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Rebuilding NordicTrack ski machine drive rollers Answered

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.


Hello, my name is Jerry Simpson. The profile picture is my wife. I have been wanting to write you for a long time. Just want to comment on how to fix the dry rollers using theThomson linearRace shafting (60 case harden)

Phil, please bear with me as I try to explain how I solved my dry roller problem. Did the things you suggested on cleaning the one way clutch bearing. I lubricated it with fluid film rust and corrosion protection (made out of lanolin wool). It's been around since 1943. Next I look at the shaft and could see we're the bearing came in contact with it. I replaced the shaft with Thomson shafting and made some spacers out of a treadmill mate for the side boards to make up for about 3/16" added length of the new shaft. Put it back together and no more (hick up). Works great now. Thank you and I am very glad your out there solving problems.

Jerry Simpson

Thank you for your comment. I am glad what you tried worked. We all learn from each other.

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.

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??

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.

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 :)

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.

To clarify, I lost 2 pounds a week riding 100 miles a week on a bicycle. And, the studies at the University of Cologne were the basis for the article in the German fitness magazine. The studies were commissioned by Selle Royale, a maker of bicycle saddles.

also I was going to ask what is the best type wax to wax the ski boards? I have not ever waxed the "ski's" before. thanks

I can only guess. I expect anything you would use on furniture, if you are talking about the finish. The outside edge of the skis is supposed to be ru bed with a block of parafin to lubricate against the nylon rubbing pads on the inside of the sideboards.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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,

I just got to this project. All set! So far, so good. You were right on the money. Thank you so much! 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.

Hi Phil,

Thank you for your response. I have read a few of your other responses and you seem like you know what you are talking about. I'm stuck on the word 'stuck. (see what I did there!) it's not stuck but moving too freely and not showing any resistance. I took the ski off and the driver (I got that from another posting so I hope that it's accurate) wheel just spins and doesn't turn the big wheel in the center. That being the case do you still recommend that I flush according to your instructions on the other posting? This NT has very few miles on it (the varnish is immaculate and the handles still have that brand new shine) for that I am certain. I'll do it, if you'll clarify, but I'm nervous about it. Thank you.

Ok, I get it. I'll try it...after I read your instructions in detail in the morning. You're a great help.

Thank you,

Annie (My name is already taken on the site.)

Annie, I always keep some Liquid Wrench in my workshop for loosening a nut rusted on a bolt. (I have had the same small can for about 40 years.) Anything that is very thin in consistency and floats metallic dust out of the bearings without leaving an oily residue and dries in the air will work. I have not tried WD-40 and do not remember if anyone else here had. I recently went looking for Liquid Wrench in our local hardware store, but did not find it. An auto parts store may be a place to look. (Liquid Wrench now makes other products to do a different job, too, so, those are not the same.) WD-40 was originally made to disperse water from electronics. It is really not designed to be a lubricant, although people use it that way. Liquid Wrench worked well for me.

The needles in the bearings in the skier rollers are each on a ramp. When the skis drive the rollers in one direction, the needles move down the ramp and grab the shaft that drives the flywheel. When the skis are dragged in the other direction, the rollers move up their ramps and the roller spins free on the shaft. I am sure the needles in your bearing are stuck in the no-grab position so that the roller moves freely in both directions. If you are interested, I included a link to a description of how one-way needle bearings work. They are used in various applications, including a starter shaft on RC race cars. An electric motor is pressed to the shaft on the car engine. The one-way bearing locks and the shaft turns to crank the engine. When the engine fires it begins to turn faster than the starter motor. The one-way bearing slips and the starter motor is disengaged. In the case of a skier, the bearings grab on the push stroke and are free on the pull forward stroke.

I read this thread with great interest. I have an old Achiever model that has been in the basement for years. I cleaned it up and with one exception it seems to work OK. The idler rollers roll free, and the drive rollers seem not to slip. However, the left drive roller makes a little squeak after the back stroke ends and the forward stroke begins. I had been told that putting a small bit of wheel bearing grease on the bronze bushings might help, but I'm not sure of where to put the grease and how much. It seems that if I put a bit of grease even on one spot inside the bronze sleeves that when I put the roller back on the axle it will smear the grease into the needle bearing in the center. Any thoughts?

