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Needle Wheel

Project:  Changing The Needle Wheel On A Reeflo Dart Gold pump

Even before I started using my skimmers, I decided to upgrade the needle wheels to the custom version that Mike Leonard ( had designed especially for the Dart Gold pumps. Note that Reeflo calls a Dart pump that has a needle wheel mounted an Orca - it's the same pump - just has a needle wheel instead of a normal impeller. Browsing the forums on Reef Central, I had heard glowing reports of a considerable increase in air injection using the new wheel.

To give you an idea of why the newer design is an improvement, this is the stock needle wheel:

Old Needle Wheel

And this is the custom needle wheel:

New Needle Wheel

Notice that the needles on the new wheel are longer and they increase in diameter from the inside of the wheel to the outer edge.

Changing needle wheels (or normal impellers, for that matter) on the Dart Gold is not difficult, but there are a few particular steps that must be followed. For that reason, I thought I'd put together a little step-by-step guide:

  1. remove the front of the pump head (volute) from the motor by removing the six stainless steel bolts that hold the volute to the back of the pump housing

    Removing Pump Head

    This is what you'll find inside:

    Old Needle Wheel

  2. The needle wheel is mounted on the pump using a "long" bolt that runs axially through the center of the motor. It's exit, at the back of the motor, is evidenced with a fairly beefy head with slit:

    Back Of Pump

    To remove the old needle wheel - grip it with one hand and, using a good sized flathead screwdriver, turn the bolt in a counter-clockwise direction until its loose. Then just spin it off:

    Removing Bolt


    Old Needle Wheel Removd

  3. At the center of the old needle wheel, you'll find a white ceramic bushing. It must be removed as it will be used for the new needle wheel:

    Ceramic Bushing

    The bushing must be removed carefully so that it doesn't chip or crack - also, the bushing has a black rubber grommet around it - be careful not to damage it. That said, removal of the bushing is simple. Just use a little care.  Using a pair of needle nose pliers, grasp the bushing at its edge with the pliers vertical to the face of the NW. Gently rock back and forth while keeping a little pressure on the bushing with the pliers. The bushing will loosen and can then be removed:

    Bushing Removed

  4. Once you have removed the bushing place the bushing in the new needle wheel and carefully press it down into the recess with your thumbs. Make sure the bushing is seated all the way into the recess - you can feel when this happens:

    Ceramic Washer

    Take a little silicone grease a smear it on the face of the bushing:

    Putting On Grease

    You can get silicone grease from most hardware stores. Mine came from Ace Hardware:

    Silicone Grease

  5. Replace the long bolt into the pump through the back. Now, place the needle wheel on the bolt and tighten using a flathead screwdriver. Don't make it too tight - and this is very important - tighten just until the bushing makes contact with the flat part of the seal washer that pushes on the mounting spring (which you can see, by looking from the side, behind the wheel). When it touches, tighten it 3/4 turn more.

    New Wheel Installed

  6. All that's left is to remount the front pump housing using the 6 bolts you removed in the first step. Then you'll be good to go ...



Kamren says...
That's going to make things a lot esiaer from here on out.
13th January 2012 1:36am
dean hauser says...
where can I find this after market needle wheel?
GlassReef: I got them from Mike Leonard at
10th January 2011 8:59pm

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