How to Test an Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet

Written By: Liam Bryant

Reviewed By: Russell Egan

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Test an auto-darkening welding helmet before use by looking at the sun or lighting a cigarette lighter to check that the lens works correctly.

A welding helmet is one of the most important pieces of equipment that you can have to protect your eyes and face during welding. Auto-darkening welding helmets are a new innovation, around since the 1980s, that make welding even easier. These helmets automatically adjust the polarization of the helmet when you strike the arc and release when you turn the arc off, leaving your hands free to work.

However, you need to know that your auto-darkening welding helmet works before accidentally exposing yourself to a welding arc’s bright flash. Here are the steps you should follow to test your welding helmet.

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Why You Should Test Your Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet

First, let’s establish why it’s important to test your auto-darkening welding helmet. 

Auto-darkening welding helmets are a great innovation because you don’t have to manually adjust the visor as you do for typical welding helmets. Although some welders are nervous about putting their faith in an auto-darkening welding helmet, these helmets are perfectly safe.

However, to ensure that you are actually safe, you need to test your welding helmet. Welding helmets can stop working, and you want to ensure that the filters are working properly before you strike the arc. If the filter isn’t working, you could hurt your eyes by looking directly at the arc. You also want to test the helmet before using it for the first time to make sure you adjust the settings to the right sensitivity for your eyes.

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How to Test Your Helmet

There are a few different ways to test your welding helmet before you start working.

1.  The Sun Test

To test your welding helmet, you don’t need any special equipment—you need to go outside and look at the sun. Sunlight is very bright and has UV and IR rays, similar to welding arcs. However, it is not as strong as a welding arc, so you will not damage your eyes if the filters turn out to not work. The lens has built-in UV filters anyway, so these will protect you even if the polarization doesn’t work.

To use the sun test, check your helmet’s sensitivity. You don’t want to panic and think that the helmet is not working, only to realize that you set the light sensitivity to low and there isn’t enough sunlight to trigger the helmet. Then, put on your helmet and go outside to face the sun. Your lens should darken automatically within a few seconds.

However, for the sun test, you are dependent on the weather. If it’s rainy or cloudy, you won’t get a good idea if your welding helmet works, which is why it is good to know some of the other tests.

2. The Welding Test

One of the best ways to see if your helmet will function when you work is to mimic your work conditions as closely as possible. To check if the welding helmet will work when you strike an arc – briefly strike an arc. Put on all your safety equipment and start working as normal, striking an arc. Then, see if your helmet darkens as it should.

This test is great because you don’t need any additional equipment. However, it is riskier because if your helmet doesn’t darken, you risk the welder’s flash. Only use this test if you are mostly sure that the helmet works and want to confirm before you expose yourself to the arc for a longer period.

3. Remote Control Test

One unconventional test is to use a TV remote. Many remote controls use an IR light to turn on the TV, so make sure the control you are using has this feature. Then, point to your helmet and see if it darkens. Since your helmet is supposed to block IR light, a remote control should trigger the sensors. 

However, with a remote control, the margin for error is too high. Too many things could go wrong: the remote control could be one that doesn’t give off IR light, it could send out a pulsed signal, or be very weak. If your helmet doesn’t darken, the problem could be with the test itself, not the helmet.

4. Cigarette Lighter Test

Finally, you can use the spark from a spark or cigarette lighter. Lighter flames are like a weaker version of the welding arc—bright enough to trigger the helmet but not bright enough to hurt your eyes.

To conduct this test, put your helmet on and flick on the lighter. Flick it on and off and move it around to test how your helmet reacts to changes in light and motion, which will happen as you weld. 

This test is very reliable, but not everyone has lighters on hand.

What to Look for During the Tests

When you test your auto-darkening helmet, you will know it is working properly if the following signs appear:

  • The helmet darkens
  • The lenses change color in a few seconds
  • The shade lightens when you remove the light
  • You can see clearly throughout the whole process

What to Do if Your Helmet Fails a Test

If your helmet fails to darken properly or there are a few issues, here is what you can do.

First, make sure there isn’t a problem with the test. Ensure there is enough light to trigger the sensors and that you are exposing the helmet to the right light.

Then, try to fiddle with the settings. Maybe the sensitivity or delay settings are turned too high. 

If the helmet still fails, try replacing the lens or the battery instead of the whole helmet.

The last option is to buy a new helmet. I have written a guide to selecting a welding helmet that suits your needs if you are looking for more information.

Final Thoughts

Before you turn on your auto-darkening welding helmet, you should test it to make sure it works. You can use the sun, a cigarette lighter, a TV remote, or even a low welding arc itself to make sure the helmet darkens in time and adjusts to changes in brightness without affecting your vision.