The glider rocking chair is the Cadillac of rockers, as it features a smooth and quiet, to and fro motion that is far superior to the spring type rocker recliners; that is, when it’s working correctly.
However, as gliders age, and accrue hundreds of hours of pacifying baby, jamming to music, and watching suspenseful high-action television shows where you just have to rock, they can become noisy over time; particularly, squeaky. Squeaks and squawks in a rocker are like age spots on a human. They happen gradually as the years pass by, but can be removed without bad effect if done carefully, and with the right tools, potions, and procedures. Have owned several glider rocking chairs over the past near-decade, and use them just about every day, for at least two hours per day.
Now gliding rockers aren’t necessarily cheap (some running into many hundreds of dollars), so the budget did now allow for replacing them as they developed incessant squeaks, grinds, and creaks. Since we also appreciate quietness, simply making due with the squeaking noises until the rocker finally collapsed was not an acceptable plan either. So, repairing the glider rockers when they got to squeaking was the only option; especially when their cushions and finishes still looked relatively new.
Here are the steps we take routinely, to silence the gliders. Note that you need not execute all of them, nor in the order given; although for the longest-lasting and best overall quality of the maintenance, doing everything below is the most effective way to keep your gliders rocking smoothly for decades to come. But if pressed for time, just perform the suggestions that seem like they might work, given the characteristics of the squawking, and stop the repair operation when the noises disappear. With a typical glider rocking chair, the bearings starting making noise first. So, in a glider, we recommend checking these as the first step in silencing the rocker.
It’s helpful to have a well-equipped toolbox full of carpenters’ and mechanics’ aids when fixing glider chairs. We recommend the following tools:
Screwdrivers. Well constructed screwdrivers or driver heads for electric drills, with Phillips, straight, and star heads. Different models of the same brand of glider use a wide array of differing fasteners. So its helpful to have a wide variety of drivers.
Allen wrenches. A fifteen to thirty piece set is best, because the sizes of allen heads you’re likely to encounter in furniture like the rockers
Socket set, with heads sized in small increments from 1/4 inch on up to 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter, with both metric and English sizes. We keep the Husky 16-piece Universal Socket Set in the toolkit just for furniture fixes and restorations.
Rubber mallet. Used to tap the chair sides loose, or back together after repairs have been made.
Lubricants: 3-In-One oil, white lithium grease (in both a spray and squeeze tube), and silicone spray. Graphite lubes that dry immediately are great for those near-sealed bearings.
Wood glue. Elmer’s or Gorilla glue work best, just in case you snap a dow rod or other delicate piece.
Wood clamps, to hold furniture for any re-gluing required.
Procedures and Tips to Try, to Fix a Squeaking Glider Rocking Chair
Before starting, remove any cushions and upholstered items from the chair to prevent possibility of staining them with dirt, grease or oil. Plus, without the cushions, hearing precisely where the squeaks are coming from is much easier and more accurately discerned. Then, rock in the chair, listening for the squeaks. It’s helpful at times, to have a friend rock in it while you listen around its joints to determine which one(s) are the squeaking culprits. Knowing where the squeaks are originating will help you select the appropriate repair procedure below. If it’s a joint (a place where two pieces of the chair are glued, nailed, or bolted together, the ways to stop squeaks here are different than, say, if the noise is coming from a glider bearing that requires lubrication or replacement. Indeed, it’s often the bearings in heavily used gliding rockers that start to squeaking and grinding first. So, investigate these locations on the chair first, to find the noises.
Check the bearings. How freely and noiselessly the chair glides, is largely determined by the condition of the ball bearing assemblies that join the base carriage pieces to the chair seat itself. Most gliders feature 8 of these. This method generally requires at least partially disassembling the glider chair as detailed below, and taking apart the bearing joints to get at the bearings themselves. Often the bearings also serve to hold the pivoting joints together through large bolts and washers, as pictured above. Flip the glider upside down to get access to these bearing bolts.
