Touring Tip: Helmet Check

Jul 11, 2014 View Comments by

Touring Tip: Helmet CheckThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has noted that DOT-compliant helmet use by riders is on the increase, even in states without universal helmet laws. And you probably already know that full-face DOT-approved motorcycle helmets are the single most important component of protective gear for saving your life in a crash. Short of a crash, though, how do you know that your helmet will be up to the task? Proper helmet care and timely replacement are key factors for ensuring that your helmet will be there for you, if and when it’s needed.

Helmet Care
Follow the helmet manufacturer’s care instructions, which often cover the following:

  • Cleaning Outside: Use soap, water, and a soft rag, not Windex or other types of corrosive cleaners.
  • Cleaning Inside: Use a wet rag with a little soap applied to it; a non-scented dryer sheet can be used to remove odors.
  • Storing: During rides or afterwards, keep helmets in safe locations, where they are not likely to get dropped, kicked, scratched, or otherwise damaged; avoid storage near gasoline, cleaning fluids, exhaust fumes, or excessive heat. Never hang a helmet from a bike appendage, like a mirror or turn signal, where the inner liner is depressed and can become distorted.
  • Decorating/Modifying: Before painting, affixing a decal, or pin striping a helmet, check the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Replacing Defective Parts: If a part on the helmet becomes defective, replace it only with the appropriate part from the helmet manufacturer.
  • Cleaning Air Ducts: Be careful not to damage passageways when removing debris from them; do not use a sharp object for cleaning.

Helmet Inspection
Periodically, do a visual inspection of the helmet’s main components:

  • Outside Shell: Look for any cracks, scratches, or dings, which indicate that the helmet has sustained some type of impact. Discoloration or deformities may indicate exposure to harmful chemicals, too much heat, or aging. Make sure all air duct passages are clear of debris.
  • Inside Shell: Remove the inside padding and inspect the Styrofoam liner for any signs of cracks, indentions, or compressed foam.
  • Fitting Pads: Inspect for any signs of fraying, damage, or wear and tear; the helmet should retain its snug, but comfortable fit.
  • Buckle and Strap: Remove any salt accumulation left from perspiration and look for signs of wear, such as failing stitching; make sure the buckle is not damaged.
  • Mechanical Parts: Make sure that all vents and visor mechanicals work properly and that flip-up helmets still lock securely in the down position.

Replace any damaged or worn parts. If you are unsure about your helmet’s viability, manufacturers often will inspect your helmet upon request.

Helmet Replacement
Motorcycle helmets are only good for one impact, whether it’s a drop or a crash. Notwithstanding any damaged components, most helmet manufacturers recommend replacing their lids every three to five years. High quality motorcycle helmets may be expensive, but what they protect is irreplaceable. So take care of your helmet, inspect it regularly, and don’t hesitate to replace it when necessary.


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