Before you throw out a good office chair because the lift or the wheels aren't working, try repairing them. All you need are a few basic hand tools and readily available parts.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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Office Chair Repair: Rebuilding the lift mechanism
Photo 1: Remove the clip and pedestal
Got a sinking office chair? Jam a needle-nose pliers into the spring clip and pull it off. Then lift the pedestal off the chair to begin office chair base replacement.
Photo 2: Remove the trim bezel
Grab the smallest portion of the telescoping trim bezel and twist it while you pull the entire trim assembly off the office chair gas cylinder. It’s just a friction fit.
Photo 3: Twist the office chair gas cylinder
Use a pipe wrench to loosen the press-fit office chair gas cylinder (there are no threads). Then lift the cylinder out of the tilt mechanism for office chair gas cylinder replacement.
If the lift mechanism in your office chair needs repair but the upholstery portion is still in good shape, don’t toss the chair. Fix it! You can replace an office chair gas cylinder yourself for about $40 (one source for office chair parts is swivel-chair-parts.com).
Rebuilding the lift mechanism is a two-part process. First you have to disassemble the lift mechanism so you can measure the size of the gas cylinder and order the new part. You’ll need a needlenose pliers, a pipe wrench with a long handle, and a helper. Disassembly takes about a half hour. Then you just reassemble when the part arrives. That only takes 15 minutes, and you can do it without a helper.
Start the repair by flipping it upside down on your workbench. Then remove the spring retaining clip on the bottom of the pedestal (Photo 1). Next, lift the entire pedestal and column off the chair. Lift off the bearing, washers and rubber bumper and keep the parts together for reuse. Remove the telescoping trim bezel (Photo 2).
Then grab your pipe wrench and helper and remove the cylinder (Photo 3). If it won’t budge, soak it with rust penetrant and tap with a hammer to set up vibrations. Then try the wrench again.
Measure the length of the office chair gas cylinder from the bottom of the taper to the top. Don’t include the piston rod in the measurement. Then measure the cylinder width at the widest part. Order the replacement from an office chair repair parts Web site.
To reassemble, just push the tapered end of the cylinder into the chair seat and install the telescoping trim bezel. Slide on the rubber bumper. Then lubricate the bearing with grease and install it back on the piston rod with the original washers. Next, slide the pedestal base and column over the rod and secure the piston rod with the washer and spring clip. Finish the job by turning the chair right side up and bouncing on it a few times. Your weight will drive the tapered gas cylinder into the seat retainer. Then raise the lift mechanism to the proper height and get back to work.
Slip the angled end of a flat bar under the caster and pop the caster out of its socket in one quick motion. If it doesn’t come out all the way, grab it again and pry it the rest of the way.
Photo 2: Start the new caster at an angle
Rotate the open end of the grip ring so it’s facing up. Then tilt the caster stem into the socket until the ring gap starts to close. Straighten it up and push home the office chair replacement wheels.
Photo 3: Tap it in
Position a small block of wood directly over the caster stem. Then tap it with a mallet until the stem pops all the way into the socket.
When casters roll around long enough in dust, dirt and hair, they stop rolling and start skidding. And that’s how your floors get scratched up or your carpet gets wear tracks. Sometimes you can bring casters back from the dead by cleaning and lubricating them. So try that first. Just spray household degreaser/cleaner right onto the roller axles. Then spin the wheels to loosen them up. If that helps, rinse off the cleaner, blow them dry with compressed air, and then lubricate them. If cleaning doesn’t help, you’ll have to replace them. Here’s how.
Most office chairs use a twin-wheel grip-ring style caster. The grip ring compresses and snaps into a groove in the socket. The easiest way to remove a grip-ring caster is with a flat bar (Photo 1). Before you buy office chair replacement wheels, measure the width and height of the stem. The most common widths are 3/8 in. and 7/16 in. There’s only a 1/16-in. difference between the two, so measure carefully! If you try to fit a 7/16-in. stem into a 3/8-in. socket, you’ll crack the socket.
Next, measure the wheel diameter. If you want the chair to push back easier or roll over small items on the floor rather than get stuck, buy a caster with a larger wheel. Buy a urethane tread caster for wood (and composite), tile or vinyl floors. But if the chair will roll on carpet, buy a hard rubber or nylon tread caster.
To install the caster, tilt it into the socket to compress the grip ring (Photo 2). If you can’t get it started, apply a drop of oil to the ring. If the caster only goes in halfway, tap it with a mallet (Photo 3).