Have you ever wondered if you can do your own office chair wheel replacement? Well, if you have a modern chair, it’s as easy as exchanging for new wheels. But what if you have a vintage office chair and there’s no ‘standard’ replacement? We have the solution!
Do you remember this vintage steno chair before we showed you how to paint vinyl? Go take a peak at how it looks painted and then come right back for the tutorial on how to replace the office chair wheels.
After the vinyl was painted, Hubs loved this office chair so much, he claimed it for his sewing workshop (which has taken over his DIY man cave)!
But sadly those black rubber wheels started to disintegrate all over our loose lay vinyl plank flooring installation. Uh oh! We’re not about to rip out those floors for a third time, so an office chair wheel replacement is in order!
How Do You Put New Wheels on an Office Chair?
Watch this video to see Hub’s ingenious hack for replacing vintage wheels.
Office Chair Wheel Replacement Video
Or read on for the tutorial.
Do It Over Designers
Today we’re taking part in the Do It Over Designers blog Hop hosted by Ann at The Apple Street Cottage.
We’re a group of bloggers who take something old and/or unused and ‘do it over’ into something new. These items can be found in closets, barns, garages, yard sales, thrift stores, you name it! Check out the other projects at the very bottom of this post. And be sure to drop back in throughout the week to visit them all!
Before we get into the tutorial, don’t forget to get your DIY mojo on at Birdz of a Feather and subscribe to our newsletter:
Can Office Chair Wheels Be Replaced?
The answer is yes, but sometimes not as easily. On a modern chair, replacement wheels tend to be standardized, but finding a replacement for a vintage chair turned out to be near impossible. Although the wheels on our vintage chair are just as easy to remove, there’s a catch to replacing them.
First, notice that the original black rubber wheel has a fairly long stem. The closest rubber wheel replacement of the same size (2″) that we could find on Amazon has a short stubby stem. If you try to use this one, you’ll be asking yourself ‘why does my chair caster keep falling off’. Too short a stem, or one that is a completely different style, simply won’t work. So you have to put on the thinking cap and get creative. You can read more about casters here.
One other thing to note: when you buy replacement stem castors, you’ll likely get five of them. Whereas vintage chairs have only 4 wheels, chairs these days have five wheels for added safety – and because modern office chairs tend to be bigger and heavier.
The wheel below on the right is what we bought instead. You might be scratching your head wondering why we’re using a caster that has a top plate mount instead of a stem.
Hubs solution was to find a rubber wheel replacement that could simply be unscrewed from its axle. But again, there’s an issue. The original vintage wheel can’t be unscrewed; it’s attached permanently! So how did he replace the wheel?
How Do You Replace a Rolling Chair Wheel?
Here are the steps to replace a disintegrating vintage rubber wheel with a brand new one.
- Remove the old wheels from the office chair. The casters pull right out of the socket.
- Gather your tools.
[If you’re looking for some of the things we used, we’ve got you covered: As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Clicking on the links in this post means we will earn a commission (not all links are affiliate links). But don’t worry, you don’t pay a cent more. Thanks for helping to support our fundraising efforts which you can read more about in our disclosure!]
For this project, you’ll need:
- Work gloves
- Full coverage eye protection / safety goggles
- Punch set
- Drill bits
- Locking pliers
- 6 point torx security bits / star bit set (you’ll need two the same size)
- Rotary tool with cutoff blade
- Makita drill
- Replacement swivel caster wheels
- Ultrasonic cleaner (optional)
- Autosol Metal Polish (optional)
- Cotton pads
- Xuron Micro-shear Flush Cutter
- Loctite Blue Threadlocker
Safety first! Do not attempt to do this without first securing the wheel in a vice. So, bottom line: if you don’t have a vice, don’t proceed. Also, wear eye googles and gloves to protect your eyes and hands. Bits of metal and sparks will fly.
- Set up the vice on your work bench
Place the wheel between the vice jaws and tighten well.
The vintage wheel has a bolt in the middle; one side of the bolt head is smooth, while the other has a concave divot. Place the vintage wheel into the vice with the ‘divot’ face up as you see below.
Remove Old Wheels
- Now we’re going to remove the head of the axle. Select a metal drill bit slightly smaller than the size of the head.
Centre the drill into the divot and start drilling to remove most of the metal though the centre. Keep it steady and exert downward pressure as you drill.
- Stop drilling when most of the axle head is removed in the middle, but there is still a ridge around the perimeter, as you see below.
Here’s an overview of how it will look at this point.
- Now, switch over to the rotary tool with the cut off wheel.
Grind down the edges of the fastener. Be careful and don’t grind too far or you’ll damage the metal stem we’re keeping. It will take some practice but try to avoid scratching the stem.
