With summer and looming triple temperatures fast approaching, it's time to start thinking about preparing your vehicle for the extreme heat that will take its toll on your vehicle. As anyone who's been there can attest, nothing can spoil your day like being stranded on the side of the road in 100-plus degree heat, especially when you know it could have been prevented with a dose of preventative care.

Consider this: Last summer, nearly 70 percent of the emergency roadside calls AAA responded to were for problems that could have been prevented with proper vehicle maintenance.

April is National Car Care Month, which offers a timely reminder for motorists to ensure their vehicles are prepared to brave Arizona's brutal summer heat.

Whether you feel comfortable conducting a self-inspection or entrust your vehicle to an automotive professional, it's a good idea to check the following items before summer arrives:

Battery. Arizona's dry, desert climate can dramatically shorten the life of a vehicle battery. In fact, batteries last an average of just 30 months in the Arizona heat. Test battery components to ensure it will make it through summer.

Charging system. A bad charging system component such as an alternator or a drain can quickly deplete a vehicle's battery, or the ability for a battery to hold a charge.

Tires. Proper inflation is critical to the life of the tire and maximizing a vehicle's fuel economy. Inflation should be checked monthly when the tire is cold and to the manufacturer's recommended pressure, which can be found on the driver-side doorjamb.

Belts and hoses. These components should be inspected for any cracks or bulges. When overlooked, they can adversely affect your vehicle's electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and/or cooling system.

Windshield wipers. Because of their direct exposure to the sun, windshield wipers dry and crack faster than rubber components under the hood. As a result, they should be replaced about every six months and definitely before the start of the Arizona monsoon.

Motor oil and lubricants. Specific oil recommendations vary and can be found in your owner's manual. Dirty and inadequate levels of these components can cause internal damage to your vehicle.

The good news is if you're a AAA member, you can bring your vehicle to one of our three club-owned repair facilities or one of the more than 130 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across the state. Throughout April, these facilities are offering members a free 36-point inspection and charging system test (a $50 value).

Now, there's no excuse to ensure your vehicle is ready for summer.

• Linda Gorman is the director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona. Reach her at (602) 650.2716 or lgorman@arizona.aaa.com.

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