NMRA safety rules mandate that helmets must be Snell SA-certified with an expiration date. The Snell Foundation develops new standards for racer safety every five years. Each new certification is labeled according to its release date (e.g. SA2010, SA2015, SA2020).
However, it is important to remember that your helmet does not inevitably need to be replaced each time a new standard is issued. Historically, these timelines have proven to be flexible.
We all know that, somewhere along the line, from approval to stickering, to helmet production, the 2015 standards were delayed. The helmets weren’t delivered on schedule. Therefore, most clubs held off on updating, and SA2005 helmets were allowed to continue racing through at least the whole 2016 season.
Related Article: Best Helmet for Drag Racing
The new safety standards are never released at the start of the year. To illustrate further, until October 1, 2020, SA2020 helmets were not available for purchase. This means you may be able to use your SA2010 helmet until the 2021 season. The best time to shop for a new helmet is during the winter when new ratings are released, however, 2010-rated helmets will still be accepted through 2021.
Our Top Picks for Drag Racing Helmets
- Fiberglass composite shell
- Fire retardant interior padding
- Removable cheek pads
- 3mm flame-resistant anti-scratch face shield with tear-off post
- HANS threaded inserts
- Fiber-reinforced polymer outer shell
- Expanded polystyrene inner liner
- Nomex interior
- Snell SA2015 certification
- Scratch-resistant, 3mm PC face shield
- M6 threaded HANS
- Silicon eye port gasket
- Gloss white finish
- Hand laid FRP shell
- EPS liner
- Nomex interior
- HANS/HNR M6 threaded inserts
- ABS visor
- Tinted sun shield
- Kevlar chin straps
How long is a helmet good for in drag racing?
You are good for 10 years with your helmet rating. Does that sound safe?
The rating is indeed valid for 10 years after its release, so if the helmet shows no signs of wear, you are still likely to be protected.
At some point in those 10 years, you will likely buy your helmet, which means you’ll have anywhere from 5-10 years left on your rating.
An SA2015 helmet purchased on September 30, 2020, will have a valid rating that will expire after two cycles about 5 years from the purchase date.
On the other hand, buying an SA2020 helmet on October 1, 2020 (the day they are released) should provide you with a useful rating for 10 full years.
Although helmets are rated for a maximum of ten years, SNELL recommends that you replace them after five years… or right away if you are involved in a serious collision.
Pay attention to the helmet’s condition
Even if your SA-rated helmet is still within its expiration date, you should pay attention to its condition. Race Quip’s Utt Patrick says that helmets should be replaced every five to eight years.
Over time, the cheek pads get worn down, sweat damages the interior, it gets dirty, and it loosens up. Adhesives that secure helmet components, such as the liners, can be damaged by heat.
Putting the helmet through repeated heat cycles is unadvisable since the adhesives, shell, and liner expand at different rates. Also, hair products can damage the helmet’s interior or liner.
They wear out every time you wear them, sweat in them, or leave them in the sun.
If you hit it hard, replace it
Inevitably, any helmet that has been damaged by a hard impact should be replaced. You don’t have to worry about scratches or nicks, but if it takes an impact when dropped, then you have to be concerned. A shell that is hit deforms and distributes the impact load.
Regardless of whether the shell is cracked or not, it must be sacrificed. A helmet can only take one hit. Shells can rebound, but liners cannot. This means that if it’s struck again, it won’t be able to protect.
In conclusion, it’s better to purchase a reasonably priced helmet every five years rather than spending big bucks every ten to eleven years on a customized carbon fiber helmet.
It’s not important how cool your helmet looks to the Snell Foundation or your skull. All that matters is that it keeps you safe.