How Does a Recliner Mechanism Work? Manual vs Power Recliners

William Adams
 min read

How does a recliner mechanism work? First of all, it depends on whether you've got a manual or an electric (power) recliner. They each work in their own way and have their own advantages.

How does a recliner mechanism work

A recliner chair is different from other seating furniture because it reclines backward and has a rising footrest.

Unlike stiff, traditional chairs, these functions allow you to adjust the chair to your chosen sitting position.

But have you ever wanted to know how a reclining chair works? Like, for example, how it's able to tilt without breaking or tipping?

Well, you're reading the right blog! We will explain all there is to know about the reclining mechanisms and how they work.

How does a recliner mechanism work? Introduction

Technical Drawing With Cogs Key And All Kinds Of Graphs Diagrams And Calculations In Background Symbol For Mechanism In Recliner

The popularity of reclining chairs is increasing rapidly. It's becoming everyone's favorite chair!

They offer excellent comfort to relax and rest.

Plus, they are just as stylish as they are practical since they can be placed anywhere:

  • in the living room
  • bedroom
  • kitchen area
  • sunroom
  • hospitals and other professional settings

Their use and implementation are pretty wide. This is because a recliner gives that much-needed assistance to the spine.

So you can use one to relieve back pain or even make breastfeeding fun and relaxing! You can also use it to just chill after a long day of work.

How does a recliner mechanism work? When combined with the newest innovation techniques, recliner chairs have many benefits.

Thanks to these innovative advancements, recliners now have several elements with significant health benefits.

Some recliners have power lift alternatives for the elderly, while others have a zero-gravity immersion to reach complete weightlessness!

Others are specifically made for the plus-size community. Find out who makes the best sturdy recliners for taller and heavier people by reading our comprehensive page on the best big man recliner chair.

How does a recliner chair mechanism work? Understanding the basics

Beige Dice Which Together Form The Word Basics In Context Of Operation Of Recliner Mechanism

Understanding how a recliner works will allow you to understand its benefits and opportunities without a problem.

You might think it wouldn't be useful to know all about its systems, parts, and features. But it will prove very helpful when picking a recliner that fits your needs within your budget.

So here is how a recliner chair works:

A recliner chair has a strongly built frame from wood or plywood. It's lined up with durable screws that allow the frame to recline easily and last a long time.

The frame is strongly constructed to make it capable of supporting a user's weight and motion. So if a reclining chair can't hold a user's weight when they sit and pull the lever, it will not last long.

Now a little more about the frame of a recliner:

Wooden Beams Hard Wood Oak Strong Material For Sturdy Frame Of Recliner

Hardwood frames work much better and are much more durable than those made from plywood.

Its components are made from different pieces that are fastened together with crossbars. This gives the structure added stability and total immovability.

This kind of structure is made to run individually from the remainder of the chair. It allows the fluent back and forward pushing of the chair.

Some recliner models need you to push the chair back while pulling a lever or pushing a button (that's usually located below the armrests). Other recliners just turn back when you give them a little push with your arms.

Electric reclining chairs help the elderly and people with mobility problems to easily get in and out of the chair.

Instead of a lever, electric reclining chairs use springs that take in the pressure caused by a user and compress to ease the chair backward.

When the user rises from the chair or leans forward, the springs widen and get back to their initial position.

Parts of a reclining chair

Black And White Drawing Of Recliner In Reclining Position With Footrest Raised To Illustrate All Visible And Invisible Parts Of Recliner

To understand how a recliner works, you first need to understand the different parts of a recliner chair and their role.

How does a recliner mechanism work? With springs and levers

A reclining chair has 2 kinds of springs: zigzag and recoil springs.

The zigzag springs help to make the seating location firm, while the recoil springs assist in the reclining mechanism.

You apply pressure on the springs while alleviating your recliner chair's backrest backward. The springs take in the pressure and compress, enabling a smooth recline.

The opposite happens when leaning forward or returning the backrest to an upright position. When you lean forward, the pressure on the springs is released, which allows the springs to widen and (for this reason) a smooth motion back to the original position.

Some reclining chairs have a lever. This is a device that's located on the side of the table that helps control the chair. To raise the footrest or tilt the back, you need to pull this level.


Single And Double Recliner Of Which Their Footrest Is Raised To Provide Great Comfort And Relaxation

A footrest is the bottom part of a reclining chair that raises to support your feet while you are in a reclined position.

Most footrests are designed s your feet hang a little over the edge of the footrest while elevated.

Some people think that this is a design error of a recliner. Others believe that they are simply too tall for the chair. But neither of these theories is true!

