Do Motorcycle Helmets Have An Expiration Date?
The importance of a motorcycle helmet when riding is paramount. Unlike cars, motorcycles do not have the luxury of seatbelts and airbags and the only thing protecting your head from trauma is your motorcycle helmet.
In case you already know the importance of helmets, you must have also wondered if they come with an expiration date. Motorcycle helmets might not go bad like the ricotta cheese sitting on your fridge, but they do come with an expiration date, beyond which you should not use them.
The biggest problem is that most manufacturers do not mention anything about the expiration date on their helmets. This leads to riders asking questions like when do motorcycle helmets expire, why do they expire, and when should they replace their helmets. We will answer all such questions in this article.
What Is The Expiration Date of a Motorcycle Helmet?
There is no definite expiration date for motorcycle helmets. They do not come with stickers on them declaring their end dates, like perishable items. Regardless, motorcycle helmet manufacturing brands suggest riders change their helmets every five years as a general rule of thumb.
It is always recommended to replace a motorcycle helmet after five years of regular use and even if the helmet hasn’t been used, it should be replaced after seven years from the manufacturing date. Moreover, if the motorcycle helmet is heavily used, then it should be replaced within three years.
Even if motorcycle helmets do not always come with an expiration date sticker, they do feature a manufacturing date. The date of manufacturing will be inked on the helmet in a visible but discreet spot. You might need to look carefully to find it. To determine replacement intervals, start with this date as your benchmark. If you are not sure about the date, you can bring the helmet into a store to receive guidance from a professional.
Like most things, the quality of a helmet starts degrading due to regular wear and tear. The tricky thing is that a motorcycle helmet might look absolutely fine from the outside but it is the inside that matters the most.
The inner portion, specifically the expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, is more susceptible to wear and tear. This foam under the helmet is there to cushion the blow in the event of a collision. However, the density of the foam can start to deteriorate over time owing to the heat, sweat, and other factors, like a crash or fall.
If you have been in a motorcycle wreck, chances are that your motorcycle helmet has lost some of its effectiveness already. Upon a crash, the liner absorbs the impact and gets degraded.
Do motorcycle helmets ever need to be updated for reasons other than normal wear and tear or accidents? Absolutely yes! Regular deterioration is the most common cause of needing to change a motorcycle helmet but there are also other factors that you must consider. Other than the inner materials degrading and getting less effective over time, the fit of the helmet should also be kept in mind.
Maybe you bought the helmet when you were younger and you have, since then, outgrown it. Or maybe, the helmet doesn’t fit that well anymore. As much as the inner materials of the motorcycle helmet are important for keeping you safe, the fit is equally an essential factor that often gets overlooked. The chin straps and the padding must fit properly. It is time for a replacement in case the helmet is too loose or too tight.
What about accidental drops? Do motorcycle helmets need to be changed then? Well, that depends. If your helmet was dropped from the handlebar, you might not need to change it. In such a case, take into consideration the overall age and condition of the helmet to decide if you need to replace it. However, if the helmet has been dropped from three to four feet and hit a hard surface, you have to start looking for a new motorcycle helmet.
Why Do You Need To Replace Your Motorcycle Helmets?
You might think that there’s no need to change your helmet every few years. After all, there is no expiration date stamped on the helmet. That means it must be fine. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the major reasons manufacturing brands do not put a definite “expiration” date is that it varies depending on use.
Usually, for a DOT-certified helmet, the recommended time for an update is seven years if the helmet hasn’t been used. But, other than regular use, there are also other factors that demand an update, as we have briefly mentioned above.
The weather is one of the biggest variables to consider when thinking about updating your motorcycle helmet. Your headgear is constantly exposed to sun, heat, and rain and naturally, it’s protective covering will get diminished with time. Similarly, fuel, cleaners, road debris, and other similar things can bring down the quality of your helmet.
Apart from these general reasons, one of the biggest reasons why you should change your helmet is technological improvements and changing motorcycle helmet guidelines. Helmet safety guidelines are frequently changing and if you want to be caught up with them, you need to change your helmet as recommended. Moreover, no matter how well it performs, if your helmet is more than 10 years old, its performance will always be inferior to that of more recent models.
Therefore, you need to update your helmet every five to seven years to remain compliant with safety regulations. Furthermore, you will be surprised at all the new features that a new motorcycle helmet can offer. Helmet technology is constantly improving and there are now many useful features that were not available earlier.
For instance, motorcycle helmets now come with built-in Bluetooth speakers for listening to music. There are also two-way built-in radios for talking to your friends. Additionally, there are numerous design and color options to suit your preferences.
Can I Purchase A Used or Expired Helmet?
Unplanned helmet replacements can sometimes burn a hole in your pocket. You had a perfectly decent motorcycle helmet up until two days ago and now you have to replace it because it suffered a crash. For a new, functioning, and decent helmet, you will have to shell out at least $100 and it can go up to $400, depending on which features you need. During such times, you might think about buying a used helmet. But, that is never a good idea.
Firstly, you can never fully trust a used motorcycle helmet. Even if the ad might be compelling, you can never be sure that the motorcycle helmet is intact. Secondly, it’s difficult to pinpoint the age and condition of a used or expired helmet.
The previous owner may have changed a few parts to make it more attractive for reselling but that never guarantees the safety of the helmet. Although there might be a stamp suggesting the date of manufacture, it is difficult to understand the kind of use the helmet has gone through. The motorcycle helmet may look shiny and new but that never means that it’s completely secure.
Thirdly, you might have issues with your fit. Buying a used motorcycle helmet is seldom a good idea, but it is even more dangerous if the helmet has dents or visible scratches. Moreover, even if a helmet looks perfectly fine from the outside, the inside construction may not be up to the mark. The head of the previous owner may have imprinted the cushions, causing you to have a more wobbly or uncomfortable fit. A bad fit will only be a distraction, which you never need on the road.
Lastly, the hygiene factor should also be considered. Oils from the hair and skin of the previous owner may have been deposited in the cushions, which degrade their quality. Furthermore, you never know the kind of places the motorcycle helmet has been in. It might have bugs, grime and dirt stuck to it.
Even though buying a new motorcycle helmet every few years might seem steep, it is still much less than the price you have to pay if you get in an accident because you were wearing an expired motorcycle helmet.
Motorcycle helmets never last a lifetime, but with the right upkeep and maintenance, they can endure a couple of good years. Treat your motorcycle helmet the same way you treat your motorcycle and it won’t let you down. But, even if you take the utmost care of your headgear, changing it every 5-7 years is necessary and it’s never worth the risk to stick to an old one only because you think it’s looking fine.
When it comes to motorcycle helmets, looks can be deceptive since the damage may not be always visible. Remember to change your motorcycle helmet every seven years if you have never used it, five years if you are a casual rider, and three years if you are a heavy rider who rides full-time.