When Should I Replace My Helmet? (expiration dates)

The following question came in through the riders4helmets website. We like to always try to answer your questions as accurately as possible, so we contacted several helmet manufacturers and asked them for an answer. We have posted their responses below the question. If you would like to have your helmet question answered, please email admin@riders4helmets.com.

Question:

“A question came up the other day about the expiration of helmets. I’ve always followed the “5 year rule” and retired a helmet 5 years after the manufacture date inside the helmet (that is, assuming I haven’t fallen on it before then ;-).

A friend says that the 5 years starts when the helmet comes out of a climate-controlled environment. So if in September ’10, you buy a helmet manufactured July ’10, and you keep that helmet in a closet in your air-conditioned home until July ’12, you can continue wearing it until July ’17.

What do you think about this? Her argument is that the materials don’t start to deteriorate until they’re exposed to heat & use.”

Answers:

Samshield Helmets: The 5 year rule applies, starting at the date of manufacture. So July 2010, July 2015. The rider is the only one to know that she/he kept the helmet in the closet. So the advise is to follow the 5 years from date of manufacture rule.

Troxel Helmets: Troxel recommends replacing a helmet 5 years from the date of purchase from a retail store.

GPA: We do recommend to change the helmet every 5 years, IF IT DID NOT HAVE FALLS OR SHOCKS, and if it has been properly used and taken care of. The helmet materials do not get affected until it starts to be worn

Charles Owen: Your questioner is correct that it is recommended to replace your helmet after 5 years of use, not manufacturing date. It is the sweat and the occasional drop that reduces a helmets safety level. I would equate that to 2000 hours of riding. So a helmet that is worn regularly will deteriorate faster than one used only an hour a week. A helmet kept in air conditioned storage would be ideal as it will be kept cool and dry. Helmets will degrade in very warm conditions, that is above 170 deg F and will rust and grow mould in damp conditions. Dishwashers are not recommended for cleaning as the water and drying cycle are too hot.

Tipperary: Neither is inherently wrong but we do go by date of purchase.  Our stock has a very quick turn around but I could imagine a scenario where a helmet is in a store for some time and is perfectly fine, although it was purchased when already a year or two old.  This doesn’t mean it would not be good for another 3-5 years of wear (provided it sustained no impacts of course).  If someone was disposing of a helmet that was manufactured 5 years previously but purchased 4 ago I would think they were erring on the side of caution and that it was a perfectly acceptable course of action.  I would also not consider it wrong to wear a helmet for 5 years that had been manufactured 6 years previously but purchased when a year old.   Once a helmet leaves our facility (which is a climate controlled environment) it is assumed that all retailers take the same care in storage and handling the helmet until a customer purchased it.


Comments

  1. Great article! As an equine insurance agent, I advise riding instructors, camps & non-profits on this rule of thumb often. Non-profits especially have to be careful because people tend to donate items, even helmets. It is important if you provide helmets for the use of others to reduce your liability & take extra care for their safety. I would always recommend purchase helmets new & replace them after being dropped or receiving a blow.

    What I would like to see is a helmet recycling program from these manufacturers or for charity so that the materials could be broken down & not necessarily reused for helmets, but re-purposed to other good.

  2. when I put a helmet into my bin for students to borrow, I write inside the month and year so I can replace them in 5 yrs. I would suggest manufactures consider putting a place in the helmet so we could all do it more easily

  3. Thanks – I think Tipperary points out a possible “gotcha”, especially for those of us who live where it’s well above 100 for long stretches of time:

    “Once a helmet leaves our facility (which is a climate controlled environment) it is assumed that all retailers take the same care in storage and handling the helmet until a customer purchased it.”

    That assumption will also have to apply to the transporters of the helmets, right?

    And I agree with Rachel’s comment above – it would be great to have some kind of recycling option for helmets.

  4. Jane Johns says:

    Just please don’t sell on eBay or give to goodwill. Destroy the helmets yourselves, or if your helmet was in a fall, check with the manufacturer’s website to see if there is some sort of a trade in or discount on a new one.

  5. What would you say to a helmet that is more than five years old (probably closer to 10), but has been in a tack locker and unused for the large portion of that period of time? I have maybe ridden a dozen times since purchasing the helmet. No falls. Thanks!

  6. By the way, destroying an old helmet is a highly educational exercise. People think “coffee cups” when they think of styrofoam, but these things take quite a beating to destroy. Great activity for your students.

  7. I would think that based on the fact that ASTM standards for helmet testing will have certainly changed and been updating during that time period Mary, you WOULD need to purchase a new helmet. You very likely have one that would no longer pass the current ASTM testing standards. I would not ride in a helmet that was 10 years old and feel safe.

  8. Thank you for posting this information. Most people don’t realize that helmets have a life span and should be replaced every 5 years. It’s a small investment to protect one’s head. Far cheaper the medical costs for even a minor head injury.

  9. Fluffy Flare says:

    The comment from Charles Owens is the one that I personally found the most helpful, as the other comments did not list about how long of a use during the 5 years. Unfortunately, G-MAC weren’t included, and mine has been around since ’09.

  10. As I never seem to go that long without a fall, this is a bit of an academic question for me! But it will inspire me to throw away a couple old helmets that have been in my basement a long time.

  11. This is terrific information. Another suggestion is that the helmet manufacturers assist the stores selling thier helmets to share this information with all equestrians, not just to generate sales, but to generate rider education and safety. I know a lot of people who have ANCIENT helmets and think, “Nah, I haven’t fallen on my head, so the helmet must still be OK, and it’s an old favorite,” so they keep wearing that old, old, old one. Helmet comfort/fit/design has improved so much over the last 10 years, it’s not an excuse that the old one feels better. It just feels wrong to throw the old one away, it would be nice to have a recycling program for materials somehow — never ever try to donate.

  12. MAdeline Rockwell says:

    …And when you destroy or discard the helmet, cut the straps off so that it stays destroyed.

  13. Lindsay says:

    I have an old helmet that I don’t wear (took a fall in it)… I haven’t destroyed it, but find it makes for great horsie-home-decor, sitting pretty on a shelf with some other riding memorabilia =)

  14. Catherine says:

    I would love to see a follow up post giving details on each company’s replacement discount policy, if they have one. For example, Charles Owen (the brand I currently wear) has a policy of giving you a discount if you need to replace within 5 years due to an impact, and there is a sliding scale of the amount of the discount based on how old the helmet is. They calculate this from date of purchase (you have to submit a receipt and go through your dealer as well as send in the impacted helmet). So, it would be interesting to know if others do something similar and what dates they use since it is very possible you could pick up a helmet with an older manufacture date from your shop, as noted in this article.

  15. We tell our customers 2-3 years regardless of manufacture date, especially with younger riders who may not notice how high their helmet is riding on their foreheads if the brow is still “comfy”. Here in the Sunshine State, our helmets are exposed to direct sun and heat most of the year, which is nearly as detrimental to helmets as impact. No matter how careful we are about keeping our helmets indoors, it WILL get left in a car or trailer or outside at some point and get baked.
    I personally have only ever kept one helmet un-crashed for five years (I crashed two show helmets in that time but my schooling was fine!), but by then it was so gross I WANTED to buy a new one! My old ones are all on a wall in my house.

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