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. 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
jecurtti1 year ago

Phil, I refurbish over a 100 NordicTrack Skiers per year and I would not recommend using Liquid Wrench, WD-40, 3 in 1 Oil, or any other type of lubricant on the center axle or center drive rollers. Those bearings use a specially formulated grease (Lube code 068) per USA Manufacture. I have replaced over 1000 bearings and the number one reason for roller slippage besides worn out from use is some sort of lubricant was put on the axle or center rollers. Your Liquid Wrench may be a temporary solution, but all that you have really done is flush away some of the grease that lubricates those bearings and those bearing will fail in short order. Even the manual specifically states " the drive rollers are internally lubricated and should NOT be oiled". One other note, NordicTrack skiers made before 1989 or so sometimes had 2 or 3 clutch rollers bearings in each roller and no bushings. All skiers that I have seen made after 1989 have had the single clutch roller bearing and 2 brass bushings on either side as you described.

To reaffirm the question on nylon and steel washers. Nylon washers ALWAYS go flush up next to either side of roller, then steel washer goes next to nylon washer.

To get the axle bearings out of sideboard. Take side board off NordicTrack, while sitting in chair place sideboard on your lap with bearing facing down and center of board between each leg. Quickly smack side board with palm of hand on center of board. Some bearings come out just by turning sideboard upside down, others require a smack as described above. Still others are rusted in place so bad they will require you to tear bearing seal, round balls and cage out piece by piece.

Hope this helps.


can u help me please? just bought a used one. its my first one and the skis stick on the way back... 954-243-5966

Phil B (author)  joyce.e.stanley10 days ago
You should check to see what turns freely, and what does not. There is a woven nylon tension belt. Loosen it and see if the flywheel and shaft turn freely. There are two black plastic rollers under each ski. One is at the front and one at the back of the machine. Do they turn freely? Then put the nylon tension belt back on the flywheel so it is on the loose side. Add resistance until it is about what is comfortable for you at this point.
Do you have experience using a ski machine? After you are accustomed to one, a smooth motion is very easy. Until then, you can have quite a wild ride. Here is a video on what helped me as I learned.
If you cannot get things to turn freely, you will need some further help. A lot depends on the level of your ability with do-it-yourself projects. The machines are not complicated.
Phil B (author)  jecurtti1 year ago

Welcome to Instructables. Are you also known as NordicTrackGuy? If you replace one-way bearings inside the ski machine rollers, several people who commented below would like any contact information you care to give. Or, now that you are a member here, they can send you a private message.

Thank you for your comments. When my 1991 Challenger ski machine began to hiccup on one of the rollers I took a chance and tried flushing it with Liquid Wrench. Quite a bit of metallic dust came out on the tissue I used to blot the liquid. Somewhere I did read, perhaps in something for NordicTrack, that a small a ount of very thin oil can be used in the one-way rollers.

After my rollers were dry, I assembled the ski machine. I admit my exercise regimen has many interruptions lasting too long. But, I have gotten a fair amount of use from my machine in the two years since I cleaned my rollers and they perform flawlessly. I am certain some of those who have also flushed their one-way bearings do exercise more consistently than I do and for longer durations at each session. Perhaps they will see your comments and can report how much use their machines get each week and how well their rollers have worked or not worked since flushing them at home.

I know flushing the one-way bearings is a temporary measure. The presence of a fine metallic dust in the rollers indicates wear is taking place and one day a threshold will be crossed so that replacement is the only option for continued use of the ski machine. What I do not see is any harm that can be done from flushing the one-way bearings. What I do see is a simple way for the home user to extend the life of his machine before roller replacement becomes necessary.

Thank you for your comments.

Phil B (author)  Phil B1 year ago

Jerry, I appreciate your mention of the type 068 lubricant. I looked on the Internet to see what I could learn about it, but found nothing. So, I looked around to learn what i could about what people use to lubricate one-way needle bearings. I doubt any of the applications involved a NordicTrack ski machine. TriFlo lubricant was highly recommended. So was ATF fluid and a number of other things. I dipped my pinkie finger in a little DEX/MERC fluid I have and applied it to my rollers' bearings. They work perfectly and do not slip. Even if the DEX/MERC were to become gummy, I can always flush again with Liquid Wrench.

I thank you for the discussion about lubrication. I knew oil and one-way roller bearings do not mix well. I wondered how the bearings could function without lubrication. You prompted me to find a way to lubricate my one-way bearing clutches.

Anyone in North Miami that can come and fix my Pro and my Achiever? Help! George 305 933 2026

jecurtti1 year ago

nordicparts, yes I agree that there are small springs that lock against the roller inside the plastic casing. I did not know how technical anyone really wanted to get. I do disagree on replacing the center drive rollers vs. having new bearings put in them. I have used a micrometer on rollers that are brand new and rollers that have been used for several years with worn bearings and the diameter difference is just a few 100th of an inch difference. This small difference is on the solid rubber rollers vs. the "honeycomb" type of rollers which do wear down more rapidly. My experience has been that drive rollers seem to last anywhere from 5-15 years depending hours of use per week, weight of user, and aggressiveness of user.

