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How Do You Fix a Tilt Lock on an Office Chair?

Tilt lock for office chairs

You would think that having a job that requires you to sit down for six to eight hours a day would be a comfortable deal. But if your chair doesn’t have any adjustable features, it can be an unenjoyable experience.

Traditional office chairs cause several health problems if you use them long-term. These include wrist and lower back disorders and pain in the wrist, elbow, forearm, and shoulder areas. Using a non-ergonomic chair for extended periods may also lead to more severe health problems such as spinal misalignments.

When you’re experiencing all of these, can you imagine what it does to your productivity?

It’s an ergonomic chair’s adjustable features that prevent this from happening. There are three — one for lumbar support, one for armrests, and one for backrest decline. All three are crucial and contribute significantly to your comfort as you use them.

Our focus, however, is on the tilt-lock backrest recline. You’ll have a better understanding of what it is, how it helps you when you’re sitting, and what to do if it stops working.

Are you ready for the details? Let’s begin!

What is the Tilt-Lock on an Office Chair?

Non-ergonomic office chairs have fixed backrests. It means the chair does not adjust to you — the longer you use it, the more you’ll find yourself adjusting to it to be comfortable. It typically results in various awkward positions, all of which lead to lower overall health.

An office chair with a tilt-lock allows you to adjust your backrest, giving you firmer lumbar support. If you use it properly, it prevents your chair from reclining too much. It also allows you to set it in a position that fits your posture.

The tilt-lock is considered the most important among an ergonomic office chair’s adjustable features. Shifting your position becomes challenging if the tilt-lock mechanism isn’t working. It’s best to ensure it is to make your office work more convenient.

Your office chair’s tilt-lock has two purposes — adjusting the seat tilt and the back tilt tension. It’s important to note that there may be additional features on different models, but these two are the most basic.

Adjusting your chair’s seat tilt

KOLLIEE Mid Back Mesh Office Chair

When you’re setting your chair in the ideal position, the first thing you look at is its recline angle. Look for the handle below your seat pan that activates the recline mechanism when flipped clockwise.

Keep your feet on the floor as you lean back to find the appropriate recline angle. Mind the pressure on your lower back — it should be minimal. Once you find a position that’s right for you, turn the handle counterclockwise. It locks the seat, so it shouldn’t recline any further.

Determining the appropriate back tilt tension

When your chair’s angled at your preferred angle, it doesn’t mean that you can’t move the backrest anymore. It is still possible — but you can adjust how much force you need to apply for it to happen. It is what the back tilt tension does.

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Your chair typically has a crank handle that controls this. Turning it clockwise increases the tension (requiring more force) while moving it in a counterclockwise direction does the opposite.

Common Problems with the Tilt Lock

As with all mechanical things, there will come a time when it succumbs to wear and tear. When an office chair’s tilt lock acts up, it may cause several problems.

Your office chair’s tilt lock mechanism controls how much you’re able to recline your seat. When it stops working, you experience either of these things:

It refuses to recline, no matter what you do. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you can’t adjust your office chair’s recline. Three things could be causing it — the tension knob, the recline knob, or the recliner spring.

It reclines, but it’s stuck there. You get your chair to a reclined angle, but then you can’t get it upright anymore.

How to Fix the Tilt Lock of an Office Chair

Regardless of which problem you encounter, the best way to figure out how to fix it is to determine its cause. Here are some options for you to consider.

Problem #1: Your office chair won’t recline.

How to adjust your Tilter chair mechanism

Try to adjust the tension knob. It loosens the recliner springs, allowing you to recline the chair.

Try to reposition the recline knob. This step is more complicated as it requires you to open the shaft’s housing and trace the recline knob. Check if one of the pins — if one is displaced, you can put it back to its proper position by hand or using a screwdriver.

Focus on the recliner springs. Repositioning or replacing the recliner spring is your last option, depending on whether it’s dislodged or broken.

Problem #2: Your office chair is stuck on recline.

5 Most Common Office Chair Tilt Mechanisms: How Office Chairs Recline


You’re not using the correct technique to remove the recline lock. Lean back on your chair until it reaches its maximum recline to address this. It makes the recline rod loose enough to be pulled out without much force.

