Wrapping it up A properly fitting, properly rated helmet is the key to ensuring your safety when you climb behind the wheel. If your helmet isn't SA 2005-rated get rid of it and go buy a new one. Consider this, a G-Force Pro Eliminator carries this rating and costs only $279. That's money you can't afford not to spend.

And when you get your new helmet, store it in a cool dry place; the back of a locked trailer in South Florida in August is not it. Temperatures in excess of 150 degrees can cause damage to the polystyrene liner many inner shells are made out of, thereby degrading the helmet's protective capabilities. Finally, if you are involved in an accident, send your helmet back to the manufacturer for a safety check. Many provide this service free of charge. Don't forget the helmet manufacturers are often the best resource to get your questions answered.

Follow these basic principles and you can have years of enjoyment behind the wheel.

Not A Good Decision In the course of this story, we had a number of helmet manufacturers bring up the fact that if you race cars, you should not wear a motorcycle helmet. While just about every track and sanction specify Snell-rated helmets, some don't differentiate between the Snell rating for motorsports (SA-2005) or those for motorcycles (M-2005). Consequently, at some tracks you can legally race in a cheap Snell-rated motorcycle helmet. However, that could be the worst decision of your life. Motor-cycle helmets are not made for race cars. First of all, most motor-cycle helmets are not made with fire retardant materials. They don't have to be. They are designed to absorb impacts of your head bouncing off the ground going 55 mph, not protect you from fire.

"On these things (motorcycles) you slide away from the fire, in a car, you're trapped in the fire," says AMA motorcycle racer Glen Castle.

Any helmet manufacturer worth their weight in padding will tell you the same thing. And in fact, many take steps to prevent racers from buying the wrong helmet. For example, Simpson's policy is that they won't install HANS clips on a motorcycle helmet.

HANS clip mounting aside, we decided to find out just what happens when you have a motorcycle helmet that gets near a little heat. (Our apologies to the ozone layer.)

Think about these pics next time you go helmet shopping and remember to buy the right helmet, there are plenty of SA-2005 helmets that are value priced. The moral of this exercise? Don't wear a motorcycle helmet, it can melt to your head.