Jecurtti the older skiers from the 70's and 80's that you refer to as having three one-way roller clutch bearings is actually incorrect. There has always only been one one-way roller clutch bearing pressed in the driverollers. The other two bearings that appear to be clutch bearings were actually just roller bearings....meaning they spin freely in both directions. The reason why NordicTrack changed to the oil impregnated bronze bushings is because the little needle bearings in the roller bearing would break or seize up and cause more problems than a simple oil impregnated bushing and they do not provide as good of lubrication as the bushing.

Also the clutch is a series of little metal springs that lock against the needle bearings in the one-way roller clutch bearings and stops the roller from spinning in one direction and allows it to spin freely in the opposite direction. The piece of plastic that you refer to is simply a holder for the needle bearings and the little metal springs.

Yes you are correct to NEVER lubricate the driverollers with any type of oil as it will only cause them to slip even more. The reason why the bronze bushings are oil impregnated is to provide a source of lubrication and when the one-way roller clutch bearings are new they are lubricated with grease from the manufacturer. The driverollers typically last 3-5 years depending upon length of use. the weight of user and tension settings. The rubber on the driveroller does wear down and gets hard with age so replacing them is always the best choice. Think about it this way..... how smooth your car rides when you get new tires on it.

jecurtti1 year ago


No I am not NordicTrack Guy or NordicTrack Danny, just an individual that has refurbished a few thousand NordicTrack skiers over the past 12 years. If someone wants to contact me through a private message that is fine. I have found putting contact info out on the open net can sometimes create a ton of problems that never relate to what the info was intended for.

Every NordicTrack manual that I have on file specifically states to NOT put oil on the center drive rollers, or flywheel. When I am in the process of replacing the center drive roller bearings I generally see grease/oil, dirt rust, and only on rare occasions metallic dust. Metallic dust would be a very bad sign. It would indicate that either the axle is wearing away or the needle bearings are wearing. On the older NordicTrack's prior to 1998 I have only seen a few (less than 5) axles that were worn enough to create metallic dust. I have seen axles from the newer NordicTrack's that are made in China with EXTREME wearing of the axle with less than a years use. I have a couple of sample axles from these machines that have the ends wore where the axles sits inside the bearings on each sideboard. The ends of the axles are worn down to the size of a sharpened pencil. This is because the Made in China machines were using a softer lower grade steel in there axles. This is why a lot of times the center roller bearings will either seize up on the axle or slip within very short order of using the "New" machine.

The biggest harm that I see to flushing the bearings is that the bearings will begin to groove the axle and when it is time to fix your center flywheel and rollers, you will not only need new roller bearings installed, you will need a replacement axle. When the bearings do not have the proper grease they heat up more easily. The "clutch" part of the bearings is actually a piece of plastic that allows the needles to shift in one direction to grip the axle and to shift in the opposite direction to release the axle. When there is a lack of proper grease the bearing becomes hot and it takes a toll on the plastic inside the bearings. I can always tell a burnt bearing when I remove it because the outer casing will have a burn line on the outside.

gmarchak1 year ago

Hi Phil. One more question. When I reassembled the machine, I put the metal washers against either side of the drive rollers and the nylon washers outside the metal washers so they are against the flywheel bearing on one side of the drive roller and the axle clamp/plastic sleeve on the other side. This is they way were arranged when I disassembled the machine. However, when I reviewed the diagram you included in one of your earlier posts, the nylon washers were on either side of the drive rollers and the metal washers outside of the nylon washers. Which arrangement is correct and can you explain why the arrangement you suggest is used. Thanks.

Phil B (author)  gmarchak1 year ago
Thank you for letting me know flushing the one-way bearings inside your rollers restored their function. New rollers are $95 at Amazon, but $65 elsewhere for a set of two, or about $35 to have rebuilt plus shipping, you ought to be entitled to go out now and spend that much on something you want.

I do not understand what the engineers had in mind for the arrangement of the washers on the flywheel shaft. It may be someone had that apart earlier and did not put them in correctly. I would try to copy the factory diagram, just in case they know something I do not.

I think a little light steel wool would be ideal for removing surface rust on the flywheel where the nylon resistance belt rides.

The nylon washers go next to the driverollers on each side of it and the steel washers are placed next to the nylon washers. There are four nylon and 4 steel washers per skier.

If there is a lot of rust you can use course steel wool and make sure you wipe the flywheel down afterwards with a paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol to remove all the black dust.

(removed by author or community request)

I removed my previous post to adjust the formatting but was unable to do it.

gmarchak1 year ago

Hi Phil. I pulled the machine apart and flushed the one-way roller bearings as you instructed. Looks like it worked well. Thanks so much for the help.

