How to Fix a Recliner that Won’t Close: Easy Solutions

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Last updatedLast updated: September 05, 2022
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What is the purpose of having a recliner if it doesn’t close properly? This type of damage often makes the chair difficult to use since you need to climb over the footrest to sit, and it can be a hazard in the living room. However, there are ways to fix a recliner that won’t close by paying attention to what part of the chair is damaged. To learn how to fix a recliner that won’t close, read through this quick guide.

Possible Reasons Why Your Recliner Won’t Close

How to Fix a Recliner that Won't Close: Easy Solutions

There are several key reasons why your recliner won’t close, especially if it is older or prone to a lot of wear and tear. All of these reasons are related to the central internal mechanism that allows the chair to push the footrest in and out. Depending on the type of mechanism in your recliner, you could have one of the following issues:

  • A broken cable release
  • A loose latch mechanism
  • A loose internal screw
  • Worn down screws
  • Loose springs

In each of these situations, part of the mechanism has become too worn to hold the recliner closed. This results in the chair becoming trapped in the natural reclined position. However, there are some other problems that can occur. One is that there is simply too much padding around the footrest, which prevents it from becoming sealed in place when the recliner is upright. If this is the case, remove some of the excess padding and fabric until the chair is able to close.

Another common ailment is simply poor lubrication of the internal mechanism. This can be fixed by opening the recliner and applying oil to the joints. Depending on your issue, you will need several different tools.

What You Need Before You Start

Luckily, you can determine how to fix an old recliner at home, even if it won’t close. You are going to need a set of tools, no matter what section of the internal mechanism is broken. Try to have the following items at hand before beginning any work:

  • Small wrenches
  • A screwdriver
  • Rags
  • Lubricating oil
  • A file

If your recliner has a more serious problem, you might need to call in an expert. These tools, though, are useful for the majority of home repairs.

How to Fix It

There are two basic ways you can fix a recliner. Both of them will require you to start the process by gently placing the chair on its side so you can examine the hidden internal mechanism.

The Basic Repair

This method could be considered the main way to fix recliner problems when the footrest doesn’t return inside. It is designed to repair a broad range of issues, including general wear, tear, and disrepair. You will need all of the tools mentioned earlier, minus the file. Follow these steps to get the best results:

  1. When the recliner is turned over, check for the internal screws. Tighten each one to ensure it is in the right position and not coming loose
  2. Next, place the rags, so they cover any upholstery that is exposed while you work under the chair.
  3. Spray all the moving parts with your lubricating oil. If the oil is not a spray, carefully apply some to a rag and then touch up the mechanisms.
  4. Using a can of oil, touch up the moving mechanisms of the handle as well, so the footrest moves easily. This prevents rusting.
  5. Use another rag to eliminate excess oil.

This is all you need to do to solve most of the problems mentioned above. In many cases, the only real issue is some rusting and a lack of general maintenance.

The Advanced Repair

How to Fix a Recliner that Won't Close: Easy Solutions

If tightening the screws and using a bit of oil does not work, it is time to focus on more advanced methods to fix your recliner. You will need all of the tools from earlier, including the file.

Follow these steps to eliminate tension locking your recliner in place:

  1. Turn the recliner on the side that does not have the handle.
  2. Use the handle to extend the footrest slightly more than is natural. This movement should expose a small spring hidden in the internal machinery.
  3. Watch the spring and identify the “L” rod it holds.
  4. Search the “L” rod for a small burr that could be on the metal.
  5. If you locate one, use the file to remove it carefully. Smooth down the metal until it is even.
  6. The spring should now be able to snap into place and pull the footrest back.
  7. Lay your rags down to protect the upholstery afterward and then apply a small amount of lubricating oil to each of the mechanisms.

Your recliner should hopefully open and close like normal.

Extra Tips to Avoid This Problem in the Future

Now that you know how to fix a recliner that won’t close, it is time to learn how to avoid this problem in the future. The simplest methods focus on basic maintenance, which stops the internal mechanisms from becoming rusty or stuck in place. Every 3 to 4 months, perform the following steps:

  • Tighten the internal screws
  • Lubricate the joints and mechanisms with oil
  • Test internal cables to ensure they have tension

You can also change your behaviors to improve chair longevity. For example, don’t slam the recliner open and closed, and don’t put more weight on a chair than its capacity allows. These actions increase the possibility of damage, wear, and tear.


Recliners are one of the most popular pieces of furniture for a reason. They are comfortable, warm, and allow you to put your feet up. This is why having one which is broken can be such a frustrating experience.

After reading this guide, you should now know how to fix an old recliner that won’t close properly. Just remember to perform basic maintenance and avoid potentially damaging behaviors to help your recliner live for a long time.

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