Rebuilding NordicTrack ski machine drive rollers

Many people still buy and use a NordicTrack Ski Machine, although these machines are not as popular as they once were. I have talked to people who say they just plain wore out a ski machine. The part that wears is the one-way clutch inside the drive rollers.

NordicTrack makes the one-way clutch sound very mysterious. In reality it is a one-way needle bearing and is available from Amazon or locally from a good bearing shop. The internal diameter of the one-way needle bearing used in my machine (Challenger, similar to a 303) is 5/8 inch. The outer diameter is 7/8 inch. The width of the one-way needle bearing from end to end is 5/8 inch.

I originally had hopes of being able to install new one-way needle bearings, myself; but, they together with the bronze sleeve bearings on either side of the one-way needle bearing inside each drive roller are pressed into place. Pressing bearings is not a job for the average home tinkerer but requires a bearing press capable of exerting tons of pressure in a very precise manner. You can often have a local machine shop press the bearings in your machine's drive rollers. Or, you can send them away to Nordic Track Guy and have them rebuilt for about $33 with a one week turnaround. The core of the rollers really does not wear out, but new rollers are available on the Internet from $65 to $95, depending on the vendor. From what I can find, some models used an alternate size. Check to be certain you order the correct rollers, if you choose to replace.

One of my drive rollers suddenly began to hiccup. It seemed that the clutch did not always release immediately when I pulled my foot forward. Then I noticed a little mush in the response when I began to bring my foot back on the push stroke. Before you rebuild or replace your rollers, try this: Remove one side of your Ski Machine. See the second photo and check the exploded diagram in your manual. Four nuts and two screws, all plainly visible, need to be removed. Slide the washers and the roller off of the top side. The shaft and flywheel can be wiggled out of the other side without removing anything from that side. Remove the washers and the roller from that side, too. Flush the one-way needle bearing by squirting some penetrating oil, like Liquid Wrench, into the bearing. Work it both ways with your smallest finger. Push a facial tissue into the shaft hole in the roller and sop away the penetrating oil and any metallic dust it lifts. Do this several times. Let the rollers air dry. A little lubrication is good. People who comment on lubrication for one-way needle bearings use Tri-Flo (I am not familiar with it.) or they use a little ATF transmission fluid. You want enough to lubricate, but not so much that the bearings slip. (But, see the comments below where the oil impregnated bronze sleeve bearings are supposed to supply enough lubrication for the needle bearings.) Put the rollers back in place on the shaft. Check to be certain they grab on the rearward stroke and release on the forward stroke. Reassemble the machine. Do not forget the washers between the roller and the side board. My machine works again as it should. The day will likely come when this simple fix does not help, and I will need to rebuild or replace the rollers then. But, for now, my rollers have a new lease on life.

What follows is for your information. The first photo is of a portion of the back cover of the manual that came with my machine. It shows a cutaway image of the drive roller. The black printing is mine. Notice the three cylinders inside the drive roller. The outer two are bronze sleeve bearings. The center one looks like a roller bearing, but is a one-way needle bearing. A one-way needle bearing is essentially a roller bearing, but the rollers are able to move forward and backward a little in their cage. There is a wedge shape for the axle of each roller that causes the rollers to bind between the bearing cage and the shaft when the rotation is in one direction, but they are free in the other direction. Here is a description of how they work with graphics.

This link is for an Instructable about a number of modifications I made to our NordicTrack ski machine, including how it can be stored vertically in a closet. If you do not have a digital monitor for your skier, or need to replace one, here is an Instructable on how to make your own from a digital bicycle speedometer. 

Check NordicParts for any parts you need, also Nordic Fitness Ski Machines. Danny at Nordic Fitness Ski Machines has some very nice new rollers for sale.

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I have a nordic tract pro, and have not used it due to knee replacement for about 6 months. I tried to use it today and it is hurky jerky, the skis do not glide as they did before and on the backstroke they seem to "grab" or get stuck on the back rollers. I sprayed everything I could with WD-40 which probably isn't good to use, but I am a girl and that is all I know about oil. Do you think I need new rollers or should I have the roller removed and sprayed with oil and wiped with a facial tissue and let dry. Do you think this will work my machine is at least 30 years old. I have a friend that has an achiever and it is hurky jerky too.

I too have the adjustment know on the arm exerciser spinning loose when in use regardless of it being tightened. Thanks for the tip I will look at it.