One other question, the flywheel has some minor rust in the groove where the tension strap sits. Is it advisable to sand this down or leave it alone. If sanding is advisable, what grid sandpaper or type of steel wool would you use.

Thanks again.

gmarchak1 year ago

Hi Phil. I had not used my Achiever machine in years. When I began using the machine, the the skis have been slipping on the back stroke to the point where it is dangerous to use. Before using the machine, I (unfortunately) lubricated the drive rollers with 3 in 1 oil. Could this be the source of the problem? If so, can the rollers be cleaned of the oil or is this a terminal problem? Would continual usage of the drive rollers eliminate the problem over time? If I cannot fix the problem, would a rebuild be advisable or will I need new drive rollers. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Phil B (author)  gmarchak1 year ago
I doubt the problems are permanent. I would flush the one-way roller bearings inside the rubber rollers a few times with Liquid Wrench or WD-40 to remove the 3-in-1 oil. Ether starting fluid would work, too, but it could ignite very easily, so be careful with ignition sources. Let the roller bearings dry out with air. You can try blotting the inside of the roller bearings with tissue. I expect it will be OK after that. Flushing will remove the oil and also any fine metallic dust that keeps the one-way needle bearings from grabbing on the reverse cycle. Please let me know how it worked for you.
Thanks very much Phil. I'll let you know the outcome.
dexterdom2 years ago
Hello Phil, excellent information in your post, thanks for sharing.
I have a "roller" question about my 1995 Pro model (which I just picked up used for $50). I have noticed that the center (drive) rollers are slightly lower than the end (idler) rollers. I haven't actually measured it but maybe by about 1/8". Same on both sides, left and right. Is this normal? If not, any way to adjust this?
Thank you
Phil B (author)  dexterdom1 year ago
It appears I may not have responded to your question. I apologize. I suspect the designer intentionally set the drive rollers a little lower than the idler rollers. When your weight is on a ski, the ski would bend a little and grab the drive roller. When your foot is on the forward stroke, your weight is off of that ski and the ski can move forward with less drag on the drive roller. I know of no way to adjust or change this.
dtreida2 years ago
Hi Phil,
Do you have any tips on replacement of Achiever axle bearings? I do not see getting them in as a problem but I am stumped about the best way to remove them. (The outboard bearings set in the wood frame,. not the drive rollers!) Also any recommended source for new bearings would be appreciated.
Phil B (author)  dtreida2 years ago
I went to the NordicTrack page to download a manual for a specific model and discovered there was one manual to cover most of the models. The bearing in the wood side rail pulls or slides out on my Challenger as shown in that one manual. I expect they come out the same way on the Achiever.

When I needed to replace the sealed ball bearings on my radial arm saw I found a store that specializes in bearings through the Yellow Pages. They were able to match my old bearings for less than the factory part at Sears.

I hope this helps.
Hi Phil, Great page. Thanks for all the wisdom. It seems the model numbers tend to fade and disappear from the tag on the older models. NTXC80180 is the model number I found, after doing several Google searches, that still has a manual available from the NordicTrack support site. I was lucky enough to find a Sequoia someone put out to be hauled off. After cleaning and oiling all works fine.
Phil B (author)  tamasic11 year ago
Congratulations on your NordicTrack find. We paid $65 for our Challenger at Play It Again Sports in Boise, Idaho. Afterward I heard stories of people who gave ski machines away. It sounds like a person just needs to be in the right place at the right time.

I downloaded a manual from NordicTrack's site and it appears they use the same basic manual for several models. Still, the exploded diagram is a big help whenever you want to peek inside or tweak something.

Now, if I could just find something that makes me exercise consistently, or keeps things from disrupting my good efforts when I do exercise with regularity.
NordicDanny2 years ago
Normally when you have "resistance" on the forward stroke, the drive roller is 'cinched' up too tight. Next to one or both drives is usually a 'O' ring clamp (Phil: you can tell me the technical term for that part) which can be adjusted with an Allen wrench.

Sometimes, just loosening and tightening the clamp in place will remove the 'lock' it has on the roller. And sometimes you just need to back it off a hair. The rule of thumb is that the roller should not be too tight or too lose which would either not move at all or allow play from side to side. If you flick the roller with your fingertips on the forward stroke, it should turn only a couple of revolutions at most. ie. it should not be loose or so tight it will not move at all. If you have a plastic tube holding one of the rollers against the other side, (this is the housing for the magnetic interface), those can be a little more difficult to adjust and there is least one version that when it comes loose from the shaft or axle, will stop turning with the axle and is not cinched up tight enough to the drive. This also means the monitor might no longer be reading the flywheel speed accurately.

Caution: When adjusting the drive clamp, be sure you have the correct CR-V4 Allen bit. They are normally very tight and it's very easy to strip. You need to make sure the bit is all the way in and you have good leverage when making this adjustment. -- NordicDanny @ "It's all I do:"
Phil B (author)  NordicDanny2 years ago
According to the owner's manual I have, the clamp you describe is called and "axle clamp with set screw." Thank you for the information.
Hi Phil.

