How Much Do You Know About Maintaining Machinery?


By: Zoe Samuel

7 Min Quiz

Image: Kerrick/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

One of the key differences between human beings and animals is our inventions. We invented complex language. We harnessed fire. We invented simple tools like the ax and the knife. Once we had the right tools, science and historical circumstances, the human race exploded with productivity. 

Machinery was, like the knife, the paddle and the lever, a force multiplier. It amplified human effort. Automated machinery could be set to do jobs that formerly would require human supervision and guidance, and soon, whole professions began to vanish as humans were supplanted by machines, and even some machines were supplanted by machines.

Some machines are highly strung, like champion race horses. Other machines are built to function no matter how they are treated, and under any circumstances. The purpose of a machine, the life it leads, the expectations of who will be using it, who will be maintaining it and how often it will be replaced all play into how a machine is built and thus how it is maintained. Some machines are more or less disposable, some even designed for one use, while others have a lifespan measured in years or even in decades. Do you know how to maintain these pinnacles of human innovation? Find out with this quiz!

What should you use to clean the contacts on a laser printer's toner cartridge?

Cotton swabs or Q-Tips dipped in alcohol are the ideal way to clean the metallic contacts between your printer and toner cartridges, since it will not corrode anything, and it will pick up any errant toner, powder or dust that has collected there.


What intrusion will utterly ruin a quantum computer's ability to function?

The IBM Q System One, the world's first commercially available quantum computer, is a huge leap forward in computing. It's an early step though, and requires a home free of vibrations (including noise) heat (it needs to stay in sub-freezing temperatures) and really anything else.


What tools do you need, at a minimum, to clean a computer keyboard?

In order to clean under the keys of a keyboard effectively, you need a can of compressed air at the very least. Ideally, you would remove the keys (they make tools for this) followed by using a can of air, a brush, and a vacuum to clean up all the dead skin and dust particles.


Which item is necessary for fixing a scratch on your car?

Rubbing compound is the key ingredient of getting rid of a scratch like it never happened, so long as it's a normal scratch and not a huge bite from that time you smacked a semi. Wash the area, apply the rubbing compound, buff it thoroughly, wash it again, and wax it like you work in a spa.


What should one do when an air conditioner with a clean filter isn't cooling very effectively?

The coils of the air conditioner need to be clean in order to work properly. If your AC is mounted out of a window, you need to find a way to spray water into the outside of the unit, either with a garden hose from the outside, or even a powerful water gun.


After making sure you have everything you need, what is the first step in cleaning a firearm?

After cleaning the work area and making sure you have everything you need, the very first step in cleaning any firearm is making sure it isn't loaded. Many firearm-related accidents result from the owner not realizing that their gun is loaded, and plenty of those occasions happen when someone is cleaning their weapon.


How would you know how much air pressure to put into your car's tires?

The owner's manual will have lots of information specific to your car. Filling the tires on a car isn't like doing it on a bike. Your car wants a specific tire pressure, unlike your bike, which just wants to be as full as your hand pump can make it. The manual will tell you what psi you need for your tires.


Which of these isn't a good tip to make your household appliances more eco-friendly?

Cooking smaller meals in a toaster oven uses less fuel than a regular oven, a clean AC will need less energy to cool things down, and a water heater blanket will help the water heater to retain heat. Filling your dishwasher with any brand of liquid dish soap that isn't specifically for dishwashers will result in a messy flood.


How do you know which side of your car rental has the gas port on it, when you're in it?

There's nothing like pulling up to a gas station and realizing you don't know what side of your rental car has the gas port. On your dashboard will be a little fuel pump icon. The direction it faces indicates the angle the pump handle would be inserted into the car, which tells you which side of the car has the port.


Which of the following is not a real lubricant?

Boil lubricants are not real, but oils are. Oil lubricants are good for reduced resistence and wicking into enclosed spaces (like the inside of a hinge). Grease is heavier, and best for use in machines that are infrequently used, might get dirty, or when you're worried the lube might move.


What can you use to clean a fridge to get rid of odors?

If you don't mind the smell of the soap, you can use soap to clean a smelly fridge (after emptying it completely, of course). You could also use the baking soda mixture or the apple cider vinegar mixture, which will not smell strongly, and has the chemical grit to remove dirt.


What's an easy way to prevent barnacles from bonding to a ship?

Copper is an unusual substance with many interesting properties. It is anti-microbial, which is handy for hospitals, which use copper paint on walls. It also stops barnacles from growing on it, which is why ships are often painted with copper paint from the water line down.


How should you maintain the spray arm of a dishwasher?

Toothpicks are handy tools for cleaning a lot of things, one of which is the spray arm of a dishwasher. The spray arm has little holes in it that can get clogged up with food, but a toothpick is a handy tool that you can use to unclog those holes without any fuss.


As a rule, how often should you rotate the tires on a car?

Tire rotation is one of those big deal things ignored by most car owners. Rotating tires improves grip, which is a matter of safety at a minimum. It will also improve fuel economy, and it will mean you don't need to buy a new set of tires too quickly.


What should you do if your MRI machine indicates a low helium error?

When your MRI machine says it needs helium, it needs helium. MRI machines use helium to cool the magnet inside the machine in a way very similar to a household air conditioner.


When replacing the front fork of a motorcycle, what step comes before lifting the bike's front wheel off the ground?

Before the major removal of front bits, you have to lift it up and brace it. To do that, and this is the step before lifting the bike, be sure to stop the rear wheel from rolling around. One easy way to do this is to put the bike in gear (thus providing some resistance) and brace the rear wheel, probably with a chock.


