Life of a Helmet

jethro10

Über Member
I read recently, but can't remember where, that a helmet should be replaced every 3 years even if undamaged.

Does anyone know why it becomes, unsafe I guess, after approx. 3 years?

ta
Jeff
 

oliglynn

Über Member
Location
Oxfordshire
... had my helmet for around 9 years :S If this is true perhaps a new one should be on the cards!
 

siadwell

Veteran
Location
Surrey
From Snell memorial Foundation website:

"Why should you replace your helmet every five years?
The five year replacement recommendation is based on a consensus by both the helmet manufacturers and the Snell Foundation. Glues, resins and other materials used in helmet production over can affect liner materials. Hair oils, body fluids and cosmetics, as well as normal "wear and tear" all contribute to helmet degradation. Petroleum based products present in cleaners, paints, fuels and other commonly encountered materials may also degrade materials used in many helmets possibly degrading performance. Additionally, experience indicates there will be a noticeable improvement in the protective characteristic of helmets over a five year period due to advances in materials, designs, production methods and the standards. Thus, the recommendation for five year helmet replacement is a judgment call stemming from a prudent safety philosophy. "
 

Norm

Guest
Further to siadwell's excellent post, a few other factors can also affect performance, the main one I don't see there is sunlight, which can affect both the shell and the protective inner of a helmet. So a helmet which is 5 years old and has been stored in a cool dark place all that time might be ok, but a helmet which is stored on a south facing window sill may need replacing in less than 5 years.

I use 3 years as the gauge for my motorbike helmets. The oldest cycling helmet I've got is still under a year old.
 

Steve Austin

The Marmalade Kid
Location
Mlehworld
also, technology moves fast. the older the helmet, the older the technology.

Not to say that the newest helmets are better, but its worth adding that into the equation
 

Kestevan

Last of the Summer Winos
Location
Holmfirth.
And of course, if you don't keep giving the helmet manufacturers lots of your money at regular intervals, their share holders will have to switch to cheaper brands of champaigne and caviar.
 

GilesM

Guru
Location
East Lothian
I wish I could get a helmet to last 3 years without a major impact, on my fourth one since July 2007. I should add these are all off road impacts, I don't usually wear one on the road.
 

Mark_Robson

Senior Member
According to Wiki ( the font of all knowledge :tongue: ) styro takes 500 years to decompose, so a five year shelf life seems a little low to me. Saying that I've no doubt that Cunobelin will be along with some fascinating statistics about effective helmet life, which in the case of a EN1078 helmet will no doubt be 30 seconds. :tongue:
 

Steve Austin

The Marmalade Kid
Location
Mlehworld
I don't think this thread should turn into 'is it worth wearing a helmet?' or 'will a helmet save my life?'
but i always reckon if you are going to wear something that 'might' help you in the event of an accident, then it is worth using a helmet that isn't knackered from old age
 

Mark_Robson

Senior Member
Steve Austin said:
I don't think this thread should turn into 'is it worth wearing a helmet?' or 'will a helmet save my life?'
but i always reckon if you are going to wear something that 'might' help you in the event of an accident, then it is worth using a helmet that isn't knackered from old age
+1
I work in the chemical industry and hard helmets are mandatory for travelling around the site and my company runs a policy of replacing them every two years. This figure is based upon average wear and tear on a helmet in every day use. Saying that I only replaced my helmet after five years because it looked old, it had had very little use and had never been used in anger. I would imagine that the same applies with cycling helmets. As far as I am aware cycling helmets do not have a sell by date so as long as they are properly stored they should be fine. The deciding factor should be based around much wear and tear that they receive in everyday use.
Obviously it goes without saying that they need to re replaced if they receive a blow caused by a hard impact.
 
Steve Austin said:
also, technology moves fast. the older the helmet, the older the technology.

Not to say that the newest helmets are better, but its worth adding that into the equation
There are suggestions that newer designs are far from "better" and older helmet designs are safer!

