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Changing Lane Oil Conditions

As you progress in the game from a beginner bowler to one with certain skills and with an ability to average in the 150-160 range, then it is important to understand a little about oil patterns and changing lane oil conditions.

The two most critical changes you will observe in lane oil conditions are known as “breakdown” and “carrydown.”

Knowing that a breakdown of the lane oil will occur after several games of bowling will alert you in advance that some type of adjustment will be needed after you have initially lined up to hit the pocket.

The objective of any skilled bowler is to hit the pocket consistently and then make adjustments as lane conditions change.

The use of high technology bowling ball coverstocks is largely 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 while also dragging some oil onto the dry back ends of the lanes.

Once the ball passes the final distance of oil application, the oil retained in the coverstock can never be replaced.

As oil is retained in the coverstock, less volume of oil remains on the front end of the lane.

This loss of oil cannot be replaced until the lane machine re-applies oil during routine maintenance.

One property of this lane oil is that it separates open 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 and the oil will have been completely broken down.


Oil carrydown is the other reason lane conditions change. As oil remains on the surface of your bowling ball, the ball will leave thin strips of oil conditioner on the dry back end of the lane.

Each delivery will cause more oil strips to appear on the back end of the lane across the lane surface where bowling balls have been delivered.

The oil strips are commonly referred to as carrydown.

In the end, all lane oil will breakdown with a carrydown effect following.

When the lane conditions change, your ability to see the same ball reaction when trying to hit the pocket diminishes and you must then make adjustments.

The same holds true for routine spare shooting.

If you are unclear as to how to adjust to changing lanes, then it is recommended to use the services of an experienced bowling instructor to help you develop an alignment and adjustments system where you bowl.