An auto-darkening welding helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment for welding. It automatically adjusts from light to dark.
However, for this reason, it’s vital to know how to test your auto-darkening welding helmet.
The problem is, if your auto darkening lens isn’t working correctly, you can experience eye fatigue or welders flash that could damage your eyes – which is why it’s essential to know your auto darkening helmet is working before you strike an arc.
Fortunately, there are four easy ways to test the lens of your auto-darkening welding helmet. Let’s take a look!
How to Test Your auto-darkening welding helmet
Note: Some helmets have a ‘grind mode‘ that turns off the auto-darkening arc sensors while enabled. This is useful when using an angle grinder, and you don’t need the high shade level of 9-15.
If your helmet has a grind mode, make sure it is off before trying any of these light tests.
1. Expose the lens to full sunlight
Exposing an auto-darkening helmet to full sunlight is the best way to test the light sensitivity of the lens. This exposure requires the helmet’s sensor to trigger the auto darkening feature as you face the sun.
Make sure to check the helmet’s sensitivity setting during this time. If the sensitivity level is low, you’ll need a lot of light to trigger the lens change; if the sensitivity level is high, only a little light is needed.
Facing the sun is also the easiest way to test the helmet since no other equipment is needed. Of course, this only works if it is bright and sunny outside. Otherwise, try some of the following options:
2. Use the spark from a lighter
The spark from a lighter is a second option to test your auto-darkening helmet. The spark is a close replicate of a welder flame and will be bright enough for the sensor to trigger the lens change.
You can also move the lighter around, much like you would a welder, to ensure that movements do not affect the helmet’s functionality. Another test is to flick the lighter’s flame on and off to see how the helmet responds.
This method is a good option for smokers because your lighter is often with you. It’s an easy and quick method to ensure your auto-darkening helmet works appropriately.
3. Expose the lens to a bright fluorescent light
If you don’t have a lighter to hand, you can always use a bright light to test your helmet. Bright fluorescent lights are found in many workshops and easily accessible.
The sensor will pick up any bright overhead light and will trigger the helmet’s auto-darkening functionality. Then try moving your hands in front of your face to ensure this movement does not change the settings.
You can also turn the bright light off (while still looking at it) to see how quickly the helmet lightens the lens. There is a delay setting that you can adjust to change how quickly the helmet reverts to normal after an arc.
4. Use a TV remote
Another interesting way to tell if your auto-darkening helmet is working is to use a remote control that uses an IR signal. Many standard remote controls for TVs and stereo systems send IR signals and can be used for this purpose.
Using an IR signal TV remote works because welding helmets block both UV and IR light. So, by wearing your helmet, pointing a remote at it, and pressing any buttons on the remote, the auto-darkening feature should trigger and go into its dark state.
That said, when using this technique, you have to be careful. If the IR signal is not very strong, you may need to adjust your helmet’s sensitivity to as high a setting as possible. Also, some IR remotes send out pulsed signals that can cause your helmet to flicker.
If your helmet begins to flicker, increase the delay time. Of course, if you try this method and nothing happens, check to be sure the remote is working and sending IR signals before you jump to any conclusions.
How long do auto-darkening helmets last?
The longevity of your auto-darkening helmet depends on several factors, including how well you take care of it.
For instance, if you’re going to have it rolling around in the back of your truck getting dirty and damaged, it’s not likely to last very long.
However, with proper care, most auto-darkening helmets should last you around seven to ten years. This longevity has mostly to do with the sensors, lens, which can be replaced in some helmets, and with the battery.
It’s critical to keep in mind that the primary reasons that auto-darkening helmets fail are either the lens or the battery. With many cheap helmets, these components are not replaceable, so you’ll be forced to purchase a new one.
If you have had your auto-darkening helmet for many years, you might want to consider buying a new one – we reviewed all best models on the market.
The lens is the most vulnerable part of your auto darkening welding helmet. So you should always be mindful of how you handle it. Don’t drop or misuse your helmet, or you may cause damage to the lens, and it will have to be replaced.
Nevertheless, if you look after your helmet correctly, you should be able to get a solid seven to ten years out of the lens before it needs replacing. However, keep in mind that the lens can only be replaced on some helmets.
So, when choosing a helmet, it’s crucial to look for more than just the lens shade range. If you plan to use your helmet frequently, it’s nice to be able to change out the lens when you need it in the future, especially if you’re happy with the fit and comfort level overall.
Another factor contributing to how long your auto-darkening helmet will last is the type of battery it uses. Some batteries will need to be recharged and replaced more frequently than others.
Auto-darkening helmets often contain lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged either by plugging them into an electrical socket or automatically using solar cells. The most convenient and longest-lasting are those that use solar as a power source.
In general, the lifespan of most non-replaceable batteries in auto-darkening helmets is about seven years. For this reason, it’s generally a better investment to get a helmet with a replaceable battery. Many helmets are also solar-powered, which is usually more than enough for more people, and don’t take too long to charge.
Other factors that affect lifespan
Other significant factors that affect your auto-darkening helmet’s lifespan include exposure to cold temperatures and storing it without power usage for long periods. Not only is the battery susceptible to losing power, but the LCD reaction time can be affected.
Below freezing temperatures impact the reaction time of the auto-darkening lens, so it’s best never to keep your helmet in a garage, shed, or back of a truck during the winter months. The last thing you want to do is shorten the lifespan of the lens of the auto-darkening helmet in storage.
The batteries in the helmet can also self-discharge if not used for long periods.
Wrapping it up
Testing your auto-darkening welding helmet before you begin welding is an essential safety step to take to avoid potential eye strain or worse. Fortunately, you don’t need to strike an arc to test your auto-darkening welding helmet, as other methods are just as effective.
For instance, you can expose the lens to full sunlight or use the spark from a lighter. When you don’t have sunlight, you can also use a bright fluorescent light. And if all else fails, keep a TV remote around that uses an IR signal.
Employing these techniques can be a serious time-saver, ensuring your helmet is working properly before you strike an arc and start welding.
Related Read: The Different Types of Welding Helmets