How Do Recliners Work

A recliner is an island of relaxation and comfort in a home. People love it irrespective of what her/his age, sex, health condition, or profession is. If you are not a handyman or are new to the world of recliners, you may don’t know how exactly a recliner works. 

There are a few types of recliners, making understanding their mechanisms even harder. Don’t worry, we will explain them in a simple way in this post to ensure you know better about how do these recliners work.

How do traditional recliners work

Traditional recliners (also known as manual recliners) have existed for a long time and they are still popular in the market. 

manual recliner mechanism
Manual recliner

Compared to motorized recliner chairs, they are easy to maintain, cheaper, as well as may last longer. If you have good mobility or just want a simple chair, then a manual recliner is a suitable choice.

In general, a manual recliner composes of a frame, a cable, a pull handle, and upholstery. They either use a lever mechanism or the body weight to make the chair recline without using any electricity.

The majority of manual recliners adopt a level mechanism. When you pull the handle or lever on the side, the cable will be released so that the chair will start to recline. When you use your leg to push the footrest or pull the handle again, the chair will come back to the upright position again. Usually, they are 2-position chairs, meaning that they can only recline to a specific angle.

The mechanism is not complex, allowing you to fix it with a breeze even on your own. As long as you pull the handle gently and clean it regularly, the chair will work for a few years or even decades. Other factors that affect the lifespan include the sturdiness of the frame, the quality of upholstery, and how intensely you use it.

Push back recliner

If handle or level is not your type of thing,  you can opt for a push-back recliner. As we said, the mechanism is using the weight of users by pushing the armrests and leaning back against the backrest.

When you stand up or sit upright, then the chair will go back to the origin position. The push-back recliners are elegant and chic. It looks exactly like an armchair without tipping any guest off to the fact that this is actually a recliner. 

Wall-hugger recliner

While there are some electric recliner chairs with a wall-hugger design, most of them are still manual chairs. The wall-hugger recliner works by moving the seat forward during the reclining process. Therefore, it saves the spaces between the back of the chair and the wall. 

This is a great option for people who are living in a small space. Even the reclining angle may be limited, you get a place to relax and unwind.

How do power recliners work

With the help of electricity, recliners become more intelligent than before. The power recliners can recline to a large angle and even flat and help you get in and out easily by utilizing motors underneath the upholstery.

power recliner mechanism
Power recliner

It works like a traditional recliner but you can save much effort by pushing a button or using a remote control with the help of motors. Another advantage is that it will help you stand up from a seated position, making it a great mobility aid for elderly folks and people with limited mobility.

The mechanisms of different power recliners vary so that we will illustrate them separately.

Single-motor power recliner

If you are tight on a budget, then a single-motor model could be your best bet. The single motor connects the footrest and backrest, meaning that when you recline the chair, the footrest will go up at the same time. The electric motor is also responsible for lifting you up.

This limits the reclining range with a maximum reclining angle of 140-degree to 160-degree. It would not be problematic for most users.

Dual motor lift chair

A dual motor lift chair works by using two motors. The two motor mechanism allows the footrest and backrest to operate individually.

For those who want to sleep on a recliner, this type of chair work wonders. A dual motor electric recliner can recline all the way to a flat position. It also refers to an infinite position lift chair to ensure you can stop it at any angle you want. No matter you need to doze off or get deep sleep, this chair can serve you well.

Three motor power lift recliner

Three motor lift chairs are not common in the market but it is one of the most advanced models in this industry. 

The extra motors make it possible to control the parts separately. Some three motor models can control the footrest, headrest, and backrest individually and some can control the backrest, footrest, and lifting process separately. 

It encourages relaxation by allowing your body to be in its best posture possible. It can achieve an extreme zero gravity position that others can’t.  However, this type of chair is costly. But you will enjoy the most advanced technologies.


We have discussed how do different types of recliners work in this post. We assured you can understand them and know which mechanism you prefer.

Manual recliners have a simple mechanism. It reclines with the help of your body weight or the handles. The quality of the frame and how to use the handle play important roles in the lifespan of the chair. It is easy to maintain but doesn’t come with many features.

Electric recliner chairs can recline and lift. That’s why they are popular among seniors, pregnant women, and people with disabilities. The secret why they are so powerful is that they use motors to let the chair can move automatically.

Single-motor chairs are able to finish reclining and lifting tasks, but dual motor and three motor chairs can do more. The more motors it has, the more adjustable it is. A good powerful lift recliner would provide the ultimate comfort you desire.

Photo of author
Rachelle is the founder of Best Chair Finder. She is a fanatic of home improvement, and as an engineer, she knows well about each chair's mechanism. You can find her story on the About page.