- Keeping the wheel in the vice, use the punch and hammer to knock out the axle.
The axle will drop through the hole but might not release all the way.
- From the backside of the wheel, use the vice grips to pull the axle the rest of the way out, releasing the wheel from the stem.
You now have two separate pieces!
Clean the Wheel Stem
- Clean the stem before proceeding.
You can clean the metal with a metal polish if desired.
But instead, Hubs put the stems into our ultrasonic cleaner. If you do this you will have to re-grease the ball bearings that allow the stem to swivel. Also, keep in mind that any paint, like the brassy colour you see above, will be removed.
They came out sparkly and chrome. So if you prefer the paint finish, you’ll have to re-spray them.
Attaching the New Office Chair Wheels
- Remove the new wheels from the plate mount and attach to the old wheel stem.
You will need two torx screwdrivers to do this so you can unscrew the bolt in opposition directions. Keep the screws and set the plate mount aside (we’ll have to find another use for that; perhaps a future upcycle).
Place the new wheel into the old stem and use the screws you just removed to attach them. Your office chair wheel replacement is almost complete!
Old and New Wheels
Here’s a comparison of the new replacement wheel beside the old one.
Here is the evolution of our office chair wheel replacement with the old rubber wheel in the middle.
Lock the Screws in Place
But we’re not quite done yet! First, look how clean the ultrasonic cleaner got those wheel stems! We didn’t repaint them, so they’re back to being chrome again and looking like new.
Now we’ll make sure that the screws on our replacement wheels can’t accidentally come lose. Loctite Blue Threadlocker is just the thing to prevent that. Using Xuron cutters, we snip off the end of the tube.
Then we’re using just a drop of Loctite ‘Blue’ to lock the screw so it can’t vibrate out of the bolt with everyday chair wheel movement. While the red formulation is more permanent and requires heat to loosen, the ‘Blue formulation is removable with some persuasion from a screwdriver should you ever need to change the wheels again.
Loctite takes 5 minutes to set up, but a full 24 hours to set so you might want to avoid using your new wheels until they are fully cured.
Lubricate Ball Bearings on Wheel Stems
Once the wheels are on the old stems, it’s time to re-lubricate the ball bearings.
For that we’re using plain ‘ol petroleum jelly. That’s right; you don’t need fancy wheel lubrication oil. We put Vaseline right into a plastic syringe so we can apply it.
Insert just a slight amount into the bearings.
In these vintage wheel stems, there is also another row of hidden bearings so we grease those too!
If you didn’t watch the video posted above, watch it now and you’ll actually hear how quiet the ball bearings are in comparison to one that hasn’t been greased!
Office Chair Wheel Replacement
It took a while to get there. But knowing that our vintage chair is functional again – and the rubber wheels no longer damaging our floors – is the best feeling.
All that’s left is to reinsert the stems, with their new wheels, into the legs of the vintage office chair.
And now it’s time for Hubs to take a well deserved seat and take those new wheels for a spin!
And not a moment too soon! He’s got work to do restoring vintage sewing machines!
Well, that’s another wrap on a day the life of a perpetual upcycler! Now if you see a vintage chair you absolutely love, don’t be hesitant to make it work for your space. This one will last another 70+ years, no problem!
Pin Office Chair Wheel Replacement
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Do It Over Designers
Our talented blogger friends have some amazing and inspiring DIYs for you! Don’t forget to visit these posts for more upcycled do-it-over transformations!
- Southern Sunflowers
- Sum of Their Stories
- Tea and Forget-Me-Nots
- Pandora’s Box
- Color Me Thrifty
- The Apple Street Cottage
- Exquisitely Unremarkable
- Little Vintage Cottage
- Modern on Monticello
- Purple Hues & Me
Office Chair Wheel Replacement FAQs
What are the wheels on a chair called?
Those wheels that allow the chair to roll around are called castors. They come with different stems, or shafts, that you need to take note of if you even need to replace the wheels.
What type of castor do I need?
Swivel castors are the ones you need for a chair. Swivel castors are also the most flexible for furniture (vs. a rigid castor that doesn’t spin). One example of the use of castors on furniture is this mobile card catalogue. But, especially if you have kids, it’s a good idea to use wheels with a locking feature.
How do you replace stem castors?
Find stems that are exactly the same length and width as the ones you have. If you’re working with a vintage office chair that isn’t standard, read our how-to post above on how to replace those wheels. To remove the old wheels, lay the chair on its side – or upside down on the edge of a table if there are no arms. If the castors are threaded, unscrew them. For friction fit stems, pull them out of the socket. You may need to lubricate with some penetrating oil if you have problems with removal. Let the oil soak in and then try again.