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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 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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Do you know how to stop the adjustment knob on the arm exerciser from spinning loose? I'll tighten it to the desired resistance, but once I start using the arm exerciser, the adjustment knob will back itself out, which drops resistance on the arm exerciser to zero.

Phil B (author)  bokononisti9yesterday

My experience is limited, but I have never seen what you describe. There are some things to check. The leather pad under the drum should be parallel to the front arm on the NordicTrack and the two holes in the pad should be on the raised locking circles, not any other alignment. On top of the drum should be a roller bearing in the shape of a doughnut and the rollers in it should move freely. A flat washer is on top of the roller bearing. Then comes the tension spring and the knob. I am thinking something is out of place or missing. Also, put a few drops of 3-in-1 oil on top of the leather pad and lubricants the roller bearing about once per month.

I'm experiencing a problem with my NordicTrack Pro (mid-90's version, not the later Pro Classic) where the ski will 'slip' on the right drive roller on the drive (rearward) stroke maybe 12" or so before the ski "grabs" the roller and spins it. This doesn't happen every stroke, but every several strokes. Left drive roller does not exhibit this slipping. The underside of the skis have recently been cleaned with mineral spirits.

This doesn't sound like a problem with the one-way bearing, does it?

Maybe the roller's surface needs cleaning (it does look fairly dirty). Any tips on cleaning the drive roller so that it grips the underside of the ski better?

Phil B (author)  bokononisti94 days ago
If you body weight is pressing down on the ski it is difficult to imagine the ski would slip on the rubber surface of the roller. My first suspicion would be the one-way bearing. 12" of slippage seems like quit a lot. I would take the time to remove the drive roller and flush it out with something like Liquid Wrench or WD-40, dry it, and lubricate with a drop or two of ATF fluid. You could remove that ski and work the drive roller to see if it is generally free one direction, but locks in the reverse direction while keeping in mind the roller may behave a little differently under a load.

It's probably less than 12" - it's a little unnerving when the ski slips while you're applying pressure to drive the ski rearward, so I may be overestimating!

So is what I'm describing the classic slipping issue? Somehow I was thinking a worn bearing would result in slippage when the ski was moving forward.

Phil B (author)  bokononisti93 days ago

When the one-way bearings ar not working properly, the ski does not grab on the rearward push with the feet. It is enough to make your body lurch and you can easily lose your balance. I would take both rollers off of the shaft and clean the bearings. Only a little very fine metallic dust is needed to interfere with their intended action. You know you are accomplishing something helpful when sopping the Liqud Wrench or WD-40 with a tissue produces a gray stain on the tissue.

casenmolly16 days ago

Hi Phil

Thanks for taking the time sharing your knowledge and experience. I've learned much from your response to reader comments. I have an Achiever with some side-to-side "play" in the axle/flywheel/driveroller assembly. As a result the right driveroller will frequently drag or rub on the right wooden frame such that while it will "drive" on the power stroke, it will hang-up on the glide stroke.

I've replaced the drive rollers and bearings, and determined the space between the wooden frames, inboard and outboard to be the same, so the problem is the lateral play in the axle. Any advice? And thank you again for your time.

Terry Feenstra

Phil B (author)  casenmolly16 days ago
Terry,

When you mentioned replacing rollers and bearings, are those the the bearings inside the drive rollers or the ball bearings on the flywheel shaft resting inside the recesses in the sideboards? (I had to replace one of those ball bearings because it had seized with rust internally and the shaft was turning on the inner race without the inner race turning with the shaft.) There are washers on the flywheel shaft that keep the shaft from moving laterally, unless someone had one of the sideboards off (as would be necessary to replace a drive roller) and forgot to reinstall the washers between the drive roller and the bearing in the sideboard. Otherwise tolerances are fairly close and it would be difficult for the axle to move lateerally. I believe the axle shaft is 5/8" in diameter. If I remember correctly, there is a thin plastic washer, two the steel washers, and another thin plastic washer. These are on the shaft between the drive roller and the bearing in the sideboard.
Phil

Thanks very much for your reply. I replaced the bearings which nest inside the sideboards.

After I read your response, I thought through my previous maintenance over the last 25 years and remembered the collar clamp. Tipped the machine on its side (collar clamp up), loosened the clamp, used a credit card as a spacer between the roller and metal washer, tightened the clamp.

As they say, it was all "Bob's your uncle" after that. Smooth as snow with no hang ups.

I really appreciate your knowledge and experience. Best regards.

Terry Feenstra
Phil B (author)  casenmolly11 days ago

Terry,

I am happy you found a fix and all is good now. I learned about "Bob's your uncle" reading a little paragraph on the menu of a restaurant by that name. I also never would have suspected the collar was loose or out of place. Thank you for the report.

Phil

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