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Selecting the Proper Tear Offs for Your Helmet

5/3/2021
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While typically not used in road racing or drag racing, when it comes to dirt tracks the use of a helmet tear off is quite common indeed. The helmet tear off is a die cut plastic sheet that is placed over the helmet’s visor and can be quickly torn off (hence the product name) to provide a clear view after dirt and mud accumulation during the race has covered the visor and obstructed the racer’s view. The use of tear offs is much safer, quicker, and convenient than trying to simply wipe away the visual obstructions with your hands or racing gloves while at speed in the heat of a race.

Selecting the proper tear offs to fit your helmet can seem like a daunting task these days. What was once a list of four to five part numbers years ago has now exploded to over 40 different part numbers to choose from. More helmet manufacturers, a larger variety of helmets from each manufacturer, as well as the addition of laminated style tear-offs have all contributed to the ever-expanding list of tear-off choices. In this guide we will help you determine what tear off is right for your helmet and your personal needs.

What Style of Tear off Do I Use?

The first step toward selecting the correct tearoff for your helmet is to identify the helmet that you have. Most helmets have the brand labeled on them, but many do not have the model name listed on the exterior of the helmet. If you are unable to determine the specific model of helmet from the exterior, we suggest searching for a tag or sticker on the interior of the helmet as sometimes you will find a model name there.

Photo courtesy of Simpson Performance Products
How Do I Determine the Model of My Helmet?

Many helmets will have the date of manufacture stamped into the chin strap metal clasp, and some Bell helmets will also have the model name stamped into the clasp. The date of manufacture can sometimes be helpful information when searching for model names of helmets. If yours does not have this then a quick look for the Snell rating sticker on the inside of the helmet will give you an approximate date range. For instance, a Snell SA2015 helmet would have been produced between 2015 and 2020. The approximate date of manufacture is sometimes helpful to narrow down your search for the model of helmet you have and is certainly one of the first questions we would ask if you called in for help finding the proper tear offs. For example, if a Simpson helmet has a SA2010 Snell certification sticker on it then it would be impossible for it to be a Viper model which debuted in 2021 with a SA2020 certification.

To find the Snell certification sticker gently pull back the interior lining at the back of the helmet. Most stickers are placed at the very back of the helmet but at times they can be off to one side or the other as well.

Compare Your Helmet to Other Helmet Photos

A great way help identify your helmet is comparing to photos of helmets such as in our Speedway Motors catalog or website. If you can find an exact match to the brand and style of your helmet, then it is a safe bet that is the helmet you have. Another great resource, especially for older helmets, is doing a photo search on the internet. Millions of helmet pictures can be found online so that is a great place to check if you are running out of options.

Measure Tearoff Peg Distance on Visor

One of the best ways to determine the proper tear offs to use when the helmet model is unknown is by measuring the center-to-center distance of the tear off posts or “pegs” as they are sometimes referred to. This measurement is specified on every tear off that we offer and is a very good indicator of what tear off your helmet will require. To measure this distance, we suggest using a flexible tape measure such as a stagger tape or a fabric tape measure for the most accurate measurement. Be sure to measure the peg distance as a center-to-center measurement.

This photo shows how to properly measure the peg distance. The peg distance measures 12 1/2" center-to-center on this G-Force helmet.

Using Our Tearoff Application Chart

Once you know what brand and model you have or the peg distance of your helmet shield you can refer to our handy application charts to find the correct tear off part number for your helmet. These charts are quite large and can be a bit overwhelming at first, but when you narrow your search to only a specific brand of helmet you will be dealing with a much more manageable number of options. Also, you will need to decide if you want standard tear offs, such as our Speedway Motors tear offs, or the laminated version offered by Racing Optics.

What is the Difference Between Standard and Laminated Tearoffs?

A question we get from time to time is: “What are the advantages and disadvantages of laminated tear offs such as the Racing Optics XStacks?”

The biggest advantage of the laminated tear off is that dust is unable to work its way between the tear offs and reduce visibility. This can be a big deciding factor for some dirt racers, especially when racing at tracks that struggle to manage the dust. Dust particles are extremely small and can easily work their way between standard tear offs even when they are adjusted to be extremely tight. This buildup of dust reduces visibility immensely and can possibly cost the driver a race win due to extremely poor vision.

Another advantage to the laminated tear offs is that you can usually stack up more tear offs onto the posts than you can a traditional tear off. Typically, 15 or 20 tear offs is stretching it to the max with a standard tear off but with the laminated XStacks you can typically fit up to 30 tear offs onto the posts if you need to. We have even heard of people using as many as 40 when using optional tapered aluminum tear off posts that we offer as an upgrade to the factory installed posts found on your helmet.

If the tracks you race on are typically wet, heavy, or muddy then the advantage of the laminated tear offs is extremely degraded and the big disadvantage to laminated tear offs comes into consideration which is the cost. Laminated tear offs cost about 300 times as much as standard tear offs do, which can become a consideration when racing wet and muddy racetracks that you are using up to two or three tear offs per lap. This cost difference can seem small at first but when added up over the course of an entire season the cost difference becomes significant. Our Speedway Motors tear offs are offered in a box of 200 which will last the average racer most of the season.

How Do You Put a Tear Off On a Helmet?

Standard tear offs have a grip tab on one side only. You will first need to determine which side of the helmet you would like to place the tab so that you can remove the tear off while racing. Either side will work fine, it's all about driver comfort or obstructions. Some full containment seats have a longer head rest on the right side than the left and you may consider placing the tear off tabs on the left for that reason.

Once you have determined a side for the tab you will install the peg hole opposite of the tab onto the tear off post first. Next you will move to the other side of the helmet and place the peg hole nearest the grip tab over the tear off post. For the all the remaining tear offs as you stack them up you will need to fold the grip tab of the tear off underneath onto the post prior to installing the next tear off. Once you have installed your tear off stack, rotate the tear off posts to tighten the tear offs snug to the face shield and you're ready to hit the dirt.

This video, courtesey of Racing Optics, shows how to install laminated XStack tear offs.

Do Not Hit the Track Without Your Tearoffs!

You have figured out your helmet’s tear off specs and you have decided between standard and laminated tear offs, so now all you must do is use the tear off chart we mentioned above, and you are ready to order your tear offs in time for your next race. Be sure to have plenty on hand for the season and you will be seeing clearly lap after lap, all the way to the checkered flag and the winner’s circle!

Updated by Mark Houlahan

Shop Tear Offs and Related Components

Speedway Motors SA2020 Helmets

(Carbon Fiber version shown below)

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