Helmets reduce the risk of head injury in the event of an accident. And a helmet may still look good after years of use and seem perfectly safe to wear. So is it possible for motorcycle helmets to expire before they get ruined? Do motorcycle helmets expire?
For the short answer, yes, motorcycle helmets expire. Although several factors determine the exact expiration date, but the estimated lifespan of helmets is five years after purchase, seven years from the manufacturing date, or immediately after an accident. After it expires, the helmet can no longer be guaranteed to protect your head in a crash, so you must replace it.
In this article, we will talk more about this. Let’s dive in.
Do Motorcycle Helmets Expire?
Motorcycle helmets do expire. Over time, factors like wear and tear slowly degrade helmets till they are no longer suitable for use.
The helmet’s outer shell may look thick, but what mainly makes it expire is the internal materials. Daily exposure to sweat and hair oil also slowly wears out the comfort liner, and wear and tear weakens other components. So, your helmet may look pretty clean on the outside, but inside, it’s damaged.
At that point, the helmet can no longer perform its primary role, which is to protect your head. If you get involved in an accident, an expired helmet won’t be strong enough to protect your head from impact. Hence, wearing an expired helmet is as good as not wearing anything. So how long does it take before motorcycle helmets expire?
How Long Do Motorcycle Helmets Last?
There’s no precise expiration date, and the years may vary from product to product. But a general rule is to replace your helmet after five years of use or seven years after the manufacturing date. This time frame applies to motorcyclists who ride less often.
But if you are an everyday rider, you should consider changing your helmet after three years. Even if a motorcycle helmet hasn’t been sold, it still slowly degrades while sitting on the shelf.
Hence, it’s advisable to look at the manufacturing date before buying a helmet. Avoid buying those that have sat on the shelf for up to seven years. They ought to take such helmets off the shelf.
That aside, this estimate doesn’t always stand as it applies to motorcycle helmets kept in perfect condition. But, if your helmet drops from 3 or more feet on a hard surface, like a concrete floor, you should replace it immediately. If you are in a crash, replace the helmet as well.
How Do I Know If Your Helmet Has Expired?
While 3 to 5 years is the estimated timeframe, your motorcycle helmet can break down earlier. Most often, each component degrades on its own.
Hence, it’s crucial to know the different helmet parts, how and why they wear out, and the signs to watch out for.
In this section, we will discuss the components of a motorcycle helmet and how to know when it’s time to change them.
The comfort liner or inner padding protects your face from the hard outer shell. Usually, after buying a new helmet, the inner padding loosens after 15 to 20 hours of wearing.
This process is necessary for the padding to break in and conform to the shape of your face, making it more comfortable. But, after months of use, the padding may become more depressed, making the helmet feel too loose. Hence, it won’t fit firmly on your head.
Factors like heat and pulling on and off the helmet can wear down the padding. Also, hair products like shampoo and conditioner can weaken the fabric. And unfortunately, a weak helmet won’t serve well in the event of an accident. Without the inner padding, the impact will be much more painful and dangerous.
Luckily, most manufacturers offer padding replacement. Hence, you can change the comfort liner without changing the entire helmet. Please take it to the manufacturer or a recognized bike shop for a replacement. However, you should note that if the comfort liner gets worn out with little use, it may be a sign that the EPS liner is also weak.
The helmet’s inner lining is made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) (styrofoam). The liner is the most essential part of your motorcycle helmet. It’s fitted between the outer shell and the comfort liner, and it’s the layer that compresses to absorb impacts during a crash. Thus, it protects your head from impact.
Usually, if the EPS liner wears out, you have to replace the entire helmet because it can’t be removed. It’s not that easy to know when it’s weak, but you can do so by inspecting the helmet. One way to inspect for weakness is to press the foam. If it dents, then it’s high time you got a new helmet.
You can also measure the thickness of the foam by checking another helmet to see if your liner looks compressed. Also, some manufacturers can help you scan for structural damage. So, you can contact them to know if it’s possible.
The EPS liner degrades after an accident, needing replacement. Hence, it’s crucial to change your helmet after a crash. Even if the EPS liner still looks fit, it won’t provide as much protection if there’s another crash. So, to be safe, replace your helmet.
Another essential part of the helmet is the chin strap. The chin strap holds the helmet in place by buckling under your chin. Over time, the chin strap can deteriorate or fray as a sign of aging.
When you notice frays or your chin strap no longer holds the helmet firmly, it’s time to replace it. The good news is that you can replace it separately with extra parts.
