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Bowling Oil Breakdown

Understanding that lane oil breaks down and angle adjustments, among other potential adjustments, are necessary to restore your ability to hit the pocket consistently is an important step toward improving your game.

If you are averaging 160 or more and are working to improve your game, increasing your percentage of pocket hits and improving your ratio of spare conversions are keys to gaining the progress you seek.

Once you develop a sound system of strike line adjustments, understanding what bowling lane oil breakdown is will further help you recognize when to implement an adjustment. Adjustments are needed when the lanes change, whether the adjustment you choose is a bowling ball change, a change in ball speed or loft distance, or a release change.

One key factor in changing lane conditions is oil breakdown.

The use of high technology bowling ball coverstocks is the chief reason for oil breakdown. Every time a bowling ball is delivered, the lane condition effectively changes.

Regardless of which oil pattern is put down at your local bowling center, your bowling ball picks up and retains oil in the pores of the coverstock and literally removes the oil applied to the lane surface.

Some of the oil is carried down to the back end of the lane some is retained in the coverstock of your bowling ball.

In the case of a highly textured, solid coverstock bowling ball, say textured to a 500 or a 1000 grit finish, the pores in the ball surface will capture and retain oil as the ball rolls through the heaviest concentrated area of lane oil.

Once this ball passes the final distance of oil application, the oil retained in the coverstock can never be replaced. Strips of oil will remain on the dry back end of the lane as the ball passes through the area. These strips of oil are commonly referred to as carrydown.

A bowling ball with a low surface porosity such as a pearl coverstock, finished to 2000 grit or greater, will retain less oil in the pores of the ball than does a solid and porous coverstock when passing through the same heavy oil area of a given lane.


The pearl coverstock will remove less oil from the lane surface, but will still change the volume of oil remaining on the front end of the lane and will add to the carrydown effect on the back end.

As oil moves down the lane and as oil is retained in the coverstock of your bowling ball, less volume of oil remains on the front end. The oil separates open when the ball passes through, and then closes after the ball passes until such a time when the breakdown in lubricity occurs and the oil no longer is able to close. At this point, a high friction portion of the lane surface is exposed.

In the end, all lane oil will breakdown and the net effect for you as a bowler is to make adjustments to compensate for the loss of oil on key areas of the lane surface.

If you are having problems with dry lanes after the oil has broken down, consult with an experienced bowling instructor to discuss your options in making needed adjustments so you can maintain a high level of performance.