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Tips for knowing when to replace your motorcycle helmet

Added July 19, 2016
Spring and early summer is a time of renewal for motorcyclists. A time for new rides and adventures. It’s also the time when we service our motorcycles and make updates to improve our riding experiences. New tires, battery, oil change, and tune-up are frequently on our list of motorcycle maintenance. One aspect of motorcycle maintenance that deserves our attention is not a part of our machines. It’s our helmet—the most vital piece of safety gear that’s often overlooked during our service routine.

How old is your helmet?

A common question is how long is a helmet’s service life. Many manufacturers suggest that after five years a helmet should be replaced. It’s important to note that this is based on manufacture date, not purchase date. Modern helmets are marked somewhere—the location varies by manufacturer—with the month and year of manufacture. Even a new in-the-box helmet that was manufactured more than five years ago should not be considered safe to use. This is because the materials that helmets are made from deteriorate over time. This process is accelerated by contact with things like sweat, solvents, aggressive cleaners, oil, gasoline, and exhaust fumes. Age counts but helmets can wear out before they age out.

Inspect your helmet

A modern motorcycle helmet is a sophisticated device with several key components that work together to protect you. Deterioration of any one of these components is cause to replace the helmet. When you inspect your helmet, check the following four areas—any of the listed signs indicates a need for replacement:

  1. Outer shell – chips, punctures, dents, flaking paint, delamination, and deep scratches
  2. Impact-absorbing liner – feels loose inside helmet, has indentations, scratches in the protective paint, missing material, discoloration, or evidence of heavy use
  3. Comfort padding – signs of heavy use or decay, which causes a loose fit that allows the helmet to move when you gently shake your head
  4. Retention system – fraying of the strap and stitching, loose connections to the outer shell

Out with the old and in with the new

Just like we change our oil at the proper service interval (or sooner under harsh conditions), we need to inspect our helmets on a frequent basis. Helmets may be expensive, but our heads are irreplaceable, and riding with a worn-out helmet is a false economy. The really good news about discovering you need a new helmet is that helmet technology is always evolving. In many cases, you can get better quality at a lower cost than when you bought that old helmet. After you find a helmet that properly fits your head and sense of style, a key thing to check before purchasing is the date of manufacture.

Till next time, ride safe!