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Learn how to safely put oil in a vehicle’s engine

Keep the engine turning by checking and topping up the level of engine oil.

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You’ll need

  • Suitable engine oil
  • Paper towels
  • Funnel
  • Access to a motorcycle (with the correct manual)

Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.

Engine oil is used to stop moving parts in the engine rubbing against each other which protects the parts and makes them last much longer.

Keeping the right amount of oil in an engine is very important. Using too little oil and parts might rub together and damage each other, but too much oil can increase the pressure inside the engine and cause the oil to become foamy and less effective.

Topping up your engine oil can help to keep your vehicle running smoothly but changing your engine oil regularly in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines is one of the best ways to keep your engine healthy.

Most modern engine oils will be given a grade such as 10W-40. These numbers tell you the viscosity, or thickness, of the oil at different temperatures. Different engines in different vehicles will need different types of engine oil depending on the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Planning this activity

  • This activity’s part of a series of short activities in the Scouts Mechanic Activity Badge.
  • Decide how you’ll run these activities. You could run a mechanics activity day with a few vehicles, so small groups can try different tasks on different vehicles at the same time. You could also run the activities as short bases during a meeting (while other activities take place).
  • Decide who’ll run and supervise this activity. All of the practical activities for the Mechanic Badge should be run and supervised by a qualified mechanic (or someone with enough knowledge gained through experience).

Run the activity 

Follow the guidelines of the vehicle you’re using or ask a mechanic to run this activity: These guidelines are generic for modern vehicles. Always check the handbook for the vehicle you’re using or seek advice from a qualified and experienced mechanic.

  1. When the vehicle is fully cooled, check the level of engine oil by removing the dipstick, wipe it with a paper towel, replace it and finally remove it to see if the level of oil is within the marks on the dipstick.
  2. Combine this and the manufacturer’s guidelines to see how much fresh engine oil is required.
  3. Select the correct engine oil for your vehicle, the manufacturer’s guidelines will tell you which oil you need. Most shops which sells engine oil will be able to tell you which type you need.
  4. Find and remove the oil filler cap and add a small amount of fresh oil with a funnel and wait a few minutes for it to settle in the engine. The oil filler cap will often be marked with a picture of an old oil can and be positioned near the top of the engine. Check the vehicle manufacturers guidelines for the position of all the different filler caps.
  5. Check the level of engine oil again and add more if necessary. Take it slowly and make sure to not add too much oil.
  6. Replace the oil filler cap and make sure to wipe up any spills.

Engine oil is very harmful to wildlife and the environment and must be disposed of correctly. Any spills must be wiped up immediately and any oily towels or rags should be taken to a waste disposal site.


This activity was all about developing skills. Why’s it useful to be able to get stuck in to vehicle maintenance? It helps keep people safe and can save you money too. It’s also better for the environment to look after vehicles so less resources are used to repair avoidable faults (or even replace cars). Was it easy to learn this skill? Is this skill the same for every single vehicle, or would people still need to check the manual?

This activity also gave people the chance to be independent. How did it feel to get stuck in to a practical task? What role did the adults have in this activity? They supervised to make sure no one (and no vehicles) got hurt.


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.


This task involves the use of potentially harmful fluids or chemicals. Make sure you follow all relevant safety guidance. Make sure you dispose of them appropriately too, in line with safety guidance.

Manufacturer’s guidelines

All vehicles will be different so always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast, and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.


Before completing this activity make sure you have suitable personal protective equipment (PPE). This could include eye or ear protection, gloves, and anything else you need to protect yourself. You’ll know what you need as a result of completing the risk assessment for the activity.

Vehicle readiness

Before completing this activity, make sure that the engine’s fully cooled. The vehicle should be parked on flat, stable ground with the parking brake applied.

While this activity must always be supervised and guided by someone competent, they can vary the level of hands-on help they provide. People with more knowledge and experience should do more for themselves (with supervision); people with less knowledge and experience may need more hands-on help.

The person supervising and guiding the activity can help out with parts anyone finds tricky including reading instructions, lifting or moving heavy objects, or doing the smaller or more fiddly tasks.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

This activity’s just one area of vehicle maintenance and repair. Encourage anyone who’s interested to complete the other activities in the Scouts Mechanic Activity Badge.

Involve young people in the decision about how to do the Scouts Mechanic Activity Badge (if they want to do it at all) – would they rather do the activities separately over different meetings or as part of an activity day? Just because this activity needs supervision (and you can’t alter the content or safety guidance), doesn’t mean young people can’t have a say.