Even a minor motorcycle accident can cause serious, yet virtually invisible, damage to your helmet so it’s important you check it’s safe before using again.
Can you use a motorcycle helmet after a crash? The simple answer to the question is NO, and here’s why. If your helmet is damaged it won’t protect do in the same way if you had another crash at a later date but there is a little more to it than that.
If you imagine your motorcycle helmet is like an eggshell. An eggshell is pretty hard when you’re holding it, they have a good solid construction but let’s say you dropped it, but it hasn’t broken completely or cracked, do you think that eggshell could handle another drop?
It can’t, its construction is compromised and it’s not going to have the strength it had originally. Motorcycle helmets are designed the same way and that is to stand just one impact.
That’s why when you look at a helmet in a store you are told that if you drop it, you buy it. For that same reason once you drop your helmet it’s pretty much toast and is not recommended you wear that helmet again after a crash.
The smallest accident, drop or bump can cause invisible damage to your helmet. It’s not necessarily what you can see on the outside that might be the danger it’s the foam protection on the inside that may be damaged.
It could be that badly damaged that if you used your helmet again and have another accident the helmet could literally fall apart while you are skidding down the road. This is why it’s so important to change your helmet if you have been involved in an accident.
The problem with a helmet after a crash is that while you might see some superficial external damage like a scrape or a scratch, you can’t see everything underneath.
If you put your helmet in an x-ray machine you would see all the cracks, the cracks would look like a spiders webbing spreading out from the impact point, this is why it’s really dangerous to use a motorcycle helmet again after a crash.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends that if your head and therefore your helmet struck the road during the accident, the chances are that the helmet has absorbed some of the impact shocks and therefore should be thrown away. To me, if the Motorcycle Safety Foundation says it’s not safe then it’s not safe.
The Hidden Damage
It’s quite easy to check the outside of your helmet for damage but the inside is not so easy. When your head impacts the road the external shell of your helmet takes the initial shock whereas the foam inside the helmet protects your head.
When the impact occurs the foam can be compressed after taking the shock, much like an airbag in a car. Once the foam has been compressed it does not mold back to its original shape so if you had another accident it cannot give you the same protection, again like the airbag it can only be used once.
Some manufacturers offer a service to check the inside protective layers after an accident and even send you a certificate to say it is safe to use, check your manufacturer’s website to see if they offer the same service.
Do I Have To Replace My Helmet If I Have Dropped It?
In general, you probably don’t have to change your helmet if you drop it but that does depend on what height you dropped it from.
Dropping it from waist height probably won’t damage your helmet, dropping it from the second floor of your apartment building will so common sense will dictate if your helmet has been damaged.
Generally, the worst damage your helmet can get is if the helmet hits an object rather than a flat surface. The sharp edge of a wall or fence will impact on a smaller surface than a flat surface. If it does hit a sharp edge it can puncture the outer surface of the helmet which would be obvious to the naked eye.
Can I Buy A Second Hand Helmet To Save Money?
Most people buy motorcycle helmets and keep them until they are either damaged in an accident or out of date, either way, you just don’t know what condition your helmet is in or if in fact, it has been in any accidents so the answer is to never to buy a second-hand helmet.
Do Motorcycle Helmets Have An Expiry Date?
Ther are two reasons you should stop using your motorcycle helmet.
- If it has been in an accident
- If the helmet is over five years old
It’s really important that you check your helmet for damage after a crash but also periodically to ensure your helmet has not gone beyond its shelf life. It doesn’t matter if it’s been sitting on a shelf in a store for five years and here’s why.
Helmets are very complex with a lot of different materials in its construction.
The outside shell of your helmet might look absolutely perfect. You may never have had a crash, never been dropped, not a scratch on it with years of normal use but after aging, it can deteriorate without you knowing it.
How To Check If Your Motorcycle Helmet Is Too Old
One way to tell if your helmet is getting too old is to check the foam inside your helmet. Start with the foam padding that goes on top of your head and around your cheeks. Does it still feel the same, does it still feel comfortable? If not the foam could be breaking down.
Not only the foam that surrounds your head but the styrofoam that comprises a lot of the body of the helmet breaks down with age. It’s a chemical process and over time the foam becomes brittle and falls apart, it’s like confetti or powdered sugar to the touch.
The bigger pieces that are underneath while they aren’t disintegrating they might be very very soft, almost liquid-like with no cushion or protection.
Another obvious sign of wear and tear is the leather straps of the helmet. While they are mostly aesthetic and cosmetic it is a sign that everything else is getting too old if the leather is worn or torn.
If you like me you’re spending four to five hundred dollars on a helmet, which means you’re spending a hundred bucks a year on your helmet so budget that in.
If you’re like my wife and you’re just a very occasional passenger your helmets going to be $130 $140 so a lot less annual cost but you still have to budget that in.
There are lots of helmets on the market and some can cost over $500 but there is a reason for that, they are tested to the highest DOT standards and someday will save your life.
You will also see other helmets that seem like a bargain, you know what I mean, those $100 helmets you see on sites like eBay. What I am going to say to you know is the same as I would say to my own brother, DON’T Do It.
They may look cheap but there is a reason for that, they are fake. But how do you know the real from the fake? Check out my post “How To Spot A Fake Motorcycle Helmet” to see exactly you will get if you are tempted into buying these $100 to good to be true motorcycle helmets