I have a question about the drive rollers on my Achiever (bought used about 5 years ago). Recently one roller has started applying resistance on the forward stroke. This only happens after 25+ minutes of skiing. When I go back to it the next day, it seems to operate normally (i.e., no forward resistance) for about 25 minutes. My guess is that the drive roller is going, although it's not slipping backward at this time.

Will a roller rebuild fix this? Also, I have a spare roller from an older Pro model that I scavenged for parts. Could I just put that roller in there? (I'm not sure whether it was from the right or left side of the machine, and don't know whether that makes a difference when replacing rollers). Thanks for any help you can provide.
Phil B (author)  williamr10282 years ago
I would encourage you to take the rollers out of your machine and flush the bearings with Liquid Wrench or WD-40 like I described to see if that helps. The roller on the right is identical to the roller on the left. Interchanging them is no problem. Somewhere I read there are two sizes of rollers. Just make sure the rollers from the donor machine have the same dimensions as those on your good machine. When you install a roller just make sure it grabs on the backstroke and is free on the forward stroke.
Hi Phil--I wanted to follow up and let you know that flushing the roller bearings as you described has fixed the problem. Interestingly, the problem roller was slipping on the back stroke after I reinstalled them (the forward stroke was perfect). There was less slipping on the second day, and it was completely gone by the third day. Maybe there was a little Liquid Wrench left in the bearing that had to work its way out with use? Anyway, the machine is now like brand new. Thanks so much for your advice--you've saved me a lot of expense and hassle. Happy exercising!
Phil B (author)  williamr10282 years ago
Thank you for your follow-up. I did not know for certain flushing the bearings with a light petroleum solvent would fix your problem, but I thought it would be a very inexpensive first strategy. I am glad it worked for you. You are probably correct about some leftover solvent causing a little slippage for a day or two. I suppose the day will come in the future when the current bearings will need actual replacement, but you should get some good use from your rollers for a while yet.
Phil B (author)  Phil B2 years ago
Something in the roller that binds on the forward stroke and gets hot has internal clearances that are just too close. The question becomes why. It may be the one way bearing (clutch) was not made properly. It may wear in and work well with more use. Or, it may have a problem that will not improve with use. It also may have been made properly, but there is foreign matter that makes the fit too close now and causes heat to build up and resistance to appear. That could be due to some rust if high humidity was present over time. Or, a fine metallic powder does appear with use as the needle bearing rollers wear. The rollers on my machine have not shown the problem you describe, but did begin to work less well because that fine powder was building up. Flushing the bearings inside the rollers with Liquid Wrench and sopping up the residue did restore function to my rollers. As a last resort, replacement or rebuilding the roller(s) should totally eliminate the problem, but you may not need to do anything that expensive or extreme if a simple flushing might eliminate the problem. It may be tempting to oil the one way needle bearings, but that is not advisable because lubrication makes it difficult for them to grab during the back stroke. By the way, I have the greatest respect for anyone who can regularly manage 25 minutes or more on a NordicTrack ski machine.
Actually, I do have a question after re-reading your instructions and looking at the roller. It's about the spraying procedure. I'm not sure exactly where to spray the Liquid Wrench. Looking at the inside of the roller, all I can see is a metal tube with a sort of ribbed area in the middle of it (I'm guessing this ribbed area is the bearing?). So, given your description, should I spray the Liquid Wrench in the ribbed area in the middle, rub it into the area, and then dry up the liquid with a tissue. Thanks for any help you can provide with this.
Phil B (author)  williamr10282 years ago
Yes, the ribbed area is the one-way needle bearing. Spray a liberal amount into it to flush the bearing. Sopping with a tissue removes any iron powder so it does not go back into the bearing.
Thank you very much for your guidance, Phil. I will try flushing the rollers as you describe to see if that fixes the problem. Have a great day!
urban222 years ago
Hi Phil - would you know where I can purchase a pulse cord for the Nordic Track PRO classic? Can't seem to find this anywhere. Thanks!
Phil B (author)  urban222 years ago
Yes. Treadmill Doctor has them. Here is a link. I hope this is what you want.
Phil B (author) 2 years ago
This is in response to a private message from someone who made an inquiry by private message. I tried to upload an image of the drum assembly from the exploded diagram in NordicTrack manual, but the uploader is not working for me today. The exploded parts diagram shows a 3/8 inch flat washer on top of the drum, then a needle bearing thrust washer, another 3/8 inch flat washer, the tension spring, and the adjustment knob. A new needle bearing thrust washer can be ordered from Grainger. You would want one with an ID of 10mm. The link will take you to the catalog listing for one that should work for you. The price is about $5 plus shipping. You could probably find it at any good bearing store near you. It is possible the needle bearing thrust washer on your machine is too worn to be functional.

