How to Choose the Correct Lane Conditioner

If there is one thing we have learned over the years, it’s that every bowling center is uniquely different. Even two bowling centers located right down the road from each other, using the same lane machine type, with the same lane surface, and using the same chemicals, can have drastically different lane conditions.

By measuring the lanes of hundreds of bowling centers with the Kegel LaneMapper™, we have begun to further understand why bowling centers can vary so much. However, things such as the water used to dilute the lane cleaner, the temperature and humidity within the building, and the different bowler types or balls being used by those bowlers can influence what lane conditioner is best for any one bowling center.

The properties Kegel tests on lane conditioners in the lab are all physical properties. Because all physical properties are affected by the environment they are used in, it is often hard to find or suggest the “right” lane conditioner without a little trial and error. So how do you begin to select the right lane conditioner and set-up for your bowling center?

First and foremost, our recommendation is that if you are happy with the lane conditioner you are using, don’t change it. If you are not happy however, and were to contact us at Kegel, there are a number of factors we would talk you about to get you on the right path. The following will give you some insight into the process we use to make lane oil recommendations to bowling centers.

The first thing we would ask is what problems you are experiencing in your bowling center. Issues that might indicate you need to change your lane conditioner are:

  • Excessive ball calls
  • Excessive out of ranges
  • Pattern is not holding up long enough
  • Pattern adjustments seem “too touchy”
  • Scores are not what they used to be

Before you switch your conditioner however, consider these possibilities:

  • Oil patternSome of the problems listed above could simply be caused by the oil pattern you are using.  If you notice any of these issues, it is a good idea to have an expert review a copy of your current oil pattern to determine if this could be the source of the problem.
  • Cleaner type, mix ratio, or residue:
    • Sometimes oil related issues can solely be a cause of a certain cleaner or mix ratio. Make sure the cleaner you are using is designed to remove the lane conditioner you are using.
    • ALL cleaners leave some residue behind - even those that claim to be residue free.  For example, toilet bowl cleaners that keep your toilet “cleaner for longer,” leave a small amount of residue behind to help repel the dirt. Though the toilet may be flushed frequently and appear clean, the residue remains.  For an example of this residue at work, watch this “Drop Shape” video to illustrate the effect cleaner residues can have on a surface.
  • Lane machine: Maintenance and upkeep of the lane machine are just as important as the chemicals they apply.  Machines that are kept clean and maintained will apply conditioner more accurately and leave behind smaller amounts of residue.
  • Lane topography: We have a new saying at Kegel after measuring 1000’s of bowling lanes; “you can’t fix a gravity problem with oil.”  Checking today’s synthetic lanes at 3 predetermined distances does not give enough information to determine how your lane’s shape affects ball motion. The consistency and predominant characteristic of your bowling center’s lane topography can finally be seen with the invention of the Kegel LaneMapper which can measure 744 points on the lane.

The top factors affecting lane play are the environment and pattern choices. After that comes the conditioner choice, followed by a third and often overlooked factor, the cleaner selection. Make sure you have exhausted alternate possibilities before chasing the perfect lane conditioner.

Lane Surface type:

  • Synthetic brand, model and age – AMF HPL’s or SPL’s, Brunswick’s many surfaces, DBA IQ™, Murray Pathfinder™, Switch, etc.
  • Wood lanes with finish - 100% solids, EZ Coat, moisture cure, water-based, etc.

Type of lane machine: Do you have a fluid metering lane machine (Kegel Sanction Technology), a wick/pad lane machine, or spray type machine?

Lineage:  how much of your business is league play with high flaring modern bowling balls vs. open play with low flaring house balls. If more than 50% of your lineage is from league play, you should opt for a conditioner that has high durability. If your business is predominantly open play, parties, and social bowling events, look for a lane conditioner that is geared to prevent ball calls and out of ranges.

Environmental factors:

  • Temperature consistency
  • Humidity
  • Cleanliness
  • Altitude

For example, if you live in a dry desert area, there is typically high static in the air which can cause lane play issues. In this scenario, it is good to look for an oil to help prevent the snappier back ends caused by the high static environment.

Through our experience with bowling centers all over the world, we have being exposed to many different scenarios. Although we have come to find that certain generalizations can be made based on the type of situation, no two centers are EXACTLY the same.

Dennis Sheirs, Vice President of Kegel’s Chemical division often gets asked the question “What is the best lane conditioner out there?”  His response is, “the best lane conditioner is whatever works best in your center.”

When choosing a conditioner for your center, it is important to get advice specific to your factors in order to determine the best lane conditioner for your center, and ultimately, for your customers. As always, if you would like to have company along that journey trying to find that perfect lane conditioner, Kegel Technicians are only a free phone call away - Kegel Tech Support (800) 280-2695.