How to Fix an Office Chair Leaning to One Side

Office chairs usually lean back a notch for added comfort, but if they lean to the left or to the right, you’ve got a problem.

The most common reasons for an office chair leaning to one side are damaged casters, a damaged seat plate, or a change in the tilt tension of the chair.

The solutions are quite simple. You need to either replace the caster, tighten the plate, or adjust the tilt tension.

In this article, we’ll take you step-by-step through each of these procedures.

Caster Replacement

Extensive chair use can easily result in broken or damaged casters, resulting in an uneven distribution of weight, and a side-leaning chair.

If your chair is a bit old and you feel like it’s leaning to one side – inspect the casters. If there’s a damaged or broken caster you can simply replace it with a new one to fix the issue. Once all casters are even, the chair should stop leaning.

To check whether the casters are the ones causing you trouble, you first need to take a look at whether each caster is touching the floor when the chair is standing upright. Then, turn the chair upside down and check for any signs of damage on the casters such as cracks, holes, or pressed uneven circles.

If the casters are not touching the floor evenly, and/or you see any signs of damage to the casters, you should definitely replace them. Here’s how.

  1. Remove the Old Casters

    Most casters are quite easy to remove by firmly pulling the caster off with one hand while holding the chair base with the other. In most cases, the caster should pop out quite easily, but if that’s not the case, try placing a screwdriver into the small gap where the caster meets the chair. Work it slowly back and forth until some half-an-inch of the caster is out, and then try pulling the wheel out again.

    On rare occasions, you may run into casters that are screwed to the bottom of the chair. To loosen them up, simply unscrew the head with a screwdriver and pull the caster out. 

  2. Get a Matching Set of Casters

    Ideally, you’d be able to contact the manufacturer or seller and order a single caster that perfectly matches the remaining casters on the chair. However, since it’s quite difficult to get a single matching caster to complement your existing set, in most cases, it’s more practical to get a whole new set of casters.

    To find what type of casters you need, you should check your chair model. Then, google the exact model of your casters and see where you can buy them. Alternatively, if you can’t find the exact model of the casters, contact your office chair vendor and ask them to give you this information. But, unless you’re dealing with a very specific chair, your casters should match some of the standard models and sizes.

    Most office chairs come with a set of plastic double-wheel casters, but since you are already replacing the casters, you also have the option of upgrading to a newer and more sturdy model.

    Recently, single-wheel rollerblade silicone casters have become a total hit among marathon office chair sitters, and many people have testified to their higher quality and durability. Also, people praise them because they collect less dirt, compared to the double-wheeled casters that need to be cleaned quite often.

  3. Put Lubricant on the Casters’ Bases

    Before putting new casters on your chair, it’s a good idea to lubricate the casters’ bases because lubrication works against rusting and prevents caster damage because it helps the casters move more smoothly in their bases, and slows down the wear and tear process.

  4. Put the New Casters In

    Hand-push the caster inside its designated socket. If the stem is properly aligned and the base is well-lubricated, it should easily pop into its place. If it doesn’t pop, you can tap it in with a rubber hammer slowly and lightly, until it’s in.

    If possible, you should tap near the stem base, because otherwise, the risk of deformation will be much greater.

  5. Test the Casters

    Put the chair back into the upright position and sit on it. Try to roll it around the room a bit. If you feel that it’s going smoothly and there’s no side-leaning, your work here is done.

Adjusting Tilt Tension

Sometimes, the problem is much simpler than damaged casters. In a lot of cases, the tilt tension can change over time due to regular wear and tear, which just means that you need to do some adjustments.

First, sit in your chair and put your feet firmly on the floor. Lean your back onto the backrest and try to see how far the backrest leans.

Then, reach below the chair and find the tilt knob. On most chairs, the tilt knob is located at the chair bottom but there are cases when it’s not that easy to find, so you’ll need to consult the user’s guide if you’ve never reached for it before.