A related question: I have a frozen idler roller at the back of a Nordic Track Sequoia. Can't even figure out how to remove/replace these roller--the frame they are in is welded together. Is the 'factory solution' to replace the whole rear end as a unit? Is there a way around that?
Phil B (author)  donquixote992 years ago
I do not know if this will help. The graphic is taken from a NordicTrack ski machine manual with a similar appearance to the Sequoia. It shows a removable axle for the rear idler roller on the model in this manual (#70). It appears to slide out after removing the side board. You may notice one end of the axle has two flats and those flats slide into a hole shaped to fit them. The side board keeps the axle in place. I understand your machine may be different in some way that renders all of what I have written useless, but please give it a hard look, anyway. You can get a manual for your model at this web page, but you will need the correct number for your machine. Instructions are given on where to find the sticker with the number.
THANKS, that was the hint I needed, but it still took all day (off and on) to get that idler off. Your info told me the idea was to pound the stuck axle out with a drift, but that proved easier said than done. Had to pound from the middle of the frame, didn't have enough room to have a good shot at it, and the part was way too stuck for little taps to do any good. The solution, ultimately, was to take the whole frame off the back, set-it up in a vise, remove the good roller (it came right off), and use a long steel rod as a drift, going straight down through the other roller's holes.  Then I was able to swing the hammer proper. 

Anyone else who has to do this, for your drift you need a 3/16" or less diameter rod, ideally about a foot long.  Mine was a little short, so had to grind the end of a nail flat and use it for more length to finish up.  See pic.

Second pic shows the bad axle and the good axle together.  I'll try cleaning it up but I have a feeling I'm going to be shopping for a replacement, and a new roller while I'm at it.

As for manual, I have no number, and the Sequoia manual I have been able to find is very basic, no exploded view.  Would you mind posting pic of flywheel assembly, so I can be sure to get all the washers and shims on in the right order?  I had to disassemble the thing enough that all that came off....
drift setup.jpgrear idler axles.jpg
Yep, don't think that one idler has rolled in a long time. Probably has something to do with how I got the machine for just about nothing....

It will be working again for the winter. Thanks for the second pic. Will send email address.
Phil B (author)  donquixote992 years ago
Your verbal description of what you did is very clear. I read it through a notice in my e-mail before I saw your photos. There is an amazing amount of corrosion on you axle in the lower part of the photo. You cannot believe how glad I am that what I told you worked for you. If you would care to send me your e-mail address through a private message, I will send the manual to you by e-mail for your future use. And, here is the section with the washers with the verbal description of each in the parts key.
Phil B (author) 2 years ago
I can tell my rollers may need new one-way needle bearings sometime in the future. I was searching our home area on the Internet for machine shops, but finding only operations related to automotive needs like turning wheel drums. I just searched for bearing pressing and turned up a full-service machine shop about a mile from my house. I may drop in and have a conversation with him about pressing bearings in NordicTrack ski machine rollers.
simplified2 years ago
Hello Phil, and thanks so much for this great info! I just bought a 1992 Pro, and it seems to be in great shape but I'm already anticipating the time when those drive rollers will need work. Thanks for the info on Nordic Track Guy.

One of the things I noticed right away on this used Pro, is that the drive rollers were quite stiff on the forward stroke. One of them in particular was reluctant enough that the ski would squeak against it instead of being able to roll the drive wheel smoothly forward. (This reminded me of how you described your drive rollers starting to act up by not releasing predictably.) Since there are ring clamps on the drive shaft that exert sideways pressure on the rollers (to keep them in place), I loosened one ever-so-slightly to see if it would relieve that binding feeling as the roller spun forward. The problem immediately disappeared! I made sure that both rollers are still held in place, they cannot move side-to-side on the shaft at all, but the lateral pressure and slight binding caused by the ring clamp is gone. Both rollers now roll forward almost effortlessly but grab reliably on the backward stroke.

I do wonder, though, if that lateral pressure was intentional. These are not cup and cone bearings, as far as I can see from the illustration, so I can't think why they would need a certain degree of sideways pressure on them. Those flat washers on the sides seem to be designed to keep crud out, not to put specific pressure on the bearings. Since you've had a closer look at the innards of the drive wheels, what are your thoughts? I even wondered if maybe part of your problem's resolution was due to reassembling the drive shaft with less lateral pressure on the rollers.

Thanks again!
Phil B (author)  simplified2 years ago
Thank you for looking and for commenting. I hope you enjoy your "new" NordicTrack Pro.

I assume by a ring clamp you mean a collar with a set screw. I do not think I had the problem you describe. It is always possible the collar was not set right at the factory. I have seen that problem with other things before. The NordicTrack is a combination of steel and wood parts. Wood can change its tolerances with changes in humidity. If that happened, you could pick up drag on your rollers. Or, it may be possible that a previous owner tinkered with the position of the collars and did not get it right when he tightened the set screws. I am glad you solved your problem.

