Mechanical mods are the realm of cowboys and rebels. Those who flirt with danger and shirk the safety of circuitry that keeps exploding batteries out of range of their soft, burnable bodies. They roam the streets living right on the edge of vaping oblivion. And they blow clouds bigger than the ones you see up in the sky.
This is the world of the mechanical mod.
What’s a mechanical mod?
Okay, fair question.
A mod, for starters, is the big brick attached to the bottom of your tank. Or deck, if you’re going rebuildable; but then, you already know what a mod is, don’t you. The mod is where the battery lives—be it an integrated rechargeable battery or some removable ones that you can replace when they stop holding a charge.
You’ll find your firing button on your mod, as well as a few other buttons and maybe a screen if you’re going upmarket. What you probably won’t see is the circuitry that pulls everything together in there. It coordinates the amount of power that the battery can output and what shows up on the little screen. It also controls a number of safety features that prevent the battery from overheating or overcharging or over-something and turning you into a burny mess.
What we’ve just described is known as a regulated mod. The battery is regulated by the circuit.
In contrast, a mechanical mod has no circuitry. The mod contains a battery and a firing button, and that’s generally it. When the firing button is pressed, it closes the circuit between the battery and the coil, and you get heat. Nothing prevents the user from holding down the firing pin until the battery heats up to the temperature of the sun and causing a minor ecological catastrophe. Nothing prevents the user from burning out the coil until the cotton bursts into flame and burns down everything they hold dear.
So why do people use mechanical mods?
Mechanical mods, by virtue of their simplicity, are immensely customisable. Some build boxes for their mods themselves, carving intricate designs in wood. Others wind coils themselves (probably). Others yet use ultra-low-resistance coils or hugely powerful batteries to draw ever more and more performance out of their rig.
But all of them blow the biggest, most enviable clouds you’ll see any day of the week. It’s claimed that a mechanical mod can deliver a vape experience that just can’t be matched by regulated mods.
Think of it like driving a manual car. It’s a little harder than automatic, and there’s a chance that you could mess up something important. But nothing matches the experience. That’s the real draw of the mechanical scene.
How do I stay safe with mechanical mods?
As with any situation where you put a person’s safety into their own hands, things can go a little haywire. Vaping.com has a great writeup of some of the ways that mechanical mod users can stay safe, but it boils down to four major points:
- Take care of your battery. Using safe batteries will get you half of the way there. You want to look for IMR (lithium maganese oxide) batteries, since they’re less susceptible to ‘thermal runaway’ at high temperatures or if overcharged. Try to steer clear of ICR (lithium cobalt oxide) batteries, since they’re not great with thermal runaway. If you must go ICR, look for a ‘Protected ICR’ battery. And be careful never to overcharge your battery. Vaping.com advises to keep the voltage between 3.3 and 4.2 volts.
- Make sure you’re not short circuiting. Make sure that no part of your circuit is in contact with anything (a tank, a loose piece of metal) with less resistance than your coils. The electricity will want to travel that way, since you have no circuitry preventing firing as low as 0 ohms. You’ll burn out whatever the current is shorting through.
- Keep your battery ventilated. Any number of things can happen to make a battery go bad: they can short on something, they can overheat, they can be overcharged. When that happens, batteries tend to vent gases. If the gases vent into your mod, but have nowhere to escape from the mod, you wind up with a hot battery under pressure. This is how you turn a battery into a bomb.
- Prevent misfires. If your mod doesn’t have some way to prevent accidental firing—for example, in your pocket or backpack—you’re going to have a bad time. Look for a mod with some sort of locking firing mechanism, like a screw which prevents the firing pin from making contact with the battery.
Mechanical mods aren’t for everyone. They can be temperamental, finicky, and required a much higher degree of maintenance savvy than regulated mods do. But for those who are looking to put in the time, or for those who want a powerful, unregulated vape, blowing enormous clouds and with throat hits for days, mechanical mods are a dream come true.