All equipment and gear get old with time. They come with a certain shell-life, which means, they can function well, and up to their potential, for a certain specified period of time. As such, they will need to be replaced or upgraded, thereafter. Motorcycle helmets are no different and go through the same cycle and process, after about 5 or 7 years of usage from the date of their production, depending on multiple factors. By and large (particularly those that have been manufactured after 1970s), all helmets come with a production date that is printed or embossed by means of a sticker under the comfort liner or padding of the helmet. If there is no production date, then you can presume that it has expired, as a cautious and conservative step.
Helmet lifespan depends on a few variables: helmet type, manufacturing material, impact or wear and tear from accident or over usage, etc. There is a consensus amongst helmet manufacturers and regulators that helmets should generally be replaced in 5 years, due to the deterioration to its outer shell and inner layers, regardless of whether its involvement in an accident.
Different manufacturers put a different usage span for their brands of helmets, depending on their use of materials primarily, as well as other secondary and external factors. However, one of the most important factors that determine the life span of a helmet is its usage. It also depends on the user, as to how he has particularly used or maintained the helmet, and what types of terrain and conditions he has exposed it to.
There are certain specific circumstances upon the occurrence of which you should instantly replace your helmet (since you do not get helmets with a specific expiry date as a product). These instances include:
- When the motorcycle helmet has been dropped on a hard surface.
- When the helmet’s internal padding or comfort lining has been affected due to day to day use.
- When a certain part(s) of the helmet becomes defective or doesn’t operate.
- When you become aware of the fact that the material used in constructing the helmet is not genuine.
- When you meet with an accident and your helmet gets impacted.
You may also consider buying a new helmet if you are tech savvy or an avid technology fan, and would like to upgrade to a new model or version, for an enhanced riding experience, as well as added protection and safety. It is commonly observed that the manufacturers are coming up with better and more efficient versions of their earlier helmets, and consumers are being lured to this newer and improved gear.
What Is A Motorcycle Helmet Made Of?
A good proportion of helmets (motorcycle or dirt bike ones) have an outer shell that is constructed from a particular durable plastic, fiberglass, or carbon, for durability.
These materials are used due to their toughness and firmness and ensure that the helmets are sturdy and long-lasting, when exposed to different and difficult external conditions. This resilience and added durability is a must, given it is a protective gear for the head. It is like the first line of defense when you are involved in an accident. Moreover, they shouldn’t get damaged from accidental slips or drops on the ground, and manufacturers also keep this in mind.
The inner part of the helmet generally includes dense foam that helps to absorb any impact in case of an accident. A lot of times riders put some heavy stuff within the helmet when not in use, and often drop it with that weight. This can also cause the inner foam to deform. The foam’s function is to absorb and spread the energy post impact. This, first and foremost, protects your brain from injury, and secondly, helps the helmet to stay in shape without cracking, after an impact.
The helmets also often contain a special lining that is meant to wick the moisture from your sweat. The lining soaks the sweat, and helps you stay dry, as well as keep the helmet in a firm internal state.
What If The Helmet Is Dropped While Being Off The Bike?
If you drop your helmet when not riding, then the extent of damage needs to be assessed along with the circumstances of the fall.
There is a common misconception about dropping a helmet that if you do, then you need to replace it. This is not true in all cases, and a lot of times, people make these statements to improve their sales for example. As a matter of fact, they are designed and constructed to withstand accidental falls, during day to day handling. If you drop it whilst wearing it or from the motorbike handle (which is most often the case), there shouldn’t generally be any concerns or damage, and you do not need to replace it. You should, however, inspect and examine it for any damage, just to be on the safe side, and by way of abundant caution.
It is only when a helmet is dropped from a significant height that the chances increase of any damage to it, in which instance, you will most likely need to replace it with a new one.
Given the massive advancement in technology and research, almost all types of helmets undergo severe testing to ensure that they are durable and robust, to withstand all kinds of falls and drops. The safety standards adopted by renowned manufacturers these days are pretty high, and do anticipate all kinds of wear and tear and accidental falls, as part of their manufacturing.
Having said that, you should always take great care and precaution whilst handling your gear and never be complacent by the fact that they are generally sturdy, or purchased from a big name manufacturer. You should store it in a cool and dry place and avoid children playing with it.
Signs That A New Helmet Should be Purchased
Your helmet will give you signs when it requires a replacement. Below we list for you the 7 important signs that can help you establish the need of a new helmet. These signs can also be construed as useful tips that will be beneficial for beginners as well as pros alike.
An Aging Helmet
If you have used your helmet for over 5 years, it is probably time for you to inspect and examine it for a replacement.
