Why Won’t My Office Chair Lean Back?

The reason why office chairs are the go-to chairs for sitting at a desk for long hours lies in their design. Due to the adjustability of the chair’s height, armrest, and angle of recline, office chairs offer posture support and reduce back and hip pain. Sometimes, however, you just want to sit back and relax in your chair, and it can be very irritating when it doesn’t recline. So, if you’re wondering why that happens, we’ll give you the possible answers to why your chair doesn’t recline in the lines below.

But before we go any further, you need to remember that older chairs are more likely to malfunction, especially when it comes to the recline mechanism. So, let’s get started and discuss office chairs and their recline option.

Types of Chair Reclines

Most office chairs have manual reclines that can be easily repaired at home in just a few steps and with a few tools that you probably have lying around in your basement. 

Other office chairs have motorized reclines which are much more complicated to repair. If your chair has a motorized recline and you’re having problems with it, it’s best to get it serviced by professionals since you can damage it if you try fixing it at home.

Why Does My Office Chair Not Lean Back Anymore?

Before you start working on fixing the recline of your chair, you need to do an assessment to see where the problem is.

Check the Chair Mechanisms

The first thing you need to check is the chair’s recline mechanism. This mechanism works on a radial and linear spring and controls the backrest of the chair. The mechanism can also have stabilizer plates and levers that further control the position of the backrest.

Once you pull the lever, you reduce the tension between the knobs, and you can move the backrest forward or backward. As you move the backrest, the lever slowly goes back to the original position. This mechanism can vary from chair to chair, meaning, in some cases, the knob stays in its place regardless of whether the backrest is going backward or forward.

Test the Recline

Now that you know how the recline mechanism works, it’s time to test it before doing your repairs. Sit comfortably in your chair as if you were working and pull the recline lever to check whether the chair starts reclining or not. If the chair doesn’t move at all when you lean into it, you may have a problem with the tension adjustment on your hand. It’s possible that there is just too much tension and your weight isn’t enough to make the chair recline. And if there’s no tension at all when you unlock the lever, you may have a damaged spring on your hand.

If, however, you can’t manage to move the lever, it’s likely that you have a problem with the lever. Either you can’t pull it to unlock the recline or it won’t lock in any position. If this is the case, you’ll need to replace the lever. 

If you hear a popping noise when you try to recline your chair, you may just need to apply some WD lubricant and a degreaser to the gas cylinder. If this works, you won’t need to order any spare parts. 

How to Fix an Office Chair That Won’t Recline

Now that you know what can cause the recline function of your chair not to work, and you’ve determined what the problem with your chair is, we can start discussing how you can fix it.

Adjust the Tension Knob

As we’ve mentioned above, one of the reasons why your chair doesn’t recline might be due to the tension knob being set too high. Even though this doesn’t mean that your chair is damaged, it may prevent the recline option from working properly.

To fix the problem, you need to adjust the tension knob by turning it counterclockwise in small increments and checking every once in a while whether the tension of the recline has improved. Remember not to leave the knob too loose, as that may cause damage to this mechanism if a lot of weight is added to the chair at once. 

Replace or Repair Recline Lever

Another problem we’ve addressed above is your chair not being able to recline due to problems with the recline lever. You can see that your chair has problems with the recline lever if it’s always stuck in one position, or it moves even if it’s in the lock position.

To fix this, you need to turn the chair upside down and remove the top component. Next, remove the four bolts that hold the seat of the chair in place. Then you can see the mechanism as a whole and check whether the recline level is dented or broken. If so, you need to replace it with a new lever. However, if the lever is just dislodged from its place, you can put it back in its place and screw it with a screwdriver.

Replace the Recliner Spring

Your chair either has a radial or a linear spring, and that might be another reason that prevents the chair from moving as you adjust the recline. If there’s no tension as you release the lever, there’s probably a problem with the spring. To check it, remove the top part of the chair, similar to how you did it in the previous step. After the top part of the chair is removed, you can see whether the recliner spring needs replacing. If it does, you can order another spring and your chair will be as good as new.

Fix the Cylinder

To fix the cylinder and with it the popping sound that you may be getting from your metal chair, you can do the following:

  • Remove the bottom of the gas cylinder.
  • Remove the washer and the nut with some pliers.
  • Remove the star-shaped casters by lifting them.
  • Remove the bearings and rings from the top of the cylinder.
  • Check to see if the cylinder is clean. If it isn’t, you can remove the buildup using a small paper towel. 
  • Add lubricant to the clean cylinder and coat it completely.
  • Clean the washers, metal rings, and bearings, and re-install them in the cylinder. Remember to lubricate them before you put them in their place.
  • Add the casters and washer to their place.
  • Assemble the whole cylinder.
  • Put everything in its place and assemble the chair.
  • Check whether the popping sound is gone. 

When Is It Time to Buy a New Chair?

Remember that each piece of furniture doesn’t last forever, and the same goes for office chairs. On average, office chairs with a recliner last about 10 years, and sometimes even less if they’re used on a daily basis. For that reason, it’s important to purchase a high-quality chair.

When buying a new chair, it’s important to take the following things into consideration:

  • To hold its shape and be as comfortable as possible, the chair needs to have a cushion density rating of 1.9.
  • The chair should help you maintain good posture by providing good lumbar support. 
  • Choose either microfiber or leather chair, as those are some of the more durable options.
  • Check how the mechanisms of your chair work, most importantly the recline mechanism.
  • Look at online reviews of how satisfied other customers are.
  • Stay away from vinyl and similar materials as those can easily rip and crack.

Final Thoughts 

Office chairs are a staple in your workday as you spend 8 or more hours sitting on them, so they need to provide adequate support to your back and spine. Nowadays, chairs come with a lot of mechanisms that help you customize the height, the position of the armrests, and other elements. And if one of these mechanisms stops working and you aren’t able to recline your chair, now you know how to fix the problem.

We believe that with this article, we’ve helped you learn more about how you can determine the common issues that cause an office chair not to recline and fix it yourself. Good luck!

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