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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 from a good bearing shop locally. 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 might be able to 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. 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. 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 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.

Check NordicParts for any parts you need, also Nordic Fitness Ski Machines.


Picture of Rebuilding NordicTrack ski machine drive rollers
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ThomasG1461 month ago

Hi Phil

I have a Pro Plus that I bought in 1998. I immediately had problems with a ski slipping. NordicTrack sent me the whole assembly to install including flywheel and drag strap. So I just had to remove the old unit an connect the new one. I still have the old assembly which is essentially new, and am wondering if it could be a minor fix and does not require rebuilding.

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Phil B (author)  ThomasG1461 month ago
I have familiarity with only a 1991 Challenger and the Pro from 1994. Thank you for the photo. Your unit has similar parts, but is an aggregate assembly. Is there a way to remove the shaft so the rollers can be separated from it and from the rest of the assembly? I and others here have had success using Liquid Wrench or even WD-40 to float metallic dust or old grease from the one way needle bearings inside the rollers and then drying the one way bearings before reassembly. You can apply a tiny amount of Tri-Flo or ATF transmission fluid afterward.

Thank you for the quick response. I'll try your suggestions and see if they work. It's too bad these machines aren't used by more people. I don't think there is any better exerciser out there.

Phil B (author)  ThomasG1461 month ago

They are very good exercise machines. I wish I could be more consistent in my use of it and could build more stamina. There are always so many things that interrupt my exercise program.

KarlaO82 months ago

I bought a brand new Skier from Nordic Track.com a month ago. It is defective. The fly wheel is stuck. I called NordicTrack.com several times. They've send me out the parts that they think would fix it. I was to get a technician to fix it. I never heard from anyone. I called the company stating that I just wanted to send it back. They told me that they would credit my credit card for the whole amount of the machine and I could keep the skier. I just took it apart still to find that my rollers will only move one way or another. They did not send me new rollers. To me this sounds like a roller problem. What do you think Phil? Frustrated.

Phil B (author)  KarlaO82 months ago
Your flywheel and shaft will not turn. Do your rollers spin freely by hand in one direction, but lock on the shaft in the other direction?

My daughter gave me a second skier for Father's Day to use at a home where we stay several weeks during each year. Everything seemed fine until I used it for more than a few minutes. It is a used machine and one sideboard ball bearing was seized. You could pull the end of the flywheel shaft out of each wooden sideboard and see if each bearing moves freely.

Let me know what you learn about your bearings. Correct me if I have not understood correctly.
Huntsho4 months ago

I have had many nordic tracks over the years. I sell mine when moving and buy another at my new destination. My newest one is is great condition. Super clean however, the right drive roller was 'catching and had a delay upon thrusting. Not life ending by definitely annoying. Then a few days later a new behavior popped up: the drive roller stopped turning the wheel and I'd flail-almost falling- from the lack of resistance. I bought it from a deceased man's estate sale. By the appearance of his siblings, I'd bet that he was a large man. Could his size have been the culprit? It's very clean and few signs of wear. I tried tightening the allen screw but that didn't do anything. The right driver wheel is not turning the wheel. Any help appreciated. What to do? Thank you.

Phil B (author)  Huntsho4 months ago

What you describe is typical of a one-way needle bearing that is stuck. I had success on my rollers by doing what I described in the post, namely, flushing the bearings with Liquid Wrench and working the bearing back and forth with my little finger. Then I blotted the bearing with tissue paper. I noticed a gray coloration, indicating the presence of fine metallic dust. Once fluid I blotted from the bearing was no longer gray, I let the bearings air dry and assembled the skier. It worked like new, and has continued to do so over the last six years.

If you do not feel comfortable flushing your bearings and blotting them, you could order new rollers, or you could contact someone who repairs skiers.

If you do take your rollers out to flush them, you might take a photo of the order in which the various washers go on the shaft so hungry can get them back the way they were.

I doubt a heavy user would cause the problem you are having,

Huntsho Phil B4 months ago
I just got to this project. All set! So far, so good. You were right on the money. Thank you so much! Annie
Phil B (author)  Huntsho4 months ago

Annie,

Thank you for your response. One person flushed his bearings, but they were not quite dry when he installed them again. His rollers sometimes slipped for a day or two until the remainder of the Liquid Wrench still in the bearings had evaporated.

Your rollers should work well for quite a long time. If they cause problems later, you can always try flushing again. But, nothing lasts forever. One-way bearings in the rollers will eventually wear out and need replacement. I mentioned I flushed mine six years ago. I did not always use my skier for very many minutes, nor did I use it continuously. I am using it more consistently for longer durations now. It still works just like it should.

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