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Most emails hawking new automotive accessories land like dead fish on automotive journalists' doorsteps. If I see one more dashcam, smartphone mount, or cell phone “signal enhancer,” I’m going to blow a gasket. But one press release that bounced into my inbox recently caught my eye—in part because it was a relatively surprising idea, in part because I actually needed something like it, and in part because the accompanying promotional video (which you can see below) was disarmingly effective, earnestly touting in predictably clumsy English—delivered by a robot—the product’s many charms, including its versatility and the fact that with this product, “you can save those money for an exotic trip that you well deserved.” Sold. What is it?
It’s Norshire: a portable car wash kit, complete with its own hose, spray gun, and electric water pump, and the brilliant ability to be fed water from an inverted water bottle. I’d never before considered the feasibility of a battery-powered water pump being able to deliver enough horsepower to hose down an entire car, but technology has brought us to precisely this point. Not only that, but Norshire—a sleek black disk with a control panel, USB ports, and an internal pump the company says is made “entirely of copper”—can also function as a jump starter, device charger, and—assuming you can prop it up well enough that it won’t roll away‚an emergency warning sign (i.e., a red triangle) in case “you are facing an unexpected encounter.”
I had to have it. Not just because of my intense curiosity about whether such a contraption could actually be any good, but because I sorta need one. I do a lot of automotive photography, and one of the persistent challenges involves sprucing up the car on location, particularly if a long drive to reach the spot has fouled up the exterior. Typically, a box full of microfiber cloths and a bottle of spray detailer does the trick, but if there’s actual grit, dirt, mud, etc., on the car, that’s not the best strategy for removing it. You mostly end up just rubbing the gunk around, grinding it into the car’s finish. You need water with some oomph behind it to get that stuff off.
A review sample of Norshire showed up in short order, and on a late April weekend, I tried it out. Unbelievably, it works. For the most part.
With the device fully charged and the decently long and thin water hose attached, I fired it up and began cleaning up a test car. It delivers enough water pressure to blast most dirt off of a vehicle—the exception probably being dried, caked-on filth that sticks on after, say, a day of thrashing around in the mud. (Norshire does include a brush attachment, should you need to tackle that sort of challenge.) The literature says the pump will run for up to an hour on a single charge; I used it for a good 20 minutes of continuous spraying, and it showed no signs of slowing down, so I have no real reason to doubt. I didn’t try jump-starting a car with it, though, so we’ll have to take the company's word on that one.
The only hiccup came with Norshire’s supposed ability to operate with a regular water bottle (Evian, Poland Spring, etc.) attached to the top. The bottles I tried didn’t fit, since the receptacle was larger than the spout on the bottles themselves. It was a tragic disappointment, because it seemed like such a novel solution. I suspect the problem has to do with water bottles having different dimensions overseas, where this might have been designed. Fortunately, the kit comes with another hose you can screw into the water port and then just drop into a bucket to use as the water source. It's probably a better solution anyway, since swapping out tiny water bottles over and over again would get pretty tedious.
All in all, I found myself grudgingly impressed with the device, against all expectations and my deeply-ingrained hostility toward te category mostly filled with half-baked car-related gizmos. The company says the device will save you $500 a year in car washes, which seems dubious, because you presumably wouldn’t use it all the time—just when its inherent portability is the key benefit. That said, car owners who live in apartments might find this a godsend.
The company also notes that it’s perfectly handy for watering gardens if you’re out of reach of a hose or don’t have a water hookup available, or for cleaning windows. In fact, I immediately began trying to gin up my own alternative uses for it, and came up with a pretty solid one, particularly now that beach season is here: It’ll be great as a fast, efficient way of hosing sand off you and your crew’s legs, hands, arms, and butts before climbing back in your car for the drive home after a day in the surf. This has been a personal irritant since I began driving, and my usual remedy is to keep gallon jugs of water in the car for this purpose. But pouring isn’t half as effective as spraying with a decent nozzle, so this wins, handily. And hey, I’m expecting a lot more beach trips in the future, now that I’m able to save those money for the exotic trips I well deserved.