The Brain Bucket: Understanding Helmet Ratings

As you may know, the NHRA safety rules, which govern the NMCA, require a Snell SA-certified helmet that comes with an expiration date. Every five years the Snell Foundation increases the standards to improve racer safety, and the certification is named by the release date (e.g. SA2005, SA2010, SA2015). What you may not know is that your helmet is not necessarily out of date when the new standard is released.

The NHRA rule book states that the 2005 certification doesn’t expire until January 1, 2017, and the 2010 certification expires on the same day five years later (2022). The certification name causes further confusion when it comes time to purchase the helmet, according to Patrick Utt at RaceQuip, who says the helmets aren’t even available until October 1st of the release year.

“In January, we start getting calls about the new helmets, and the answer is always Oct 1st. Snell won’t even send out the stickers until August, and we are not allowed to put them in the hands of the consumer until October 1st.”

Before you start finding other uses for that helmet money, there are some things you should know. First of all, just because your helmet may be within the NHRA specs doesn’t mean it is still safe. As any NMCA racer should be aware, only SA-rated helmets are allowed in competition.

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