So you have had your favorite helmet for a while now. You may be wondering when or even if you will need to replace it.
Read on to find out.
Most helmet manufacturers recommend that you replace your helmet 5 years from the date of purchase or up to 7 years from the date of manufacture. This seems to be the industry standard and should give you a good time frame of when to consider replacing your helmet.
The question you may be asking yourself is why? And, where does this number come from.
Well there are two main reasons for this that we will take a look at. One reason is SNELL rating. The other, predictably is liability
Most helmet manufacturers strive to achieve the coveted SNELL rating for their helmets. It’s an industry best rating. It speaks to a helmet’s overall safety.
So much so that most tracks will require riders to have a SNELL rated helmet in order to use it for track days.
The guidance of the 5 year life cycle comes from SNELL. It is their findings that say deterioration begins around this time.
“Wear and tear, the simple act of putting on and taking off helmets, damage the comfort pads and energy absorbing foam liner over time. Helmets with worn-out pads are at least one to two sizes larger than helmets in new condition. A poorly fitted helmet makes it more likely that the helmet will shift too much or even come off the head during a crash impact.”
There aren’t many manufacturers that will openly challenge SNELL’s work and findings. For this reason, helmet companies are happy to go along with the independent third party and recommend the 5 year interval for helmet replacement.
No helmet manufacturer wants to get sued. It’s just plain bad for business. For this reason manufacturers will always err on the side of extreme caution. If an independent third party, one that’s respected as much as the SNELL foundation, suggests a 5 year replacement interval, manufacturers better heed their advice. Ignoring such a recommendation leaves a company exposed to litigation. A company needs to stand by something in regards to its product life cycle. What better way than to go along with what SNELL recommends.
Of course a helmet doesn’t fall apart the day after your 60th month of ownership. Or become completely unsafe to use.
There are many factors that will go into an individual helmet’s life cycle. Things like the amount of use it gets. If you sweat a lot etc. But there is no way of taking all of this into consideration. Looking at how an average rider uses his or her helmet is how they determine its longevity. Your situation may be different. It’s your call if you choose to go outside this recommendation. If push comes to shove, the liability could possibly fall on you.
What The Manufacturers Say
Prominent helmet manufacturers like Arai will offer a warranty for 5 years from the date of purchase of 7 years from the date of manufacture. You can find the manufacture date of your helmet either on the D ring/strap or under the comfort liner. Check Your manufacturer’s website if you are having trouble locating it.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to ride in a helmet beyond a date that the manufacturer itself will not warranty.
“Like most major helmet manufacturers, Arai subscribes to the Snell Memorial Foundation benchmark of five years as the suggested usable lifespan of a motorcycle helmet. Why? Think of a helmet in terms of your body. No matter how good it may look, or how well you take care of it, age still takes its toll. Even with minimal use, a helmet is affected by things like the acids and oils in sweat, hair care products, cleaners, polishes, pollution, exposure to UV rays, etc. At about the five-year mark, helmet interiors begin to show wear and/or deterioration, which should serve as an alert to its overall condition.”
Basically what Arai is saying is they can’t guarantee it’s condition beyond this time frame and to be safe, would rather you replace it than take a chance.
Yes, it’s an abundance of caution but I think it’s founded in this case. Your head is just too important to leave to chance.
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Other Reasons Your Helmet May Not Last
Beyond SNELL and helmet manufacturers following their findings, there are a couple other reasons you may need to look out for to determine if it’s time to buy a new helmet.
This is kind of obvious. If you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of going down on your bike and your helmet sustaining a knock with your head in it, it’s time to look for a new one.
Thankfully you had one on and it did what it was designed to do, protect your head. Once it’s served its purpose it’s time to let another helmet serve your duty.
Your EPS foam liner likely did what it was designed to do and that’s dissipate impact energy. They aren’t designed to do so twice.
It’s also possible your outer shell could be compromised with an indent, crack, or deep scratch.
Don’t take chances. Replace right away.
A lot can happen in 5 years. We can change tremendously in that time. We can either gain a bunch or weight or lose a bunch of weight. If this happens it’s likely your helmet doesn’t fit quite like it did before your transformation. Your helmet can become too loose or too tight. Either of which will put you at risk.
The helmet needs to perform at its designed level of performance and it can only do that with proper fitment.
If you notice it’s not fitting quite as it did before, change it for a better size. This will keep you not only safe but comfortable as well.
What If I Drop It?
So you left your helmet on your bike seat, the wind blew, and now it’s on the ground.
Time for a new lid?
Probably not. The odd 3 foot drop likely won’t affect the EPS liner.
Typically there needs to be an opposite force on the inside of the helmet (your head) to create a situation where your liner may be compromised.
If you are worried about it, contact the manufacturer and see what they say. Or to make yourself feel more reassured you could get it x-rayed. Doing this will see inside at the EPS liner to see if it held its shape.
Most helmets are designed to withstand the odd drop but check with the manufacturer just to make sure before you run out and buy a new one or ride unsafely.
I change my helmet every 5 years. A helmet doesn’t last forever no matter what. I’m going to have to change it at some point. Whether that time is 5 years or 7 years doesn’t make that much difference really. I’d rather make sure I’m well within the safe parameters of my helmet than to try and squeeze out an extra year or two. I buy a helmet from a manufacturer because I trust them. I would buy a SNELL and feel safe because I trust them as well. I should feel no different about taking their recommendations and replacing my helmet after their recommended time frame. Sure maybe it will be just as safe in its 6th or 7th season with me but when it comes to my head, Im not taking a chance. Besides, what motorcycle nut amongst us doest love helmet shopping!