Here’s How to Check If Your Motorcycle Helmet Is Expired

Is your noggin safe or about to be squished? Let’s find out.

byJonathon Klein|
Cars 101 photo


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I’ve talked at length about why motorcycle gear matters, as well as how to find your perfect helmet for your next riding adventure. But what I haven’t dived into was how helmets actually expire. Yep, like milk, cheese, and JNCOs (no, I’m not happy they’re back), your motorcycle helmet comes with an expiration date. 

Yet while milk, cheese, and awful fashion outwardly show expressions of their expiration, your helmet does not. It’s up to you to both know what to look for, how to check it, what can cause it to prematurely expire, and what to do when it expires. I’ll give you a hint on that last one, you start scrolling for a new one

So, for the old hats that forgot your helmet goes bad, the newbies who weren’t aware, and the squids who think it’s fake, I’m gonna take you to school. We’re gonna go through the ins and outs of a helmet’s expiration, its construction, and more. Let’s hit the books. 

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The expiration date exposed!, Jonathon Klein

Helmets Expire?

You betcha. And there’s a good reason for expiration dates. While the outward appearance of a helmet is one of solid and sturdy and something that won’t degrade over time, it’s the inner portion that can. Specifically, I’m talking about the part that’s under the outer carbon kevlar or plastic shell and over the plush liner: the expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. 

This piece of a helmet’s construction is to provide impact absorption in the case of an accident, fall, or crash. However, because of its makeup, heat, sweat, time, and other factors, it can begin to degrade the foam’s density and cause it to lose its effectiveness over time. There are other factors that can cause the EPS liner to expire, chief among them a crash, fall, or accident.

The exact thing that your helmet is designed to protect you against will also cause it to expire. When you’re involved in a wreck or accidentally drop your helmet onto the pavement, that EPS liner absorbs the impact and can degrade. Fissures in the EPS can occur, as well as wholesale sections breaking free of the helmet’s outer shell. When that occurs, the protection it affords to your skull flies out the window and you might as well be riding around town with a beanie. 

As for an accidental drop situation, I’m not talking about you losing grip of your helmet from a foot or two and it hitting the grass, mud, dirt, or even some pavement. But if you drop it from three to four feet or more and it hits tarmac or a large rock, you’re gonna want to look for a new helmet. 

What's inside the helmet?, Jonathon Klein

The Average Expiration Date of a Motorcycle Helmet

It's between five and seven years, which gives you a lot of use. And for comparison’s sake, how many things in your house have a five- to seven-year lifespan? Not many, as we have chosen conspicuous consumption over lifetime service, apart from my Benchmade knife

That said, expiration dates range from manufacturer to manufacturer. Here’s a quick guide to most of the top manufacturers and each’s respective expiration dates.

Icon: 3-5 years

Alpinestars: 5 years

HJC: 3-5 years

AGV: 7 years

Schuberth: 5-7 years

Shoei: 5 years

Fox: 5 years

Fly: 5 years

Klim: 5 years

Arai: 7 years

Bell: 3 years

You won't have to slice and dice your own to find it, don't worry. , Jonathon Klein

Where Do You Find the Date of Manufacture?

Grab your nearest lid and turn it upside down so that the inner portion is facing you. On one of the chin straps or under the padding near your ears, should be a tag that tells you the date of manufacture. From there, peep the list above for the expiration duration and see if your helmet is still up to standards. 

FAQs about Motorcycle Helmets

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q. Do I really need to replace my helmet so frequently?

A. You know that memory of when your daughter first looked at you or when your spouse said, “I do”? How about when you told your boss, “I quit.” You like them?

Q. Yeah.

A. Then yes, you really do need to replace your helmet. If you don’t, those memories have a chance of disappearing, as do you.

Q. How much is a new motorcycle helmet?

A. They range between $150 to $800 depending on the style, type, construction, and manufacturer. A good helmet, however, will cost you on average of about $300. There are always sales at your local spot or places such as RevZilla

Q. Do you have any recommendations for new motorcycle helmets?

A. I have a few favorite, but the key is to find something that fits your head and is comfortable. The more comfortable the helmet, the more you’ll use it and the better it’ll protect you. If you want more information about how to choose the right helmet, check out my previous coverage here.

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