Phil B (author)  Dogpaws in the Carolinas10 months ago

The hurky jerky phenomenon may go away with continued use. When things stop working after a period of non-use, usually something has gotten gummy. If it were mine, I would remove the rollers and flush them out as I described. WD-40 will work. Take a photo or two of the parts laid out as they were so you have less trouble remembering how they gö back in.

You might oil the doughnut shaped roller bearing under the drum knob. That is supposed to be done regularly, anyway. Those bearings are available if yours is worn or hopelessly stuck. You might also go to a hardware store to see about a small bottle of oil a little heavier than WD-40. Even a quart of 20 or 30 weight engine oil would be a good investment. A small pump oil can would be ideal for applying it in a controlled manner.

Phil this is an addendum to my note 13 min. ago on 8/20/2017 (pre eclipse haha) anyway I failed to mention that if I have no tension or very little such as a 1 or 2 the fly wheel does engage however it is difficult to have control at that low resistance. Just a little more information. I have inverted the skier and tried to see if I loosened anything however there is nothing to loosen. I see a gray cable running into the flywheel assemble underneath but it appears very firm and rigid in place so I don't imagine anything happened to that unless oil could have somehow leaked into it??

Phil B (author)  Dogpaws in the Carolinas5 months ago

Did you remove the drive rollers from the shaft when you worked on them? If so, did you put them back so they slip on the forward stroke, but grab on the backstroke? And, did you dry the bearings inside the rollers before putting the rollers back on the shaft? Either fluid still in the bearings or putting the rollers on backwards would cause slippage (little or no resistance).

Thanks ever so much Phil, I did what you said with the heavier oil and it did the trick now the skies are smooth as glass, thank you.
I now have another problem and I am at my wits end as to what I could have done to cause this.
The fly wheel no longer turns even with the tension strap at a high number setting. After oiling the rollers I simply placed the skiis back on the machine and expected to be ready to roll. The skiis are smooth but since the flywheel is not engaging there is no tension. I usually ski about a 3 and have taken the tension all the way up with no difference.
What is the problem? I am so anxious to return to my daily skiing since my new knee is healed and ready to go.
I hope you can help me with this again.
Thank you for your time and considerations.
I thought I might clarify the hurky jerky motion of my ski machine. The forward motion is smooth and then on the slide back it jolts to a stop on the rubber roller adjacent to the fly wheel, The only reason it doesn't stop there is that I force it backwards and on the way forward again it is smooth. Is this a situation that during the restarting of using the ski machine again will go away? I thank you for your time once again.
Phil B (author)  Dogpaws in the Carolinas9 months ago

if it were my machine, I would remove the sealed ball bearings mounted in the sideboards and spinning them slowly by hand to see if the are smooth or rough and maybe even siezed. A bearing shop can sell you replacement bearings, althouythey are not cheap. I had to replace one on a used machine and it cost me $30 for just one. You can try using the machine to see if the problem goes away. If a bearing is bad, it gets worse in time.

Thank you I will certainly look into that, of course I am going to keep using it and see if it gets worse, it actually has not gotten worse in this past week....thankfully. Thanks again for your time and answer!

Gosh Phil B, Thanks so much!
I will definitely do what you say because removing screws and stuff makes me nervous but taking a picture is exactly the answer Brilliant thanks so very much. I cannot wait to be on my ski machine. I am so thankful to have found your site and know that there is help. I will get some heavier weight oil as well. Awesome! Will keep ya posted hopefully with good results and not more questions :)
Phil B (author)  Dogpaws in the Carolinas9 months ago

Dropping a few pounds never seems to be as easy in practice as described in theory. Years ago I could ride 100 miles a week and lose 2 pounds a week. In more recent years that amount of riding might cause me to lose 2 pounds in a month, if I was careful about what I ate.

In the second last paragraph above I linked an Instructable about converting a bicycle speedometer to function as a monitor for a ski machine. Included in that Instructable is some information about exercise values for a ski machine. Some it is based on studies at the University of Cologne, although a ski machine was not mentioned in those studies. An article in a German fitness magazine talked about exercise for weight loss. People spent sixteen weeks building fitness so they could do cardiovascular exercise for 45 minutes three or so times a week at about 75% of their theoretical maximum heart rate. The first 30 minutes are needed to use sugar stored in the body so fat is burned in the last 15 minutes. A session of about 90 to 120 minutes was done on the weekend in one session. Proper eating was also emphasized. Adequate rest is also very important. Too many push too hard. The subjects in the article rode bicycles and showed some significant weight loss. A ski machine would also be effective.

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