To help drivers, engineers at Microheat Inc., Farmington Hills, Mich. (microheat.com), have developed Hotshot, a programmable heater for windshield fluid. It is effective against ice, snow and frost, mud, tree sap, insects, bird droppings, wax, road oil, grime, and dirt, according to the company.

It quickly heats a wide range of washer fluids, delivering an initial, short burst of 185°F steam to clear the nozzle, then several squirts of 145°F water to clean the glass. It does not rely on engine heat, and works whether the car is moving or not. The unit weights 1.1 lb., is about the size of a cordless phone, and installs into the existing network of tubes and electrical connections serving the windshield wipers and washer fluid. The unit, controlled through an aftermarket switch of the dash, is suitable for front and rear windshields, as well as headlights.