How To Know if An Oil Cartridge Is Dead

by Rory E. September 03, 2019 6 min read

How To Know if An Oil Cartridge Is Dead

How to Test the Oil Cartridge

Having a dead oil cartridge is pretty bad. However, there’s something worse: having an oil cartridgeand not know if it will work or not. To capitalize on that semblance of hope there is no other way to verify the usability of a cartridge than to simply plug it into a vape and test it out. It’s as simple as that. If you have compatibility issues, stopping by a local dispensary, head shop, or smoke shop might help resolve that problem by allowing someone to test it out on a compatible vape pen. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a dead battery. Below are a list of common problems that might resemble a dead cartridge (and the solutions) as well as some common reasons why a cartridge might have died. 

Oil Cartridge Common Problems & Solutions

First things first – there are a ton of ways that an oil cartridge can appear dead but is actually perfectly fine after a few minor adjustments and small fixes. Essentially, before deciding to discard the cartridge completely, it is going to be best to follow this list of possible issues and troubleshoot the cartridge. After all, it’s definitely cheaper (in terms of time and money) to figure out a simple problem than to have to replace a cartridge (and work for the money to do so). Besides, it’s a lot less wasteful.

Clogged Vapor Pathway

Clogged Oil Vape Cartridge Pathway

Probably one of the more common issues that affect vapes is the clogged pathway. Remember, the vape pen is a fun, sleek techy way to get a nice buzz and some massive vapor cloud hits but all those moist, thick substances still need to be adequately heated to pass through. Particularly in wax compatible and oil vape pens. The good news: it’s an easy fix. Give the vape pen some time to heat up to allow the breakdown of those thick, viscous materials to start to loosen up and eventually pass through. A good thing to remember is that this is particularly an issue during times of colder weather where there is likely a hardening or slower heating time.

Stylus Vape Pen with NO Power Button

Stylus Oil Vape Battery

This is somewhat the same as the problem above, however, these pens do not have a power button easily accessible on the outside. In fact, there isn’t one. This means that there is going to be significantly more difficulty in declogging the vape by warming it up – this requires one to suck through the mouthpiece to activate the heating mechanism. One way would be to manually warm up the vape pen (with hands, for example). As a word to the wise: try to avoid using external heat sources like an open flame to ‘gently’ warm up the pens.

Not Enough Power from the Vape

Sometimes it’s a power issue that is preventing the vape pen from working properly. This occurs more frequently on variable voltage vape batteries that offer more control for the user. When this happens the best way to fix this is to change the wattage or temperature settings so that the power output from the battery increases. This will pump out more heat and will certainly result in a more productive cloud. However, if that fails…

Bad Connection between Cartridge and Vape Battery

…there might be a bad connection with the battery. This can happen from time to time and doesn’t mean there is an irreversible error. Often, what it comes down to is the fact that the battery and the cartridge aren’t contacting fully either because the cartridge is too loose, too tight, or some other substance or material is preventing the proper connection necessary to carry the current. Try unscrewing the cartridge or otherwise manipulating it in order to make sure that this is not what’s preventing the vape pen from functioning as it should.

Vape Battery Not Compatible

Not all cartridge are created equal, unfortunately. As mentioned earlier, this can simply be a compatibility issue. This goes beyond threading – particularly because the cartridge wouldn’t fit atop the vape battery. Rather, there might be some sort of structural setup that prevents the proper conductors from meeting or properly functioning. As mentioned earlier, the best way to test this is to try the cartridge out with another vape pen. Particularly, vape shops, smoke shops, head shops, etc will likely allow someone to test fire their cartridge to see what it is compatible with. Otherwise, phone a friend.

Vape Battery Dead

This should come as no surprise – the vape pen will not fire up without a battery with some electricity in it. However, in the heat of the moment, this simple issue can be all but forgotten. Make sure to plug the vape pen in and see if, when charged, the cartridge will function properly. 

Why does an Oil Cartridge Die?

Unfortunately, even after troubleshooting, the reality is that cartridges can and do die. Below are some common reasons that cartridges have failed in the past.

Too much Vape Power

Too Much Power For Vape Cartridge

Sometimes too much is simply too much. Cartridges are a sensitive technology and putting too much ‘juice’ to the cartridge can burn it out. Avoid this by checking the wattage/temperature settings for the cartridge and any recommendations online or in the vape pen’s manual.

Dry Firing the Cartridge

This is somewhat related to burning out the cartridge – don’t fire the power button unless planning on using the cartridge. Obviously, this is more of an issue with refillable cartridges that use a wick. The wick will burn and taste like garbage – which is exactly where anyone with half a taste bud would want it to stay. It’s simple – don’t fire up an empty cartridge and a lot of problems can be avoided.

Power Button Sleeping

This means that someone is ‘sleeping’ on the power button – i.e. holding it down too long. Don’t do this because the cartridge is likely to burn out as easily as if too much power is applied. Imagine the same thing with a lighter and normal bowl pipe – the glass gets piping hot and unusable for some time.

Fresh Vape Cartridge

This is more of a note for refillable cartridges but sometimes a new one is all anyone needs. Nothing much else to it – kill that last flavor and keep on trucking.

Poor Quality

Low-quality cartridges are bad news – and not just because of all the recent publicity and hype they’ve received. More than anything, low quality doesn’t get anyone the taste, experience, or reliability they deserve and expect. Nothing is worse than popping in a few different cartridges from a pack and struggling to find one that will work or doesn’t taste completely like garbage.

Old Age

Like us, cartridges too get old. Really, make sure that a cartridge – especially if swapped out for a different flavor – gets used within a reasonable time. They can dry out or simply cease to function they’ve become so clogged and abused. This all depends on usage and frequency but make sure to keep an eye out on those older cartridges and place them higher in the que to get used.

How to Transfer Vape Oil from a Dead Cartridge

Refillable cartridges especially are good for salvaging the oil inside. But even one-time use cartridges can be salvaged. Simply remove the mouthpiece separating the tank from the vaper and pour it into a refillable, empty cartridge. Be careful to avoid spilling and making a mess, oil is no fun one the hands. Moreover, make sure to avoid mixing a bunch of different types simply for the fact that the taste might be greatly affected. Once mixed, there is no real way to diffuse the different flavors, etc from each other. This might seem trivial; however, a big part of vaping is the taste and feel of the experience. No reason to ruin something good (like salvaging perfectly good oil from a dead cartridge) with a simple mistake.

Best Oil Cartridge Pens

Best Oil Cartridge Pens

Like most things, the ‘ultimate’ vape pen depends on the experience that the user wants and also what the preferences are specifically. However, there are plenty of amazing high and low-end options available for vapers of all stripes. By high and low-end, keep in mind this can vary greatly. Whether it’s price, reusability, convenience, intuition, or even simply concealment. Some popular models that have high-performance reviews and cool features like voltage variability are the SteamCloud series of vapes. Check out the SteamCloud Mini 2.0 or even the EVOD for some good options (and a great starting point if they don’t appeal).  Don’t worry, there’s a vape for everyone! 

Where to Buy Oil Cartridges?

Cartridges can almost be found anywhere in a head shop or vape shop. Don’t forget, however, that there is an amazing selection of quality products right here at and that all shipping inside the USA is ALWAYS FREE!

Rory E.
Rory E.

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