Enthusiast vapers have been using mechanical mods for over 10 years now and despite huge leaps in technology and the availability of regulated devices, they’re still a popular choice for hobbyists.
When used with the proper attention, mech mods are just as safe as any vaping device but there are some things you need to learn if you want to start using one.
In this blog post, we will attempt to cover all of the essential information you need to safely use a mech mod. We are mainly looking at tube style single battery mech mods, as these are the most popular in the mechanical category, so this information may not apply to series mechanical mods, or parallel
Before we start, we should clear up a misconception. Mechanical mods are certainly not the only way to achieve a high power vape. In fact, these days it’s far more convenient and often more affordable to use a regulated device. If you are considering a mech purely for its power output, you may be better served by a high-quality regulated device.
How do mechanical mods work?
A mechanical mod forms a simple electric circuit when a switch, button or other mechanism is depressed. Unlike regulated mods, which have built in protections and smart chipsets, a mech mod is activated mechanically, by way of conductive surfaces coming together with the battery to create a circuit.
A mechanical mod has no built in electronic protections to detect a short circuit, low resistance or high battery temperature. For this reason, it’s extremely important to take the proper steps when using one.
Which battery should I buy?
It may sound dull but safely using a mechanical mod begins with your choice and maintenance of the battery inside. Typically, we use Lithium-Ion batteries for vaping, since they provide good capacity and high amp limits for their size. A side effect of their high energy density means that Lithium-Ion batteries must always be treated with respect. They are powerful and if used incorrectly, can overheat, vent or even go into thermal runaway in a worst-case scenario.
The first step is to find a high-quality cell that will suit the level of power you intend to be vaping at. There are many cells on the market and new models emerge from time to time. Unfortunately, some brands vastly overstate the capabilities of their cells, so new vapers can be tricked into using batteries which are totally unsuited to the high continuous currents that are often used in vaping.
Fortunately, the vaping community is home to Battery Mooch, an electrical engineer who independently verifies the performance of many of the cells on the market. Before purchasing any battery, you should check his Facebook page and see what he has to say about it.
Currently 21700 and 18650 are the most common cell sizes for mechanical mods. It’s generally agreed that the Molicel P42A and Samsung 30T and 40T are the best all-round performers for 21700 mods, since they provide a high amp limit and good capacity.
For 18650 mods, there is a lot more choice, though popular models include the Molicel P26A, Samsung 30Q and Sony VTC5A. Remember to always check that the vendor you are purchasing from has a good reputation. We recommend Fogstar for those based in the UK.
Battery maintenance and storage:
When purchasing Lithium-Ion batteries from a reputable vendor, they should come in a plastic case. Whenever your battery is not in use, or being charged, it should always be in a protective case. Carrying or storing batteries loose can lead to accidents if they form a circuit with metal objects such as coins or keys.
Each battery you buy will be wrapped in a thin layer of plastic, with an insulator around the positive end. This is referred to as the “wrap” and is an important safety feature that stops the battery from creating a circuit unintentionally. Wraps may wear down over time, or even become torn.
As soon as you see any tears or defects in the wrap of your battery (like the one pictured above), you must immediately stop using it and re-wrap it before using it again. This is a simple and very affordable process, as seen in Vaping Bogan’s YouTube video.
Tears or defects in the battery wrap can cause short circuits when being used in a mechanical mod, so this is something you will need to check every time you go to use a battery.
Several years ago, most mech mods had a 510 connection, similar to what we see on regulated devices. In recent years, this has changed, as a 510 connection can cause voltage drop, which reduces the power output of a mechanical device.
Now virtually every tube mech released has a “hybrid connection”. This simply means that the 510 pin of your chosen atomiser will make direct contact with the battery inside the mod.
For this reason, it’s important to only use atomisers with a protruding 510 connection. This means that the centre 510 pin sticks out from the 510 threads. If the 510 pin is not protruding or has a floating design that can be pushed up when pressure is applied, it is not safe to use on a mechanical mod. For this reason, it is never a good idea to use stock coil tanks on a mechanical mod.
If using a mechanical mod, it goes without saying that you’ll need an external charger. It’s important to use a reputable model, ideally from a known brand like XTAR or Gyrfalcon.
It’s important to never let your batteries become too depleted, as this can permanently damage them, making them unsafe for use.
For this reason, we recommend using a charger that displays the exact voltage of a cell when it’s being charged. If you deplete a battery below 2.5V, it should be safely disposed of.
We will show you how to calculate the maximum power output of a given build in the next section, “Ohm’s Law”. Since a mechanical mod only outputs the voltage of a battery at any given time, the total wattage output will decrease as the battery depletes.
For the best mech experience, it’s important to aim for a build that won’t be too hot on a full charge, but won’t be too cool when the battery begins to deplete. This is something that you will have to learn over time to suit your own preferences.
You will often see Ohm’s Law being referenced when people talk about mechanical mods. It is a simple equation that allows you to calculate the total power output (Watts) and current (Amps) for any coil build, where the resistance and voltage are known variables.
Lithium-Ion cells have a theoretical maximum voltage of 4.2V when fully charged. Though this will never be the output in practice due to voltage drop and battery sag, we always assume 4.2V output when checking the current of a build, to see if it falls within the limits of the battery we are using.
We recommend using this calculator to check if your planned build will fall within the safe limits of your chosen battery.
Whenever you build an atomiser to use on a mech mod, you should always test fire it and make any adjustments using a regulated device. Never use an untested build on a mechanical mod, you simply won’t know if it’s of a safe resistance, or creating a short circuit.
Ohm’s Law example:
To better demonstrate how Ohm’s Law works in the context of mech mods, here is an example.
In this theoretical situation, we will be using a Molicel P42A 21700, which has an Amp limit of 30A. We will be checking if a build of 0.15Ohms can be safely fired on a single battery mechanical mod with this battery, using an assumed Voltage of 4.2V.
In this case, the calculator tells us that the power output would be 117.6W and the calculated current would be 28A. Though this is operating quite close to the Amp limit of our battery, it is within the range stated by the manufacturer and verified by Battery Mooch. Provided we practice good maintenance of our batteries, we’re good to go!