The footrest is designed to allow your feet to hang over the edge! Because that position helps distribute the weight equally and so gives ultimate comfort.


A recliner cable is a thick cord located inside the recliner chair. Of course, a recliner has multiple of them.

Recliner cables are responsible for the backrest leaning function. A cable is attached between the frame and the handle or lever for the reclining function to work.

Structural frame

White Painted Steel Frame Highly Interesting For Persons Who Are Bigger Or Heavier Than Average Thanks To Sturdiness And Higher Load-Bearing Capacity Of Steel

Usually, a reclining chair's frame is made from wood or plywood. The wood is reinforced with metal bolts, nuts, and steel corners to give the chair stability when it reclines.

A recliner's frame should support the user's body weight and the movements to recline back and forward (without tipping forward in its entirety). If it can't hold the weight properly, it will not last for long!

Recliner chairs with a sturdy frame function better, have higher weight limits and are more durable.

And as said before, frames made from wood are way sturdier and function a lot better than those from plywood.

Frames made with steel are even more durable.

The size of the frame (and thus the size of the recliner chair itself) matters as well. The larger the recliner, the better it will be able to support a plus-size individual.

Whether you're big or tall, or both, there is a recliner out there to suit your size.

You may be interested in the answers to questions like How tall should a recliner be for a tall person? and What are the measurements of an oversized recliner?


Closeup Of Armrest Of Brown Leather Recliner

A recliner chair's armrests operate separately from the rest of the couch. These armrests are made from multiple panels that help the user while leaning back.

The panels are bolted together with crossbars to ensure immobility. Firm, sturdy arms are a crucial part of the design because they are used to push off when reclining backward.

Metal activating mechanism

Every sofa or couch has a wood frame. However, the difference between a regular chair and a reclining chair is the metal activating system.

The metal activating mechanism is made of stamped steel connected to the chair's frame. The system makes the footrest and the back adaptable to reclining.

How does a reclining chair work? Electric and manual recliners

Yellow Arrow Plan A Pink Arrow Plan B Conceptual Representation Of Difference Between Electric And Manual Recliner

There are two kinds of reclining systems: Electric and manual.

This automatically leads us to the next dilemma: How different are the mechanics of manual and electrical reclining chair chairs?

Electric(al) recliners are also known as power recliners.

How does an electric reclining chair work?

An electric recliner chair has an electric motorized system to move the user to a reclined position with the push of a single button.

And as the name suggests, an electrical reclining mechanism needs a power source or a battery pack to run.

There are also reclining chairs with a power lift!

These are perfect for the elderly and people with mobility issues or other health conditions.

They have an extra lift mechanism that presses them from a flat seated position to an upright angle. This makes the user easily rise from the reclining chair.

Most of these durable reclining chairs are packed with other practical functions like heat and vibration. But don't worry, these reclining chairs aren't only for older people!

Gray Plaid Recliner With Built-In Lifting Function That Makes Getting Out Of The Recliner Much Easier

How does a manual reclining chair work?

Light Blue Fabric Recliner Whose Back Must Be Manually Pushed Back To Recline Without Worries

There are 2 kinds of manual reclining mechanisms. The first is the "push back" recliner system, and the other is the lever-operated cable reclining mechanism.

The push-back reclining chairs are operated by the hand of the user. So to recline the backrest, the user needs to put pressure on the backrest while pushing on the armrests.

In other words: the user needs to use their body weight to move the backrest and raise the footrest.

The cable system reclining mechanism works by simply pulling a lever. The lever raises the footrest and tilts the backrest by hand via a cable.

How does a recliner mechanism work? Conclusion

Someone Pressing Right Index Finger On Red Cog In Mechanism Symbol Of Technical Functioning Of Recliner Mechanism

So, in a nutshell, to answer How does a recliner mechanism work? First, ask yourself whether you want a manual recliner or an electric (power) recliner. This post gives you a good overview of both and how they work.

Should you buy an electric or a manual recliner chair?

When you want to pick the recliner with the best reclining mechanism, it basically all comes down to your preferences and needs.

The power recliner is your best bet if you are looking for versatility. It allows you to set the chair in different positions. It's also the perfect choice when the user is a little older or has a mobility issue.

If your budget isn't that big, then the best option for you might be a manual reclining chair.

But whatever you pick, make sure that it has a sturdy frame built with high-quality products!

About William Adams

I’m an engineer and a happy plus-size individual myself. I love to blog online if I can have a positive impact on the lives of others. I help other plus-size people with in-depth product guides to make shopping for products and services less stressful in their busy lives. Read More