If your office chair is sinking like the Titanic, don’t abandon ship. There’s no need to buy a new chair when it’s so easy to learn how to fix a sinking office chair.
Dealing with a sinking office chair can seem daunting, but it’s actually very straightforward. This guide teaches you how to identify the issue (hint: it has to do with your gas cylinder) and goes over five different methods for solving the problem. By the time you’ve finished reading and following these tips, your chair should function as good as new. Join me, and let’s get to fixing!
Why Is My Office Chair Sinking?
Learning how to fix a sinking office chair starts with understanding why office chairs sink in the first place. While there are several root causes, they all point back to a single part: the gas cylinder.
The gas cylinder powers your chair’s vertical movement via a pneumatic, pressurized chamber with an extending piston. When everything’s working well, this chamber remains sealed, and the piston stays in place. To move the chair, you simply engage its height lever. This opens the pneumatic cylinder’s chamber, breaking its seal and filling the unit with compressed air. The compressed air causes the piston to spring outwards, lifting your office chair to the right height.
If you’re sitting on the chair when you pull its lever, it’s the opposite effect. Your weight decompresses air from the chamber, and the piston returns to its base, lowering the chair.
The problem occurs when the chair’s cylinder starts failing, whether from an accident or simply old age. Any break in the seal or assembly, even a small, pinpoint one, impedes the balance of air inside the base. This results in a continually-sinking seat that fails to stay put.
Before we look at how to fix a sinking office chair, it’s important to understand a few terms and what they’re referring to.
- Gas Cylinder. The entire pneumatic assembly.
- Cylinder Base. Sits in your office chair’s 5-star wheelbase and houses the inner cylinder when not extended.
- Inner Cylinder. Sits within the cylinder base and attaches underneath the seat. Houses the pressurized chamber and piston that springs outwards.
- Actuator. A small button at the top of the inner cylinder, next to the chair’s height mechanism. Activates the cylinder when pressed.
- Retaining Clip. Sits at the bottom of the cylinder base so the cylinder doesn’t fall out.
Now that we understand a little more about office chair anatomy, we can work on fixing the faulty cylinder.
The methods for this include fixing the seal, adding a “support” to stop the seat from falling, and replacing the metal cylinder altogether. In the next section, we’ll look at different methods for learning how to fix a sinking office chair.
How To Fix a Sinking Office Chair
I’ve listed five methods for learning how to fix a sinking office chair. Each technique on this list becomes progressively more difficult but results in a more resilient fix.
Note: Be careful when learning how to fix a sinking office chair. Cylinders move quickly and can cause serious injury if mistakenly actuated.
Method 1: Lubricate the Joint
Pros: Quick, easy, affordable
As counterintuitive as it may seem to lubricate a joint that’s sinking, this method can be very effective. It works particularly well on older office chairs with worn-out joints and seals. Lubricating them revitalizes the material, albeit only temporarily.
This isn’t a permanent fix, but it can last several months. Since a can of WD-40 only costs a couple of dollars from the local hardware store, it’s the ideal first plan of attack.
- WD-40 for lubricating the joint
- Lift the office chair to maximum height.
- Flip the office chair upside down.
- Spray the area where the inner cylinder meets the cylinder base with WD-40, applying a liberal coating.
- Flip the chair back over.
- Move the chair up and down a handful of times to allow the WD-40 to coat the joint more evenly.
- The chair is ready to go.
Method 2: Use a Hose Clamp
Cons: Not entirely secure, looks unprofessional
If the first trick didn’t work, it may be time to try the hose clamp method (a hose clamp is also known as a Jubilee Clip). The hose clamp wraps around the cylinder and prevents it from sinking past the clamp-on point of your choosing.
Keep in mind that employing this method means your chair will not move any further down past the hose clamp.
If that’s no problem for you, let’s take a look at the supplies and process.
- SAE #20 hose clamp for buttressing the inner cylinder against the cylinder base
- Flat-head screwdriver for unscrewing the hose clamp
- Gather your supplies.
- Set the office chair at your desired height.
- Flip the chair upside down.
- Unscrew the hose clamp and get it ready to attach.
- Wrap the hose clamp around the bottom of the inner cylinder, where it meets the cylinder base.
- Fasten tightly with your screwdriver.
- Flip the chair back over, and it’s ready to go.
