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When Should I Replace My Safety Equipment?

John Ruther
Published: 2011-03-07 10:03:16
Last Updated: 2016-02-02 08:50:48

Each piece of your Drivers Safety Gear has a different useful life and hence, a different expiration date. Below are the guidelines you should use.


Most sanctioning bodies will allow a helmet to be used if it is the current Snell rating or one back. At the moment that would mean the current Snell rating is SA2015 and one back would be SA2010. However, since the SA2015 helmets have been slow in becoming available many sanctioning bodies are going to allow the SA2005 helmets to be used until at least June. You should check with your sanctioning body to make sure. So the message is, if you're still using an SA2005 helmet you should start looking for a new SA2015 helmet.

From a sanctioning bodies perspective if you purchase a helmet right when the new certification comes out it would be possible to get 10 years of use from it before it would no longer be considered current. That being said, all helmet manufacturers recommend your helmet be replaced every 5 years. Why are these two recommendations different? The helmet manufacturers realize that the impact absorbing material inside your helmet (usually a hard dark grey liner material that is between the shell and the interior padding) gets hard with exposure to the atmosphere and heat from your head and as a result will not absorb energy like it did when it was new. The problem is you really cannot tell when it won't do it's job anymore.  Hence, the 5-year life recommendation from the manufacturers. Obviously, if you are involved in an incident and your helmet has come into contact with your roll cage (or anything else for that matter) you should inspect it for signs of cracks, severe scufffing etc. and replace it if the helmet has sustained this type of damage. Bell is the only manufacturer we are aware of that can X-Ray your helmet. If it needs to be replaced you will get a certificate from Bell for a discount on a replacement Bell helmet.  This service is something we offer to our customers.

Head and Neck Restraint (HANS)  

All head and neck restraints need to be certified as SFI 38.1 or FIA 8858. Most sanctioning bodies do not have an expiration date for head and neck restraints as long as they are either SFI or FIA certified. That being said, SFI has instituted a recertification program for HANS Devices. This program requires HANS Devices be recertified by the manufcturer every 5 years. Also, during this recertification process the HANS tethers, which are  made of the same polyester material as used in seat belts, should be replaced. The exception to this is if you are involved in any incident with a significant impact you should have your HANS tethers and belts replaced immediately. These types of belt material stretch when subjected to an impact and once they have stretched they will not return to their original condition. If your HANS device needs to be recertified you must return it directly to HANS (now Simpson Performance Products) for recertification. We are not allowed to send the HANS in for you to have it recertified.  


There are essentially two types of belt materials used in auto racing belts. Each of these materials will determine what certification and useful life the belt will have.

All belts that are FIA certified are good for 5 years. The FIA tag on the belt will say "Valid Thru 2016". So these belts are valid thru December 31st of that year. Most FIA approved belts are made of polyester, which degrades much slower under light than Nylon. Polyester also does not absorb moisture so the performance won't change when used in very humid environments.
Most belts that are SFI (only) certified are good for 2 years from the date of manufacture. The SFI tag is white with black print and the date of manufacture will be punched on the tag. The reason for this is that most SFI (only) approved belts are made from Nylon rather than polyester.

Some belts are both SFI and FIA approved. In this case, they would be valid for 5 years.

If you are involved in any significant impact you should replace your belts since they have likely stretched.  This applies even though your belts have not "technically" expired.  


Most sanctioning bodies require a one piece fire retardant driving suit. Usually a two layer suit or a one layer suit with fire retardant underwear is the minimum requirement. Two or three layer suits meeting SFI 3.2A/5 or FIA 8856-2000 are strongly recommended.  If your suit is FIA certified as FIA 8856-1986 it is no longer considered current. All FIA approved suits also have a date of manufacture on them. This is not really considered from a certification perspective as long as the FIA certification number is 8856-2000, which is the latest FIA standard. (Unless, of course you are racing professionally with IMSA or the like, in which case a tech inspector may have a problem with a suit that was manufactured in 2001 even though it is FIA 8856-2000 certified.) The irony here is that you can no longer wear a top of the line 2 or 3 layer suit with a  FIA 8856-1986 certification, but you can wear a single layer SFI 3.2A/1 suit with fire retardant underwear!  

Shoes and Gloves

Some sanctioning bodies (like NASCAR or LeMons) require all of your safety equipment including your shoes and gloves to have an SFI tag on them. Many others will accept either an SFI or an FIA tag. If your gloves and shoes are FIA certified, just be sure the tag says FIA 8856-2000, which is the current standard. Just like your suit, if the tag says FIA 8856-1986 they are not considered current and should be replaced.

You should frequently inspect all of your safety gear for any signs of fraying or ripped seams etc. If you notice any seams on your suit or gloves that have come apart be sure to repair them. Only use Nomex thread for any repairs to these items. We stock Nomex thread in most colors at Northstar Motorsports. Call us if you need Nomex thread to make a repair. One other item concerning the care of your suit -  We always recommend dry cleaning your suit. This will insure it doesn't shrink and the colors will last much longer without fading.