The visor is basically a shield for the eyes. It protects your face against dust, dirt, debris, and direct sunlight. But, your visor can get damaged over time, and this is usually easy to identify.
Check for scratches on the visor. If there’s a notable scratch, you may need to replace your visor. A scratched visor can distort your view at night or in bright sunlight, making it dangerous.
Also, ensure that the visor stays up when you move it in that direction. If it falls back, try tightening the screws. If that doesn’t work, you may need to replace your visor. Manufacturers offer replacements, so you can change the visor instead of replacing the entire lid.
The outer shell is the exterior plastic. It’s very crucial because it holds the helmet together in a crash, and it takes much of the force. The outer shell can degrade because of ultraviolet rays. And since it’s exposed to the sun regularly, you can expect that one day, your helmet’s shell is going to expire.
Manufacturers typically add stabilizers to reduce the effect of UV light. But this protection still doesn’t last forever. To check for UV degradation, inspect your motorcycle helmet for signs of discoloration.
Such helmets will look faded, which means the plastic has become brittle and ineffective. Thus, you need a new helmet. Also, check for scratches and splits. You may hit your head or the helmet without knowing, and this can cause scratches.
If you notice any scratches, see if you can remove them by polishing the helmet. If it doesn’t go but looks like a deep scratch or split, you must replace your motorcycle helmet immediately.
The glue holds the helmet layers together, but oil, sweat, chemicals, and other factors can break it down. Without the glue, the styrofoam could break loose from the outer shell. And in a crash, this can be very dangerous.
While this degradation takes time, it’s an important reason to change your helmet. Because even if you don’t notice any noticeable changes, the glue may weaken, and your helmet will fall apart.
Main Factors that Can Degrade Your Helmet
Here is a round-up of the main factors that can cause your motorcycle helmet to degrade:
- Age: Naturally, as the helmet ages, the components lose effectiveness. Eventually, this will lead to expiration.
- Regular Use: The more you use your helmet, the quicker it expires. Motorcyclists riding very often should check more regularly for signs of degradation. They must also change their helmet in 3 to 5 years.
- Temperature and Weather: Riding in extremely hot or cold weather can affect your helmet. Rain and sun are usually the primary causes of deterioration.
- Substances: Substances like cleaner, petrol, and fluids like sweat, hair oil, shampoo, and conditioner can affect the comfort liner of your helmet.
- Drops or Accidents: If you drop your helmet on a hard surface or get into an accident, your outer shell can crack. Also, the most critical layer, the styrofoam, may compress, making it less effective.
- Poor Maintenance and Storage: One factor that can reduce your helmet’s lifespan is poor maintenance. Not regularly cleaning your helmet and storing it in the wrong place can wear it down.
Tips to Increase the Lifespan of Your Motorcycle Helmet
Here are some tips to ensure your helmet serves you for longer:
- Storage: Store your motorcycle helmet in a dry place, away from moisture and direct sunlight. After rides, take the helmet inside and keep it above ground level, preferably hanging from a wall. Also, keep it away from chemicals, as they can affect the structural integrity of your helmet.
- Check Components: Regularly inspect the chin strap for frays, and check the visor to ensure it is not loose. Also, inspect the outer shell for cracks and splits.
- Clean Your Helmet: Clean the visor to remove dirt that can prevent it from moving well. For removable comfort liners, wash them carefully to remove grime. Clean the outer shell as well, using mild dish soap.
- Exercise Caution: Don’t carve the EPS liner to insert a Bluetooth speaker, which can damage it. If you must use a Bluetooth intercom, consider buying Bluetooth helmets or an add-on Bluetooth headset.
- Improper Use: Don’t use your motorcycle helmet to store your gloves or keys. Putting items inside the helmet can damage the EPS liner.
- Choose Paints Carefully: The solvent in paints can affect the structure of your helmet. Hence, it would be best to use a paint type approved by the manufacturer when repainting. If there’s no recommendation, use acrylic or spray paint.
- Be Wary of Secondhand Helmets: It’s advisable not to buy second-hand helmets. But if you must, check for structural damages in the outer shell and EPS liner.
Motorcycle helmets expire after 3 to 5 years of use, depending on how often you ride, and seven years from the manufacturing date. But this timeframe is an estimate, and your helmet may expire earlier or later. Hence, it’s advisable to look for signs of deterioration like discoloration, splits, frayed chin straps, or depressed padding.
Usually, you are expected to change your helmet after it falls hard or after a crash. This is because crashes will compress the EPS, making it unsafe for use. Also, ensure you properly care for your helmet so it lasts longer.