You Need to Know How These Things Work

a lady looking confused
*Collaborative Post

Modern humans take a lot for granted. Relatively few folks can describe how machines remove stains from fabric or their vehicle goes from stop to start.

However, it benefits you to take the mystery out of everyday tasks. It can bolster your confidence and save your hard-earned cash. You need to know how the following things work.

1. Laundry Service

Does that ground-in stain mean you have to toss your once-favorite blouse into the garbage or repurpose it into a pet toy? No — you can remove even set-in stains with the right know-how. It all boils down to better living through chemistry.

Stains fall into four categories: enzymatic, oxidizable, greasy and particulate. Some are a mix of two or more types. Enzyme-based stains like blood respond best to other enzymes that break down the proteins into smaller, soluble chunks. Oxidizing stains like coffee and wine react best with peroxide to break down the color-causing sections of the chemical structure. Oils and grease often use surfactants that form a bubble around the oil droplet that puts the water-soluble portion to the surface, allowing water to wash the stain away.

Dry cleaning removes stains from clothing without using water. The dry cleaning solvents remove grease stains, but the water-based versions require a post spot treatment.

2. Your Car’s Engine

You take it for granted that your car will start when you hit the button or turn the key. If it doesn’t, you take it to the mechanic. When the representative starts dropping terms like “solenoid” and “distributor cap,” you wonder if they’re speaking Swahili — and if they can tell how clueless you are.

You don’t have to become a mechanic yourself to understand the basics. Your car transfers the heat energy from gasoline into mechanical processes. Tiny controlled explosions make your engine’s pistons go up and down — picture the way your legs power a bicycle. These lie inside cylinders. In turn, your tires turn, propelling your vehicle.

Of course, there’s a lot more to it, but that’s the basic idea. It also helps build a working vocabulary of various engine parts and what they do.

  • Engine block: The main part of your car’s engine that contains the pistons, cylinders, crankshaft and camshaft.
  • Timing belt: This part of your engine ensures the cylinders open and close at the correct time.
  • Spark plugs: These ignite the fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber.
  • Flywheel: This device mounts on the camshaft and acts as a torque buffer to keep your ride smooth.
  • Water pump: This device draws the cooled fluid from the radiator to cool the engine and power the car’s cooling system.
  • Distributor: This device routes high voltage current from the ignition coil to the spark plugs at the right time in the correct order.
  • Solenoid: This coil helps convert electricity to mechanical energy, making your motor go.

3. Your Home’s Plumbing

If you’ve ever had a clog bad enough to call in a professional, you might have wondered what your rooftop has to do with your home’s plumbing system. Knowing how these things work solves the mystery.

Your home’s wastewater pipes take a J or S-shape to avoid sewer fumes from flowing back into your house. The roof vent keeps the air and water pressure balanced so that your waste flows down and out of your house. However, if this vent becomes clogged with a bird or rodent nest, the wastewater can flow back into your home, spewing out of other outlets like your shower drain.

4. Your Taxes as a Small Business Owner or Contractor

If you drive for Uber or Lyft as an independent contractor, you might have gotten an unpleasant surprise the first time you did your taxes. Instead of a sweet refund, you ended up owing money. The U.S. has a pay-as-you-go tax system, but far too few people with this classification realize the obligations they have to avoid an estimated tax penalty — or how to decrease the amount they owe through deductions.

If you’re classified as an independent contractor, you are responsible for paying quarterly taxes. You must pay Social Security and Medicare taxes at a rate of 15.3% of your net proceeds. This figure represents the amount of money you clear after deducting all legitimate business expenses — like gas and wear and tear on your vehicle if you drive for a rideshare service.

What can you deduct? Anything for which you have to cough up cash to perform your role. For example, if you had to purchase a computer for a work-from-home customer service gig, you can deduct the price of your laptop. Likewise, you can deduct your monthly internet service fees if you need to be online.

The tax benefits somewhat make up for your job classification if you’re savvy. While independent contractors aren’t afforded the protections employees get, like workman’s comp and unemployment insurance, you can at least save money at tax time by saving your receipts — or snapping a picture of them and keeping a digital log in the cloud.

5. The Internet

How does that latest Netflix binge stream to your house, anyway? Your internet service provider (ISP) sends packets of information over a cable to your home. Some lucky folks have a fiber optic cable directly to their provider, but most mere mortals have a combination of copper wire from a centralized fiber optic hub to their home. These packets of information contain everything from web pages to streaming videos. You determine what you request by your input on your device.

Knowing How Things Work

Knowing how things work benefits you in various ways. It can help you save money or merely enhance your understanding of your world.

Fortunately, anything that human beings put together, other mere mortals can figure out. You need to know how the above five things work — you’ll feel more confident navigating your world.

*This is a collaborative post. For further information please refer to my disclosure page.

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