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Bowling Lane Oil Viscosity

Understanding key facts about bowling lane oil can be useful for any bowler. Like any science, there are facts which are more important than others. This is the case with lane oil.

The number one focus with lane oil we bowlers must contend with is oil viscosity. Viscosity is the measurement of the internal friction of a fluid.

This friction becomes apparent when a layer of a fluid is made to move in relation to another. The greater the friction, the greater amount of force required to cause the movement.

Highly viscous fluids therefore, require more force to move than less viscous materials.

There is more resistance to the bowling ball when the lane maintenance team uses a high viscosity oil. High viscosity oil causes the ball to slow down and hook a little bit earlier compared to using a lower viscosity oil.

Lower viscosity oil is slicker than high viscosity oil. High viscosity oil is more durable than slicker oil.

Lower viscosity conditioners flow very consistently through the wicks of the oil machines and tend to create more effective carry down.

Since all liquid moves, all lane oils carry down the lane and change the bowling condition.

Two factors cause lane oil conditions to change, oil carrydown and oil breakdown.

Every time a bowling ball is delivered, the lane condition changes. Whatever oil pattern is in use regardless of which lane conditioner is used, the length of bowling lane oil carry-down extends beyond the final distance the oil pattern is applied to the lane surface.

Every time a bowling ball is thrown, it picks up oil and carries it down to the drier part of the lane.


As oil moves on the surface of the lane, as a result of the bowling ball passing through a given area on the lane repeatedly, the oil applied to the front end of the lane separates and closes after the ball passes through until such a time when the break-down in lubricity occurs.

This process causes the breakdown characteristic we see when our bowling ball begins to hook sooner than before oil breakdown occurred.

Remember, adjustments for oil carrydown and breakdown vary from player to player based on a given ball speed, rev-rate, axis tilt, the bowling ball coverstock, the ball drilling layout in use, and the accuracy of a given player.

It is advised that you practice when the oil carry-down is in transition and after the transition is complete. By doing so, you will learn to make effective adjustments and ones you can rely on during competition.