Why do e-cigarette batteries explode?
It seems like we hear this question every week on the news. And the answer the media gives you—more often than not—is that vaping manufacturers are irresponsible, terrible people who deserve to be sued, bankrupted, and lynched.
Opponents of the industry eat this up.
They hark, “see, this is what you get! E-cigs are more dangerous than smoking. This would never happen to a cigarette!”
And, conveniently ignoring the fact that conventional cigarettes cause 1 in 5 fire-related deaths in Canada, the anti-vaping squad smugly assumes they’ve defeated us. That they found their silver bullet. The elusive evidence that vaping is a catastrophic new trend that’ll leave us all disfigured or dead.
Of course, seasoned vapers are used to this. We ignore these obvious lies and go on with our day. But that’s the wrong approach.
Even if we know these claims are bogus (they are, take a look at my previous battery safety article), the general public does not. Most regular people have no dog in the race. They don’t care enough to seek out deeper explanations of why vapes are exploding. They accept what they hear at face value.
And unfortunately, if we are to survive as an industry, we need to care about general opinion. It’s what will determine the ultimate fate of vaping in the world.
But we also can’t beat these simple and catchy news stories by countering with complicated explanations of battery chemistry and ohm’s law. Regular people don’t care enough about vaping one way or the other to listen.
The best way to fight this type of irresponsible reporting is to starve hungry media outlets of these types of news stories. And to do that, we have to make sure that all vape shops and all vapers know battery safety backwards and forwards.
So spread this far and wide. This knowledge can save you, a friend, and our entire industry.
Here are 6 reasons why e-cigarette batteries explode, and what you can do to prevent it.
6. Using or charging a completely depleted battery
In your early days of vaping, you may have forgotten to charge your batteries a couple of times. Stuck without a functioning vape and jonesing for that nicotine, you might even have bought yourself a pack of smokes to satiate that craving. Never again, you promised yourself.
Today, you carry two or three sets of batteries for your main device—always making sure to keep them charged. If all else fails, you have another set at home, sitting in a dusty box somewhere.
And what happens when you eventually forget your batteries somewhere?
Why, you go find that dusty old box of batteries that’s been sitting in your basement for two years, that’s what! It’s a good thing you kept those for a rainy day, right?
Unused lithium ion batteries naturally deplete their charge over time. Once they fall below a certain charge, it can be very dangerous to use or charge them.
Recycle old batteries, and never attempt to recharge a battery that’s been sitting on your shelf for more than a year. You can check your battery’s charge level with a multimeter or an advanced charger (like the Wismec Avatar).
When in doubt, bring your batteries to a vape shop.
5. Leaving your batteries in the car
We all do this.
We run into the store for a quick stop and we leave our devices in the car. It’s only a few minutes at a time, and what’s the worst that can happen?
Well, there’s nothing inherently wrong with leaving your mod in your car. Especially if it’s sweater-weather. Plus, a few short minutes should be okay in most weather conditions.
Where the risk lies, is in leaving your batteries in extreme temperatures for an extended period of time.
Think of it like leaving your pet in the car during winter or summer. When it’s cold outside, your car becomes a refrigerator. When it’s hot outside, it becomes a furnace.
The chemistry of lithium ion batteries can become very unstable when exposed to extreme heat or extreme cold. While it is unlikely that a single instance of forgetting your batteries in the car will damage them enough to make them unsafe, repeated instances can be very dangerous indeed.
Ask yourself, “would I leave my dog in the car right now?”
If the answer is no, don’t leave your batteries in the car.
If you do happen to forget your batteries in your car, and they become freezing cold or blistering hot to the touch, I seriously recommend picking up a new battery. After all, your safety is worth way more than $10.
4. Using physically damaged batteries
Let’s be real.
People are clumsy. Sometimes we drop things. Or scrape things. Or slam things with the car door.
But should you be worried when it happens to your electronics?
Most modern electronics do not use exposed lithium ion cells. The batteries in your cell phone and laptop—despite being very similar to your vape batteries—are wrapped up with polymer casings, placed in protective shells, and shielded by sturdy bodies. And rarely are they ever taken out.
Even though damaged lithium ions can vent or explode, dropping your cellphone or dinging your laptop won’t typically put your battery in danger.
But external batteries (like those used with vaporizers) are a different story. Lacking the physical protection of batteries found inside your electronics, vaporizer batteries are much easier to damage.
