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 to the question. If you would like to have your helmet question answered, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“A question came up the other day about the expiration of helmets. I’ve always followed the “5 year rule” and retired a helmet 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 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 and use.”
Samshield Helmets: The 5 year rule expires, starting 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 advice is to follow the 5 years from 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, IT IF 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 is 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 it will rust and grow old 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 years 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.