Hot dusty days and sweltering heat on gravel roads make any trip a mini-version of hell guaranteed to have sinners praying for something cool if you haven’t any air conditioning in your car. Up north it’s a must-have option but one that you have to take care of. It’s recommended that you check the air conditioning at least once a year to keep it in tip top shape. If you take it into a garage ask them to check the seals and belts to see if they have any leaks and are running efficiently. A little money now goes towards saving replacing the entire system because gravel roads are harder on the system than pavement. If you have an older car you may be using CFC’s in your car and these are harmful to the environment. Ask a dealer about conversion kits. You can convert to HFC’s which are better for everyone. If you’re worried about the cost of running an air conditioner, it adds about 2-5 per cent in your annual fuel bill for the car. Of course this works out to a 15-20-per-cent increase in fuel consumption in the summer when you use. Your choice.

Summertime maintenance also means it’s probably time to rotate your tires so the wear and tear is spread out more evenly. It saves money as you don’t have to replace them as often.

When looking at your tires if the thread seems more worn out on the inside then the outside then you probably need to have your wheels aligned. Doing this will also give you better fuel economy as well as making the vehicle easier to handle on the road.

When do you need your wheels balanced? When you reach certain speeds does your car start to shake? If it does then it is time!

Cupping is when your tire has worn spots shaped like a cup on them. This means that your shocks are worn or your suspension is loose. A series of cups (see diagram) means that you definitely need to balance the wheels.

Want to save a lot of money and time? Seems the major reason your muffler drops is a broken clamp in most cases. Replacing the clamp is small change compared to replacing the entire system. This way one night you won’t be putting on that fireworks show for all the other drivers. I’m sure everyone has seen the trail of sparks in the night as a muffler drops. When you see it ahead of you stop immediately. If there is a gas tank leak of any kind then there is a danger. Even if the tank isn’t leaking the pipe has been known to turn into a spear rupturing the tank.

Breath in and out. Doesn’t that feel good? Now put a pillow in front of your face covering the nose and mouth. Try the same thing. The feeling changes, doesn’t it? That’s precisely what happens to your car when you don’t change the air filter. Dust, grime and oil can harm your engine by clogging the air filter costing you an engine. That’ll cost you big bucks to replace while an air filter costs about $5-10. Dirty air filters also cost you in terms of power and fuel economy.

Don’t forget those other filters too! There’s the oil, gas and PVC filter. All of them need regular maintenance and what you spend on filters you’ll save on gas. Makes sense to spend a little now and recoup the savings rather than the big bills down the road. Not to mention the inconvenience of having your vehicle breaking down just when you need it the most… like every day.

Now exactly what does that funny sound in your car mean? All the sounds below are meant to give you a hint of what is happening and this is by no means the last word…

i) Tick, tick, tick- Check to see if your oil is low. If not then take to a mechanic. It could be a valve-lifter problem, faulty belt or exhaust leak.

ii) Thump, thump, thump- Check for worn areas on tires. You could be looking at a blow-out as it could be tire thread separation or alignment problems.

iii) Whining- Have the transmission or power steering fluid checked if this happens when you start moving from a dead stop to regular driving speed. Other possibilities are wheel or axle bearings that have to be checked immediately.

iv) Knock, knock, ping, ping- Car needs to be tuned-up. Sometimes using a higher octane fuel will cure the problem.

v) Clunk- When you move forward or back it could be a universal joint problem.

vi) Click…silence- Batteries dead, starter or charging system problems. Before panicking check the fuses to see if any are blown out.

vii) Growl, grind, scrape, squeal- All these sounds usually mean the braking system is having problems. A mechanic is called for.

viii) Screech- Worn, loose or glazed belt. Easily replaced by a mechanic.