Hotwash…. ain’t so hot

For Christmas about three years ago, Gail bought me a thing from Canadian Tire called “HotWash”. It’s a device that you insert between the windshield washer fluid pump and the wipers, and it heats up the wiper fluid on the fly to help melt ice and snow from the windshield, and it also helps get rid of bug juice in the summer. Great idea, right? I thought it was. Did it work? I still don’t know for sure.

When I first got it, I looked over the installation instructions and figured I could install it myself. After a half hour in the garage with the hood up, I decided that I should probably let a professional do it, since I’m no auto mechanic. I can change my air filter and wiper blades, but that’s about it. I took it into Canadian Tire and had them do it, and figured I was all set. We had a relatively warm winter that year, so I didn’t get to really try it out for several weeks. It did eventually get cold and snowy again, and driving home from work after a day of snow and ice, I remember hitting “wash”, ready to watch in amazement as the ice on my windshield quickly melted away. Never happened.

When I got home, I remember standing in the garage for about ten minutes, repeatedly spraying the windshield and feeling how warm the spray was, but I never noticed a temperature change. According to the manual, once you spray it the first time, it takes 10-15 seconds to warm up, and then if you spray again after that, everything is warmed. The actual temperature was a mystery — it was listed in the manual in at least two different places, with two vastly different values. One said something like 60°C — warm enough that you should see steam (I never did) when you use it on a cold day. I don’t remember the other number, but it was different from the first one by a significant margin, and wasn’t simply 60°C converted into Farenheit or anything like that. Either way, the water coming out of mine was no warmer than the air temperature. The thing just plain didn’t work. I took it back the next week and told them it wasn’t working. They had a look and told me that it was, but that the manual was wrong — the fluid is heated up to above freezing so that it will still melt the ice, but it’s nowhere near 60°. I decided that this was why I didn’t notice a difference in temperature and assumed that everything was OK.

Over the two years, everything seemed fine, but I was unable to notice any kind of difference. I then had to bring the car in for service a couple of times for an unexplained power loss — the engine would just stop while I was driving. I’d quickly put the car in neutral, restart it, and get back into drive. Only once was I not able to restart it this way, and that was in the parking lot of a Canadian Tire. Three different Canadian Tire stores (Waterloo, Kitchener, and Burlington) were unable to find any problem. Finally I brought it into a local shop in Waterdown, Al’s Auto Service, and he basically unplugged a bunch of things and plugged them back in to make sure the fittings were all tight and weren’t corroded. He found no problems either, but after he did that, the problem vanished and I never had it again. Then last winter I brought the car into the brand spankin’ new Canadian Tire in Waterdown. They fixed something (don’t remember what) but while doing that, they noticed that my HotWash wasn’t plugged in. I have no idea how long I’d been driving with the thing unplugged (and therefore doing nothing), but I suspect that during his investigation of my problem, Al unplugged it and simply forgot to plug it back in. They re-enabled it and once again, I didn’t notice any difference.

Finally a few weeks ago, I noticed a big ad in the local paper saying that Canadian Tire was recalling the HotWash things for safety reasons, and were giving full refunds of the purchase price. Ironically, the problem was that they were overheating, which was certainly not the case with mine, which never got warm in the first place. I brought my car in earlier today and asked them to remove it, which they did. They also refunded the purchase price and the cost of installation, so when I picked up my car from the service desk, they gave me about $92. When was the last time you got your car serviced and they gave you money?


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