What is a Cartomizer? E-Cig Terminology Simplified

It is hard to believe that electronic cigarettes have been around since 2003! Ok, well.. they were in China in 2003 but still, I think most people would be surprised to learn how long they have been around. Today there are so many varieties and models available that it makes your head spin thinking of what you might want or need if you are shopping. One of the popular variants is the three-piece electronic cigarette. These models consist of a battery, an atomizer, and the cartridge or tank.

The three-piece e-cig was for a long time the typical method of vaping. This was due in large part to the style of the construction at that time. Manufacturers assumed that in order for the consumer to want to use them that they would have to at least in part, resemble a tobacco cigarette. For this reason the three-piece e-cig remained a popular product. People who used these could use either a tank or a cartridge that used a substrate to absorb the e-liquid before passing it to the atomizer. The system worked just fine for the most part, but just like with anything else these days there was a desire to simplify things which meant less parts.

It was this desire to simplify the process that lead to the cartomizer. As you might have guessed a cartomizer is nothing more than the cartridge and atomizer combined into one piece. Gone was the need to stick with the pen-style or “cigarette-looking” e-cig. The cartomizer gave manufacturers and e-cigarette developers the part they needed to expand the battery and create larger e-liquid reservoirs. Combining the atomizer with the cartridge or tank also made things much easier on the vaper as well.

How Cartomizers Work

If you are familiar with the three-piece system then cartomizers should be easy enough to grasp. If you are not, you soon will be. In a typical two-piece system you will have the battery and the cartomizer. It is the cartomizer or cart that we are concerned with however. There are a few different varieties of carts on the market today and each has their strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a look at these and how they work.

Wick-Fed Carts


First you have the wick fed carts. These consist of a tank with two or three synthetic or cotton wicks inside. The wicks job is to suck up the e-liquid inside the tank and transport it to the atomizer inside a tube that runs the length of the cart. As the e-liquid reaches the heating element it is vaporized. These are usually made with either a clear or somewhat transparent colored plastic.



The Benefits of this design is that they are easy to fill. The mostly empty tank can hold a fair amoount of e-liquid and filling the tube is reletively simple. There is usually no need for a syringe or any other tool.


One of the biggest drawbacks to these carts is their longevity. They have a tendency to crack if using certain e-juices and they can be somewhat fragile as well. Another issue is that the wicks have a constant struggle against gravity. Since the atomizer is situated towards the top of the tube, the wicks must pull the e-liquid up to it. This is generally not a problem when the tank is full, but if the tank is nearing the end of its supply the wicks may struggle.

Poly-Fill Carts


The poly-fill cartomizers are probably the type that are most popular since these can almost be looked at as upgraded versions of the early cartridges. The poly-fill design is a tube with another tube in the center of it. The tube in the center is where the heating element is located. The heating tube also has a wick inside that is surrounded by layers of a poly-fill guaze. As the poly-fill is saturated with e-liquid the wick pulls the liquid into the heating tube where it is then vaporized. Poly-fill is nothing more than a polyester fiber filling that is used in pillows, clothing, and other such products.



Aside from these carts being around the longest they are also considered by most vapers to be the best. Their longevity far outweighs that of the other types of carts and they are pretty easy to refill. Because of their construction this type of cart is what is used in pre-filled versions. The fact that they are filled with something allows the tube itself to be made of string materials. This means the e-liquid can remain inside the cart for long periods without leaking or otherwise cracking the tube itself.


Many would argue that they have no drawbacks, however nothing is that good. Poly-fill carts can overheat just like any other type of cart. When this happens the poly-fill can burn slightly which can drastically alter the taste of the vapor. There is also a good chance that, if your not careful, when you refill the cart you will not be able to saturate 100% of the gauze. This leads to refilling more often than you should need to.

Tank CartomizersBoge F16 tank cartomzier.xls

Tank cartomizers are huge! They are by far the largest cartomizers of any kind and can hold a ton of e-juice. The reason for this is the fact that there is almost nothing in the tank taking up valuable real estate. These are constructed with a small tube in the middle that contains some poly-fill and the atomizer or heating element. The e-liquid is drawn into the tube through one or multiple holes at the bottom of the tube within the tank. These are usually clear plastic or even glass allowing the user to see exactly what remains of the liquid inside.


The benefits to this system is somewhat obvious, with nothing else in the way you could fill the tank with an entire bottle of e-juice! With the tanks you could co for a couple days before needing to refill it depending on how heavy a vaper you are. The tanks are very easy to clean as well and many people claim to get the biggest vapor clouds ever using these cartomizers.


The biggest drawback to the tank is leakage. Tanks have a tendency to leak after only a few uses. In addition, they also have problems with getting the e-liquid into the atomizer in a consistent flow. This makes for poor vaping and can also cause the e-liquid to get into the users mouth. Sometimes when the e-liquid gets clogged while trying to get into the atomizer tube it gets pulled into the draw tube and sucked into the users mouth. This is not a pleasant experience.


Overall, are Cartomizers Outdated?

Just as with anything else today new technology is constantly evolving. The same is true of electronic cigarettes and the various types that are being sold. Combining the atomizer and the cartridge was seemingly a natural progression for the technology. What is still going through a sort of evolution is the design and functionality of the cartomizer itself. There is a growing opinion that the tank style cartomizer could end up being the best method of vaping, providing someone can produce one that does not clog or leak. As someone once said, “the design is solid and eliminates many downfalls of previous designs, however the tank is still in its infancy and needs to grow up a bit more.”

The clearomizer can be said to also be a design on track to eclipse the standard cartomizer. Then again, this might depend on who you talk to because to a great many people, a clearomizer is nothing more than a cartomizer with a see-through casing. One problem with all this is that the community surrounding electronic cigarettes and vaping in general are creating their own terminology as they go. Sometimes this causes confusion as well as a product having multiple names. Overall the cartomizer design is where the e-cig technology currently stands with regards to delivery systems. The only thing that remains at this point is for the consumer to choose which method they like best, poly-fill, wick-fed, or the tank.

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