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Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

Refurbishing Helmets



Summary: If you have crashed in your helmet, you must replace it. That kind of damage is not repairable! If the foam is cracked, do not attempt a repair, you must replace the helmet. But helmets are also a piece of wearing apparel, and in daily use they can be worn enough to need refurbishment or replacement of fitting pads or other parts. Here are some suggestions for the things you can fix. And here is our page on when to replace your helmet.



If you crash and foam has been crushed or cracked:

There is no repair for crashed helmets! You must replace any helmet that has been crashed. Destroy the old one so nobody else will use it and trash the pieces. You got your money's worth. There are a few helmets on the market that are multi-impact (mostly skate-style helmets) and do not need to be replaced, but unless they have an ASTM F1492 skateboard standard sticker inside you can't be sure. If you don't find that sticker, replace the helmet.

Buckles

The most serious widespread problem with helmets is breakage of plastic buckles.

When any piece of a helmet buckle breaks off, you must replace the buckle! Contact the manufacturer--some will send you a buckle free. If that doesn't work, try your local bike shop. See our page on replacement buckles for more info.


When fit pads crumble:

Fit pads can turn to dust over time. Or they can get nasty from sweat and suntan lotion. The best place to get exact replacement pads is from the manufacturer. Your local bike shop may have them, or you may find a pad replacement kit on the Web.

Fit pads do not affect the impact performance of the helmet--their purpose is to hold the helmet steady on your head so it is in place when you smash down on the pavement. Any pads that do that are ok to use, including foam you find at the local crafts store, dollar store, household products store or a specialized foam shop. The pads can be attached with hook-and-loop so you can remove them for cleaning, or you can glue them directly to the styrofoam with 3M Super 78 adhesive (available only in gallons) or another adhesive designed for EPS. (Do not use the widely available 3M Super 77--with a heavy application it can damage the liner foam.) If your helmet is old enough for the pads to have disintegrated, you might want to replace it anyway.


When fit pad anchors come loose:

After a long time, the hook-and-loop anchors for the fit pads on your helmet may come off. Or sometimes all it takes is putting the helmet in a hot car in the sun. To glue the hook-and-loop pads back on, some manufacturers recommend 3M Super 78 adhesive or another adhesive designed for EPS.


When the plastic shell comes off:

You can use the same 3M Super 78 to glue outer plastic micro-shells to the EPS foam piece of the helmet. You will not be able to repair a split or cracked shell, however. The crack tells you that the foam has suffered major damage an is no longer as protective as it was. If the foam is cracked, do not attempt a repair, you must replace the helmet. No glue would restore the impact protection of the intact foam! We have a page up on helmet cracks.


When the tape comes off:

You can probably find 3M 471 tape to re-tape micro-shells to the foam. Or stop by a good hardware or fabric store and buy genuine Velcro brand hook-and-loop. Velcro uses two acrylic-based, one rubber-based, and one olefin-based adhesive on their products, all of which have been tested on black EPS and GECET foam with non-degrading results. The olefin-based adhesive (they call it Vector 0115) will creep at about 120 degrees F (49 degrees C) while the others are good up to 160 degrees F (71 degrees C) or more.


When the strap stitching comes out:

Home sewing is not advised on straps. The thread, stitching pattern and stitching technique to produce a durable strap repair are very specialized, and best done by the manufacturer. Contact the manufacturer about a repair or to order a new strap assembly from them. Be ready to replace the helmet if you can't get them to do it. Chances are the strap has seen a lot of use before it needs replacing, so you may need a new helmet anyway.


Want to Organize a Repair Program?

If you have seen too many kids or adults, for that matter, riding in your area with helmets that don't fit or are tilted, slanted, tipped or otherwise out of place, and you want to do something about it, check out this RetroFit Program from the Safe Kids Coalition in Maine.



This page was last revised on: June 23, 2013.

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