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How long should your helmet last ?

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How long should your helmet last ?

Old 03-15-13, 05:24 PM
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How long should your helmet last ?

I have seen some people still using the helmet that they bought from the early 90's. Other than cleaning the exterior and replacing the foam strips, are these helmets still safe to use ? I feel that many of these people are still under the impression that the helmet would protect them in the event of a crash, but these old helmets may not hold up when they are most needed.

I have seen some helmets where the styrofoam shrink or compress until there is a gap in the plastic outer shell. The styrofoam shell is supposed to compress upon impact, but through the years they may have hardened to the point where they would easily crack upon impact.
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Old 03-15-13, 06:02 PM
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Ask the manufacturer. In my opinion after one crash or a couple of years of steady use. FWIW when I wore a helmet regularly I bought a new one every year.

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Old 03-15-13, 06:14 PM
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It depends. If your helmet is used constantly and gets tossed into the bottom of the closet under the work boots after use, or if it is used in direct sunlight for many hours per day, then I would think a year or two old should be assumed to be the end of its useful life. If you are careful with it and it is not exposed to direct sunlight for too many hours then I can't imagine why it should have a finite life at all.

The people I feel sorry for are the ones who bought one of those brown Bell hardshell helmets in the mid '80s and continue to use it, believing there is no difference between theirs and a good modern helmet.
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Old 03-15-13, 07:41 PM
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I've never seen any data, tests or other objective information on the useful life of a styrofoam helmet. I've been using my current helmet for about 5 years and can't see one iota of visual indication that it might be degrading. It actually looks and "feels" like new (in other words I can't feel any change in the texture of the foam). I have replaced the foam strips once, and regularly wash them and the entire helmet and straps so they don't get crusty.

I wouldn't trust "manufacturer's recommendation" or any common sense type guess unless there's some actual credible reason or information behind it. I plan to just use mine until it looks or acts worn out.
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Old 03-15-13, 08:16 PM
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Saw a guy yesterday wearing the same model Vetta helmet that I was wearing 26+ years ago. Looked OK from a distance.
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Old 03-16-13, 05:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Camilo
I've never seen any data, tests or other objective information on the useful life of a styrofoam helmet. I've been using my current helmet for about 5 years and can't see one iota of visual indication that it might be degrading. It actually looks and "feels" like new (in other words I can't feel any change in the texture of the foam). I have replaced the foam strips once, and regularly wash them and the entire helmet and straps so they don't get crusty.

I wouldn't trust "manufacturer's recommendation" or any common sense type guess unless there's some actual credible reason or information behind it. I plan to just use mine until it looks or acts worn out.
I work in construction safety, we took some old safety harnesses that had been used for a couple of years then stored inside, they were about 7 years old by manufacture date, passed visual inspection. They were put through destructive testing they all failed at roughly 50% of the intended load. Now company policy is all harnesses get replaced after 3 years of service, the manufacturer calls for 5 years of "average" service, I suspect ours fall under severe service use.

It is your head and you can do what you choose. FWIW I only wear a helmet under certain conditions, I have yet to see any comprehensive testing or studies that they do or don't work.

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Old 03-16-13, 08:16 AM
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I always replace mine every 3-4 years.
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Old 03-16-13, 09:37 AM
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Helmets.org basically saysIf it's not crashed, not from the 70s, not dropped so it cracked, fits well, and passed standards, you can keep it. One manufacture tested theirs 8 year old helmets and they reported that it still does what it is supposed to do. They don't report any studies that say anything else.

Helmets can get kind of grody when used a lot, so there are other reasons to replace helmets, too.

So, long-story-short: As long as you treat your helmet well, it can easily last you a few years.
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Old 03-16-13, 04:33 PM
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The recommendations I've seen are to replace every two years but I'm willing to bet that you can get a few more without any measurable increase in risk. Of course, any helmet that has been in a significant crash should be replaced even if it looks OK. People who leave their helmets hanging from their bikes in the sun and the rain all season, or who store them in damp or hot conditions should probably replace more often.
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Old 03-16-13, 11:39 PM
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I've been wearing mine for at least 6 years. Its color has faded but seems to me in great condition other wise.
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Old 03-20-13, 03:37 PM
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Originally Posted by cplager
Helmets.org basically saysIf it's not crashed, not from the 70s, not dropped so it cracked, fits well, and passed standards, you can keep it. One manufacture tested theirs 8 year old helmets and they reported that it still does what it is supposed to do. They don't report any studies that say anything else.

Helmets can get kind of grody when used a lot, so there are other reasons to replace helmets, too.

So, long-story-short: As long as you treat your helmet well, it can easily last you a few years.
Ah, thanks for that! As for grody (we spell it grotey around here... long O sound, T's not D's ), they're easy to clean inside and out, but it is always surprising that people don't do it. The pads can be removed and hand washed or in the machine in a mesh bag. The inside of the helmet can be sponged clean. The straps can be hand washed under the faucet. My 5-6 year old helmet is not crusty at all. My old helmet which I never cleaned (I was one of those who never thought of it), had very crusty, stiff straps and a disgusting inside.

Originally Posted by wahoonc
I work in construction safety, we took some old safety harnesses that had been used for a couple of years then stored inside, they were about 7 years old by manufacture date, passed visual inspection. They were put through destructive testing they all failed at roughly 50% of the intended load. Now company policy is all harnesses get replaced after 3 years of service, the manufacturer calls for 5 years of "average" service, I suspect ours fall under severe service use.

It is your head and you can do what you choose. FWIW I only wear a helmet under certain conditions, I have yet to see any comprehensive testing or studies that they do or don't work.