While you are nicely seated in your chair, press the knob, and have the seat tilt forward. Play with it a bit until you reach the optimal tilting level.

It may take a few trials, but keep going. Press the knob, then tilt the seat forward. If this doesn’t solve the problem, and the chair is still leaning on one side, you’re left with one more option.

Tightening the Seat Plate

If the casters are all in good shape, and the tilt tension is well-adjusted, then the seat plate should be your next target. The swivel seat plate is usually located beneath the seat. Flip the chair upside down or to the side and check for any loose screws in the holder.

If there are missing bolts, the seat plate will automatically tilt to the side where they are missing. If you also see that the plate is bent, damaged, or broken, you will need to replace it.

Here’s how to do that.

  1. Fix the Screws and Check the Chair Again

    Before you jump to remove and replace the seat plate, check whether you can solve the problem with simpler solutions. Usually, there are four screws securing the seat plate, and if any of them are loose or missing, tighten them or replace them, then test the chair. In most cases, this would do the trick, but if it’s still tilting, you will need to replace the plate.

  2. Check the Seat Plate

    Take a look at whether your seat is damaged. If there are any bumps or dents, they should be symmetrical on the plate. If that’s not the case, and if the plate seems deformed, that’s a clear sign that you need to buy a new one.

    In the case of a cheap chair, it may be less expensive to actually replace the chair. Seat plates cost anywhere between $15 and $50. If you want to purchase a seat plate with a star base, the price can get to some $85. At the same time, you can find office chairs below $100, but also between $100 ad $200. If you combine the time you need to replace the seat plate and the price, it might be more cost-effective to replace the chair.

    In the case of a more expensive chair, say above $200, replacing the seat plate is probably much more cost-effective.

  3. Remove Chair Legs With a Rubber Mallet

    Once you’ve determined that the seat plate needs to be replaced, you should flip the chair on its side, hold the chair base with one hand, and with the other, tap the seat plate with a rubber mallet. It’s best to tap near the connection to the cylinder. With a few hits, you should have everything below the plate popped out.

  4. Buy a Matching Replacement

    Now that the seat plate is off, use it to find a match online, so you can replace your chair’s seat plate. First, get the model and the model number of the chair. Second, either search Google or give your manufacturer a call to find out what type of seat plate your chair needs. Third, order a new seat plate and wait for it to arrive.

  5. Attach the New Seat Plate

    The first step in attaching the new seat plate is letting the screw holes in the new seat plate align with those that are on the bottom of the seat. Put the screw in and turn it clockwise using a screwdriver, until you think it’s firm and tight.

    Repeat the same procedure with all the other screws.

  6. Attach the Chair Legs Back

    Finally, put the base of the chair with the legs in a standing position and align the upper part socket with the cylindrical column at the base. Press the top over the column firmly. When they are properly attached, you should hear a “pop”.

    If you’re struggling to connect the lower and the upper part, grab a WD-40 lubricant, and lubricate the socket. This should help you finish the attachment within seconds.

    Once everything is back in its place – test the chair. Sit down, lean back, and roll it around the room. If it’s not leaning, your work here is done. If it’s still leaning to the side, you should consider getting a new chair or contact the manufacturer or seller in case of an expensive chair. For example, Herman Miller chairs usually come with a guarantee which ensures free fixing if something goes wrong.

Conclusion

Fixing a chair that is leaning to one side is fairly simple, although sometimes, it might turn out that it’s easier and cheaper to just get a new chair.

Leaning to one side is usually caused by damaged casters, in which case you’ll need to replace the whole set, loose tilt tension, or loose or damaged seat plate. The most complicated process is to replace the seat plate, however, that too is doable if you’re careful and follow our guide.

Don’t forget to test your chair every time you’re done fixing it, because your job might not end there.

If none of the solutions solved the problem of your chair leaning to one side, we strongly recommend either getting a new chair or contacting a licensed service in case of an expensive chair.

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