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How Does a Recliner Work?

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At this point, recliners are among the best furniture pieces out there for relaxing. They are internationally renown for comfort, letting you kick back and put your feet up. Whether you’re in your living room, using it for a desk chair, or taking in in your RV, recliners are fantastic.

But, how do they actually work? In this article I’ll go through the parts of a recliner and explain how they function. I’ll move through a recliner, a wall hugger recliner, and a power recliner.

How does a recliner work?

There are four core parts that comprise a recliner: the arms, the levers, the springs, and the frames. Let’s take a look at each of these.


Arms are on the sides of the recliner. These are normally built separately and fitted to the recliner. They are layers of plywood built into a structure.


Frames are the central and most important part of a recliner. Without these, there would be nothing to sit on. The frame provides the base, allowing everything else to pull the furniture together.

The frames are often plywood or hardwood. These materials are then bonded with screws. Multiple screws will hold bits of the frame together. Having lots of screws in your recliner gives it many points of support. When you tilt back, these screws will hold the structure together and give stability.

Your frame will also support the weight of you on your recliner. This is where cushions and other padding will go. While providing comfort, this is also one of the main points of stability and structure. Without the frame, the recliner would fall apart completely.

If you have to pick between hardwood and plywood, I recommend that you go with hardwood. These frames tend to be more durable, meaning you will get more out of your recliner. Although it may cost slightly more, it is very worth it.


Springs are vital to recliner functioning. These will be zig-zagged under the mainframe to provide support. This will give an extra hand to the main cushions. Springs will provide a bit of give to the chair, making it much more comfortable.

Springs are also used to absorb shock. When you sit down on the recliner, your weight is equally dispersed through the springs. This will ensure the recliner lasts a long time without breaking.

Cables are often used in the place of springs in the lean-back function of a recliner. When you lean backwards, tension in the cables will ensure the chair doesn’t completely fall back. This tension will mean your recliner stays in place.

These cables are often connected to other springs in the central frame. This interworking of cables and springs provides support and durability to your recliner. Alongside this, they also provide a great deal of flexibility.


Levers are normally on the left or right-hand side of the recliner. You push these down to then bring the reclining motion into function. The pressure on the lever will push out the front of the chair. This will then cause weight to move backwards.

This imbalance will slowly move the recliner backwards into its sitting position. If you lean forward, the weight will reverse. This will move your recliner back into an upright position. It is all about balance and weight with recliners.

Sometimes, there is an additional lever just for the footrest. These do a similar thing, using further motion to extend the footrest outwards.

How does a wall hugger recliner work?

A wall hugger recliner is for people who are a little shorter on space. If you want to slip a chair into your bedroom, this could be a great option. They are ‘wall huggers’ as you can place them close to a wall. This will save space, and can fill gaps in your floorplan design.

Wall hugger recliners can be either manual or electric. If you have an electric recliner, you need to situate the chair near to a power source.

Electric wall hugger recliners have a central motor that controls the chair movements. When pressing buttons, you will alert the electrical mechanism inside your recliner. Once the motor receives the signal, the associated action will occur. For example, your chair will then move into the correct position.

This occurs through a balance of electric motors and springs throughout the chair. Just like all furniture, the frame provides needed support.

If you have a manual wall hugger recliner, there won’t be an internal motor. Instead, cables and springs will be there to support your weight. You will use your own body weight to lean back on the chair. This, combined with pulling the lever, will then allow your chair to move into position.

You can also use the lever to lock the chair in a certain position. This will ensure you get exactly the position you want.

Although the motor functions are nice, I wouldn’t say they are worth the money. The manual works just fine. Alongside that, it’s nice not to have to think about being close to a plug socket.

How does a power recliner work?

Much like the electrical wall hugger recliner, power recliners use electricity. The internal motor functions will move the chair. Inside these recliners will be a balance of electrical and mechanical parts. These will work in tandem to move the chair.

Each part, like the footrest, headrest, and backrest all have mechanical parts. Only in the central frame will you find a motor. This motor will till your recliner back into position.

The benefits of a power recliner are that you can have almost any angle you want. The added electric precision will make sure you get into any position you want.


Recliners use a mixture of electrical and mechanical parts to move your central seat. The balance of cables, springs, and framework provide the main parts that come into play. When using an electrical chair, the motor will do the work for you. However, if you have a manual recliner, your bodyweight will be the key driving force

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