When to Replace a Motorcycle Helmet

when to replace helmet

When Is The Right Time to Replace a Motorcycle Helmet

Motorcycle helmets save lives. According to the NHTSA Crash Statistics from 2003, there were 1,060 lives saved from riders who were wearing full face helmets.

Don’t drop your helmet!

With a motorcycle helmet the part that protects you is all the foam and cushioning on the inside of the hard outer shell. That specially designed foam is made to reduce the speed your head travels if it impacts an object (like the asphalt). Slowing down your skull even a little bit can be the difference between significant brain damage and just a small headache.

This foam is a one time use material. Once it is compressed, it’s not designed to decompress and be just as effective. If you drop your helmet from a significant height (more than 3 feet), you should consider replacing it.

Despite the fact that less than 3 percent of registered passenger vehicles are motorcycles,  motorcyclist fatalities represent about 9 percent of all passenger vehicle rider fatalities. – NHTSA

If you get into a small accident and you hit your head, you should replace your helmet even if it doesn’t look damaged on the outside. You don’t know the condition of the foam on the inside and it could be compressed, which means it won’t protect your skull and brain very well if you ever get into a more serious accident.

X-ray the helmet

Some companies offer a free helmet inspection if you do drop it and are wondering if it is safe. I’m not sure if they x-ray it, or if they undergo some other testing procedure, but I know Shoei has a program like this available for free. Here is what it says on their official website:

Does SHOEI offer any type of impact inspection service?

Yes, SHOEI offers a free impact inspection service for any SHOEI helmet. Be sure to include a letter with a brief description of the issue with the helmet, as well as a daytime phone number and return address. Once we receive the helmet it will take 1-3 business days to complete the inspection. Upon completion the helmet is returned to you with a letter stating the findings of our inspection. Your helmet is returned to you if it passes the inspection or not. There is no charge for the inspection, and the UPS Ground return shipping is free.

Old helmets

Helmets get old. When I lived in California my helmet was subjected to 100+ degree temperatures and freezing rain during the thousands of daily riders I took. The environment can take its toll even if you don’t specifically drop your helmet.

Companies have different policies, but most recommend you replace a helmet within about 5 or 6 years of using it. You can buy replacement parts (like interior liners and new cheek-pads) if the original parts are showing wear, but you still can’t tell the quality of the foam within the helmet.

Don’t buy used helmets

I know helmets can be expensive, the current one I own cost about $700 when it was brand new. You can also get cheaper helmets brand new for around $100. They will be heavier, and maybe not as comfortable, but they will protect you just as well.

I would caution you against buying any sort of used helmet. You have NO IDEA how that previous rider treated the helmet. It might look brand new on the outside, but they could have dropped it multiple times which would damage it beyond safety specifications.

I know it can be tempting if a rider is selling his motorcycle and offers to throw in the helmet for free (or low cost), but really think twice before you do that. Your brain is what makes you, you. Do you really want to risk brain damage because you are getting a ‘deal’?

Should you replace your helmet checklist

  • Is it more than 5 years old?
  • Have you dropped it from a height of more than 3 feet?
  • Has it undergone even a tiny accident?
  • Is it still comfortable or are all the cheek-pads and straps loose?
  • Does it smell bad (Haha, you don’t have to replace it! Maybe consider washing the liner if it is removeable)