There’s too much tension on the recliner springs. You’ll know this is a factor when you can’t seem to push your office chair’s backrest when you lean against it. Adjusting the tension knob beneath your seat should decrease the tension, allowing movement when you lean back.

The recline rod is rusty. If you’ve had your office chair for several years, this may be what happened. Your recliner rod won’t loosen because it’s rusty. The best way to address this is to apply lubrication such as WD40. Give it time to sit before trying again. Depending on how old your office chair is and how rusted the rod is, you may have to repeat it twice or thrice.

The recline tension spring is damaged. A tell-tale sign that it’s your spring is if your office chair moves back from a reclined angle (so it’s not stuck), but it doesn’t go back to its original position. Sometimes, the easiest way to address this is to replace the entire tilt lock mechanism.

How to Replace an Office Chair’s Tilt Lock?

Let’s say you’ve tried all the steps outlined above, and you still can’t get your office chair to recline properly. Maybe it’s time to replace the mechanism itself.

Aeron chair tilt repair

Don’t worry. You can fix it on your own, but before doing so, figure out these two things:

  • Check if your chair’s still under warranty. High-end ergonomic chairs typically have coverage spanning a decade (or longer), so if this is the case, save yourself the trouble and get in touch with the manufacturer. Some will send someone to your location or pay for all expenses connected to sending the chair to them.
  • Check your office chair’s owner’s manual. If it’s no longer covered and you want to replace the mechanism on your own, you need to be familiar with how your chair was put together. You can also use your owner’s manual to ensure you get the correct mechanism to replace the one you have. Remember, different office chairs use varying types of tilt locks. The worst thing that could happen is realizing your replacement mechanism is incompatible with your seat.

Once you’ve checked out both items above and still decide to replace the tilt lock mechanism on your own, here’s how you can go about it.

Prepare all your tools with you. Depending on the actual condition of your chair, you may not need all of these. If you want to prepare for worst-case scenarios, however, make sure you have the following:

  • A can of WD40 or a lubricant of your choice
  • A rubber mallet
  • A screwdriver
  • A pipe wrench

Detach the base. Since the tilt lock mechanism is underneath your seat, the easiest way to replace it is by starting from the chair’s base. Lay the chair on its side and spray it with lubricant. Let it sit for about thirty minutes before trying to detach it. Once time is up, hit it with a rubber mallet until it dislodges. Set it aside.

The New Way to Remove and Replace an Office Chair Cylinder (Without a Pipe Wrench)

Remove the cylinder. The next thing you’ll have to remove is the cylinder. If you have a solid grip, you can do this with your bare hands. Another way to do it is by using a pipe wrench.

Change the tilt lock mechanism. You should have a clear view of how the tilt mechanism connects to the chair’s seat when you’ve removed the cylinder. Use your screwdriver to detach it. Replace it with the new one — remember that the tilt tension knob should be facing the front of the chair! When you have in position, hand thread the screws then tighten them with a screwdriver.

Put everything back together. Take your base and place the cylinder in its center — there’s a provision for this, so it shouldn’t be difficult. Take the upper half of your office chair and align it with the other end of the cylinder. Apply pressure on the seat to get it to lock in place (the best way to do this is to sit on it).

Try to recline the seat. Try to recline your seat after installing the new tilt lock. It should work. If, after all this, you still have difficulty reclining your office chair, you may want to consider calling a professional.

The Wrap Up

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Owning an ergonomic chair may be overwhelming in the beginning. To maximize it, you need to know its various parts and how to use these. Then there’s the question of what to do if it doesn’t work.

The tilt-lock mechanism of your office chair may seem complicated, but if you take a little time to figure it out, you should be able to handle it with no problem. You can always opt to have a professional take care of things when challenges arise, but there’s also no harm in knowing what you can do on your own before you resort to this.

Remember, an ergonomic chair is an investment. It may cost you a bit more and require some effort to understand, but when you experience the benefits it provides, you’ll be sure to appreciate it.