I have a recliner chair that has a manual arm, I was wondering if there is a way to place a motor on the shaft the arm spins to make it 'electrically actuated'.

What I'd like is for it to freewheel in both directions when it isn't being electrically driven, but yet have massive torque (can be slow) when actuated. The resistance is only over the first small amount of the turn of the arm, the rest sort of carries itself from the weight of the seated person.

Does such a thing exist? What is something I could look at for ideas?

I'd think something like a small motorcycle starter would be enough torque and could disengage with the solenoid to freewheel, but I don't think they can be driven both directions, while also requiring a LARGE amount of current DC rectified. Maybe a washing machine motor?

I do not want to use a long linear motor retrofit into the chair if I can get away from it, as that would not freewheel and would be very slow to go in and out. I would also like to keep the part cost under $100.


The areas in the bright red arrows are the only parts that require any motor input (though very high torque), and I'd want it to be able to freewheel (or be used with the arm as regularly) when the motor isn't being driven.

  • 1
    I think you should really evaluate why you think you need this. The lever as it is implemented is by far the simplest mechanism and what you are proposing is extremely doubtful if it can be implemented in a 1-off prototype for much less than $400 to $500. And those figures include the need to use a gear reduction system or lead screw design to be able to achieve the needed torque to disengage the detents at the start of motion of the lever from its end points. – Michael Karas Aug 19 '19 at 5:59
  • Whole lot of engineering and parts scavenging going on there. New lift chairs are available for about $400 (amazon.com/slp/electric-lift-chairs/pdmp5wkh5muf8kg) – Greg Nickoloff Aug 19 '19 at 13:27
  • Why so much? A used electric drill for about $40 should have plenty of torque in the high torque range and there is room for it under the chair, and so all I'd need from there is some sort of electrically actuated clutch to disengage it. I'm not opposed to charging the electric batteries separately. – Ehryk Aug 19 '19 at 19:50
  • Because engineering. Specifically, because enginering isn't free. If you think it is, then do it... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 19 '19 at 20:32
  • There's a little more to it than just chucking the drill onto the lever shaft....You'll need some kind of clutch or gear set to operate the mechanism smoothly. If you have an idea about how to do it, have at it. When you're done, please post an answer to your original question and share with us how it went, and how you solved some of the inherent challenges. – Greg Nickoloff Aug 19 '19 at 20:33

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