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Bowling Lane Oil Carry Down And Break Down


Understanding bowling lane oil carry down and break down is a big step for everyone regardless of experience or skill level for increasing the ability to hit the pocket with greater consistency and converting your spares using a sound system of lane adjustments. The goal of all competitive bowlers is to find an initial alignment which allows hitting the pocket consistently. To maximize your percentage of bowling ball deliveries hitting the pocket during your entire session on the lanes, knowledge of bowling lane oil carry down and break down will assist you in determining the amount of alignment adjustment needed to continue hitting the pocket at a high degree of regularity.

Typically, most bowling centers use a lane oiling procedure which creates the highest volume of oil conditioner located between the 2nd arrow on the right of the lane and the 2nd arrow on the left side of the lane with a build up of oil toward the middle of the lane, certainly for league or tournament play. Also, the heaviest volume of oil is located from the foul line where the bowling ball first contacts the lane surface down the lane to approximately 20 feet distance past the foul line. Of course, each bowling center has its own oiling procedures, but in many cases, the 2nd arrow is a good place for initial alignment to the pocket.

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Depending on your release technique, targeting the 2nd arrow is the logical place to begin your deliveries while warming up for a session on the lanes. Place your sliding bowling shoe instep to cover the 20 board, the center board on the lane approach, and target the 2nd arrow, the 10 board on the lane near the bowling guides about 15 feet distance past the foul line. This initial alignment works typically best for players rolling a modest hook. Power players may have to use a wider angle from the release point to the target at the arrows. Straight ball players in turn would use a more direct angle from release point to the target on the lane.

Two factors cause lane oil conditions to change, oil carry-down and oil break-down. Dealing with and adjusting to bowling lane oil carry-down and break-down is made easier if you understand more about how each 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. In reality, however, we must examine what occurs during each session on the lanes to cause the lanes to change.

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. Whatever oil pattern is put down at your local bowling center, 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 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, the 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 from the foul line but shows only as 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 on the mid-lane and with the oil being retained in the coverstock of your bowling ball which, in turn, 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. 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.

As oil moves down the lane and as oil is retained in the coverstock of your bowling ball by traveling through heavy concentrations of oil, 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 as a result of the bowling ball passing through a given area on the lane over and over again, the oil repeatedly separates and then closes until such a time when the break-down in lubricity occurs.

The cross lane ratio and down lane ratio of oil on the lane surface, therefore, also changes. Oil break-down 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.

It can be said, therefore, that the four factors most affecting ball motion changes resulting from oil carry-down and oil break-down are the volume of oil applied to the 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 porosity and surface traction generated by bowling balls. Of course, there are several lane adjustments such as ball speed changes, changing bowling balls, changing release techniques by varying the rev-rate or axis tilt of a given delivery which may be needed to compensate for changing conditions.

What can become tricky is when a variety of coverstock bowling balls are delivered on the same lane from a variety of delivery angles. As example, handicap leagues with sprinklings of low and mid average bowlers often use many angles of delivery and a wide variety of bowling ball coverstocks. The carrydown streaks of oil, if inspected after the league 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 a scratch league with high average players, as example, on the same oil pattern inspected after the completion of the league play. The break-down of oil on the front end of the lanes after a session is completed is also evident.

In fact, often times on short or mid oil pattern distance applications, the carry-down will concentrate in an area which actually helps the high average player. 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 knowledgeable players.


It is difficult to improve your performance playing the lanes after oil carry-down and break-down has occurred if you do not practice on a carry-down/break-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 decisions during competition, adjustments you can trust. We hope this helps.

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