If your office chair won’t recline, it’s probably because of the tilt engine is stuck or because the gas cylinder needs lubrication. Manual recline engines with knobs and levers can be fixed by the user while automatic recline engines require servicing.
But how do you even know that your office chair won’t recline in the first place? One of the simplest methods to tell if the chair won’t recline is if it strains when you are pushing the backrest. This can be a first sign the office chair is stuck. It can also be a sign that recline tension is too high and that it needs to be lowered. In this article, we look at the recline function, if it’s broken, how to try and fix it. We also fix the recline which is not yet broken, but which comes with a popping noise when the backrest goes back and which indicates an incoming recline failure.
Office chair won’t recline – is it broken?
Just before we take the entire office chair apart, we need to determine if it’s recline is broken. If it strains while you go back, please make sure the tension is not too high first.
- Find the tension adjustment knob
The knob is normally situated right underneath the seat. This is the same in most office chairs as well as in most gaming chairs.
- Consider alternative adjustment levels
Several office chairs don’t have knob recline tension adjustment but a lever. Some chairs have cranks or knobs situated at the side of the chair.
- Reduce recline tension adjustment
An adjustment know has (+) and (-) directional adjustments. The increase and decrease the recline tension. You can try and reduce the tension and see if the problem is fixed.
- How to fix a tension knob which is stuck
A recline tension knob can get stuck, especially on old office chairs. Try to force it into the (-) direction to reduce the tension. If you can’t do it by hand, you can simply use a wrench and force a release of the tension. In case the stuck knob was the problem, it should now be fixed.
The basic parts of a recline mechanism
A very basic recline mechanism is based on a linear spring and a radial spring. They control the lever (of some office chairs) and the backrest. Such a mechanism includes the following parts.
- A linear spring
- A radial spring
- A lever
- A stabilizer plate
When the lever is pulled or when the knob tension is reduced, the gears of the mechanism are completely disengaged. This causes the backrest to move freely forward. When the backrest is pulled further back, the lever goes back to its original place. Variations of this mechanism allow the lever or the knob to remain in place regardless of the backrest is moving forwards or backward. Fixing an office chair that won’t recline is harder in this case, as the lever remains in position no matter if its working or broken.
Your office chair recline is about to fail, here’s how to fix it
If you’ve already tried to release the tension knob or lever and the office chair is working fine, you can use it as normal.
But in some cases, the office chair will recline, but it will not do so properly and smoothly. A popping sound can be heard before a recline function is completely broken and before spare parts need to be used to fix it. This sound can be heard on all types of office chairs.
In case of a popping sound on the recline, the problem is not in the recline engine, but in the gas cylinder. This fix needs WD 40 lubricant, a degreaser, , and a pair of pliers. I use standard WD 40 lubricant on my fixes. Check it out here on Amazon!
Many users lubricate the recline engine and they soon find out the popping sound is still there. It is the main reason they should be looking a bit further below, at the gas cylinder, which needs lubrication. Here’s how to fit it yourself.
- Turn the office chair over
The office chair needs to be turned upside down, with the casters pointing towards the ceiling. It can lean against a wall or it can be placed on another chair for this position.
- Remove the bottom gas cylinder clip
There’s a small metal clip on the bottom of the gas cylinder. It has a square shape and it is present on all gas cylinders and all office chairs. It can be removed with the pliers with a simple pulling movement.
- Pull out the washer
The next piece which needs to be removed is the washer. Pliers can also be used for this as well.
- Remove the star-shaped casters support
You can now proceed to completely remove the casters and their support. A lifting movement should be enough to get it off.
- Remove the rings and bearings
A single ring or multiple rings are now directly visible on top of the cylinder, together with the bearings. They need to be removed, together with the washer which holds them in place.
- Clean the cylinder
A paper towel is exactly what’s needed to clean the cylinder and remove excess oil and other buildups. A degreaser can be used here as well. Apply it on the paper towel first before using it to clean the cylinder. I use Krud Kutter. Check it out here on Amazon!
- Add lubricant
A quality lubricant needs to be added on the cylinder when it’s sparkling clean. It needs to coat the cylinder all around.
- Put the washer, bearing and ring back on
Now the assembly process can start. When putting the washer, bearing, and metal ring back on, they could use some lubrication after being cleaned as well.
- Place the caster’s base back on
The casters need to be placed back on this stage.
- Place the washer over the base
The washer needs to slide in position after the star-shaped casters based has been placed back on the cylinder.
- Place the retainer clip back on
In the last step, you need to place the retainer clip back on.
Remember these tips and tricks!
- Use gloves to keep your hands clean and free from grease (I use latex gloves, check them out here on Amazon!)
- Use paper towels and other microfiber cloths for cleaning
- Clean all the little pieces of the cylinder you take apart
- Remember to put them back in their exact order
- Use a good WD 40 lubricant
- Get your hands on some good white grease
- Take your time, especially cleaning out each element and the cylinder
This is how you fix an office chair that tilts back. Remember, all of these steps can be taken at home, with no specialized help. In this article, you’ve seen how to diagnose your tilt mechanism and see if it stuck. How a tilt mechanism works and how to fix the first signs of a broken office chair recline when the pop can be heard.
Most office chairs look the same in terms of mechanisms and these steps can be followed through. However, if your office chair is under warranty, you should not take it apart, especially the cylinder. All these fixes should be made by the seller. However, if you don’t want to wait for the seller to add some lubricant to a cylinder, you can contact the company to see if you can still keep the warranty while doing the fix yourself. However, most of these problems arise long after the warranty has ended.
The ball bearings look broken, can I still use them?
Some ball bearings might even be broken, especially when the office chair recline starts to come with popping sounds. However, they might still be usable and free from annoying sounds after lubrication.,
Which grease is best for lubrication?
Any quality grease will be fine for some lubrication of the office chair recline mechanism or its gas cylinder. White grease is particularly useful for office chairs which won’t recline as you get to actually see if it has coated the cylinder properly. If you need my white grease recommendation, check it out here on Amazon!
Office chair tilt lock not working, do I need a specialist?
As seen above, when the office chair tilt lock is not working, it may be addressed at home. Office chairs that have electronic recline cannot be fixed at home. However, before fixing any office chair yourself, you should ensure that it is not in the warranty period.
Gaming chair won’t recline, are the fixes different?
Gaming chairs and office chairs use the same principles for the recline function. They can also be fixed following these steps above. The cylinders of an office chair and a gaming chair are the same.
Tilt tension stuck, which wrench do I need?
Any adjustable wrench will work fine to force a stuck tension knob. A good tip is to use a damper layer such as a cloth to avoid scratching the knob. Some tension tilt knobs are situated to the side of the office chair and they are visible at all the time. The last thing you need is for them to look worn out.