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This may sound dumb but motto is, there are no dumb questions - just dumb people that don't ask questions.
I have had the same helmet for 5 years now, no accidents or bumps. Is there a "shelf life" when I should consider replacing it?
 

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Yep, there is apparently.

typically, polycarbonate helmets need to be replaced after 3 years of use because the shell slowly becomes more brittle, and fiberglass or carbon fiber helmets after 5 years because the EPS or styrofoam liner wears/ages.
 

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Have to agree. I haven't "tested" mine out to see if they will withstand impact later in life but I do change them out after a couple years. It may only be a marketing scheme to sell more helmets. To me my head is worth it, to hard to find a new one that works these days.
 

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The foam inside the helmet breaks down over time. Think about the styrofoam coolers you can buy for $5 and how they break down. Same concept, higher quality foam. It’s not the hard shell that protects you as much as the inner foam. Recommended to replace every 3-5 years.
 

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This is re-posted from the Snell foundation website.


Unused helmets stored in good condition do not automatically expire after five years. Replacing helmets every five years is a judgement call based on testing helmets used by the California Highway Patrol by Dr. George Snively. Wear and tear, the simple act of putting on and taking off helmets, damage the comfort pads and energy absorbing foam liner over time. Helmets with worn-out pads are at least one to two sizes larger than helmets in new condition. A poorly fitted helmet makes it more likely that the helmet will shift too much or even come off the head during a crash impact. For these reasons, Snell recommends replacing helmet after five years of normal use.
 

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That would mean my HJC Reign half helmet is too far over the hill. It's been my favorite for several years (well past 5). My other 2 are less than 2 years old.
 

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There should be a date on the DOT sticker. As others suggest, you should look to replace 3-5 years from that date.
 

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The inner liner on that old HJC is pretty stiff and the fit is much looser than it originally was. Probably should retire that helmet.
 

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FWIW I have 3 helmets. The one I use the most(95% of the time) has a removable, washable, replaceable liner. Don’t plan on replacing that helmet any time soon. The other 2 are a full face modular for our rare very cold mornings and a standby for 2 up riding. Most padding in any helmet can be replaced. I think of helmets like my favorite riding clothes. If it fits and isn’t damaged why replace it. JMHO
 

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I've been riding since 1971 and, personally, I haven't seen any evidence or had any experience that indicates age as a significant factor in helmet effectiveness.
BUT if you like to leave your brain bucket hanging from the handlebar grip or under your kickstand, all bets are off. I DO expect that direct sunlight on the innerds of your helmet will age the lining (polystyrene and fabric) quickly.
I have helmets that are 10 years old, have been well cared for and show every indication that they are as good inside and out as they were when new. I can't say the same for my Simpson "Miss Piggy" helmet that I bought in 1982. ALL of the innerd components are disintegrating, but it's a classic and too cool to toss in the trash.
 

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you'll find out if you kept it to long when you use it for what it was intended... let us know... if you can please
 

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The 5 years is a rule of thumb because there are so many things that will effect the helmet. Age as stated will cause it to break down, heat like it was stored in a garage where it could get really hot. The oil from your skin and hair will break it down. If there are certain fumes around when it is stored can cause an issue. Of course how much it is used and treated.

If you have a helmet that is kept in a dark closet in the house and not used very much, yes it will last a lot longer than 5 years. If you have the helmet in the garage or other hot environment, use it every day, is left to bake in the sun, banged around a lot, and is surrounded by solvent fumes it will probably need to be changed out in 2 years.

The 5 years is not gospel, it is a guide but a person really needs to take a look at how the helmet is used and cared for. Use your best judgement and don't get too wrapped around the axle about it.

Personally I change mine about every 5 years but I ride all of the time, my helmet will have about 50 to 60 thousand miles on it and a lot of time baking in the desert sun. At 5 years my helmet has considerable wear and tear.
 

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I'll replace my helmet if I loose the one I have or it gets stolen. Or, if it is subject to accidental abuse :oops:
 

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Usually 5 year life expectancy as others have said any impact including dropping it. Should be manufacture date inside and lastly even an expired one will protect you much better than no helmet. I do strongly believe it is up to you if you wear one or not but I will tell you I wrecked in 2015 and though I was wearing a 50 dollar special from Walmart DOT approved it clearly saved my life. I replaced it with a 50 dollar walmart special, also wear HJC half helmet often and they say snell are better I am a Motor officer as well that helmet was about 800 dollars and snell approved replace every 5 years by department
 
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