the juice will run right out and onto whatever is under the drip tip at the time (plus if you don’t clean it out afterwards, you risk leaking or gurgling as the juice runs back into the atomizer head). You should also ensure that the atomizer head is fully seated (just give it a good clockwise twist), as it has a tendency to unscrew after the Protank has been removed from the battery a few times. This can lead to rather bad leaking directly into the battery connection if it becomes too loose.

Cleaning the Protank

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Personally I find the Protank easy to clean. I just rinse if off with hot water from the sink, drop it into a glass of Pure Grain Alcohol (PGA – unflavored Vodka works just fine), let it sit for a few minutes (I usually just kind of swirl it around in the vodka for maybe 30 seconds, but if the head is particularly gunked up I’ll leave it in there for a while), flush it out with some bottled water, and let it dry. I do this every time, or every other time I fill the tank, and get pretty good life from my atomizer heads.

Errata

Gurgling/Leaking fix

The same fix for leaking/gurgling in EVOD tanks works for the Protank. Sometimes though you get gurgling for other reasons. Like if you spilled some juice in the center tube while cleaning, or a severe change in altitude or ambient temperature. Generally this only requires you to get the juice out of the atomizer head/center tube, and mop up any juice sitting on the battery connection. You can do this with a cotton swab. The mouth of the drip tip and the center tube are both plenty wide to accommodate a cotton swab head. Just push one down into the center tube until it is pressed up against the atomizer chimney, and invert the atomizer. Hold it there for a few seconds, and then pull out the cotton swab and do the same with the other end.

Usually there won’t be much juice in there, and the second end of the swab will come out pretty dry. If so, you can use that end to wipe off your battery connector too. If not, use another cotton swab.

Adjusting the airy draw of the Protank

I’ve already mentioned that the atomizer heads can be rebuilt, but this isn’t necessary for adjusting the draw. The Protank, Mini Protank, and Protank 2 all use the same atomizer heads, but the atomizer heads from the EVOD are also interchangable with the Protank (works both ways). This is great because the EVOD atomizer heads have a tighter draw, and will tighten up the draw on the Protank (it won’t be the same as an EVOD, but somewhere in between the two).

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Also if you are using the Protank on an eGo type battery and have the beauty ring, make sure you spin that up flush with the base of the Protank as shown in the image above.

The Protank has air channels cut into the base (it draws air from the top of the 510 connector up through the atomizer), and if all of those are exposed the draw will be much airier than if the beauty ring is sitting flush with the base. Also sealing off one or more of these air holes or air channels will tighten the draw on the Protank. Just don’t seal off all of them, or the Protank won’t function. I would suggest sealing one at a time until you get the draw you want. I would use Teflon tape for the airholes in the 510 connection, and hot glue for one of the air channels (I wouldn’t seal off both air channels).

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Easy way to keep juice out of the center tube while filling

The center tube in the Protank is slightly smaller at the tank side than at the drip tip side. To prevent leaking (because you are going to have some liquid drain off of the atomizer into that tube if you remove the base after the Protank has had liquid in it), I run a cotton swab up into the center tube before unscrewing the base, like so:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Once the swab is butted up to the atomizer chimney, I hold it there while unscrewing the base and withdrawing the atomizer. Once the atomizer is out, just push the cotton swab all the way up to the end of the center tube, but keep the head inside. That will effectively seal off the center tube, preventing accidental spills through the center tube. When done filling, simply withdraw the cotton swab and replace the atomizer and base.

Everything that I did not like about the Protank appears to have been fixed with the release of the Protank 2. Unless a couple of dollars is just too much (or you just really like the look of the original Protank), I would recommend opting for the Protank 2 rather than the original.

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How To: Fix Kanger EVOD leaking/gurgling issues

UPDATE: This apparently works equally well with the Kanger Protank, and other Kanger BCCs with the silicone caps on the atomizer heads. If you’re having issues with those leaking or gurgling, you may want to give this a shot.

A while back I ordered a couple of Kanger EVODs because I wanted something slim for my on the go kit, and the Protank mini was not yet available (I now have two on their way to me).

I’d heard nothing but good things about them, and figured that since they can use the same heads as the Protank, I’d only have to keep one type of head on hand.

They are a great vape. Until they leak/gurgle.

At first I thought it was because I was vaping in +100F temperatures, but even in my 72F house, once I got below about 1/2 a tank the gurgling would start. Then the leaking starts.

Ok look, a quarter ml of juice sitting on top of my battery. Lovely.

At first I thought the problem was with the head. I swapped out the head with a new one from a different package. No dice, exact same problem.

I looked at the bottom of the unit, and the leak was coming through the bottom of the positive contact pin. That precludes the base to head fit being the issue (since the area where they mate was pretty dry).

I thought, well maybe I just got a defective unit. These things are mass produced in China after all, it happens. I tried the other unopened EVOD. Same result. Grrr.

So I took to the internets.

