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What is Bowling Lane Oil Breakdown

Understanding what is bowling lane oil break down is a big step for anyone averaging 160 or more wishing to increase their abilities to hit the pocket with greater consistency and to improving spare conversions. Once you develop a sound system of strike line adjustments, understanding what is bowling lane oil breakdown will further help you recognize when to implement an adjustment.

One key factor causing lane oil conditions to change is oil breakdown. Dealing with and adjusting to bowling lane oil breakdown is made easier if you understand when breakdown occurs and why. In an ideal world, lane conditions would not change and you would never have to adjust your initial alignment once you are able to hit the pocket consistently. Examining what occurs during each session on the lanes regarding the changes to the oil pattern as bowling balls are delivered repeatedly will help you learn about the oil breakdown tendencies which cause the lanes to change.

The use of high technology bowling ball coverstocks is one important key to oil breakdown. Every time a bowling ball is delivered, the lane condition changes. Regardless of the 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 perhaps a 500 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 on the portion of lane surface where it has been removed.

A bowling ball with a low surface porosity such as a stiff, pearl coverstock finished to perhaps 2000 grit or greater will retain less oil in the pores of the ball than does the solid and porous coverstock bowling ball when passing through the same heavy oil areas of a given lane. The pearl coverstock will remove less oil from the lane surface but, nevertheless, will change the volume of oil remaining on the front end of the lane.

As oil moves down the lane and as oil is retained in the coverstock of your bowling ball, less volume of oil remains on given boards of the lane surface than when the lanes were first conditioned. As oil moves on the surface of the lane, the oil repeatedly separates open and then closes until such a time when the breakdown in lubricity occurs and the oil no longer is able to close thereby leaving a high friction portion of the lane surface exposed.

The cross lane ratio and down lane ratio of oil application on the lane surface, therefore, also changes. Oil breakdown in given areas on the lane surface will be evident when your bowling ball passes through the given area and because of an increase in surface friction with a lesser amount of oil, your ball will begin to hook sooner than when you began your session on the lanes. An angle adjustment toward a higher concentration of oil is usually the first type of adjustment required to restore ball skid.

The three factors most affecting ball motion changes resulting from oil breakdown are the reduction in the volume of oil on the lane oil pattern, the number of deliveries made on a given lane in a given period of time across a given angle of delivery, and the coverstock porosity and surface traction generated by bowling balls. Other types of lane adjustments such as ball speed changes, changing bowling balls, and changing release techniques varying the rev-rate or axis tilt of a given delivery are ways to continue to hit the pocket depending on the severity of the oil breakdown.

The greater number of deliveries on a given freshly oil lane causes oil breakdown to occur more rapidly than fewer ball deliveries. In the cases of league play, oil breakdown occurs in perhaps less than one full game of team bowling. By the end of the league session, the breakdown will be extremely noticeable and by that time, skilled bowlers will have adjusted alignment one or more times or perhaps changed bowling balls to adjust for the altered volume of oil on the front end of the lane and the increased surface friction resulting from the oil breakdown.

Often times on short or mid oil pattern distance applications, the oil carrydown will concentrate in an area which actually helps the higher skilled players by achieving "carrydown hold area" on the back end of the lane to help guide the ball ball toward the pocket. When oil carrydown occurs, it is assured that oil breakdown has also occurred and an adjustment from your initial alignment will likely be required.


It is difficult to improve your performance playing the lanes after oil breakdown has occurred if you do not practice on this condition to test all of the available variables in real time. Remember, adjustments vary from player to player based on ball speed, rev-rate, axis tilt, the bowling ball coverstock, the drilling layout pattern in use, and the accuracy of a given player. Depending on the oil pattern, angle adjustments systems will vary. Practice on lane conditions both where the oil breakdown is in transition and after the transition is complete to help you make reliable adjustments during competition.

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