Remove all bearing bolts using a socket set and needle-nosed pliers to hold still the part of the bearing that rotates. It may want to turn, while you loosen the bolt with your socket.
Test bearing rotation. Then, with the bolts removed, try turning each one with your fingers. The bearing shaft (pictured above) should be quite easy to turn, with the motion should be smooth and quiet; not rough or grinding. If it isn’t, it must be lubed, as follows.
Lubricate the chair bearings. In our experience, greasing hard-to-turn bearings is problematic because it’s hard to force enough new grease into the bearing housing, where the actual ball bearings reside. A thick oil may be easier to get in there, but does not last as long as new grease would.
Completely remove bearings from chair for best lubrication. Most of the time, you need not take the bearing entirely out, as there is often enough of the ball bearings inside visible, to easily get enough lube in through the front. However, to assure the longest-lasting, most effective operation, it’s best to remove the bearing from the chair frame, and grease both the front and the back of it. On the chair pictured next, there are two hex-head black wood screws that hold it in. Take these out, and then pry the bearing assembly out of the wood with a wide, straight screwdriver.
Replace defective bearings as needed. If after greasing, the bearing still turns roughly, it should be replaced. It may be worn out, and that the internal ball bearings are no longer smooth. In this case, all the lube in the world will not fix it. The best overall strategy therefore, is simply to replace the rough bearing. These have become pretty standard in glider rocking chairs, with only a few different sizes and shapes of them in wide use today. The remaining procedures apply to all wooden rockers as well as to gliders.
Tighten all screws and bolts. If however, the bearings are not noisy, then try tightening all loose fasteners. The glider, as well as the other forms of wooden rockers, utilizes many screws, pins, nails, nuts, and bolts to hold the whole thing together. These are typically Philips heads, hex heads, or nuts that gradually loosen, causing joints to rub and squeak excessively.
Tap in loose nails. If joints are nailed together, you can try lightly tapping them tight with a mallet or hammer. However, be careful not to pound too hard, particularly in older rockers, as you might split the wood.
Glue the joints piecemeal. if, after tapping the joints, they still squeak, try saturating them with a high-quality wood glue. You may have to drill small holes in inconspicuous places at the joint, to get the hardening agent into the critical areas that need bonding. Maximize bonding to minimize rubbing within the joints.
Oil the joints. If stopping the rubbing is not practical, try oiling the joint with 3-In-One. While rubbing will still occur, at least when it’s oiled, it will not squeak while you rock on the chair, at least until the oil dries out.
Rebuild the glider. Sometimes though, if you have many squeaky joints, you may have to completely disassemble the rocker and re-glue everything from scratch. This isn’t an easy task, as some of the joints will still be tightly bonded. As such, this method is probably best saved for when all the other techniques above have failed to stop the squeaks and other noises. Again, tapping gently with a soft mallet works effectively at loosening the old glue. Here, patience is definitely a virtue because it may take hours of gently tapping, tugging, twisting, and pulling, just to pry one chair joint apart. You’ll also need some good sized band clamps or vice clamps once you’ve glued and reassembled the chair, to hold it together until the new glue hardens. When re gluing the joints, the surfaces to be bonded must be free of dirt, sawdust, oil, and old glue. So, depending on the sort of joint it is, the best cleaning technique must be chosen. Sanding the joint works well to strip off old debris, but can take significant time. A wire brush head attached to a power drill also works very well, and quickly too. Just be careful not to scratch the finished and visible surfaces on the chair with it.
Will add more advice on silencing the bearing squeals as our experiences with gliders increases.
Greases and lubes can stain. Be careful, particularly when applying graphite-based sprays and liquid lubricants, as these can stain the finish on your furniture, and the carpets and floors on which the glider sits. Use only enough lube to restore proper operations to the bearings.
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- 2015-12-19: Added more appropriate tags.
- 2015-10-05: Added appropriate tags.
- 2015-09-06: Added a Suggested Reading section and more tags.
- 2015-02-05: Added three more pics, and extended the content and References sections.
- 2014-11-10: Originally published.