There are many products available in cans and tubes nowadays that make life easier for both the professional mechanic and the do-it-yourselfer. Here are a few you may not know. SPRAY BELT-DRESSING -- If your belts are squealing or chattering, and they are properly tensioned, belt-dressing will often eliminate the chatter and noise. Belt-dressing, and the other products mentioned here, are availale at auto parts supply stores and other retail outlets selling auto supplies.

Follow the directions on the can. Hold the can a few inches from each belt, and spray the underside of the belt, just enough to wet the surface. UNDERCOATING -- This is made by a number of different companies. One product that works well is 3M's "Rubberized Undercoating." It's very useful for spraying areas underneath the car to prevent rust. These areas should be clean and free from dirt.

Two warnings about spraying any undercoating under a car: Don't allow any spray on the driveshaft. This can unbalance the driveshaft, causing vibration; and don't get any spray on the the catalytic converter or on any other exhaust system components. COOLING SYSTEM CLEANER -- Coolant should be drained from your car every two years and replaced with fresh water and new antifreeze. Before draining it, you should add a cooling-system cleaner to the coolant (following the instructions on the can). Some cleaners may recommend you drain the coolant, put the cleaner in with water, run the engine, then drain the system before adding the antifreeze. Either way, it's worthwhile to use a cleaner to remove scale and corrosion that otherwise would remain in the cooling system (which could eventually lead to overheating and other problems).

After adding the coolant and running the engine as prescribed by the directions on the can, drain the coolant out. Flush the cooling system with water until the water coming out of the radiator drain-petcock and the engine drain-plug is clear. RUST INHIBITOR AND WATER-PUMP LUBE -- This is worth adding when you put fresh water and new antifreeze in the cooling system. As the name implies, it helps deter corrosion in the cooling system, and decreases the likelihood of a water-pump leak in the future. GASKET SEALER -- There are all kinds of gasket sealers on the market. Here are a few tips for choosing the right one -- if indeed a sealer is needed. Sometimes the instructions with a gasket or set of gaskets will tell you if a sealant is required. If there are no instructions, ask the person at the parts counter.

Where the gasket sealer must not only seal but also hold the gasket in place (as with a valve cover gasket), then a spray sealer probably won't do.

There's a new sealer on the market that works well called Tack & Seal. Made by Permatex, its part number is 9A and it's available at auto parts supply stores. Tack & Seal does everything the older Permatex gasket sealer (used by many professional mechanics) does, and it can be washed off the hands with water. The older sealer was difficult to wash off. Also, it's white in color and therefore easier to see where you are applying it and how much you've used. The older kind is dark brown, and in areas with not much light it's difficult to see exactly how much sealer has been applied and whether a spot has been missed. HAND CREAM -- If you dislike getting your hands and fingernails dirty, there's a new protective hand cream made by Dupont called ProTek. Rub it on your hands before starting a dirty job, and when finished, wash your hands and the dirt and grime wash off easily.

ProTek is available at auto parts supply stores and other places that sell auto supplies. If out of stock, it can be ordered for you.