Your motorcycle helmet is arguably the most important part of your safety gear. Over 60% of dirt bike-related deaths happened because riders didn’t wear helmets. So, it’s vital that you always wear it, and that you know when to replace your motorcycle helmet.
You should replace your motorcycle helmet every 3 to 5 years. However, if the helmet you wear has experienced some type of significant impact or an accident, you should replace it immediately. You should also replace your motorcycle helmet if it’s showing signs of significant general wear.
While you should use the 3-5 year range as a rough guide as to when to replace your motorcycle helmet, there are many other factors that determine the lifespan of a helmet. Below, we’ll look at these factors in more detail.
How Long Motorcycle Helmets Last Before Expiring
Most motorcycle helmets last for about 5 years. The materials the helmets are made out of, as well as the resins and glues that hold everything together, lose their effectiveness after some time and the lining eventually deteriorates. Keep in mind that the helmet may have been on the shelf for some time before you bought it too.
Storing the helmet properly when you’re not using it is the key to prolonging its lifespan. You should keep it inside the helmet bag it came in. Ideally, it should be stored in a dry and cool place too.
Another great tip to prolong the lifespan of your motorcycle helmet is to wear a scarf, balaclava, or a helmet liner to prevent sweat from getting in contact with the helmet. Sweating, as well as using a lot of hair products, can have a huge impact on the foam, causing the interior lining to degrade a lot faster.
The Layers Of A Motorcycle Helmet
The majority of dirt bike and motorcycle helmets nowadays have an outer shell made out of carbon, fiberglass, or some type of durable plastic. Thanks to the durability of these materials, helmets are able to provide you with years of protection.
On this outer shell you’ll find other components of the helmet too. Things like spoilers to help with aerodynamics are common on street bike helmets, and you’ll find vents at the front and back to help with airflow. There are various other gaskets and vents too, and the exact number and location of these components varies from helmet to helmet.
One of the most important layers of a motorcycle helmet is the visor. This is the part of the helmet you see out of, and it protects your eyes and face from the elements, while still offering good visibility. These are usually made from hard, clear plastic, and many offer UV protection, as well as protection from the wind, rain, bugs and debris.
The interior, on the other hand, is made out of dense foam that helps absorb impacts. Therefore, if you are carrying something heavy inside the helmet and you drop it, you should check the foam for deformation. You’ll also find comfort liners in some helmets too.
Another thing you might notice inside most helmets is some type of moisture-wicking lining. This lining is there to absorb any type of moisture, including sweat, helping to preserve the integrity of your helmet.
Strap And Buckle
Finally, you have the strap and buckle layer of your motorcycle helmet. These are what keep it attached to your head, and they come in various forms and use different mechanisms. These are adjustable to ensure they’re comfortable and secure.
Should You Replace Your Motorcycle Helmet After A Crash?
You should replace your motorcycle helmet after a crash, regardless of how durable your helmet is. The foam inside it will probably be damaged, even after a light crash, and it will not be able to protect properly if you are involved in another crash.
This is the main reason for replacing a helmet after a crash. In most cases, the foam inside the helmet is designed to survive only one crash. After that, it loses its effectiveness, and most likely won’t be of any help the next time you crash.
Most helmets are made with EPS foam, or Expanded Polystyrene. This type of foam is only meant to protect you from one impact, and so if it’s damaged after a crash, you should definitely replace it.
However, some helmets are made using EPP foam, or Expanded Polypropylene. These helmets are often marketed as “multi-impact” due to the properties of EPP. Essentially, EPP can recover a lot of its integrity after a crash, due to its structural elasticity. However, if you suffer a big enough impact, even an EPP foam helmet should be replaced after a crash, just to be safe.
Damaged Outer Casing
Even if the EPS foam has survived the crash, there is a big chance that the outer casing of your helmet has been damaged. If this is the case, the shock has most likely created internal deformations and cracks, which will reduce the overall strength and protection offered by the helmet. If this is the case, you should replace your motorcycle helmet immediately.
How To Inspect A Motorcycle Helmet After A Crash
1. Ask A Reputable Motorcycle Helmet Seller
If you want to know whether the helmet is still usable after a crash, going to a reputable motorcycle helmet seller is your best bet. They’ll be able to confirm if the helmet is usable or not, and sell you a new one if it’s too unsafe to use again.
2. Check The Outer Casing
If you’re checking the motorcycle helmet yourself, the first thing to look for are cracks or deformations in the outer casing. Even small cracks can drastically reduce the protection offered by a helmet.
3. Check The Inside Foam
Next, check the inside foam for any damage. While with EPS foam it will probably be quite obvious if there are any major deformations, it might be harder to tell if the impact wasn’t too great or if your helmet contains EPP foam instead. If you’re ever in any doubt, ask your helmet supplier for a professional opinion.
4. Check Any Connections
Finally, check if any of the connections of your motorcycle helmet are damaged. Check things like the strap and the buckle, and make sure they can still secure the helmet onto your head. Also check for any major surface damage, or damage to the visor, as while these are sometimes replaceable, you may need to just buy a new helmet altogether.
Do You Need To Replace A Motorcycle Helmet After Dropping It?
You don’t need to replace a motorcycle helmet after dropping it unless you drop it from a significant height. You might also want to replace your motorcycle helmet if you drop it with something heavy inside of it, as this could damage the protective shell or the foam inside.
5 Signs You Should Replace Your Motorcycle Helmet
1. Helmet Becomes Loose
When you buy a properly sized helmet, it fits perfectly on your head. Even when you try to shake your head, it remains stuck like it is glued. So, if you think your helmet is becoming loose, you can simply test it by shaking your head side-to-side.
If the helmet is sliding around while you are shaking your head, it might be a sign that it’s time to replace it. The helmet must hug your head firmly in order to protect you from impacts. If you experience a crash with a loose helmet, you could have a traumatic brain injury. So, always replace your motorcycle helmet if it becomes loose.
2. Your Helmet Is More Than 5 Years Old
As we noted above, most motorcycle helmets are built to last for between 3 and 5 years of regular use. If you use it every day, this is obviously going to be lower than for someone that only rides once a month.
However, as a general rule, no matter how much you use your motorcycle helmet you should replace it after 5 years. That’s enough time for some linings and foams within motorcycle helmets to degrade even with minimal use. So, if you’ve had your motorcycle helmet for more than five years, we recommend you replace it.
3. The Locks Or Straps Fail
If you often ride in wet weather and on dirt trails, there is a chance that, after some time, your strap locks will get rusty. The chin strap is a very important part of a helmet and so, once it stops working properly, you should replace your helmet. The straps and locks keep the helmet on your head, so they need to always be in working order.
4. Deteriorating Exterior
If you notice any type of deformation or cracks on the exterior of your helmet, you should replace it. Wearing a helmet with a damaged shell is pointless, as it won’t be of any use during a crash. No matter what, the shell must always be strong and durable to offer maximum impact protection.
5. Deteriorating Interior
The foam and the lining inside your helmet are usually the first things to deteriorate. Plus, if parts of the helmet often flake off onto your shoulders or into your hair, this is a sign that it’s near the end of its life and should be replaced immediately. If it’s just the internal comfort foam that’s deteriorating, you may be able to replace these parts instead, rather than the entire helmet.
There are many factors that affect the lifespan of a motorcycle helmet. Not all the parts of the helmet wear out at the same rate. The golden rule you should stick to is to change your helmet every 3 to 5 years.
However, if your helmet has experienced an accident, your best bet is to replace it immediately. There is a chance that the helmet can survive another light crash if all the parts, including the EPS or EPP foam, have survived. However, it’s usually not worth the risk.