Posts tagged ‘gas’

ID is Not Required to Buy Cooking Wine

By Chad Upton

The laws and store policies around the products that require ID and the ones that don’t, are sometimes confusing.

I was in Target a while back and bought a can of compressed air to clean my dusty laptop. I was surprised when they asked for ID at the checkout.

Apparently some people like to get high from the propellant in canned air. It’s unfortunate, these are not recreational drugs, these are asphyxiates that displace the oxygen in the air, reducing the oxygen that reaches your brain and eventually causes death. The solution is to require ID for purchase, although even a 42 year old man died from “huffing” canned air.

Even when you’re using these products as intended, you should avoid inhaling the fumes and ensure adequate ventilation.

I was at Target a few weeks later, looking for ramekins to make Crème brûlée. I also needed a butane blowtorch to caramelize the top of the custard. It turns out that you can buy butane torches and fuel without ID. Thinking back to my teenage years, a blowtorch would have been much more fun than a can of air.

But, cooking wine has the most interesting story.

It ranges from 10%-13% alcohol and anybody can buy cooking wine at the grocery store. They even sell it in grocery stores in “dry” areas, where no alcoholic drinks are sold. In fact, Safeway requires ID to buy cough syrup, but not for cooking wine. Some cough syrup, such as NyQuil, contains alcohol. Other cough and cold medications contain a drug known as Dextromethorphan, which is a dissociative psychedelic drug.

My friend Molly told me about this cooking wine loophole and gave me a sample of the product. If you’ve ever tasted cooking wine on it’s own, you’ll understand why anyone is allowed to buy it. Nobody would ever consume it on its own, it’s simply awful.

Wine that is sold as “cooking wine” is usually grape or rice wine. It is then adulterated with salt, which makes it less suitable for cooking and even more undrinkable. If you’re making a recipe that calls for wine, use wine that you’d actually drink and use a wine that pairs well with the food you’re cooking.

Cooking wine has a lot of salt for coloring and as a preservative. Because cooking wine is consumed very slowly, the salt prevents acedic acid from forming and turning it into wine vinegar.

Oh, and if you’re going to make Crème brûlée, my friend Mike showed me that you should skip the butane and go with propane — it has a wider flame that heats more evenly, which gives much better results and in less time.

Broken Secrets

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Sources: Wikipedia (Cooking Wine, Difluoroethane, Dextromethorphan), MSDS, Cooking Wine Without ID (1, 2), Dry Counties, NyQuil

Photo: anitasarkeesian (cc)

July 20, 2010 at 5:00 am 10 comments

Diesel Fuel Nozzles Don’t Fit in Standard Fuel Cars

Diesel cars are not popular in North America. But, diesel engines are fairly popular in pickup trucks and are becoming more popular in North American cars.

Although they have a limited history in America, foreign car manufacturers sell many diesel models in Europe.

Diesel engines are generally very efficient and that behind their new found demand. As diesel becomes more popular, you will likely see more diesel pumps.

This is good if you have a diesel car, potentially bad if you don’t. Diesel pumps present a slight risk to your standard gasoline vehicle — you do not want to put diesel fuel in a car that uses standard unleaded fuel.

Standard engines use spark plugs to burn the fuel, diesel engines use pressure and heat to cause a reaction in diesel fuel. That means standard engines will not burn diesel fuel. If you inadvertently put diesel in an unleaded car, the engine will stop very quickly. It’s not usually a total loss, the fuel system will have to be cleaned, filters will need to be changed and the whole process can cost as much as $600.

But, there is an easy way to avoid this costly mistake. First, diesel fuel dispensers are usually clearly marked with text and with a special color handle (the color varies by station).

Second, the nozzle on the end of a diesel fuel pump is slightly larger than a standard fuel nozzle. That means it won’t fit in your car’s gas hole, at least not that way you’re used to a pump nozzle fitting. If you notice that the nozzle isn’t going as far in as it usually does, check the pump, you might be holding a diesel trigger.

This same principle was used in the 80s when we transitioned from leaded to unleaded fuel. Leaded fuel nozzles wouldn’t not fit in unleaded gas holes.

Checkout some other gas related Broken Secrets:

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Answer Bag, WTSP, Dixon Nozzles (PDF)

Photo: teachernz (cc)

June 9, 2010 at 5:00 am 2 comments

Start Your Lawn Mower in One Pull

If your mower is hard to start or runs rough, this secret is for you.

I get a lot of these secrets from my dad and he gave me this one last spring. My mower ran a little rough and it took a couple hard pulls to get it going. Within a few starts after this secret, it was starting with one easy pull.

The secret is pretty simple: use premium gasoline!

I know what you’re thinking, “I’m not made of money!” But, this is a very affordable experiment to try. In your car, it costs significantly more to use premium fuel, so you’re probably not going to use it unless you have a high performance car that requires it.  But, the fuel your lawn mower burns might only cost a few extra dollars per year for premium.

The benefits to your mower are as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Starts easier
  2. Runs smoother
  3. Lasts longer

The proof is in the pull. Now that it starts easily and runs smoothly, I know it’s going to last longer and that’s worth a few more dollars per year.

The same applies to your car. If your car engine runs rough, you should give mid-grade or premium fuel a try. Your engine may sound noticeably better, idle smoother and start much easier too. If not, then it’s a waste of money.

In fact, the FTC says that premium fuel is a waste of money unless your car requires it or runs rough without it. If neither your mower nor car engine improve with premium fuel, then stop using it.

Broken Secrets

Written By: Chad Upton

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Photo: yewenyi (cc)

Sources: Louisiana.gov, FTC

April 21, 2010 at 12:01 am 5 comments

The Gas Arrow

Rent, borrow or commandeer an unfamiliar car and you’ll need to gas it up eventually.

You know your own car like the back of your TV remote, but you’ve got nothing on this car. The gauge is near empty when you realize you have no idea which side the gas cap is on.

You’ve got a 50/50 chance, so you wing it. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that says, “this ain’t my car” better than stopping on the wrong side of the pump.

That’s why they invented the gas arrow. Look for the arrow on the gas gauge, it points to the side of the car where the gas hole is.

Of course, not all cars have this arrow. Some people will also say that the pump icon indicates the side of the gas cap with the pump handle, but that’s not universally true.

My Dad shared this secret with me a few years ago.  I shared it with a few friends, some of them shared with a few friends and if all goes well, everybody will know about the gas arrow and other little known facts. That’s what this site is all about.

Broken Secrets

Written By: Chad Upton

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Source: My Dad

April 13, 2010 at 12:01 am 4 comments

Locking the Gas Pump Trigger

UPDATE: It is illegal in some places to leave the gas pump while filling your tank. After doing some further research, it appears this is done for two reasons. 1. To prevent you from getting back in your vehicle, which can cause a static buildup that could cause a spark (and fire) when you touch the pump handle again. 2. To ensure you are nearby if the auto-stop fails and fuel begins to spill. So, even if your station provides a locking mechanism, the safest option is to hold the handle while filling.

If you’re like me then you like to lock the fuel pump trigger so you can clean all the garbage out of your car while the tank is filling.

Some gas stations remove the device that locks the trigger so you can’t walk away from the pump while it’s filling. But, there is a secret to locking the trigger without the built-in mechanism: stick your gas cap under the trigger.

That’s it. Now you can do other things while your tank is filling, like tidy your trunk or complain about gas prices with some sucker who is attached to their pump.

Gas Pump Cap Hack

Keep an eye on your pump and use this tip at your own risk.

December 21, 2009 at 12:01 am 12 comments


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