When was the last time you looked at your bicycle helmet or ski helmet? Not just to see whether or not you remembered to bring it ("Did I leave it in the trunk again?") but to see what kind of condition it's in. Just as you periodically check your bicycle and skis to make sure they're in good working order, it's important to inspect your helmet at the beginning of each season to make sure it's still able to protect your head effectively. Remember to hold the helmet under bright light so you can see every detail. Keep in mind that while your helmet may look undamaged from the outside, its protective capacity may be compromised. If the helmet has sustained any sort of major impact (a hit that made you say, "Wow") it should be replaced. Watch our videos below to learn more about when it's time to replace your helmet, and how to inspect a helmet like a pro.
How to Inspect the Exterior Shell
- Look for any cracks, bumps, or indentations in the outer shell; this may indicate damage to the foam liner
- Are there any “soft” spots on the helmet? Look for spots that feel soft or are unusually faded; it could be an indicator that the helmet came in contact with a chemical or solvent that weakened the plastic and may have affected the foam underneath
- Are the edges of the outer shell dry or cracked?
- Check the point where the shell and inner liner meet to see if there is any separation
- Remember to turn the helmet the full 360 degrees
How to Inspect the Interior Liner
- Very carefully inspect the interior liner (remove the foam pads that rest on your head to keep you comfortable). Is the helmet liner misshapen in any way? Is it pulling away from the outer shell?
- The foam liner is bound to have some small scratches and pings, especially the portions of it that are exposed. Superficial scratches are not going to compromise the integrity of the helmet
- Feel around the inside of the liner for soft spots or bumps
- The foam liner should still feel stiff and should not be flaking or crumbling in any way
How to Inspect the Straps
- Inspect the straps carefully for signs of wear, thinness, or other damage
- Look at the point where the straps are anchored to the helmet. Are the straps securely anchored?
- Does the buckle still close and stay closed? (Try giving the closed buckle a good hard tug.)
- Are there cracks or splits in any of the plastic parts?