I thought it odd and pretentious for NordicTrack to talk about the patented one-way clutch used by the mechanical engineer who developed the NordicTrack when it is only a common one-way needle bearing. The NordicTrack ski machine is a clever solution to a need, but it is not more than it is.
Yes, that's it, the collar and set screw. Good point about the changeability of wood. And it sure could have been messed with in its 20 years of previous history, other parts were in disarray when I bought it for one dollar at a thrift store (the cord drum was upside down and the washers were missing, easily fixed). I noticed that the drive rollers have a "99" stamped into the side of the rubber, and wondered if that was a date? If so, these are replacements. But maybe the 99 doesn't mean anything. In any case, they seem smooth as silk now.

Thanks again for a very useful post and for all the help you've given to so many!
Phil B (author)  simplified2 years ago
I did not see numbers stamped on my rollers, so I am no help on the "99" stamped on your rollers.

I bought my NordicTrack in a store for second-hand sports equipment. I paid considerably more than you paid for yours, but it did come with some dated original literature. I even found a date of manufacture on a sticker. If I remember correctly, mine was made early in 1992.

I believe a lot of ski machines got very little use because the owners found them more difficult to use than they expected, or they found using the machines boring.
dmains2 years ago
Speaking of Nordic Track guy, does anyone know where/how to locate him? There are zero items listed on his EBay store and I cannot find a way to contact him. He has been a reliable source of parts and repairs for my Nordic Track over the years.
Phil B (author)  dmains2 years ago
He is at the link I gave above. I just tried it, and it works.
dmains Phil B2 years ago
The link takes me to his Ebay page, but when I go to his store, it tells me that there are zero items for sale. I see comments about from customers as recent as July 2012, but no items for sale. Maybe it is just me, but I am not finding anything on his store site.
He's got an active listing right now for the drive roller rebuild. Maybe he spaces out the listings so that he doesn't get too many orders at once?
Phil B (author)  dmains2 years ago
I scrolled down the page and there is contact information for him by means of a mailing address through the US Post Office with instructions for sending ski machine rollers to him for rebuilding. I would think you can get whatever you need through contacting him by mail.
k24tea2 years ago
Hi Phil, It seems that I probably won't need to rebuild my drive rollers after all. Upon closer inspection of my NordicTrack, I'm pretty sure that my problem is not with the drive rollers (at least not yet). I use my NT with the leg tension set rather high, and it appears that the tension strap is slipping on the flywheel, and the skis are slipping on the rollers. The strap is an easy fix: just remove it, turn it over to the unglazed side, and put it back on (or buy a replacement if needed). As for the skis slipping on the drive rollers, I might try waxing them with some good cross-country ski wax to give them a little "bite" on the rollers. If it doesn't help, the wax can be removed easily, and no harm done.

I'm still "on the fence" about rebuilding the drive rollers vs. sending them to Nordic Track Guy for rebuild. On the one hand, it would be rewarding to do it myself, but on the other hand, he can probably do the job and ship them back to me faster than I could get the parts. And I have a long history of wanting to take things apart just to see how they work, sometimes to their detriment. Either way, if you decide to do a full Instructable on this I'll be interested, whether or not I rebuild mine. You've taught me about one-way needle bearings, and I thank you for sharing your good information, instructions, and comments! kt
kelseymh2 years ago
Phil, this is awesome -- and your wonderfully DaVinci-esque drawing makes it complete :-) Please, oh please, find a way to make an I'ble out of this! Even if you have to borrow someone else's pictures of the machine :-)
Phil B (author)  kelseymh2 years ago

The DaVinci drawing is actually a photo I made of the factory manual's back cover. I cannot claim credit for the artwork, but it does have a DaVinci quality. I am torn between the time-honored principle, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." and a desire to open it up to see what is inside. There is the possibility that k24tea may repair his worn rollers and do an Instructable simultaneously. My machine is still working fine, and I am reticent to disturb it. Thank you for looking and for commenting.
kelseymh Phil B2 years ago
Really? ....I should have read all the details; you actually said that. Still, it's a much nicer picture than I would normally expect from an owner's manual :-)

I completely understand not wanting to open up something that is working properly. I've broken more than one item (including the first of my daughter's crib aquaria!) by doing that.
Phil B (author)  kelseymh2 years ago
Here are the full front and back of the manual for your enjoyment. I tried to eliminate glare, but got some anyway.
kelseymh Phil B2 years ago
:-D Thanks! Perhaps they're trying too hard?
k24tea2 years ago
THANK YOU for posting this information! I hope you'll make an Instructable for this. Meanwhile, I'd really like to try it now. The drive roller clutches have failed on my Nordic Track ski machine, and I would love to know how to rebuild them myself.