Thank you, Phil, for the reply. Before doing any lubricating I decided to switch the right and left drive rollers with their 4 washers to the other sides. Although my secret hope to have the squeak disappear was disappointed, I did manage to have the squeak move to the right side, along with what had been the left roller. So I guess that the squeak is caused by that roller, and not the axle or axle bearings.

Tomorrow I'll try the lube. I was told by the guy at NordicParts to use a minimal amount of bearing grease inside the bushing in the drive roller, so I'll try what he recommended. If it doesn't work I'll then try flushing the needle bearing and using the ATF or Tri-flo.


Moving the rollers to opposite sides was a good way to identify the source of the squeak. I wish I had thought of it. It sounds like you are on your way to resolving the problem. Thank y for the report.

Today I put some ugly brown wheel bearing grease, very lightly, into the bronze bushings. So far, the squeak is gone and the grease seems not to have migrated to the needle bearings. Hope it stays that way!

Congratulations on your progress with the squeak. Engineers have brought us many technological marvels. All of the principles involved in making those possible were discovered by trial and error. If it works as hoped, all is good.

Dear Walter,

Welcome to Instructables.

If you have ever worked on your own car, you know it is not always easy to know for certain exactly where a sound originates. Your analysis my be entirely correct. The manual for my machine also recommends regularly rubbing paraffin on the inside of the wooden frame where the nylon rub pads wear against the skis. But, I do not think a lack of ubrication there would cause the noise you describe.

Although some commentators objected to my suggestion of flushing fine metallic dust from the one-way needle bearings inside the drive rollers, I did that quite some time back and have gotten quite a bit of use from the skier since. I have had no problems.

As concerns lubrication, many lubricants will cause the one-way roller bearings to slip. Some have mentioned a special lubricant made for NordicTrack. I know nothing about it. But, some posts elsewhere on the Internet recommend Tri-Flo lubricant for One-way needle bearings. Someone else recommended ATF transmission fluid for them. I put a little ATF transmission fluid on the end of my little finger and rubbed it on the roller bearings between the bronze bearings. My skier works exactly as it should. Someone else below mentioned the bronze bearings are alleged to be oil impregnated so that the bronze bearings are self-lubricating.

I would be hesitant to use white grease lest some of it would migrate to the one-way needle bearings and cause them to slip. If they did, you could always flush the needle bearings with Liquid Wrench and let them air dry thoroughly to get you back where you were.

I hope this helps. The situation is not like those old movies about the guy disarming the bomb and he is torn between cutting the red wire or the blue wire, knowing the wrong one will cause the bomb to explode. If your rollers slip after using Tri-Flo or ATF transmission fluid, you can flush them and try again.


2 years ago


Thank you for the informative instructions on the rollers and bearings. Our model Achiever was purchased new in 1989. What I have found very helpful for lubrication (after flushing the bushings, bearings and cleaning the shafts) is a product used for garage doors rollers and hinges called: Blaster Garage Door Lubricant. It works quite well and can easily be found for purchase. On the rubber rollers I use an automotive detailing product called: Ultima Tire & Trim Guard+ (this product is a bit pricey as it is a polymer coating, but you can use it on your vehicles with excellent results).

Thank you. We all benefit from each other's experiences.


I just want to thank you for your advice. I am the original owner of a 1970s-era wooden NordicTrack Pro whose right-hand drive roller just started slipping. These drive rollers are a replacement that I bought in November 2008 from nordicparts to replace the original NordicTrack drive rollers when they started slipping in 2008. Instead of buying new drive rollers or rebuilding mine, I did your clean-out technique. I soaked the internal bearing with WD-40, let it sit, then cleaned out with tissue or paper towel. I did this several times, using a toothbrush during one cleaning. I had no metal powder but I did have a red-brown color that came out on the paper towels. Reassembled the skier and it seems to be working fine again! Thanks.

Thank you for the report. I am glad your rollers are working again. What you describe sounds like a dried lubricant or maybe rust, if the rollers were "new old stock." A year is a short time before difficulties arise. Welcome to Instructables.

Well, I thought my NordicTrack Pro was a 1970s-era machine, but my wife corrects me: it was the 1980s. So my original drive rollers lasted until November 2008, and the nordicparts replacement, which was new parts, lasted a little over 7 years. I guess those original rollers were really high quality! I wonder what the expected life of these drive rollers is.