Every rider associates motorcycle and riding with freedom and a medium to express themselves. The more customized they are, the more we feel like our truest selves. This emotion even extends to our motorcycle helmets. We like to stylize and paint our motorcycle helmets to showcase our personalities.
However, it’s not as simple as that since there are challenges of safety and legality. As a rider myself, I’ve read extensively about painting helmets and if it’s safe and legal to do so?
In which countries is it legal to paint a motorcycle helmet? What kind of paints can I use – acrylic paint, spray paint, or water paint? Even if it’s legal, is it safe?
If you’ve got all these questions and more, don’t worry, I’ve got answers for you! Here’s everything you need to know before you paint your motorcycle helmet.
Is It Legal To Paint Your Motorcycle Helmet?
Painting motorcycle helmets is a legal grey area in most countries around the world. In fact, even the UNECE regulations around motorcycle helmets do not clearly mention if painting helmets are legal or not. At best, it gives a warning about how paints will compromise the helmet’s ability to protect your head.
So I dug a little deeper to understand why it is the case. To put it simply, any helmet must comply with safety laws and regulations. This includes having a standard certification sticker like DOT, or having a reflective surface, and so on. All these laws and certifications have safety as their focus.
We enter a grey area with painting helmets because specific types of paint do not hinder safety, while others do. Even with the former, how the entire helmet is painted also makes a difference. Hence there are no standardized rules around this.
At best, the rules are that it is legal if one uses the right paint and doesn’t cover the certification sticker. However, when one doesn’t have any proof of the kind of paints they have used, that might breach the compliance laws.
Here are a couple of examples of helmet laws that can help you get some clarity:
In the US, there are widely three standards that the helmet needs to comply with:
- UNECE 22.05
These three certifications cover various aspects of the helmets, such as penetration, retention, impact, and peripheral vision. They do not specifically cover the painting aspect. However, these aspects are affected by painting the helmets. Here’s how:
When certain chemicals within the paint come in contact with the motorcycle helmet’s surface, they damage its structural integrity making it unsafe for usage. This way, aspects such as impact and penetration might be affected.
Thus painting the motorcycle helmet might invalidate the Snell, DOT, or UNECE 22.05 certification.
According to the FIA regulations for motorsports, users must follow the manufacturers’ guidelines on whether the helmet can be painted or not. If yes, it should be with air-drying acrylic paints, polyurethane enamel, etc.
So, as you can see, the laws around this subject are pretty obscure. So before you start painting your helmet, ensure that you understand the government laws in your area and speak to your helmet manufacturer to get the best advice.
How Safe Is It To Paint A Motorcycle Helmet?
The two factors that determine the safety of your helmet while painting it are:
- Type of paint you use
- How you paint the helmet
When you’re painting your helmet, it is safe to use:
- Acrylic paints
- Water-based paints
These two are usually the best kinds that will ensure the safety of your helmet to a great extent. You can use a brush if using acrylic paints or a professional spray gun for water-based paints since it’ll be much easier and faster. Try not to use spray paint since they quite often are not compatible with the helmet material.
Before repainting, keep your helmet clean. You can do this using basic cleaning detergent or a grease remover.
However, when you’re painting, you need to ensure that you don’t dismantle any parts and use masking tape to cover the parts you don’t want to paint. All your screws and parts, such as the visor, straps, etc., must be intact.
Furthermore, you should apply new paint in layers consisting of different coats such as primer undercoat or base coat, guide coat or first coat, and clear coat or spray transparent paint (Optional: To achieve a shiny surface).
Wear latex gloves while applying these coats and after each coat let the wet paint/painted surface completely dry overnight.
Also, while removing the existing paint and using sandpaper to smoothen the entire helmet, ensure that you don’t damage the helmet’s base material and the inner lining of the whole helmet by overdoing it.
Safety Challenges Of Acrylic And Water-Based Paints
Though these are safe, there are a couple of safety setbacks. If you do not use a renowned paint company product for the standard helmet, there is a great chance that the chemicals might be harmful to the helmet.
Moreover, while removing dust particles, cleaning and sanding the helmet, you might overdo the process, thus damaging the protective layers. Another thing that’ll lead to helmet damage is overspray of paints since the helmet materials might absorb the extra paint and wouldn’t be as strong as before.
An alternative to this are decal or vinyl stickers. Though they have limitations in terms of customization, they’re still the safest. This is because there’s very little chance of a chemical reaction between the helmet and the sticker glue.
Overall, motorcycle helmets can be painted but with proper safety measures and understanding of the laws in your area. So when you paint your helmet to depict your personality keep safety as your primary focus!