Method 3: Use a Plastic Spacer
Pros: Fairly durable
Cons: Unsightly, requires disassembling the cylinder
This next method employs a plastic spacer to cover the cylinder and prop up the chair. The best spacer for this is PVC pipe.
PVC pipe comes in different lengths and is easily purchased at most hardware stores. Most of these places are happy to cut the pipe down to size, though you can also do this with a regular hacksaw.
Here’s a complete list of supplies and a look at the process.
- Length of 1.5″ PVC pipe for covering the cylinder
- Ruler for measuring the correct length of PVC plastic tube
- Flathead screwdriver to remove the retaining clip
- Optional hacksaw for cutting the PVC pipe
- Set the office chair at your preferred height.
- Using a ruler, measure the inner cylinder’s exposed length.
- Head to your local hardware store to find a matching length of 1.5″ PVC pipe (ask the hardware store to cut it to size, or use a hacksaw to cut it down yourself).
- Once your length of pipe is ready, gather the rest of your supplies.
- Flip the office chair upside down.
- Remove the retaining clip with a flat-head screwdriver to separate the cylinder base and 5-star base from the inner cylinder.
- Slide your piece of pipe over the exposed inner cylinder.
- Slide the cylinder base back and 5-star base back on, and reclip the cylinder locking tab.
- Flip the chair back over, and enjoy your seat.
Method 4: Replace the Cylinder
Pros: Permanent, professional, safe
Cons: Expensive, challenging
The next method is the hardest to perform, but it’s also a permanent, professional solution. It involves removing the malfunctioning gas cylinder and performing a cylinder replacement.
As you might expect, this is the most costly method that we’ve covered so far, as you have to buy a new cylinder. The good news is that most cylinders are universal, so securing the right fit from a site like Amazon shouldn’t be a problem.
Here’s the supply list and process.
- New gas cylinder to replace the old one
- Rubber mallet for tapping on the cylinder base for removal
- Pipe wrench for removing the inner cylinder from the chair’s seat
- Optional can of WD-40 as lubricant
- Flip the office chair upside down.
- Remove the cylinder base from the chair’s 5-star base by tapping lightly on the bottom of the cylinder base with a rubber mallet.
- Next, clamp the pipe wrench around the top of the cylinder.
- Turn the pipe wrench a quarter turn until you feel some give.
- Continue turning counterclockwise until you can pull and remove the cylinder from the seat (add WD-40 if you’re struggling).
- Prepare to add the new cylinder by removing the plastic cap from the top of the replacement cylinder.
- Insert the new cylinder into the chair’s 5-star caster base and press down firmly.
- Place the seat atop the inner cylinder and press down firmly.
- Plant yourself atop the seat, and enjoy your refurbished office chair.
Method 5: Call the Professionals
Pros: Labor-free, personalized service
Cons: May require shipping to the manufacturer or paying a laborer
If none of these DIY methods worked for you and your office chair keeps sinking — or if you’re looking for a labor-free solution — it’s time to call the professionals.
You’ve got a few options here. If you have one of the best office chairs with an extended warranty, get in touch with the manufacturer. They’ll be happy to help, generally free of charge.
If you don’t have a warranty, or if it’s expired, look for a local office supply shop or furniture repair store. I’ve found that mom ‘n pop shops offer the most help, as they’ll usually work out a deal and can have your chair fixed in a timely manner.
You can also search for a local handyman or browse TaskRabbit for additional help or one-on-one support.
How To Prevent Further Sinkage
Once you’ve fixed up your ergonomic office chair, the last thing you want to do is go through all the hassle a second time. Even though every part wears out with time, there are a few easy precautions you can take to prevent or delay sinkage:
- Treat your chair gently. Your desk chair is a professional and often costly tool. Treat it well by exercising care when sitting down and getting up. If you have children or pets nearby, be sure to set expectations concerning how to act around your home office chair.
- Abide by the weight limit. Gas cylinders come in different categories (see this BIFMA explanation), and it’s important to stay under the weight limit for your particular office chair.
- Get a plastic cover. Prevent dust and debris from interfering with your cylinder by adding an affordable plastic skirt like this one.
- Clean your office chair regularly. Regular cleaning goes a long way in keeping your chair operating smoothly. Check out SitWorkPlay’s complete guide for more information on cleaning your chair.
The good news is that even if something goes wrong again, you’re now well-equipped with knowledge about how to fix a sinking office chair.