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Bowling Lane Oil Information

By:, Originally Posted: 10/4/16; Updated: 1/15/2022

It can never hurt you as an experienced bowler to have a little bowling lane oil information.

Today's lane conditioning products are more scientifically developed than oils used decades ago.

Oil today is said to use numerous additives. Today’s oils are found available with varying viscosity, with different levels of surface tension, and other components.

The purpose is to have the oil hold up as long as possible before breaking down and to reduce carry down.

Oils used years ago were generally solvent based conditioners. They 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.

Now oils can be found to have no solvents in the formula. This was brought upon by the urethane bowling ball era.

Mineral oil is the main substance used in today’s lane conditioners and accounts reportedly for about 98% of most formulas.

Today’s mineral based oils are used primarily to combat the aggressive bowling balls. The ultimate goal of these products is to minimize change in ball reaction and maximize the oil application consistency.

Other additives used in today’s oils serve as friction modifiers and lubricity agents.

Viscosity is known generally as a measurement of the internal friction of a fluid.

In the case of lane oil, the degree of friction becomes apparent when lane oil moves in relation to the stable lane surface.

The greater the friction, the greater amount of force required to cause the movement.

High viscosity lane oil requires more force created by bowling balls and the friction generated to move than less viscous lane oils.

Typically, the components added to a lane conditioner formula are intended to enhance performance.

Today’s oil products are durable, but some breakdown will occur at a pace in accordance with the amount of lineage on a given lane. When the lane breaks down, the lane opens up. It is important to expect some carry down of lane oil because all liquid moves so all lane oils carry down the lane.

Whichever oil pattern is put down at your local bowling center and regardless of which lane conditioner is used, the length of 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.

This gives the effect of the lane opening up because more dry boards are exposed and the bowling ball reacts accordingly.

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.

Adjustments vary from player to player as the oil pattern changes during the course of competitive bowling. These changes are based on ball speed, rev-rate, axis of rotation and tilt, the bowling ball coverstock, the drilling layout chosen, 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, your angle adjustment systems will vary so you will need to rely upon the information you can access related to the given oil pattern and the knowledge you have related to the oil conditioner used in the pattern.


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