What's the Lifespan of Motorcycle Helmets? Do They Expire?

The Lifespan and Expiry of Motorcycle Helmets

Everyday drivers of four-wheeled vehicles generally don't worry much about safety gear beyond their seatbelt and a basic safety kit in the trunk. However, motorcycle riders need to be more diligent, dressing appropriately to protect themselves. Given the inherent vulnerability of riding, investing in protective gear is crucial. From sturdy footwear to protective jackets, each piece of equipment can significantly enhance survival chances and reduce injury in the event of an accident. The most critical piece of protective gear for any rider or passenger is a helmet. Helmets are not only vital for safety but are also legally required in many parts of the world, including the entire European Union and various states across the United States.

Purchasing a new helmet is just the beginning; you also need to be mindful of its lifespan and when it needs replacing. Let’s explore the types of helmets available, their longevity, and their expiration considerations.

Choosing the Right Motorcycle Helmet

Wearing a helmet can be life-saving, as demonstrated by numerous studies. For example, a 1994 study showed that a recent California helmet law led to a 37.5% reduction in rider deaths compared to the previous year, preventing an estimated 92 to 122 fatalities. In the U.S., helmets must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218, indicated by a DOT label on the helmet. These standards, set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, require helmets to weigh three pounds or more and be made with solid components. Uncertified helmets may lack the necessary protective foam interior, compromising safety.

Helmets come in various designs for different levels of protection. Full-face helmets offer optimal all-around protection, open-face helmets provide more comfort, and modular helmets offer versatility. However, even a DOT-compliant helmet may lose its protective capabilities over time due to wear and tear. Manufacturers usually recommend replacing helmets every five years, regardless of usage, to ensure maximum safety.

When to Replace Your Helmet

Motorcycle helmets don't have a strict expiration date, but manufacturers provide guidelines for safety. According to Motolegends, there's no definitive test to determine if a helmet is still effective, but a five-year replacement schedule is generally advised. This timeline is more of a guideline than an expiration date.

Shoei, a renowned helmet manufacturer, suggests replacing helmets five years after purchase, regardless of their condition. They also recommend replacing the helmet if the liner becomes worn, damaged, or loose. Additionally, helmets should be replaced after any significant drop or accident.

The protective value of a helmet relies on its fit, which can deteriorate over time as the liner degrades. Newer carbon fiber helmets may last up to seven years, while older polycarbonate models are recommended for five years of use. Frequent riders might need to replace their helmets even sooner.