Do Motorcycle Helmets Expire?

Motorcycle helmets are a necessary accessory for any motorcycle rider as they help protect the head from accidents and head injuries. There’s no helmet expiry date, and you can use it as long as you want. However, there are a few reasons why your motorcycle helmet could expire even though there’s no motorcycle helmet expiration date.

Do motorcycle helmets expire?

The answer is: Yes, there is. Manufacturers recommend replacement, no matter how it looks, every 7 years from the production date and after 5 years of use. To check when your helmet was manufactured, look inside to find a date stamp. A label will have the date printed in the format – YY/MM/DD format.

This article will take you through the various reasons your helmet could expire and what to look out for if you resolve to buy a new one.

Expiry Dates on Helmets

Helmets or Hard Hats don’t last forever, and for the fact that their sole purpose is protection, then it is mandatory to pay attention to them. The quality of a helmet and the life span of the helmet after the issue is based on the quantity of use and care measured to it.

Replacing Helmets, or HardHats, however you may call it, have been a controversial subject as use time ranges vary. If the helmet has been used heavily, it should last at least 3-4 years after the helmet production or manufactured date. Many say 5 years while some say 10 years, and some even bring it down as low as 2 years.

Automobile helmets don’t come with a ‘Use-by’ or ‘Best Before’ date, but they come with a ‘manufactured date’ sticker, as expected by the DOT FMVSS-218 Standard.  (The date of issue should be marked on an additional sticker on the inside of the helmet as the back of the shell. The date of issue may not be the same as the date of manufacture.)

So no matter how your helmet looks, helmet experts advise a replacement after every 5 years of use, 3 years of heavy use, and 7 years after manufacturing even with no use.

Reasons You Should Replace Your Helmet

Your safety is on you! Here and many more is why you should replace your helmet.

1. Damage to the interior or exterior of the helmet

The protective foam inside a motorcycle helmet is designed to absorb impact and protect your head. However, if it is damaged in some other way, then the protection factor decreases significantly. This will make you more vulnerable when riding on a bike where there are chances of accidents happening because you may not take precautions that much before they happen.

2. Heat 

The quality of any material declines over time as heat creates wear and tear.

 A motorcycle helmet should not be exposed to direct sunlight for long periods or kept at high temperatures for extended lengths of time. That could lead to cracks in the lining and plastic parts melting away due to excessive use of the sun’s rays. If this happens, then these elements would break apart during an accident.

The shell itself can also become brittle if it is left out in the rain without being covered by a cloth bag that prevents water from seeping into the inside layers and damaging its integrity when put back together again. This will weaken the one-time protective gear against shockwaves created upon impact with other surfaces after an accident.

 The visor should have no scratches at all on either side; otherwise, they need to be replaced with new ones because of safety concerns.

 If these elements would break apart during an accident, then this means your helmet has expired.

3. Expiration date

The helmet needs to be replaced if it has passed its expiry date. Helmets are designed with the idea that they will only last for a certain amount of time before their protective properties degrade, and you need to replace them because the risk is too significant, or people won’t want to ride on your bike anymore!

Helmet Design

The helmet is shaped roundly to fit the head comfortably and to serve best for distributing the energy from an impact or relatively deflecting it by bouncing it off its surface.

The hard outer surface of the helmet and layers of interior padding is designed to spread and absorb impacts, thereby protecting the head and face.

Aside from protecting the user’s head and face, helmets also serve secondarily to reduce sound waves reaching your eardrums.

Another valuable feature of the helmet is the flip-down visor which provides face and eye protection from debris, rain, or even bugs.

Constituents of a Helmet

The helmet constitutes of three parts which include:

●      Outer Shell covering

●      Inner layer

●      Cloth/Fabric Liner or Comfort Liner

Outer Shell

This layer is the outermost layer of a helmet that shapes and bears the collision’s impact. The outer shell can be made from numerous durable materials such as fiberglass, composite fiber, kevlar, polycarbonate, and carbon fiber.

