How Long Does a Motorcycle Helmet Last?

The sad truth is you’re gonna have to accept the fact that you will need to replace your helmet every so often. Even if you take great care with it or your use it very little.

Well, How Long do they last?

Typically a store bought helmet should last between 3-5 years depending on your use.

  • 3 years, if you use it regularly
  • Up to 5 years, even if it sits around

Most helmet manufacturers recommend five years from the date of manufacture. Sometimes they say a little longer if it’s not used often.

Five year shelf life for a typical helmet

Manufactures recommended shelf life is 5 years

Even a brand new helmet technically has a 5-7 year shelf life, depending on how quickly it gets to the store.

Still sounds confusing? Still not convinced? This is what the ‘experts’ recommend.

Industry Recommendations

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends every 3 years. (I’d say I would have to agree with the most, definitely if your helmet is used a lot.)

If you do a search online you will find a few different answers to this question, but still within the range stated above.

Recommendations by Snell:
‘5 years’

“The five-year recommendation for replacement is based on the consensus of helmet manufacturers and the Snell Foundation. Adhesives, resins and other materials used in the manufacture of helmets can affect liner materials. Oils, biological liquids, and cosmetics, as well as normal “wear” all contribute to the degradation of the helmet. Oil-based products present in cleaning products, paints, fuel and other common materials can also destroy materials used in many helmets, which can degrade performance. Also, experience indicates a marked improvement in the protective characteristics of helmets over a five-year period due to success in materials, structures, manufacturing methods, and standards. Thus, the recommendation to replace the five-year helmet is a court decision arising from a liberal security philosophy. “

Snell

Recommendation by Shoei
‘5 years’

“Replacing the helmet, Even if none of them apply, we, SHOEI, recommend a replacement in 5 years after its first purchase at retail.”

Shoei

Ultimately, the useful life of a helmet depends on the intensity and frequency of its use.

It is recommended to replace if any one of the following points arise:

  • The helmet was subjected to a shock.
  • The comfortable upholstery or holding system became free due to heavy use or signs of deterioration.
  • Helmet becomes loose over time.
  • In the synthetic foam pad, there are signs of intense use, and the helmet feels too loose. Test: when attaching the restraint system, the helmet turns to the side when you shake your head gently.
  • There are depressions in the EPS liner and white scratches can be seen on surfaces with black paint.

How To Make a Helmets Last Longer, Even w/ Regular Use

  1. Treat your helmet with respect – it’s there to save your life if things go tits-up.
  2. Inspect your helmet often for signs of wear and tear.
  3. When you’re not using it, place the helmet in a dark and dry place (for example, in a cabinet) Typically out of the sun, inside the carry bag.
  4. Never put your helmet on your fuel tank, preferably far away from fuel. So, not in the shed near the lawnmower for example.
  5. Don’t place the helmet on the mirrors or grips. Particularly with the mirror placed inside the helmet.
  6. Only clean the helmet with water and mild soap.

Related: Where safely to hang your helmet when you’re out

Never store your helmet on the fuel tank for example

Got a Damaged Helmet?

Take care of your helmet, if it falls, it can be damaged. Blows to an empty helmet may often be OK, but it depend how severe it is.

If it’s a severe blow, like you’ve been in an accident. Even if the outside looks fine, the inner foam pad may have been compressed and it’s now damaged.

If the damage is to the outer shell, I would not risk it. If you’re not sure, the manufacturer may be able to check it for you.

Motorcycle helmet on the street after terrible car crash. Need replacing?

Why Replace a Helmet if it’s Not Damaged?

The main reason to replace a visually UN-damaged helmet over time is due to the inner lining. It strengthens (becomes hard) with age and looses its shock resistant capabilities.

Expanded Foam

Studies show the polystyrene inner lining loses ~2% per year efficiency to evaporation. Which means it’s starting to harden from day one.

So, with some quick back of a napkin calculation reveals. After five years you’ve lost ~10% of your protection, and after ten years you’ve lost 20%. This is just from Evaporation alone.

What Else Effects The Inner Lining?

  • The glue and resin in the shell will slowly destroy the inner liner.
  • Sweat and oily hair can weaken the lining
  • For the ladies, make-up doesn’t help
  • Heat, chemicals and sunlight are the main concerns.

Basically, all these different things add up over time and take a cumulative effect on the linings usable lifespan.

The old foam is dangerous because it hardens and doesn’t absorb the impact. In some cases it becomes brittle.

I read something on Redit once where a dude took the small sledgehammer to a new helmet. He noted that the lining became spongy, and it shrank after the impact.

From time to time, I used the same small sledgehammer to destroy the old helmet. In each case, an old helmet (5-10 years) will break in a fragile manner. The foam did not shrink … it just broke.

Source: Gurra on Youtube

When To Replace Your Helmet?

If the helmet has been in an impact, you should replace it immediately.

If you’re a regular rider and it’s been more than three years since purchase. Consider this. Does it feel looser than when it was new. Replace it immediately. If it still feels snug and is in good condition, then keep if for a while longer before replacing it.

People Also Asked: Is It Illegal to sell a Second Hand helmet?

Conclusion – What is the price of your life?

If you have a second head, wear an old helmet. For me, my head is precious (I mean priceless). Not sure about you.

The industry consensus is 5 years as a hard and fast rule?

If the purpose of wearing a helmet is to protect you in an accident. The ‘when to replace a helmet’ is best based on ‘your’ risk tolerance (and your disposable income).

Or you’re bored with what you have – you may want to buy something new.


Looking for a Replacement Helmet? Here’s a Recommendation

Best Full-Face Motorcycle HelmetPriceRating
Shoei Men's Rf-1200 Full Face Motorcycle Helmet (Medium, Matte Black) from $425.385/5 rubber chickens
Gmax G1540075 Modular Helmet from $118.454.8/5 rubber chickens
 

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