Wear and Tear On Your Office Chair: Common Repairs and Tips

Introduction

Office chairs are one of the most important yet often one of the most overlooked aspects of your average workday.

Why? Well, they contribute massively to your daily comfort, providing lumbar and neck support throughout the long, stressful working day, as well as preventing long-term injury and impacting your overall mood in ways that most people take for granted.

Yet, as with all items used on a daily basis, our office chairs will begin to show signs of wear and tear. But, when a chair starts to sink or wobble, the conventional wisdom would suggest that you bin your four-wheeled friend and fork out possibly a few hundred dollars on a brand new one.

But with just a few handy tips and tricks, some spare parts, the right tools and a little bit of tender love and care, you can make your old chair seem as good as new for just a fraction of the price you might pay for a brand new one.

We thought that might get your attention. 

Whether it’s replacing broken castors, gas cylinders, adjusters, mechanisms, levers or pistons, we’ve provided a few invaluable step-by-step guides for identifying the numerous issues that can afflict an office chair, as well as what you’ll need to resolve the problem.

Why Should I Repair My Office Chair?

Well, first and foremost it might save you hundreds of dollars. Modern office chairs, especially top-of-the-range models, come with a hefty price tag, and you could spend up to $1000 on an ergonomic chair with all the bells and whistles and S-curves.

But having an expensive chair is no guarantee of comfort, as it is very dependent on body size, height and weight. Everybody is different and sometimes even the most versatile of office chairs might not have the flexibility you need to maintain your comfort levels from 9 to 5.

Chairs and bodies are both precision-engineered. Like two pieces of a puzzle, you lock together uniquely! The craftsmanship that goes into a really good office chair is sorely undervalued.

Also, office chairs are like pets, faithful companions that do their best to help you on a day-to-day basis, and some people, whether they like to say it out loud or not, have a certain degree of affection for a chair.

Whether it’s the height of the armrests, the way it moves or how it cradles you, there are some things that no amount of money can replace.

So check out our list of common problems that afflict a worn-out chair. But first, let’s take a look at some of the tools we’ll need to repair our chair.

Tools You Will Need For Chair Repair

Repairing an office chair might fall under the category of ‘light DIY’, but you still don’t want to try it armed with only a plastic ruler, a quarter and a handful of straightened-out paperclips. The following tools will save you a lot of time and frustration:

  • Adjustable Wrench
  • Long Pipe Wrench
  • Flat Head Screwdriver (Medium)
  • Philips Head Screwdriver (Large)
  • Pry Bar (Small or Medium)
  • Rubber Mallet

With these few simple tools, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to fix most issues with your office chair quickly and efficiently.

Common Chair Issues

Wobbly Chair

There could be several reasons why your chair is lilting from side to side like a ship in stormy seas. It could be a faulty chair mechanism or a faulty chair base. First, you need to identify what is at fault with your chair.

  • Firstly, turn the chair so it’s horizontal, with its castors and the base of the chair completely off the floor.
  • With the chair overturned, wobble the seat from side to side slowly, putting pressure on the sides of the seat. If it seems loose near where the pneumatic cylinder and control mechanism join together, it’s more than likely that it is the control mechanism that needs replacing.

Sinking Chair

A common reason for your chair to start sinking is that the piston in the lever that controls the chair height has become worn down and needs replacing.

If your office chair is sinking, but the upholstery on your chair is still in decent shape, you can simply replace the lift mechanism by following these few simple instructions.

  • Manually lift the seat to your chosen height.
  • Lift the chair and its seat post out from the base/castors. Lay the chair on the floor horizontally.
  • Take off any decorative or non-functioning collars around the seat post.
  • Temporarily place the base back on the seat post so it can be properly measured. Mark the top of the seat and then set the base aside. Measure where you marked to the base of the seat.
  • Cut a piece of PVC pipe or a similarly-shaped tube so they match the distance between your marks.
  • Using a strong adhesive, stick the pipe onto the seat post, then slide the seat post back onto the base.

Dragging Castors

The castors, also known as the wheels on your seat, bear the brunt of the weight of both you and your chair, so they will naturally depreciate over time.

They also roll around in dust, dirt and hair on the office carpet or floor. Eventually, they cease rolling like they are designed to do and start dragging, leading to scratch marks on wood flooring and score marks on carpet.

But there are a few ways you can clean, maintain or, if necessary, completely replace your castors to avoid damage further down the line.

  • Most chairs are designed to be used on low-pile carpet. However, if your office has a thick carpet, this might result in castor damage. Most manufacturers recommend using a chair mat underneath your office chair to avoid dragging and wheel damage.
  • Manually turn your chair upside down and roll the wheels a few times, dislodging any gunk that might be caught up in them. Clean out the individual wheels with a rag covered in Isopropyl alcohol.
  • To replace a castor, slip the angled end of a flat bar under the castor and pop the castor out of its socket in one quick motion.
  • Before you buy replacement castors, measure the width and height of the stem. The most common widths are 3/8 inches and 7/16 inches.
  • To install a new castor, tilt it into the socket to compress the grip ring. If you can’t get it started, apply a drop of oil to the ring. If the castor only goes in halfway, tap it with a mallet.

A Squeaky Desk Chair

The scourge of all office spaces, a squeaky desk chair might make you the most unpopular person on the floor. However, there is a simple solution for an office chair that just won’t stay quiet.

  • Manually turn the chair upside down and use a screwdriver to loosen nuts, bolts, or screws.
  • After you’ve done that, spray a lubricating oil (WD-40) on all the chair’s mechanisms and dry the excess with a rag.

A Few More Common Chair Issues

Above we have given you a more in-depth list of office chair afflictions along with an easy-to-read guide on how to resolve them.

However, if you haven’t found the problem specific to your chair, here’s a quick look-up list of common causes, resolutions and repair information that should go some way to helping you with your swivel chair woes.

Seat Jerks Forward Or Flops Back

  • The pivot might be worn away or you might have a loose tension spring.

  • You might need to replace the pivot mechanism or adjust the tension spring knob.

Seat Sinks While Sitting

  • You might have a faulty gas cylinder.

  • Remove or install a new gas cylinder.

Piston Rod Is Hitting The Floor

  • The retainer clip might be broken.

  • Remove, replace and install a new gas cylinder.

Piston Rod Is Bent

  • Excessive weight has broken or worn the column down.

  • You might have to remove the old cylinder and replace with a new one.

Lever Doesn’t Work

  • The gas might have escaped from the cylinder due to faulty seals.

  • Replace the gas cylinder.

Cylinder Column Hits The Floor

  • The center hole has become enlarged.

  • Replace the gas base and remove and install a new cylinder.

Seat Is Sunk In A Low Position

  • Faulty seals have caused gas leakage.

  • Replace the gas cylinder.

Chair Squeaking

  • The metal base is worn and is rubbing against the metal or wood flooring. Oiling might not solve this issue.

  • Replace the chair mechanism.

Seat Is Leaning Right Or Left

  • Metal fatigue through excessive leaning.

  • Replace the chair mechanism.

Chair Rocks Violently

  • You might have a damaged castor, a bent leg or broken and worn plastic on the inside of the chair column. You could also be experiencing loose mountings, a bent cylinder rod or the pivot of the chair could be worn away.

  • You might need to replace the mechanism.

Castors Do Not Roll Easily

  • The castors might be clogged or worn-out.

  • Replace the castors.