Although most common, thermoplastic polymers like ABS and polycarbonate have claims of easy damage from ultraviolet light. Polycarbonate indeed will degrade from the influence of photo-oxidative degradation, which is induced by prolonged UV exposure.

However, stabilizers or inhibitors are included in the manufacturing process, and these stabilizers are either added to the main resin or the special coating.

Inner Layer

We can consider the inner layer to be the most important part of the helmet since it plays a crucial role in absorbing the shock from an impact of collision the individual might face.

The inner layer reduces the intensity of a collision or crash. The Inner Liner protects your head from any potential damages by reducing the rate of impact through its shock-absorbing liner materials. The materials used in the inner lining should have excellent shock-absorbing characteristics. The most commonly used material for inner lining is Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), commonly known as a thermocouple.

Comfort Liner

As its name implies, this layer is the comfort padding in contact with the head and skin of the user. Since this layer makes contact, it has to be made from a comfortable, sturdy material that can easily absorb moisture, sweat, and oils, and none irritating, such as cloth or fabric.

Now that we have known the helmet components, it is important to consider whether these components degrade. These components together are essentially the helmet itself. So if one part degrades, definitely the helmet is no longer as good as it was originally.

Do these Components Degrade?

The helmet’s outer shell is very durable, and it is the hardest part of the helmet. Thus, it is the one least prone to damage or helmet degradation. This does not mean that it cannot be damaged or degraded, however.

If you have had a collision in the past that has cracked or broken your helmet, you should consider replacing it because it has degraded.

Concerning the inner lining, which, as we have mentioned earlier, constitutes Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is also not one that degrades quickly. EPS does not degrade unless subjected to high thermal stress in laboratory conditions, which hardly ever happens in real life, day-to-day usage.

Polystyrene takes thousands of years to degrade. The inner lining also consists of something called a comfort liner (or the cloth liner). This is the part of the helmet that is always in contact with your head and the skin. It is usually soft padding made of foam. Foam is used for different reasons: a comfort liner needs to be, well, comfortable; a comfort liner should not move, rotate or slip easily; a comfort liner should not cause any irritation to hair or skin; and a comfort liner should absorb skin and hair oils, moisture, and sweat.

Foam ticks all these boxes, hence its favored use.

The comfort liner can degrade. It is usually the part of the helmet that degrades first because of the material used and because the sweat and oils in your head and skin can make the foam in the padding less and less quality.

These days, most new helmets have detachable comfort liners, so one can take it out and wash it to remove the oils, but usually, it is non-detachable.

When and How Often Should You Replace Motorcycle Helmet

A helmet should be replaced after 5 years if under heavy use, then 7 years if not regularly. On average, there should be a five-year helmet replacement according to the rule of thumb is:

●      It has had an impact from a past incident or has abrasion marks.

●      Had severe damage from a drop

●      Worn outliners

●      Loses it firmness

●      No manufactured date

●      No certification labels

●      Damage to straps or webbing

●  Missing rivets.

Is Buying a Used or Expired Helmet Right?

No, this is not the right step to consider when planning to buy a helmet. Here are reasons not to do that.:

●      Used helmets are indeed cheaper when compared to new ones, but it is critical to consider the fact that it is impossible to prove their authenticity.

●      Similarly, it can be difficult to tell the manufactured date. Yes, there might be a date stamp, but still, no way to prove it true no to tell to what extent it has been used.

●      Buying a new helmet guarantees a perfect fit which is not the case in buying a used or expired one.

●  Don’t ignore the hygiene factor. The previous owner will have inadvertently left body fluids, oils from skin and hair into the comfort layers.

Summing Up

Of course, there are many arguments as to why a helmet should not be replaced. Many parts of the helmet (such as the outer shell and the ESP) last for hundreds, if not thousands of years, if there is no extreme force on them. Plus, helmets don’t have expiry dates anyway.

But it is advisable and good to replace your helmet because of the sweat and oil accumulation and the fact that too much wear and tear over time makes the protective characteristic of the helmet lower. And that all a helmet is meant to do.

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