Dents in your battery, tears in their wrapping, and rips in their insulators are incredibly dangerous, and should be taken very seriously by vapers.
if your battery wrap is damaged, go to your favourite vape shop and ask them for a rewrap.
If there’s damage to the body or insulator of the battery, recycle them immediately and purchase a new one.
If your battery looks like it's burned, charred, or leaking, dispose of it immediately.
3. Using cheap rewraps or counterfeits
Most of the advice in this article assumes that you’re already using a high-quality lithium ion cell. But what happens if you’re using a cheap knockoff?
Nothing good, I’ll tell you that much.
If you’ve been in the game long enough, you’ll know that a good vaping battery is one with a stable chemistry (e.g IMR, INR) and high CDR (continuous discharge rate). Batteries that fulfill these minimum specs are the Sony VTC series, LG HG and HE series, and Samsung 25 series.
Cheap rewrapped or counterfeit batteries, on the other hand, may claim to have good specs, but the reality rarely matches up.
And attempting to use a low-spec battery in a high-power vaporizer is a recipe for disaster. The high amp rates our devices require may cause the battery to overheat, vent, or possibly explode.
Don’t purchase batteries from discount online stores like FastTech, GearBest, or AliExpress. Always purchase from reputable vendors who take battery safety seriously.
Avoid purchasing rewrapped batteries (Efest, Trustfire, Ultrafire). Only purchase trusted brands like Sony, Samsung, or LG.
When in doubt about your battery’s authenticity, check your its serial number on Mooch’s battery checker site.
2. Putting batteries in your pocket or bag
Pockets are a great invention. They’re like tiny secret loot bags, forever hanging conveniently within arms reach. It’s no surprise then, that we’re always tempted to stuff them with small essentials; change, keys, subway tokens, lighters, paperclips, and nowadays, vaporizer batteries.
Unfortunately, pockets are the mortal enemies of batteries. With all the metallic material we choose to carry, pockets are like a minefield for your 18650 batteries.
Don't believe me? Take a look at what happens when one brave soul puts a can tab ontop of his battery.
Now, imagine this happening inside your pocket. Not a very pleasant thought, right?
Well, that’s exactly what happens in the vast majority of cases involving exploding e-cigarette batteries; clueless people accidentally putting their batteries in contact with metallic objects. Change, keys, a pop can tab, a small box of mints—whatever it may be.
It needs to be said. Don't be an idiot.
Most reasonable human beings know not to put exposed batteries anywhere near metallic objects. For the same reason that most people know that licking a battery will shock you.
Who would've thunk it, batteries activate when in contact with a conductive material. Duh-doy!
But if you're one of those people that somehow missed the gradeschool prank of telling your friends to lick the top of a 9V battery...
Don't put batteries in your pocket or purse!
But in case some people didn't get the message, let's go even further. Don't put external batteries ANYWHERE where they might come into contact with metal (including a box of trinkets, a cup holder you've co-opted as a change bin, etc.).
If you want to carry your batteries outside of your device, invest in a cheap, plastic battery container (we give these out for free when they’re in stock!).
1. Using a Mechanical Mod
I once likened mechanical mods to improvised pipe bombs. I still stand by that comparison.
The unfortunate truth is that 99% of people should never handle a mechanical mod. They just don’t know enough, and aren’t willing to put in the effort to ensure their safety.
The more unfortunate truth is that 99% of people who think they know how to be completely safe with a mech mod are wrong.
You can’t be completely safe with a mech mod.
Sure, you can decrease the likelihood of catastrophic battery venting by being educated, incredibly rigorous, and borderline OCD. But all it takes is a single short (from a shifting coil, or a piece of debris stuck on your contacts) to destroy that illusion. Quite literally.
The safest way to use a mech mod requires you to:
- Remove your atomizer between every puff to check its resistance
- Check your battery charge after every vaping session
- Quadruple check that your firing button is locked when you’re done vaping
- Clean your contacts every time you remove and replace your battery
No one in the world would bother doing all of these things. But even if they would, their mech still wouldn’t be as safe as a regulated mod.
In an ideal world, vape shops wouldn't sell mechanical mods. Or at the very least, they wouldn't sell them out in the open to anyone who wants one.
But we don't live in an ideal world.
And in the world we live in, mech mods have a very vocal and passionate fan base. A group of folks that would fight tooth and nail to keep unregulated devices on store shelves.
So, for your own safety, and for the safety of your loved ones, there's only one solution. DON'T BUY MECHANICAL MODS.