How to Adjust a Recliner?

how to adjust a reclinerDid you know that it is possible to adjust the tension on a recliner? About half of all recliner models come with wing nuts or thumbscrews that can be readily adjusted to either increase or decrease the tension of the mechanism.

Increasing the tension will give you more resistance. Decreasing the tension will give you less resistance.

Even if there are no handy wing nuts, you can still adjust the tension. It will just require a little more in the way of tools and DIY know how, plus replacement parts.

But before we talk about how to adjust it, let’s first talk about why you might want to do so. There are a few general scenarios that are somewhat common.

Reasons to Adjust the Recliner’s Tension

As noted above, tension can be either increased or decreased. So you have one set of scenarios that suggest you need more tension and another set that suggest you need less tension.

If the primary person using the recliner is a very large person, the recliner may fall back too easily. They may both want and need more tension.

In most cases, you will want to add tension if the person is very tall and/or weighs a lot. But there can be other reasons to add tension, such as the need for support for a bad back or for someone who is pregnant and having trouble getting comfortable.

If the person using the chair plops themselves down in the chair and it rapidly reclines backwards and maybe even tilts a bit like something in a sitcom, you probably need to increase the tension. If it is far too loose, this is not just a comfort issue. It can also be a safety issue. If the chair ends up falling over backwards, someone could get hurt.

The opposite scenario also occurs. People who are on the small side or who have less strength than average may find themselves struggling with the recliner. This is not a comfortable or relaxing experience. Quite the contrary. This can be very stressful and a reason to start avoiding the recliner.

In most cases, such people will be children, petite women or sometimes elderly individuals who have shrunk and also lost muscle mass over the years. It is also possible that someone is temporarily underweight and experiencing reduced strength, such as when one is undergoing chemotherapy or similar.

Again, this goes beyond comfort. A small, weak or ill person wrestling with the recliner can potentially hurt themselves. It may be as minor as strained muscles, but it could also be much more serious, such as pulling the stitches loose after surgery. Yikes!

First Things First

Because of the metal reclining mechanism and extra chair sections that hide it, recliners tend to be fairly heavy. Adjusting the tension will involve tipping it up or turning it over.

This may go better if you get a second person to help you. Even if you are big and strong enough to handily turn it over and make the adjustments, this may go through several iterations before you are satisfied with the tension.

As you repeatedly turn the chair back over, you may get tired and start making mistakes. This can lead to injury or other drama.

You may also need safety goggles, safety gloves, and pliers to help you safely get a firm grip. If you are replacing the springs to add tension, a fairly large pile of nickels, quarters or washers will come in handy.

How to Adjust the Tension

About half of all recliners can be readily adjusted with little to no tools. The other half can still be adjusted, but it won’t be so drop-dead simple.

Easily Adjustable Models

These models will have two wing nuts or thumbscrews beneath them. There will be one on each side, right and left.

The chair needs to be tilted forward or turned over. You may be able to turn the thumbscrews barehanded, or you may find that you need work gloves to protect your fingers and give a better grip.

If you are really struggling to adjust them or your fingers are starting to hurt from the exertion, a pair of pliers can come in handy.

Remember: Safety first!

Whatever you do to one side, you need to do in equal measure to the other so the tension is adjusted evenly. Make small adjustments of about a quarter turn each time.

You can tighten them by turning them clockwise. Loosen them by turning them counterclockwise.

Yes, these tighten and loosen just like any other screw. Some people find the mnemonic “Righty tighty, lefty loosy.” helpful in keeping track of the correct direction for the desired result.

After you adjust it, turn it upright and try it. See if that’s the right tension. If it is, you are done. If not, you will be turning it back over and making more adjustments until you find the sweet spot for your needs.

How to Adjust a La-z-boy Recliner’s Tension


How to Adjust Tilt Back Tension on a La-z-boy Recliner

Replacing Springs

If there are no handy wing nuts for easy adjustment, you can buy replacement springs to adjust the tension. Ideally, you want to buy parts from the manufacturer that were designed for your model number.

You may be able to get these from a local retailer that carries the brand of recliner in question or you may be able to order them online. If that doesn’t pan out, you should still be able to get compatible replacement parts with a little asking around.

Popping the old spring out will be relatively painless, though make sure you wear eye protection. If you are installing a very tight spring, there is a trick to doing so easily:

Did you know your pocket change was so mechanically useful? You learn something new everyday!

P.S. If your recliner is completely broken, you can check out the list of best recliners we’ve picked for you to replace it.

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