Aaron
I understand that you're saying that visually OK doesn't mean it's actually OK, but you actually cite a test that showed they weren't. Until pointed to the helmets.org site, I'd never seen anything except some "internet wisdom" and self-serving helmet manufacturers' or bike shops' recommendations.

Last edited by Camilo; 03-20-13 at 03:47 PM.
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Old 03-20-13, 03:57 PM
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5 large cracks is my limit.
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Old 03-20-13, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by wahoonc
I work in construction safety, we took some old safety harnesses that had been used for a couple of years then stored inside, they were about 7 years old by manufacture date, passed visual inspection. They were put through destructive testing they all failed at roughly 50% of the intended load. Now company policy is all harnesses get replaced after 3 years of service, the manufacturer calls for 5 years of "average" service, I suspect ours fall under severe service use.

that's some scary news. i have no idea how old my dbi harness is, but i would bet it's more than 7 years old. the yellow webbing is faded. the black nylon belt is purple. it still passes visual inspection. nothing is cut, the seams are still intact, the tags are still attached. i use the thing every day. i depend on it to save my arse if i fall off a roof. i seriously doubt the company would buy me a $350 harness if i went to them and said "this thing is too old".
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Old 03-20-13, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by tpolley
that's some scary news. i have no idea how old my dbi harness is, but i would bet it's more than 7 years old. the yellow webbing is faded. the black nylon belt is purple. it still passes visual inspection. nothing is cut, the seams are still intact, the tags are still attached. i use the thing every day. i depend on it to save my arse if i fall off a roof. i seriously doubt the company would buy me a $350 harness if i went to them and said "this thing is too old".

Perhaps if it were to accidentaly drag it against something sharp and it was cut or seriously frayed you could justify it.
Or ask for a replacement and get turned down, then be very clumsy when working at low non-fatal heights and have an accident lawyer on speeddial.
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Old 03-20-13, 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted by tpolley
.... i seriously doubt the company would buy me a $350 harness if i went to them and said "this thing is too old".
I wouldn't make that assumption. Sometimes business - or at least their risk managers are smart enough - to realize that a $350 expense for someone who has actually gone on record questioning a piece of safety equipment might go a long way at reducing their liability, not to mention the safety factor. I'd give it a try if you're genuinely concerned.
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Old 03-22-13, 04:42 AM
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Originally Posted by tpolley
that's some scary news. i have no idea how old my dbi harness is, but i would bet it's more than 7 years old. the yellow webbing is faded. the black nylon belt is purple. it still passes visual inspection. nothing is cut, the seams are still intact, the tags are still attached. i use the thing every day. i depend on it to save my arse if i fall off a roof. i seriously doubt the company would buy me a $350 harness if i went to them and said "this thing is too old".
Your harness should have legible tags on it, if they aren't legible that is a OSHA violation... All safety equipment should come with tag that indicates the manufacturer, serial number and the date of manufacture. The reason it needs to remain legible is in the case of recalls. And yes they do recall safety equipment. I had to just pull about a dozen retractable lifelines due to a recall. I probably toss more safety equipment due to unreadable tags than for any other reason.

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Old 03-22-13, 05:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier
It depends. If your helmet is used constantly and gets tossed into the bottom of the closet under the work boots after use, or if it is used in direct sunlight for many hours per day, then I would think a year or two old should be assumed to be the end of its useful life. If you are careful with it and it is not exposed to direct sunlight for too many hours then I can't imagine why it should have a finite life at all.

The people I feel sorry for are the ones who bought one of those brown Bell hardshell helmets in the mid '80s and continue to use it, believing there is no difference between theirs and a good modern helmet.
Brown?

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Old 03-22-13, 07:32 AM
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Originally Posted by curbtender
Brown?

there were brown and black ones as i recall
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Old 03-22-13, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier
there were brown and black ones as i recall
Only seen the Biker in white with the red stripes.
I still have my Bell Biker from the 70s as well. Usually use my newer helmet but would trust the old one to be more protective. The new ones seem much more prone to cracking without absorbing much crash energy
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Old 03-22-13, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by wahoonc
Ask the manufacturer. In my opinion after one crash or a couple of years of steady use. FWIW when I wore a helmet regularly I bought a new one every year.

Aaron
Considering that head injuries can change your life, or end it, forever the cost of a new helmet every year is dirt cheap insurance.

So what's all this crap abut how long a helmet can last********************
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Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 03-22-13, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Nightshade
Considering that head injuries can change your life, or end it, forever the cost of a new helmet every year is dirt cheap insurance.

So what's all this crap abut how long a helmet can last********************
There is a concept called "diminishing returns".
If replacing it annually is a good idea, then why not replace it monthly?
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Old 03-22-13, 12:24 PM
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I never clean them out (just never think of it). I figure them getting too nasty and pads starting to disintegrate is a good sign telling me that their lifespan is up and it's time to replace. Just me.
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Old 03-22-13, 12:33 PM
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The Chemicals in the EPS, that absorbs the Impact continue to outgas parts of the plastic ,
so the material itself changes even if left on a shelf
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Old 03-22-13, 01:17 PM
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I saw a woman wearing one of these on my ride last Monday. If she hadn't been going the other way, I'd have given her some advice about getting a new one.

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Old 03-22-13, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl
I saw a woman wearing one of these on my ride last Monday. If she hadn't been going the other way, I'd have given her some advice about getting a new one.

I don't know, it's not sporty but it's a tough turtle shell exterior. The guy who moved this on to me had done a tour from Boston to the SF bay area and didn't use it much after that. Only keeping it because of helmet threads. Maybe, when I retire, I'll ride this back to Boston and catch a Red Sox game.
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