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Bowling Lane Oil Facts

Let’s take a look at some bowling lane oil facts courtesy of our research. There are likely several bits of information about lane oil which are interesting to examine regarding the properties of lane oil and the tendencies of oil to move on the lane surface.

Understanding a few bowling lane oil facts can be useful for the bowler seeking more knowledge about the game.

Today's lane conditioning products have numerous additives, varying viscosity, different levels of surface tension, and many other components designed to hold up as long as possible before breaking down and to stave off exaggerated carry down.

Solvent based conditioners were developed and used primarily during the rubber and plastic bowling ball era. The basic idea was that solvents would be added to the mineral oil base which would help break down dirt and aid in the lane cleaning process.

100% solid conditioners were simply a progression to having no solvents in the formula. This was brought on by the urethane bowling ball era and technically can be used to define most lane conditioners in production today. Mineral oil is the main substance used in today’s lane conditioners and accounts for about 98% of most formulas.

These high performance conditioners are necessary in bowling centers to help combat the aggressive bowling balls. The ultimate goal of these products is to minimize change in bowling ball reaction and maximize the oil application consistency.

In addition to mineral oil in today’s lane conditioners, other additives are items such as friction modifiers and lubricity agents.

Viscosity is the measurement of the internal friction of a fluid. This friction becomes apparent when a layer of a fluid is made to move in relation to another. The greater the friction, the greater amount of force required to cause the movement. Highly viscous fluids therefore, require more force to move than less viscous materials.

There is more resistance to the bowling ball when the oil viscosity is higher which causes the ball to slow down and hook a little bit earlier. Lower viscosity is slicker than high viscosity oil but high viscosity is more durable.
Lower viscosity conditioners flow very consistently through the wicks of the oil machines. Lower viscosity conditioners also tend to create more effective carry down.

The components added to a lane conditioner formula are intended to enhance performance and to create desirable changes to the physical properties. Ideal lane oil should be slick, but not too slick because of spinning-ball calls.
Today’s oil products are durable, but some breakdown will occur for the lanes to open up. All liquid moves so all lane oils carry down the lane.

However, different additives are used to minimize the carry down which means that some conditioners use a tacky mineral oil so the ball reaction doesn't change much when oil is carried down.

Two factors cause lane oil conditions to change, oil carry-down and oil break-down. In the modern sport of bowling given 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 and regardless of which lane conditioner is used, 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.

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.

As a player, 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 conditions and test all of the available variables in real time.

Understanding some of the properties of lane oil conditioner and how it carries down and breaks down after many games of play will certainly go a long way in helping you improve your game.

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. To compound the challenge for all players is the oil conditioner used on given oil patterns. Depending on the oil pattern, angle adjustment systems will also 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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