See more of the story

Hot weather is hard on vehicles and a number of systems should be checked before the warmer season arrives. Case in point: air conditioning.

Ben Lavine, service manager at Grossman Chevrolet-Cadillac, says that, with older cars, you can test your AC on a mild day. But things are different with newer cars.

Because AC systems in many newer cars won't work when the outside temperature is too low, it's best, technicians and service directors advise, to book an AC checkup now and let the dealers handle it. Dealers have the technology to check systems at full pressure, making sure there are no leaks and that compressors run quietly. And that's when, says Brandon Holland, a technician at Walser Toyota Scion, someone like him makes sure your cabin filter and evaporator aren't clogged, which can lead to a moldy interior odor.

While technicians place AC at the top of summer checklists, that's not all that needs checking. Experts advise you to have your coolant inspected and topped off to avoid a breakdown and possible engine damage, and to make sure your transmission, brakes and differentials can handle any towing you plan to do.

Greg Schiffler, manager of the Quick Lane of Inver Grove, located at Inver Grove Ford, recommends that a qualified technician check your vehicle's front end to make sure ball joints and tie rods aren't loose.

Trained eyes should also inspect shocks, struts, hoses and belts. A checkup should also include a look at washer systems, air filters and tires (tread and air pressure).

There's been no mention of oil changes, you might be saying. With motorists now comfortable following manufacturer guidelines on oil (and other) fluid changes, doing anything before a particular mileage number is reached is no longer necessary for newer cars (but always check your owner's manual). Lavine recommends a tune-up for older cars, however, and Schiffler says vehicles coming out of storage should get an oil change because moisture gets in over the winter.

Because wiper blades get "beat up in winter," he thinks those should be looked at and replaced as well, if necessary.

Here are some reasons to consider having a new-car dealership prep your vehicles for summer:

Dealers offer specials and are competitive with independents.

Dealers can do same-day checkups and most offer no-appointment drive-up services. Lounges are often equipped with Internet access, big-screen TV and more.

If a dealer sells the brand you drive, the technicians know it well. Dealer techs also have access to that brand's latest equipment, technical information and training.

The maintenance experts at Autobytel.com recommend dealerships for oil changes because dealerships are more motivated to use the proper oil for your vehicle.

As for having your tires rotated and wheels aligned, consider waiting, unless there's a problem, until "pothole season" is in the rearview mirror.