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Racing Helmet Buyer's GuideRacing Helmet Buyer's Guide

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Protecting your head, or more importantly, your brain, should be at the top of the list when it comes to auto racing safety. When selecting the right racing helmet, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind. There are unique materials, specific designs, certification requirements, and assorted sizes to keep in mind choosing a full face racing helmet. The fit needs to be perfect for the motorsport helmet to function as intended, but the feel needs to also be right. Vision, weight and air flow are all important factors when selecting a dirt track helmet. The process of choosing the right racing helmet can give you a headache, but we’re here to help you make a pain-free choice.

Which Helmet Is Best for Racing?

The best racing helmet is the safest one within your budget. In our estimation, full face racing helmets with a current Snell certification are the best bet. Full face racing helmets that completely cover the head, chin and jaw area are the choice for most, but there are still those who use an open face helmet with shield. The best helmet is one with a current Snell approved racing helmet certification because if your racing helmet is out of certification, you will not be allowed to use it, which automatically takes you out of the race.

To be clear, there aren’t specific helmets designed for distinct types of racing, but there are helmets more suited to specific types of auto racing. As an example, there aren’t really dirt track racing helmets, but many in that racing discipline use a forced air helmet, or a fresh air helmet capable of hooking to a fresh air system to provide fresh oxygen to the driver. Forced air helmet designs make for great dirt car racing helmets since that atmosphere is known for throwing dirt in the driver’s face. Dirt track racing helmets take a lot of abuse so make sure you get one that can do the job. If you run a Sprint Car, Super Late Model, or any NASCAR-style derivative where in-car temperatures can be elevated, a forced air helmet needs to be on your wish list. This type of racing helmet may not be as important in drag racing where you only wear your helmet for seconds at a time.

How Long Does a Helmet Certification Last?

In the recent past, there has been an SA2010 helmet designation, an SA2015 helmet designation, and an SA2020 helmet designation. The Special Applications Standard, abbreviated as SA when it comes to these certifications, is updated every five years. The fact that there is an SA2020 helmet certification, this doesn’t automatically mean the SA2010, and SA2015 car helmet certifications are no longer valid; it just means the safety standards have been updated. Case in point, if an SA2015 certification helmet is brand new, chances are that helmet is still legal for use within many racing sanctioning bodies. Individual sanctioning bodies have the final say when it comes to the use of a racing helmet.

Can You Recertify a Full Face Racing Helmet?

A racing helmet is only as safe as the Snell rating it carries. The two most recent Snell approved racing helmet ratings have centered on impact resistance and HANS device attachment. A race car helmet is good for two certification cycles. Meaning, an SA2015 car helmet will be good until the SA2025 racing helmet designs hit the market. However, the best thing to do, when it comes to your racing helmet, is check your sanctioning body’s requirements. Trust us, they will have their racing helmet requirements posted online or in their rulebook. Additionally, it is recommended to replace your helmet every five years regardless of certification or amount of use, and to replace it immediately if the helmet you are wearing hits anything in a crash.

How Should a Racing Helmet Fit?

Regardless the type of racing helmet you are buying, whether it’s a carbon fiber helmet or other lightweight dirt track helmet, it needs to fit properly. Use either a flexible tape measure or a string, marking the string where it overlaps, and then set it on a tape measure or yard stick to get the proper measurement. Measure from one inch above your eyebrows around to the largest part of the back of your head. Don’t just measure once, either. Measure twice, maybe three times, to arrive at a proper measurement. Your head’s measurement will fall in between racing helmet sizes, but if you’re on the edge between two sizes, take into consideration the size of your face or jaw line. The last thing you want is a motorsport helmet that is too tight on your face. If your lightweight helmet is too tight, and you wear glasses, you’re not going to be able to put on your glasses with the helmet.

Once you have measured your head and received your driving helmet, make sure it fits by grabbing each side chin strap and put it on your head. It shouldn’t be loose to the point where the racing helmet swivels on your head. Driving helmets should be comfortably tight. The best thing to do is once you receive your helmet is to wear it around the house for 30 minutes to check for comfort. If the racing helmet is comfortable for that period, you have made the right choice. However, here at Speedway Motors we realize buying a racing helmet may not result in a perfect fit the first time. Therefore, we allow returns or exchanges within 60 days of purchase provided the helmet was only used for test-fitting, and not in an actual racing environment.

Which Helmet Is Best for Ladies?

When it comes to car racing helmet offerings, there’s no distinction between men’s and women’s sizes. However, you may want to pay more attention to racing helmet weight when it comes to picking the right one. A carbon fiber helmet can weigh as little as two pounds, and that light weight is a bonus when it comes to comfort and decreased neck strain. A carbon fiber helmet is comparably priced to its fiberglass and composite cousins, so if you want a lightweight racing helmet, a carbon fiber racing helmet just might be the one for you.