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What is the difference between single motor tilt-in-space and dual motor recliners?

A lot of people would say that dual motor recliners are superior to single motor tilt-in-space. In fact, you’ll find that most high street seating has dual motor reclining action, but is this any better?

We would actually argue that single motor tilt-in-space is better to include in any specialist seating. Here’s how these features are different.

What is tilt-in-space?

Before we get to the nitty-gritty, we need to talk about what tilt-in-space actually is and how it’s different to normal reclining functions.

Tilt-in-space isn’t your typical reclining function, it’s a bit more advanced than that to help with the person’s overall positioning. It is exactly as it sounds; instead of the seat staying flat, it tilts you backwards in your chair to redistribute body weight and pressure over a wide surface area.

But it’s a unique feature because it allows you to keep your hip, knee, and ankle at a 90° angle as the chair actually rocks back as one unit. This motion differs depending on whether you have single motor or dual motor tilt-in-space.

What is single motor tilt-in-space?

Single motor tilt-in-space is used in many riser recliners and care chairs to give people the ability to tilt backwards and change their centre of gravity. This will help to spread their body weight over a bigger surface area (mainly putting more on the backrest rather than the seat cushion itself) and reduce the chance of pressure injuries.

A 4-part diagram showing the motions of single motor tilt-in-space

Single motor tilt-in-space keeps the hip angle exactly the same and simply rocks the chair back to disperse body weight over a wider space.

This mechanism also reduces the chances of you suffering from friction or shear when the chair is moving. This is a big benefit for anyone where skin integrity is a key issue.

Another reason to use single motor tilt-in-space is that it can elevate your ankles whilst maintaining the hip and knee angles. This is ideal for people who have bad circulation or swollen feet.

Single motor tilt-in-space is usually operated through a two-button handset on the chair.

How is dual motor action different?

Dual motor recline offers you a bit more flexibility in your positioning because they can move the backrest and the legrest independently to the seat itself. This means you can lay close to flat on your chair.

Whilst this might seem like a big benefit, we’re sure that most seating specialists or occupational therapists would advise you to choose single motor tilt-in-space instead. That’s because it’s better for posture and pressure relief, and it’s a lot more comfortable.

When you use a dual motor recline function, you’ll find that the chair isn’t necessarily redistributing your body weight. For example, if you just raise your legs using the legrest, you’ll still have the same amount of pressure going through your buttocks.

A 5-part diagram showing the motions of dual motor recline on a chair

Dual motor recline allows you to open up the backrest and legrest angles independently whilst the seat stays flat. Whilst this gives you more flexibility, it’s actually less comfortable and supportive than any tilt-in-space function.

Tilt-in-space utilises the surface of the backrest itself to spread body weight more evenly.

Raising the legrest can also cause some discomfort because it stretches the hamstrings. Imagine sitting with the seat flat and then just raising your legs to the same level as your seat; it’s painful for your hamstrings and can give you pins and needles over time.

You will also find that dual motor recliners end up offering less support because the support offered by the headrest and backrest ends up being in the wrong places.

For instance, if you recline your car seat back, you’ll find that the lumbar support and head support shift up and actually become fairly ineffective. The same principle goes for riser recliner chairs.

And again when you bring the backrest back up, it ends up pushing you further down the chair, squashing your diaphragm and abdominals.

You would have to re-adjust your positioning and slide up the chair to feel comfortable and supported again. This, of course, is not ideal for people who have reduced body strength or any sort of disability which makes repositioning difficult.

Another factor to consider is how you are positioned when the backrest is reclined. You actually end up facing the ceiling, which isn’t good for reading or watching television.

Single motor tilt-in-space repositions the chair so that you can still enjoy socialising whilst rocked back.

What is dual motor tilt-in-space?

As you can probably imagine, dual motor tilt-in-space has two motors in the chair itself to give you more flexibility over your positioning. So not only can you rock the chair back and maintain the hip, knee, and ankle angles, you can also move the backrest independently.

A 5-part diagram of the dual motor tilt-in-space mechanism in a chair.

Dual motor tilt-in-space offers the best of both worlds by maintaining the 90°-90°-90° seating angles with the option to move the backrest and legrest independently.


This means that you can adjust your positioning whilst keeping your hip angle the same if necessary. This can be controlled through a four-button handset attached to the chair.


Ultimately, dual motor recline is a fine option if you don’t require much support and are mobile and strong enough to reposition regularly. But in most cases, single motor tilt-in-space will offer better positioning and postural support over time.

Single motor tilt-in-space is better all around even if it offers less flexibility in positioning. Make sure to check if your chair has single motor tilt-in-space before purchasing it because it could make all the difference in the long-run.

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Lucie Hudson
Lucie Hudson

Lucie is our Marketing Manager, meaning she coordinates and writes some of our blogs, magazine articles, and brochures amongst many other resources. She also takes care of all our social media profiles, so feel free to send her any blog ideas you have!

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