I can remove the drive rollers, but I don't know anything about one-way needle bearings. I'm handy with small tools and parts, so if you can please give me any further info on what to get and how to rebuild the clutches, I'm pretty sure I can do it. I agree, it may cost about the same to ship them off to Nordic Track Guy for rebuild, but the lost time on my beloved Nordic Track is priceless! Thank you for any assistance you can offer. kt
Phil B (author)  k24tea2 years ago
Thank you for looking at this and for your comment. We bought a used ski machine of about 1991 vintage. I looked closely at the drawing on the back of the manual. I did some searching on the 'Net about one-way clutches and found one-way needle bearings. That is the technical name for them. There are videos at YouTube in which adolescents involved with gasoline powered remote control race cars like a person buys at a hobby shop were replacing a one-way needle bearing on the starter. It takes the place of a Bendix in an automobile starter. It allows the starter to grab when it is revved up, but allows the shaft to turn freely when the starter shuts down. Any ball bearing shop should be able to get one-way needle bearings for you. From what I have seen on the Internet, prices run between $6 and $13 each, depending on the size. Some places have better prices than others. Grainger seemed to have very good prices. I do not know what shipping charges add to those prices. You can find their on-line catalog very easily.

The picture on the back of my NordicTrack owner's manual appears to show a bronze sleeve bearing on each side of the one-way needle bearing inside each roller. I would think the bronze sleeve bearings would slide out without too much difficulty. Then you would want a wrench socket that fits inside the roller housing without a lot of looseness, but slides smoothly. Place the roller on a couple of blocks and tap on the wrench socket to drive out the old one-way needle bearing. Drive in the new one-way needle bearing and slide the bronze rollers back into place. Do on lubricate the one-way needle bearings at all, or they will slip all of the time. Check to see which way the rubber roller should go back onto the shaft so it grabs when your foot pushes back and is free when you bring your foot forward with the ski. There is an arrow on the side of the one-way needle bearings to indicate which way they grab. Correcting a mistake should be a simple matter of sliding the rubber roller off of the flywheel shaft and rotating the roller a half turn end for end before putting it back onto the shaft.

If I were you, I would get out the Yellow Pages and find a bearing shop near where you live. Then I would call them and ask some questions. If you talked real nicely to them, they might even press the old bearing out and the new one in for you. Certainly a local machine shop would do that for a small fee.

If it goes well, you may do an Instructable on this before I do.
k24tea Phil B2 years ago
Hi Phil,
Wow! Thanks so much for this very helpful information and advice! I'll try to dig up my Nordic Track manual (haven't seen it for 20 years) and look for the drawings you describe., or I think I saw the manual available for download. There are a couple of places around here that might be able to help me get the bearings I need and maybe press them out/in for me or else show me how to do it. If I can find the right size bearings and can replace the old ones successfully, I'll send you an update with part numbers. Otherwise, you're right, the Nordic Track Guy can rebuild the drive rollers for me, but so much more rewarding to learn how to do it myself. Armed with the excellent instructions and advice you've provided, I think I can do it! If I do an Instructable on this, I'll be sure to credit you and link to your posting as the original contributor. Thanks again! kt
Phil B (author)  k24tea2 years ago
You have me wanting to dismantle my perfectly functional NordicTrack just to make sure I am not making an unwarranted assumption and giving you false information. If I do that I could take photos and make an Instructable fairly quickly, unless I ran into something that proved to be much more difficult than expected.

The manual that came with our used machine is nearly identical to those you download on-line, except that they do not have the cover with some artistically done cutaway drawings. One of those drawings showed a drive roller with about a quarter of the cylindrical shape removed to reveal three parts inside the core of the roller. The center one looks very much like a roller bearing, but would be a one-way needle bearing. The other two flanking it on each side are smooth and are likely oil impregnated bronze sleeve bearings.

I enjoy our NordicTrack, but must confess it has been very easy for me to get stopped from regular use after building up to a respectable number of minutes on it each week. I am looking forward to retirement soon when the demands of work will not leave me a fatigued during busy seasons and I can be regular with my exercise plans.
k24tea Phil B2 years ago
Thanks, Phil, the drawing helps a lot. I'm tempted to take a drive roller apart now, just to see how it works, and then if I can't find the parts or mess it up somehow I can still send them out to NordicTrackGuy to rebuild. But your description and instructions are so good that I'm confident I can do it (famous last words). And I'll learn something new, so it's all good.

Maybe after you retire from your current job, you can make more Instructables and/or teach your skills to folks like me who just "need to know" how things work. You clearly have a knack for describing and explaining.

I hope you'll find time soon to use your Nordic Track again. I know what you mean about fatigue during busy times, and sometimes it's hard to find time and energy for anything besides work. I've used mine pretty regularly for about 20 years, and I find that a NT workout with my favorite oldies music actually increases my energy and elevates my mood for the rest of the day. My plan is to stay strong so I can have the energy to do what I want to do! Thanks again, Phil, for helping me stay "on track".
Phil B (author)  k24tea2 years ago
Thanks. I am sure the one-way needle bearing clutch will have a pressed fit that requires pressure to drive it out. I cannot say for certain about the bronze sleeve bearings on both sides of it. I would think they only slip in and out without a pressed fit, but I could easily be wrong. They may require being pressed in and out, too.