5 year period is a reasonable time that takes into account all the wear and tear and usage you have subjected your helmet to. This consistent usage is meant to have weakened it overall, and minimize its effectiveness as a safety and protective gear. These defects may or may not be visible to the naked eye.
When you use the helmet regularly, you expose it to all kinds of weather, debris, dirt, strong UV rays, and other bits and pieces that interact with and impact the helmet, and its utility going forward. These, collectively, These elements eventually dampen the resins and weaken the glues that keep the helmet together.
It is for these reasons that most of the manufacturers prescribe to change your helmet every 5 years, by way of abundant caution. This 5 year recommendation is obviously not cast in stone and all sorts of circumstances and factors play a part in wearing it down as a protective gear. Depending on the wear and tear, this period may well be less than 5, and it is up to you and your good judgment to ascertain that. You should use the 5 year period as a reference point suggested by some of the reputable brands, as opposed to a norm or a strict rule.
One thing that is bound to increase your helmet’s wear and tear and reduce its life span, is constant or day to day use. The helmet’s integrity is bound to be compromised due to over use, regardless of whether you see those impact on the outer or inner shell, or not.
It is no different than riding a motorbike or driving a car on a daily basis. They are also equipment and subject to break down and wear and tear, the chances of which increases with increased usage, without due care and routine maintenance.
You can still mitigate the impact of over use by maintaining your helmet and storing it appropriately, both in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Should you Replace the Motorcycle Helmet after an Accident?
This aspect is stating the obvious, and cannot be emphasized enough. If you have had an accident and the helmet was impacted, then you must replace it with a new one. Before you do so, it is a good idea to check and ascertain the extent of damage. If you are in doubt, it is possible to get it x-rayed, to see any specific damage to it. It may be the case that the helmet wasn’t directly impacted or hit, and may still be usable.
Whatever you do, do not take any chances with a suspected damaged helmet. You are not doing yourself any favors by saving a few bucks so you do not have to buy a new protective gear. If you continue to use a damaged or impacted helmet, you are only compromising your personal safety for years to come.
Helmet Becoming Loose on the Head
Every rider will tell you the perfect fit and feel when you choose the right helmet. This ‘fit for purpose’ gear will give you a snugly fit that is meant to stay in place firmly (almost like a glue would) when you move your noggin around.
There is a test to ascertain whether you helmet has loosened up. You need to shake your head from one side to the other and observe if the helmet stays in place or slides around. If it is the latter, then it is obvious that the inner padding of your helmet has compacted and that clearly means that you need to buy a new one. Another clue for a loose helmet (and hence an unsafe one) is when the foam lining develops indentations.
The last thing you need it to have a loose and gliding helmet in case of an accident. If the helmet isn’t firm, you are potentially exposing yourself to traumatic brain injury.
Helmet Interior Falling Apart
Any rider would tell you that it is never the outer shell that deteriorates first with the passage of time. The lining and foam inside the inner helmet does. If you do notice the flaking of this lining or foam in your hair or shoulders, then it is an obvious sign that you need to replace your helmet. This is regardless of the time frame that the helmet has been used (5 years or less).
The EPS liner inside the helmet is generally black in color, and hence, you can spot tiny white cracks that will form inside the helmet.
These are clear signs that your helmet’s integrity has been compromised, as a result of which, it will not be able to absorb the energy from any impact.
Deteriorating Helmet Exterior
The outer shell is the first layer of protection for your head and is meant to be strong and durable. These are constructed from polycarbonate, fiberglass, Kevlar or even carbon fiber, to make them light-weight. These may become less protective with time when they get scuffed up, get exposed to weather or get impacted during accidents.
You should instantly replace your helmet if you observe brittle texture or cracks on the outer layer of the helmet.
Failure to Strap or Lock the Helmet
Are you having trouble with your strap locks? That may not be a good sign and usually occurs due to over usage or poor manufacturing. If it is due to poor manufacturing, then you must contact the seller or supplier and get an exchange or a refund to buy a new one. If the strap locks have corroded as a result of exposure to weather and dirt, then you need to consider replacing the helmet or the chin strap.
The chin strap is an important component of a helmet that keeps it firmly on your head. Get it replaced immediately otherwise you risk compromising your safety.
It is an undisputed fact that motorcycle helmets are a compulsory and integral gear for all riders, who need to stay protected and safe on the road, at all times.
They do not guarantee you 100% safety, but they do go a long way in affording varying level of protection to the most important part of your body – your brain.
It is for these reasons that it is vital to establish as to when you should replace or update your motorcycle helmet.
We read about the general 5 year rule with regards to the replacement of the motorcycle helmets, although there is no specific period prescribed on helmets as an expiry date. Caution and prudence are key aspects when making the decision to replace. Safe keeping and maintenance are equally important factors that provide longevity to this life-saving gear.