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What Is Bowling Lane Oil Carrydown

If your bowling average is 180 or less and you are trying to learn about changing lane conditions, then it is important to understand what is bowling lane oil carrydown. A big step in increasing your ability to hit the pocket with greater consistency and improving spare shooting is knowing what is bowling lane oil carrydown.

Dealing with the challenges of lane oil carrydown is made easier if you understand oil carrydown properties. Ideally, lane conditions would never change and you would never have to adjust your initial alignment once you are able to hit the pocket consistently. We all know that is not ever going to happen, so we must examine what occurs during each session on the lanes.

With the use of high technology bowling ball coverstocks, we must take into consideration that every time a bowling ball is delivered, the lane condition changes. On any oil pattern, the length of oil carry-down extends beyond the final distance the oil pattern is applied to the lane surface. Every time a ball is thrown, it picks up oil and carries it down to the drier part of the lane.

If, for example, an oil pattern distance is oiled to perhaps 32 feet distance and buffed to 40 feet before the dry, high friction portion of the back end of the lane comes into play, the oil carry-down may stretch an additional 5-7 feet to a total of about 45 - 47 feet distance from the foul line. A close examination of the lane surface will reveal streaks or stripes of oil. These oil streaks or stripes are developed from the ball passing through the heaviest concentrations of oil on the front end and in the mid-lane which literally streaks the oil onto the dry portion of the back end of the lane as the ball travels on its path to the pins.

Carry-down streaks of oil are not always consistent in width nor the same length of streaks. 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 will leave the widest possible streak on the lane because of the amount of oil retained in the ball surface due to porosity of the ball and because of the "wide footprint" a solid, pliable coverstock material develops while in contact with the lane surface.

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 as well as generating less surface friction. The pearl coverstock will develop a "narrow footprint" when traveling down the lane surface and the corresponding stripe of carrydown oil will be narrow with slightly less volume of oil than the stripe produced by a porous coverstock ball.

It can be said that the factors most affecting ball motion changes resulting from oil carry-down are the volume of oil application on the front portion of the lane surface, the distance of the lane oil pattern, the number of deliveries made on a given lane in a given period of time, and the coverstock generated by bowling balls delivered on the given lane.

There are several adjustments which can be effectively used when oil carrydown occurs. Adjusting your ball speed slightly, changing bowling balls, changing release techniques varying the rev-rate or axis tilt of a given delivery, and changes of delivery angles are the most common adjustments, particularly when you are competing in an event requiring moving from a pair of lanes to another pair.

When a variety of coverstock bowling balls are delivered on the same lane from a variety of delivery angles, the carrydown streaks of oil, if inspected after the given competition is completed, will show streaks of oil in more locations and at varying distances of streaking on the back end of the given lanes than will lanes you alone are practicing on with the same oil pattern.

In fact, often times on short or mid oil pattern distance applications, the carry-down will concentrate in an area which actually helps players hold a line to the pocket. A high number of ball deliveries in the same portion of the lane will achieve "carry-down hold area" on the back end to help hold the bowling ball in the pocket. This effect is lessened somewhat on long distance oil patterns but still remains a factor for players recognizing such oil carrydown tendencies.


It is difficult to improve your performance playing the lanes after oil carry-down occurs if you do not practice on a carry-down condition and 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 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 with the oil carry-down in transition and after the transition is complete will help you make good adjustments during competition, adjustments you can trust. We hope this helps.

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