Didn’t really find anything. I found a couple of people complaining about leaking, and others having no issues at all. I deduce from the number of posts I found where people are warning about gurgling after half empty (and saying that just topping off fixes it), that this is a common problem.

I saw multiple comments saying that the juice level dropping below a certain point breaks the vacuum in the tank and causes the gurgling (I also experienced what I would call flooding). I know a little bit about fluid dynamics, and while it sounds good in theory, I’m not convinced that this is the problem. See the fact that there is a hole running through the bottom of the atomizer head into the unsealed battery connection kind of precludes a true vacuum from being present, it’s more of a surface tension effect at that point (but that’s kind of nitpicking). Still, with the viscosity of the juice, and the wick sitting across the top of the hole, and the size of the hole, it should work.

So I disassembled one.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

I was sure that either the wick or the press fit between the base and the chimney was the culprit.

When I pulled the chimney off, I thought I had found the culprit. The “flavor wicks” that are set on top of the wick with the coil on it in these things are tiny! It was like two little strands of wick, not even an entire wick.

So I looked in my box of parts, and decided to replace the flavor wicks with a single piece of 2.5mm silica (I wanted to use 2mm, but I didn’t have any).

I trimmed the wick to fit, rinsed the whole thing off, filled the EVOD, and put everything back together.

Holy hell the vapor production improved ten fold! Well ok, that certainly had an effect, but did it fix the leak? It took me a while to get low enough in the tank to find out (if I had some 0mg nicotine juice I could have got there much quicker, but all I have is 24mg and 12mg at the moment). I got a hint of a gurgle, and then a mouth full of juice. Took the head off, and now there is like 3/4 of a ml of juice sitting on top of the battery.

Well it did much improve the juice intake.

So I took it all apart again. This time I paid very close attention to the press fit of the chimney and the base. It was pretty dry. I was thinking about the silicone cap and why it would be there. At first I thought it was there to seal the press fit, but looking at the press fit and how hard it is to pull the chimney off I don’t think that is it’s sole purpose. I think it is to seal the connection between the chimney and the stem inside the EVOD as well.

So I took a pair of tweezers and stuffed the cap on the stem inside the EVOD (it was essentially sitting upside down in relation to how it sits on the stem.

The ‘cup’ portion of the cap had to stretch a little bit to fit over the stem. Hmm. I wonder if the cap is just not thick enough to seal the gap between the bottom of the stem and the top of the atomizer head?

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

So I flipped it over on the head. It looks like this:

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

It doesn’t cover the press fit between the atomizer head and the base like this, but I have a back up plan if this doesn’t work.

I filled the EVOD up and installed the head with the silicone cap upside down, being careful to seat the cap over the stem in the top of the EVOD before screwing it down all the way.

I went through an entire tank, down to where I could taste the wick drying out from lack of juice. No leak. It did gurgle a little bit, but I’m pretty sure that is because I let too much condensation build up inside the tip (I was vaping with my mouth only and just immediately blowing it out as fast as I could because I wanted to get it down to where it should gurgle and flood.

NOTE: I used the head that I had replaced the flavor wick with 2.5mm silica for these tests. That may have an impact on the results. I plan to do this with all my EVOD heads as the increased vapor production is great, but I will test it on the next one without doing so first. If that changes the results, I will note that here.

So why does this work?

My theory is that the silicone cap isn’t there to cover the press fit at all (the press fit is tight enough that it’s not going to leak from there). It is there to seal the gap between the chimney and the stem on the inside of the EVOD.

As I mentioned earlier, these things are mass produced in China, and due to the fairly intricate nature of the design and the small size, it is reasonable to assume that the stem on the inside of the top of the EVOD is machined a bit shorter than it should be to ensure a good fit with a bit of ‘wiggle room’ so to speak) for variance in manufacturing tolerance between it and the heads/bases.

Just flipping the silicone cap worked for one of my EVODs, but did not work for the other (apparently the stem is just a hair too short on that one. Time to try out plan B from my earlier experiment. You are going to need an extra silicone cap for this. I took one from a spare head, but I will start saving the reusable parts from heads in the future:

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Now take that second cap and put it on the head upside down. It’ll look something like this:

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Time to fill her up and try it again.

I was able to get the base screwed down almost all the way (don’t force it or you risk breaking the top of the EVOD). Mine had just a hairsbreadth of a gap between the base and the top piece, plenty of room for the silicone o-ring inside the base to seal it up nice and tight.

Worked perfectly. No gurgles, no flooding (this time I wiped down the tip with a napkin when the condensation got built up), no leaking.

This is an easy fix; Kanger needs to make the top of this silicon cap just a hair thicker. Or maybe make the ‘cup’ part double sided. Either should work and is a really cheap solution to this occasional problem.

If I could not have gotten this fixed, I would never buy another EVOD, and this post would have been a review of the EVOD telling people not to waste their money.

As it stands, I’m ok with it. The EVOD works fantastically after this simple modification, and even better with the larger flavor wick.

end