Heavy Oil, Medium Oil or Light Oil Lanes: What is the difference?

heavy oil or medium oil or light

Bowling can either be a delightful game or something you dread for life, if not played correctly. Believe it or not, this easy-going game has a lot of detailed technicalities included.

Some of the most important factors that can and do in fact, affect your gameplay are your own skills, your bowling ball, your bowling shoes, and the lane you will be playing on itself. 

Bowling lanes are constantly oiled in order to provide players with either a smooth or dry surface for their bowling. The oil plays a huge part in affecting a player’s game-play, and it also provides an idea regarding which bowling ball to make use of for a specifically oiled lane. 

There are mainly three types of lanes. They can either be heavy oiled, medium oiled or light oiled. It is crucial for every bowler to learn properly about the lanes, as that will allow them to change up their bowling style in multiple ways. It will also give players a head-start when bowling in a competitive environment as you will know exactly what you will be dealing with. 

We know it can get quite difficult to take a step back and learn about bowling and its various intricacies since you will be required to have the best knowledge about it once out on the alley. Plus, learning something new can be a drag sometimes, and not to mention time-consuming. 

But do not worry as this is why we are here for you. We are going to take a quick look at the different types of lane oiling there is and explain them in-depth, however minus the boring drag and time consumption!

It is crucial for you to know what heavy, medium, and light oil means in the first place. Without knowledge regarding these three key points, it is almost useless to take part in such an amazing game as bowling. 

Not only will learning about these key factors greatly affect your future bowling style and skills, but it will also allow you to choose bowling balls and other gears more cautiously. This way, you can always get the best experience whenever playing with a group of friends or for competitive purposes. Also, this means you will be more alert in case a storekeeper or manufacturer tries to dupe you into buying the wrong stuff. We recommend all first-timers to stick around and continue reading the stuff we concluded below. You got nothing to lose anyway!

To keep it short and interesting, we are going to explain each oiling technique below briefly.  

Which are Heavy Oil Lanes?

Heavy oil means a total layer of 100 plus oil units on a lane. That means that the lane will be super sleek and slippery, therefore allowing bowlers to make a hard and sharp hook with their bowling ball. You should know that 1 unit of bowling oil is usually termed as 0.017 cubic cm of oil that has been smoothly and evenly spilled out on the lane.

That means the lane is covered with quite a thick layer of bowling oil (which is generally mineral oil). Heavily oiled lanes use more than 20 to 25 ml of lubricating substance. It also works to keep the lane safe from premature wear and tear as it will not dry out too fast. Players will also get the best hook for competitive purposes when and if they play on heavily oiled lanes. This kind of lane will allow bowlers to achieve rev rates of approximately 400 to 500 RPM. 

Which are Medium Oil Lanes?

On the other hand, medium oiled bowling lanes use around 20 milliliters of mineral oil to keep the lanes smooth and slippery. This kind of lane provides an average amount of hook when playing. Hence, the RPM will be around 300 to 400 only, while the speed will range around 16 to 17 miles per hour. This kind of speed and rev rate is great for people who want to achieve high scores yet play casually instead of going all aggressive and competitive. If you want to bowl on a lane that is not too slippery or dry, then playing on medium oiled lanes will be your best bet. 

Which are Light Oil Lanes?

Lastly, light oil lanes are those which use around less than 20 milliliters of mineral oil for lubrication. Hence, they are much drier than your medium or heavy oiled lanes. This kind of lane is best for those who wish to achieve a lower hook potential and play slower. You can also describe it as dry lane.

If you want to go fast and achieve greater speeds on this kind of lane, we suggest you get a symmetrical bowling ball, which provides more smoothness, therefore increased speed. On the other hand, if you want to get some speed on a dry lane, then you should go for a bowling ball which comes with a solid pearl or cover-stock, as it will allow you to get some acceleration from those two specific features, without increasing the hook potential too much. It is a win-win either way.  

Difference between Heavy Oil, Medium Oil, and Light Oil 

Differentiating between heavy oil, medium oil and light oil is not hard at all. In fact, if you know the basic distinction between these three oiled lanes, we bet you can easily notice the change yourself the next time you head out to a bowling alley!

For starters, heavy oiled lanes will make use of more than 20 milliliters of mineral oil. This is because these kinds of lanes need to be really slippery, in order to provide players with the best hook and slide whenever they throw their ball in for their turn. 

On the other hand, medium oiled lanes make use of around 20 milliliters of oil only, as they cannot be too slippery. However, this amount of oiling also makes sure that the lanes can be used by both low rev players and medium rev players alike. 

Medium oiled lanes are actually the most versatile kind of lanes as they can accommodate players of different styles all the time, unlike light oil lanes and/or heavy oil lanes. 

Light oil lanes use less than 20 milliliters of mineral oil for lubrication. This makes them dry, hence the speed of the bowling ball being thrown is not too high. This, in turn, also lowers the rev rate by numbers. Casual players usually go for light oiled lanes as it is not too slippery, and allows you to play for longer. 

How to Choose Bowling Ball for Heavy, Medium and Light Oil Lanes?

We know it can be quite confusing when you have to choose between different types of bowling balls for specifically oiled lanes. But we are here to help you out with that. 

With the right bowling ball, you can easily conquer any type of lane, no matter how dry or slippery it may be. 

If you prefer bowling on dry lanes, then we suggest you go for bowling balls which come with a cover-stock or pearl, since it will allow the bowling ball to easily slide and hook around the end of the bowling lane. 

It is even better if the bowling ball has a symmetrical shape to it. Since then, the speed and the rev rate can be easily balanced out. If you are looking for a bowling ball for light oils I have reviewed for you in another article. 

On the other hand, if you want to bowl on medium oiled lanes, it is a good idea to go for something that is made of either hard plastic or urethane material, as these two materials provide a really good slide and traction at the same time. 

Hence, you will have enhanced speed and rev rate, while also having optimal control over the hook and slide of the bowling ball itself. 

For heavy oiled lanes, you should check out bowling balls, which come with a solid cover, as the cover will allow you to have the best speed possible. The hook potential of a solid cover bowling ball is really high, so you will also achieve an amazing revolution rate with heavy oil bowling ball. 

If you want, you can check out if the bowling ball of your choice comes with a medium to high flare. This is another great feature for a bowling ball to have if it is meant for heavy oiled lanes. The speed will make sure your competitive streak does not die down. Many bowling balls are specially designed in the market for medium to heavy oil conditions. If you are finding the best one, here are 5 best bowling balls for medium to heavy oil lanes for you


In conclusion, we know it can be quite frustrating to be the odd one out when bowling with a group of experienced friends. It is even more annoying when the game turns competitive, and you are forced to bring out your aggressive side while playing. 

Lane oil plays an important factor in bowling. Bowling balls are designed depending on oil in lanes.  But do not worry any longer. With the right gears and the right knowledge regarding bowling, we assure you that you can easily turn the game around to your advantage and have an incredible time by winning constantly. There are more than 50 bowling lane oil patterns in the world. It’s your success how quickly you cope up with these lanes.

Regardless of how the game turns out to be, we hope you liked what we concluded for you, and that it helped you out to choose the best bowling lane oil . Thanks a bunch for sticking around till the end!


I’m an aspiring bowler with an immense love for bowling. I started playing the game at a very early age and it’s been an integral part of my life ever since.

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