How Long are Motorcycle Helmets Good For?
Many bikers wonder when it's the right time to replace their helmets. Here we talk about the lifespan of a motorcycle helmet.
Many people who are into riding motorcycles say that you should replace your motorcycle helmet every five years. While most people simply believe this without question, we have to stop and ask exactly why this five-year rule exists.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at whether or not this rule is effective. We’ll also discuss how long you can expect your motorcycle helmet to last and when you should replace it. Read on to learn more.
Is the Five-Year Rule Real?
Let’s start by looking at why the five-year rule exists. The briefest explanation of this way of thinking comes from the Snell Memorial Foundation, which performs extensive research into helmet safety and even has its own testing certification.
The Foundation states that the five-year recommendation for replacement is based on a consensus by both the Snell Foundation and motorcycle helmet manufacturers. Resins, glues, and other materials used in the production of helmets can affect liner materials.
Body fluids, hair oils, cosmetics, and general wear and tear are also contributors to the degradation of helmets. Petroleum-based products found in paints, cleaners, and fuels are also capable of degrading the materials used in many helmets, which can hamper performance. What’s more, experience has shown that there will be a significant improvement in the protective capabilities of helmets over five-year periods thanks to advancements in design, materials, productions, standards, and methods.
Based on these factors, it’s clear to see that there are plenty of elements in a helmet that start to deteriorate as time goes on, many of which might not be visible to the naked eye, and which will negatively impact the helmet’s overall performance.
What Wears Out a Motorcycle Helmet?
Helmets break down and wear out on their own, and to some degree, they become less effective at protecting your head. However, this isn’t simply because of age. While an untouched helmet certainly will deteriorate on its own, most of the noticeable degradation is due to three factors:
- Maintenance practices
- Frequency of use
- Initial build quality
These are the three factors that wear a motorcycle helmet out, and they all vary between both the actual helmets and the rider wearing them. The five-year rule is merely an extremely general approximation of how much wear is going to occur over five years. Like a motorcycle, use is going to wear your helmet down, as does how well you take care of it.
Signs That You Need a New Helmet
Here are a few signs that you can look for in your helmet to see if it’s time to buy a new one.
Age of the Helmet
How old is your helmet? We’ve already discussed the five-year rule and how it is only a general approximation, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard it entirely. Five years is a very long time, and if you’re a dedicated rider who’s riding every day, you’re going to put your helmet through a lot of stressful conditions.
If you are consistently wearing your helmet, you are exposing it to dirt, weather, UV rays, and other factors that you might not think have any effect on your helmet’s integrity. These issues will weaken the glues and resins holding it together, which can lead to the helmet falling apart in your hands.
How Do You Use It
If you’re wearing your helmet daily, it is constantly being exposed to wear and tear. It might not be totally apparent at first, but this slow, consistent damage will reduce the helmet’s integrity over time.
Think of it like riding your bike every day. As you rack up the miles, you’re going to need to perform more maintenance or purchase another one entirely, depending on the severity of the situation.
Have You Had Any Accidents
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. If you have recently been in an accident, then it’s probably going to be time for a new helmet. You should check it thoroughly for any visible damage, and maybe even have it X-rayed to see if there’s any internal damage that can’t be seen with the naked eye.
Wearing a damaged helmet is not going to protect your delicate head and brain one bit. Do not, under any circumstances, wear a helmet that was on your head during an accident - saving a few dollars is not worth your life.
Has Your Helmet Become Looser
When you first purchased your helmet, it likely felt quite snug and secure on your head. When you shook and turned, it stayed put, unwavering.
Shake your head from side to side to see if your helmet is loose. Is it sliding around, or does it remain secure on your head? If your helmet is sliding around, then the padding inside of it has become compacted, and it’s likely time for a replacement. You could also check for foam lining indentations.
Your helmet is supposed to hug your head tightly - not so tight that it causes headaches but tight enough that it doesn’t move. Motorcyclists who get in accidents while wearing loose helmets often suffer traumatic brain injuries, and we doubt you want to be part of that statistic.
Lock and/or Strap Failure
Are the straps on your helmet still working properly? If you wear your helmet often, then you may have noticed some corrosion on the strap lock, which is likely due to dirt and weather.
The chin strap on your helmet is essential, as it allows the helmet to stay firmly on your head. Without it, your helmet is just going to come sliding - or flying - off, and you’ll be left with a completely exposed head. If the strap is not working properly, you’ll want to either replace it or purchase a new replacement helmet entirely.
Using the above information, you can easily work out how long are motorcycle helmets good for. Ensure that you replace your helmet as often as is required to keep yourself safe when on your motorcycle.
I grew up working on my own cars and motorcycles and 15 years later I love still getting my hands dirty.