Modeling and identification of mechanical systems constitute an essential stage in practical control design and applications. Controllers commanding systems that operate at varying conditions or require high precision operation raise the need for a nonlinear approach in modeling and identification. Most mechanical systems used in industry are composed of masses moving under the action of position and velocity dependent forces. These forces exhibit nonlinear behavior in certain regions of operation. For a multi-mass rotational system, the nonlinearities, like Coulomb friction and dead zone, significantly influence the system operation when the rotation changes direction. The paper presents nonlinear modeling and identification of a DC motor rotating in two directions together with real time experiments. Linear and nonlinear models for the system are obtained for identification purposes, and the major nonlinearities in the system, such as Coulomb friction and dead zone, are investigated and integrated in the nonlinear model. The Hammerstein nonlinear system approach is used for identification of the nonlinear system model. Online identification of the linear and nonlinear system models is performed using the recursive least squares method. Results of the real time experiments are graphically and numerically presented, and the advantages of the nonlinear identification approach are revealed. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.