How would you clean a Swiss Army Knife?

If done properly, any of these methods will clean a Swiss Army Knife. Using alcohol, be careful not to get it on the plastic, or if you do be sure to rinse the whole thing thoroughly after you do, perhaps even soaking it in water. However you clean it, be sure to oil it afterward!


What should you lubricate with WD-40?

Many people are not aware that WD-40 is not actually a lubricant. In fact, WD-40 is technically a degreaser, meaning it removes oil. If you want to lubricate a hinge, or wheel, first you should use WD-40, then you should dry it off and add oil.


What must one do after dumping the fire out of a steam locomotive?

Closing the doors to the firebox after dumping the fire is very important because if cold air gets inside the firebox, it will cool too quickly and the metal of the firebox and boiler will distort, damaging the locomotive. This sort of damage can total a locomotive, or worse, make it dangerous to operate.


What piece of computer maintenance will extend the life of a computer by years?

Dust accumulates inside computer because of the amount of electricity inside them. From time to time, open up the computer and dust it out. There are guides online for almost every model of computer, showing how to open them up.


What should you check when your toilet has chronic leaks?

The wax seal of your toilet isn't a thing it uses to ensure that foreign spies don't intercept its mail. The wax seal is a barrier placed on the floor, around the mouth of the S-trap your toilet connects to, designed to keep the flow of water from escaping the pipes.


What was the oldest recorded engine designed to do?

Hero of Alexandria, an ancient engineer under the Roman Empire, designed a crude steam engine as an amusement for children. Records dating to the first century AD indicate he put this design, which was something of a steam powered pinwheel, into the Library of Alexandria, which later burned.


What's the first thing you should do to fix a bagless vacuum cleaner that has lost suction?

In order to determine why a vacuum lost suction, it is important that you check every part of the line, and the easiest way to eliminate most of the line is to remove the dust bin. This leaves only the motor, and the line between the bin and the motor.


Having checked that it isn't loaded, what is the first step in maintaining an AK-47?

While all of these answers represent correct steps in taking care of the most devastating weapon ever invented, only one is the first step. Removing the receiver cover is the first step in disassembling the weapon, which is the process that has to happen before cleaning it.


How should you take care of a bicycle chain?

Degreaser may not be a product most people are familiar with, but it is the best way to take care of a bicycle chain. Spray a little on an old rag and use the rag to rub down the chain. Once the chain (and you might want to do this to the gearset, using a soft toothbrush) is free of gunk and dirty lubricant, apply a lubricant.


Which of these is a likely mistake when doing motorcycle maintenance?

An over-tightened clutch can cause it to slip unintentionally and you may not even realize it is happening. When doing maintenance, it's important that the clutch has some play, so you don't accidentally wind up in trouble while on the road.


Which of the following is not used to clean jet engines?

While it sounds like a cleaning fluid, jetwash is not. Jetwash is a kind of wake turbulence specific to jet engines. A popular prank to pull on an aviation newbie who doesn't know better, is to send them on an errand to get a bucket of jetwash.


What is often recommended as a cleaning fluid for old-fashioned printing presses?

Believe it or not, diesel fuel is often used to clean old-fashioned printing presses. This is for a number of reasons. It works like a solvent for the oil-based inks, and it won't corrode anything. Also, the residual diesel fuel will work like a lubricant.


What is the most expensive part to replace on the GE CF6-80E turbofan jet engine?

The CF6-80E's forward outer seal is the most expensive component of the engine, costing about $1,603,000. Jet engines are ridiculously enormous machines of incredible complexity requiring experts to maintain, so if you own one, don't try to fix it yourself.


What should you do every day when you use your pneumatic nail gun?

All air-powered tools are subject to a lot of vibration. As a result, screws can loosen, and a loose screw on a pneumatic nail gun can mean it bleeds gas and doesn't operate well. While the trigger needs to be able to move well, the screws should be kept tight, to ensure the tool operates at maximum efficiency.


How often should you replace your car's spark plugs?

Spark plugs are not immortal. You might not notice this if you only drive every once in a while, or if you only go short distances, but spark plugs do eventually fail and when they fail, there are fewer explosions in the engine, which leads to less power.


What part of a steam locomotive must be cleaned regularly to maintain efficiency?

While the smokebox might also collect some ash, the bulk of the ash clogging up the works will be found in the ashpan hopper, which can be emptied by attaching a lever that opens the ashpan hopper doors under the locomotive, best done over a place you would want to deliberately want to put a huge amount of ash.


How should you fix a printer when it won't recognize a new cartridge?

It may sound a bit strange, but a good rule of thumb when a computer printer doesn't recognize a new cartridge is to turn it off, make a cup of tea, and turn it back on again. Modern printers don't really turn off as we imagine, and can solve glitches if given time.


What should one use to clean a fountain pen?

Fountain pens aren't heavy equipment or medical gear. You don't need anything fancy to keep them clean. Most fountain pens are made with plastic compounds that will rot and dissolve if exposed to alcohol or acetone, and most will deform if you use boiling water.


What is the first thing to check when maintaining a garbage truck's hydraulics?

Hydraulics systems on garbage trucks are pretty important to the truck's operation, and they use a filter to keep unwanted fluids from mixing with the hydraulic fluid. Were this to happen , not only would it not function as well, but operating the hydraulics at all could damage them, necessitating major repairs.


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