It’s an awful experience for any bowler. You reach into their bag, draw out your favorite ball, and see a crack running down the side of it. Now you have to use your backup – or worse, one of your partner’s balls. That’s going to throw your game off for sure! A cracked ball will be imbalanced not follow its path properly and can be completely unpredictable. Even a chip can make your bowling ball harder to accurately throw, adding extra hook or otherwise making it inaccurate. But can you fix that crack when you get home? The answer is more complicated than you might think.
Why Do Bowling Balls Crack?
Bowling balls can crack for any number of reasons. The good news is, you have control over most of them.
The most common reason bowling balls crack is the environment they are in. Bowling balls are usually made of three distinct layers, and these layers expand and contract at different rates because they are made of different materials. Exposing a bowling ball to sudden, drastic changes in things such as temperature or humidity can cause these layers to expand or contract in great contrast with each other, which will cause the ball to crack.
Mishandling or poor storage of a bowling ball can lead to cracking too. Make sure you are careful with your balls, and, if drilling your own holes, that you do so properly. Make sure the holes are at least one inch from the pin, that you are not using dull bits or drilling too fast, and that you bevel all of the holes.
Can You Repair A Cracked Bowling Ball?
The short answer to this question is: maybe. Many factors play into whether the bowling ball can be fixed or not, including the materials used to make it and the size of the crack. For instance, a small cosmetic chip, scrape, or crack can easily be repaired at home. Even a small crack surface crack can be repaired in your garage with the proper equipment and materials.
However, a bowling ball with a large or deep crack is probably better being replaced than trying to repair it. These kinds of cracks are less common, but still, do happen. When they do, it is likely that a home or garage repair will still leave it with imperfections and imbalances, rendering it a little better than it was with the crack in its side. Plus, repairing a large crack is likely to render a bowling ball illegal if you compete in a league.
Additionally, repairs should only be attempted on bowling balls made of resin or urethane. Plastic balls will not repair evenly and are almost always better off being replaced rather than repaired.
Before attempting any repairs, it is best to find out if your ball is still under warranty. Provided it is, the manufacturer will likely either replace or fix it for you at little to no cost. This is almost always going to be your best course of action if this option is available.
Repairing Cosmetic Damage
Cosmetic damage might not be the end-all of your game, but it can still put a damper on your spirits. Everyone likes their bowling balls to be as pristine as they were the day they got them, especially if you are competing. Luckily, repairing cosmetic damage like small chips and scrapes is a pretty easy process.
In this step, you will sand the whole bowling ball to restore its even surface. During this process, make sure to keep the ball sprayed down with water. This will help to cut down on dust as well as make it easier for the sandpaper to stay even on the surface without jumping, skipping, or otherwise not making full contact with the surface of the ball.
The sandpaper grit you choose will also have an effect on the ball’s quality at the end of the repair. Lower grit sandpapers will provide more of a hook to the ball as it moves. Higher grit will allow for a snap or skip in the ball’s movement. No matter what you decide on, however, it is best to cross-sand at a ninety-degree angle to the original sanding direction to allow for more consistent play after the initial sanding is complete.
This step is going to seem obvious to anyone who has sanded before, but it bears saying. After the sanding is finished, and you have cleaned up any excess dust, you will want to apply a polish to the now-repaired ball. This will both restore the finish on the outside, allowing for consistent play with no damage to the lane, and restore that shine that bowlers love to have on their balls. The polish can be applied either by hand or using a spinner. No matter what you choose to use, however, make sure that the entire ball gets covered in polish or it will create an imbalance in the ball.
Repairing Small Cracks
Small cracks can really throw a wrench into your game. It will cause balls to roll poorly, inaccurately, or possibly not roll at all. For these types of repairs, you will need some materials you might not have at your home. A bowling ball repair kit can be purchased for relatively inexpensive, which will have most of the materials you will need to complete your repair.
Small cracks must be sealed before any other repairs can be done to the ball. Bowling ball repair kits will come with a (usually liquid) sealer and an accelerator that is formulated to match and allow the repair to complete and remain together. Mix the sealer and accelerator according to the directions, and apply it to the bowling ball.
When applying the sealant mixture, make sure to completely fill the crack. In some kits, the accelerator will be applied as a spray after the sealant has been introduced to the crack rather than mixed in. No matter what, make sure to follow the directions featured with your kit of choice. Allow the sealant to dry completely before moving on to the next step.
It is also important to note that woodworking or automotive resin sealer is formulated very differently from bowling ball sealer. Make sure that you are purchasing a sealer kit designed specifically with bowling in mind, rather than some kit that claims to be able to “do every job with ease.”
Like with cosmetic damages, the next step in repairing a small crack on a bowling ball is to sand the whole ball. Take great care to make sure you are still careful around the repaired crack, as sealants from some manufacturers can take as long as three or more days to set fully depending on the environment they are in. Always check your kit’s sealant instructions to verify your curing and setting time.
When sanding, make sure the ball stays wet. It is best to sand a repaired ball by hand, rather than with a belt sander or orbital sander. This will make it take more time, but you will also end up being happier with the results and you lower your risk of accidentally sanding through the sealant and reopening the crack.
All of the same precautions and general guidelines as sanding cosmetic damage still apply when sanding a cracked ball. This includes choosing your appropriate grit sandpaper and making sure to cross-sand to achieve a consistent finish.
As with repairing cosmetic damage, the final step in repairing your cracked bowling ball is polishing and finishing the ball appropriately. This can still be done with either a spinner or by hand. Polishing a bowling ball is almost always going to be the same process, but, as mentioned before, it is best to take care around the area where the crack happened in order to avoid accidentally reopening it or damaging the sealant before it has the opportunity to fully cure.
Repairing a bowling ball can be as simple as buffing out a scratch, but it can also become a complex or length battle depending on the size of the crack and where it is located. Any crack that goes through your pin or into the track area is probably not worth trying to repair, as the repair is more likely to fail in these areas and leave you with wasted time and a bowling ball that is still unusable.
Before attempting repairs on a bowling ball, check and make sure it is not covered by manufacturers. Any attempt to repair the damage takes a chance on voiding the manufacturer’s warranty. That means that if your repair fails and you are unable to fix your ball, then you are also stuck footing the bill for a new one!
Finally, this is not a comprehensive guide to repairing a bowling ball. There are many manufacturers, specifications, and different material requirements that may arise depending on your area, your bowling balls of choice, and even your weight preference. Especially when dealing with repair kits, always carefully read manufacturer instructions and follow them as closely as possible. This will ensure the best possible repair for your ball, and keep you sending strikes down the lane!