The proper office and desk chairs are a must-have in any modern workspace.
But they’re no small investment, and like any mechanical object, office chairs inevitably break down. One of the first things to go in an office chair is the pneumatic gas lift cylinder that keeps your seat adjusted to the right height.
When this happens, it’s super annoying (try conducting your next board meeting while appearing as if you’re sinking into the floor). But when it happens, it doesn’t mean out with the old office chairs and in with a bunch of new ones. You too can fix an office chair that won’t stay up.
We’ll tell you how.
Understanding the Pneumatic Gas Lift Cylinder
Before we tell you a few strategies to fix an office chair that won’t stay up, it’s important to understand the pneumatic gas lift cylinder, or the mechanism in your office chair that both acts as suspension, and controls the height of your seat once adjusted to your comfort level.
Here’s how the pneumatic gas lift cylinder works.
Operating the height control function activates an internal seal which then activates an internal control valve, causing the height of the seat to rise or fall according to your preference.
Over time and repeated use, that seal can get damaged, causing the seat to sink slowly under your bodyweight.
Here are a few techniques to fix an office chair that won’t stay up with commonly used items you can get at your local hardware store (just make sure nobody’s sitting in the chair before you proceed).
For reference, here are the parts you will be working with to fix an office chair that won’t stay up:
While researching this article, RAVE consulted DIY office chair authorities all across the internet. Our objective was to filter out their advice to present only the easiest and most effective ways to fix a sinking office chair, with minimal tools required.
These are the solutions for the anti-DIY-er, the person who has to think for a moment before reaching for a Philip’s head screwdriver and a regular kind of screwdriver. If that’s you, we got you—even you can fix your office chair.
Here’s what we found out:
- The easiest and most common strategies to fix an office chair that won’t stay up
- Tools required to perform the task, and where to find them
What’s for certain is that with a little effort and ingenuity you can fix an office chair that won’t stay up without spending a bunch of money on a new chair.
How to Fix an Office Chair That Won’t Stay Up
PVC Pipe Method
Tools required: PVC Pipe, a saw (or some other method to cut the pipe), a vice, and a tape measure.
Remove the chair’s plastic cover. Use your tape measure to find the diameter of the extendable metal cylinder on your chair. Then, adjust the cylinder to an ideal height and measure the cylinder as well.
It’s important in this next step to have a PVC pipe that is a bit larger than the cylinder on your chair, just enough so that it will easily fit over the cylinder. It should also be long enough to reach from seat level to your chair’s wheelbase, at the height at which you like your seat adjusted.
Once you’ve established that your PVC pipe is at the right height and length, it’s time to move to the second step. First, use your saw or cutting tool to cut the PVC pipe lengthwise (it’s helpful to hold the pipe in place with your vice).
Next, adjust the plastic skirt on your chair either up or down, whichever way reveals the cylinder. Then, snap the pipe over the cylinder by pushing the slit side over it. This should take up the extra space, preventing your chair from sinking under your bodyweight.
If your chair needs further adjustment, simply add more PVC pipe. If you lack a vice or saw, just remove the wheels and slide on the PVC pipe that way.
Jubilee Clip Method
Tools required: A Jubilee clip or hose clamp (a common device used for retaining hosepipes on taps; you can find these at most hardware stores). What’s important is that your Jubilee clip is long enough to wrap all the way around the cylinder of your chair at about three-quarters of an inch or roughly 2 centimeters. You’ll also need some duct tape and a screwdriver.
Not sure what a jubilee clip looks like? Here are some examples.
Adjust the protective plastic skirt up or down around the cylinder before setting the chair to your preferred height. It’s important to get this right because once this process is done, your seat will no longer be adjustable. Try to adjust your seat about level with your knees while standing.
Loosen the screw in the Jubilee clip or hose clamp by turning the screw counterclockwise. Then, pull the belt end out of the clip.
Before fitting the clamp into place, make sure it has an appropriate surface to grip. We suggest adding a few layers of duct tape around the top part of the metal cylinder.
It’s important to check before moving on to this next step to make sure your seat is still at the right height. Now, wrap the Jubilee clip around the top of the cylinder to fully encircle it. Tighten the clamp by rotating the screw.
And with that, your chair should be fixed! It’s just that easy If you find that your chair needs further adjustment, simply loosen the screw and readjust the clip.
Replacing the Cylinder
However, there is a third option to fix a sinking office chair, and that’s to replace the cylinder entirely. Replacement office chair cylinders are available from Amazon. In fact, cylinder replacement kits—including all the tools you need to get the job done—are available here.
These kits include the following:
- Removal tool
- Heavy-duty gas lift hydraulic/pneumatic piston
Afraid this might be too difficult and time consuming for you? Or that you won’t be able to find a cylinder that fits your chair?
On the contrary, while you’ll have to spend a little money on this approach to fixing an office chair that won’t stay up, replacing the cylinder is a permanent fix. You’ll still be able to adjust the height of your seat, and replacement cylinders fit roughly 95% of all office chairs.
Above all else, replacing an office chair cylinder is really quite easy. We’ll show you how.
The first step is to separate your chair’s old cylinder from the base of the chair. To do this, turn the chair on its side. Then, gently tap the base away from the chair with the removal tool that came along with your office chair cylinder replacement kit.
The next step is to tightly secure the wrench near the top of the old cylinder and twist it until it releases from the mechanism.
Don’t have a pipe wrench? That’s okay. Just unscrew the main bolts on the bottom of the seat and then use the removal tool from your kit to tap the mechanism away from the chair.
If you continue having trouble getting the chair apart, try some WD-40. Just remember to let it set for a few minutes and protect all surrounding surfaces so the WD-40 only goes where you want it to go.
Once the old chair cylinder is removed, it’s time to replace it with the new one. To do so, pop the cylinder into the base of the chair and then lift both into the mechanism. Put the chair back into an upright position and carefully take a seat. Everything at this point should fasten back together, and your office chair that won’t stay up is fixed!
In conclusion, the pneumatic gas lift cylinders in office chairs simply wear out over time. This doesn’t mean you have to replace your expensive office chairs, though.
There are two quick and easy DIY fixes:
- The PVC method
- The jubilee clip method
There is a third way, however. That’s to buy an office chair cylinder replacement kit from Amazon and completely replace the cylinder. While this method costs a little money, it’s easy, permanent, and your seat will remain adjustable going forward.
We understand an office chair that won’t stay up is really annoying, but even you can fix it.