When to upgrade your snowmobile helmet

Do you remember your first snowmobile helmet? Did it come from a swap meet? Was it pulled off a basement shelf covered in cobwebs? Did you care? For many snowmobilers the answers are probably, “Yes. Yes. No.” As long as you had a helmet – any helmet – it meant you could ride.

Every snowmobiler knows a snowmobile helmet is a safety measure. It is required to ride, but for many it’s more about style than functionality. Color is of primary concern, then comes comfort, and somewhere further down the list is the after thought of, “Oh yea, this thing is supposed to help keep me safe too!”

We would all probably agree that last part should probably be a little higher in the pecking order of importance.

It’s obvious to most that you need a new snowmobile helmet if your current lid has been in a crash, or shows obvious signs of wear such as cracks, dents, frayed chinstrap, etc. What isn’t so obvious is when it’s time to upgrade if the telltale visual cues aren’t present. For that, the manufactured date can be a big help. All snowmobile helmets are required to have a manufactured date clearly labeled. On Ski-Doo snowmobile helmets, you can find that date on the tag sewn onto the back of the snowmobile helmet liner.

You’ve likely heard your snowmobile helmet is due for an upgrade sometime every 3-5 years (depending on the source). It is true that nearly every snowmobile helmet manufacturer and major safety certification body (ECE, DOT, SNELL, etc.) recommends a new snowmobile helmet somewhere in that magical 3-5-year window. That includes Ski-Doo snowmobile helmets – all of which meet DOT and ECE certification standards. It’s not a marketing scheme.

Here’s the secret: That 3-5 years is not an expiration date for snowmobile helmets. No friendly sheriff’s deputy is going to stop you on the trail because your helmet is overdue. The truth of the matter is that as snowmobilers, our helmets are exposed to extreme conditions. They also bounce around in truck beds and trailers, get whacked with tree branches, and have been known to fall off a sled seat in a parking lot once or twice. Just the natural wear and tear this sport puts on a snowmobile helmet causes resins, glues, and foam padding essential to the helmet’s protective function to degrade over time. Like anything else, they just wear out.

But that’s still not the main purpose of the 3-5-year recommendation. Ask yourself, “How often do I upgrade my cell phone, and why do I do it?” You don’t wait five years to upgrade your snowmobile helmet. For most it’s probably every year or every other year. Why do you do it? Because the next one is better! It’s got all kinds of new features, upgraded security, better camera, etc.

Like most products on the market, snowmobile helmets are improving at a rapid rate. It’s safe to say the snowmobile helmets available today are better than the helmets available five years ago. Advancements in materials, production methods, and design are constantly changing. Accepted safety standards also change. For example, the current DOT certification standards (FMVSS 218) have only been in place since 2013. If you haven’t upgraded your snowmobile helmet in the last four years, chances are it’s not up to par on the latest DOT standards. Don’t think of a new helmet as a “replacement.” It’s an upgrade to a product with better features.

Are you ready for a snowmobile helmet upgrade? Browse our line of advanced helmets that feature Ski-Doo's exclusive 4-year warranty.

And if you don’t want to take our word for it, here’s the official statement found on the SNELL website:

“The five-year replacement recommendation is based on a consensus by both helmet manufacturers and the Snell Foundation. Glues, resins and other materials used in helmet production can affect liner materials. Hair oils, body fluids and cosmetics, as well as normal "wear and tear" all contribute to helmet degradation. Petroleum based products present in cleaners, paints, fuels and other commonly encountered materials may also degrade materials used in many helmets possibly degrading performance. Additionally, experience indicates there will be a noticeable improvement in the protective characteristic of helmets over a five-year period due to advances in materials, designs, production methods and the standards. Thus, the recommendation for five-year helmet replacement is a judgment call stemming from a prudent safety philosophy.”

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