My wife was the one who wanted a NordicTrack. Now she does not use it, but I do. A few weeks ago I was using it regularly and was up to about 20 minutes a day most days a week. About that time I had to change the oil in my car. That means a lot of getting up and down on the garage floor. I was surprised at how my time on the NordicTrack made getting up and down so much easier that my increased strength made me feel like I was a good 20 years younger. A little NordicTrack time makes me want more.

NordicTrack ski machines vary a little. Ours was the most basic model at the time it was made. I have made little modifications. I did an Instructable on adding removable wheels so I can easily move it from one part of the house to another, even up and down steps. I also welded on some guides for the arm cord so the cord cannot so easily wrap over itself and make a snapping noise when the drum is turning back and forth. I have not documented that, yet. I also made a tray to go on the arm with the abdomen cushion so I can rest a CD disc player on it, but I have not documented that, either. Some of the higher grade NordicTrack units already come with solutions to those problems.
k24tea Phil B2 years ago
Thanks, Phil. I think I need to take my drive rollers out now, just to see inside them! An interesting rainy-day project, and if I can't repair them after all, then they will be sent on their way to the Nordic Track Guy. I've learned about one-way needle bearings, I'll get a little hands-on experience with something I've never seen before, and my machine will get fixed either way.

I saw your Instructable the other day for adding the wheels, and I thought it was a really good modification. The little wheels they come with are only good for shifting them a short distance. I can't imagine moving my Nordic Track up and down stairs more than once a year, or preferably less!

I'd like to see how you did your arm cord guides. The arm cord on mine snaps and flays about, and it sometimes flips over the top and needs to be re-wrapped around the drum, so I need to make something to keep it in place. I don't have your welding skills or equipment, so I'll probably make some guides with sturdy wire instead. Or my arm cord may just need replacing after 20 years of use. I read somewhere that a new cord is stiff, and mine is quite flexible, almost like a jump-rope. I've only done minimal maintenance on my Nordic Track until now, so it's probably time to replace a few parts to keep it going strong.

Over the years I've added just a few little conveniences. First thing, I mounted a small fan on top of the post. A long time ago I bought a combination book/music player/water bottle holder that mounted on top of the upright post, but it was brittle plastic and broke apart, so now I'm working on a little metal rack for mp3 player and water bottle to hang on the back of the hip pad. Sometimes making things for my "toys" is as much fun as the toys themselves!

I know what you mean about how good it feels to be in shape just to do ordinary activities more easily. I keep going on my Nordic Track in the hope that I'll keep my strength and mobility as I age. It's easy on creaky joints but still gives a great workout even when I'm not good for doing much else that day. I've tried several different ellipticals and treadmills, but I find my Nordic Track works just as well and is much kinder to my knees and hips.

Something I've found out about the various models is that most of the differences aren't terribly important to the practical functioning of the machine. There are different woods, and some are composites instead, and some have adjustable front legs for incline skiing. Some come with electronic pulse monitors and timer/calorie/distance meters. Some have a cable and turn-knob for adjusting leg tension instead of a simpler sliding lever connected directly to the spring and strap. Thus, some require different replacement parts than others. But all the original (pre-1999, US made) ones seem to be essentially the same as far as practical function and durability. I have the Achiever model; my sister has the Excel, and a friend has the Sequoia. They look a little different and the leg tension adjustment methods vary, but I can't feel any difference when I use one or the other of them. I think the most basic model is just as good and durable as the fancier high-end ones, and probably is easier to maintain and repair. No matter which model you have, you've got a great exercise machine!

So here's to you, Phil, for your excellent advice and instructions. I'll be reading your other Instructables, too.  Stay motivated, and keep on Tracking!  kt
Phil B (author)  k24tea2 years ago
Our NordicTrack does not have even the rollers on the rear end of some models. Going up and down stairs using the wheels I put onto ours is fairly easy.

Attached is a photo of how I did the arm cord guides. The black guard was already in place. Some models have different ways of routing the cord near the drum, including rollers. I bent some 1/4 inch steel rod and welded two pieces in place. I noticed the left cord tends to wrap around the bottom half of the drum while the right side wraps around the upper half. I expect the rubbing of the cord on even smooth steel may accelerate wear, but I have not noticed any yet. I still need to cut the pieces of rod and grind their ends round to make them better looking.

I was at Lowe's (I assume you live in the USA.) and saw some similar cord in green or purple that was only slightly smaller in diameter. I will use it when I need to replace my cord.

I have long thought the working parts of the different models are too similar for further comment. As for elevating the front end I have always thought I could just slip a 2 x 4 or two under the front feet when I am ready.

I would be interested in seeing photos of your modifications.

I am now 66. Regular exercise helps keep a person from waking at weird hours during the night. The human body produces less essential hormones with age, too. Exercise helps with that, too.

Thanks for your comments.