One example (Evidence to the ASTM helmet standards committee)

During the last couple of years, the technical staff at HPRL has encountered an interesting-and possibly dangerous-problem with the aerodynamic-shaped or streamlined bicycle helmets. These popular helmets have a teardrop design which tapers to a wedge at the rear of the helmet, supposedly reducing aerodynamic drag along with increased ventilation through the many openings in the shell.

The adverse effect of this aerodynamic shape is that the wedge at the back of the helmet tends to deflect and rotate the helmet on the head when impact occurs there. Any impact at the front or sides of the streamlined helmet is no different from other helmet shapes, but any impact on the rear wedge tends to rotate the helmet on the head, probably deflecting the helmet to expose the bare head to impact, and at worst ejecting the helmet completely from the head. Actually, everybody who has tested these streamlined helmets over the past years has encountered the problem of these helmets being displaced during impact testing at the rear wedge. Usually additional tape was required to maintain the helmet in place during rear impact tests; usually the basic retention system alone could not keep the helmet in place during impact testing on the rear of the helmet.

Unfortunately, the implication of helmet displacement and possible ejection in an actual accident impact did not register as a real hazard in previous years of testing, but now there are accident cases appearing that show this to be a genuine hazard for bicycle riders wearing these streamlined helmets. Accident impacts at the rear of these streamlined helmets can cause the helmet to rotate away and expose the head to injury, or eject the helmet completely. The forces generated from the wedge effect can stretch the chinstraps very easily, and even break the [occipital--Prof. Hurt used a trademarked name] retention devices.

We request that F08.53 committee study this problem and develop advisory information for both manufacturers of these streamlined helmets and consumer bicyclists who now own and wear such helmets. There is a definite hazard for displacement or ejection from impact on the rear wedge of these helmets, and bicyclists should be warned of this danger by an authority such as ASTM.

s/Hugh H. Hurt, Jr
Professor Emeritus-USC
President, Head Protection Research Laboratory

s/Christopher B. Swanson
Laboratory Manager, Head Protection Research Laboratory
 
Anyway back to the topic:

The standard advice is that on the Snell site, but varies between manafacturers. but there is another angle - the Crash Replacement Policies.

Many manafacturers will replace a helmet damaged in an accident at reduced cost.

Specialized:
Helmet crash replacement Policy
If a helmet is damaged during a crash within 2 years after the purchase date, the Specialized dealer will replace this helmet for 50% of the original purchase price. Therefore, the dealer needs an original proof of purchase and the damaged helmet.
Abus:
The ABUS Crash Replacement Scheme

If you ride an ABUS helmet and have a crash whilst wearing it, you can take advantage of the ABUS Crash Replacement Scheme if the helmet is less than 3 years old from the date of purchase (proof of purchase required). You are able to buy an equivalent replacement helmet at a reduced price or the equivalent replacement model, should your model no longer be available.
Giro:
The Giro Crash Replacement Programme

The Giro Crash Replacement Programme is available only to customers that are resident in the UK and purchased their helmet from a UK dealer. A helmet up to three years old can be replaced at a reduced price, if it has been involved in an accident. The replacement will always be the same model as the original or the nearest current equivalent if the original is no longer available. When the same colour helmet is no longer available, the customer will be offered a choice from the current range.

What is interesting is that the programmes only covers two or three years...... is this because they feel that the helmet is only useful in the first two or three years and therefore should have been replaced at this stage.

However only a very very naughty person would deliberately damage a two year old helmet and then claim it was a crash so they could get a subsidised replacement!
 

Trumpettom001

Well-Known Member
Might hijack this thread myself a little - I have a helmet that I've used fairly regularly for 2 years... I quite often get spots where the front of the helmet meets the forehead... not a great place for a spot or 6...

anyway - I've found that washing the helmet in water helps significantly... But does an excess of water weaken the thing? shouldn't have thought so but, you never know....
 

HJ

Cycling in Scotland
Location
Auld Reekie
jethro10 said:
I read recently, but can't remember where, that a helmet should be replaced every 3 years even if undamaged.

Does anyone know why it becomes, unsafe I guess, after approx. 3 years?

ta
Jeff
The official reason is that the polystyrene hardens with time, so it no longer absorbs energy as it collapse on impact.

The unofficial reason is to sell more helmets...
 
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