Welcome to the August edition of Hotspots

Now that we're into the summer holidays the weather has sadly taken a turn for the worse. June's heatwave, which saw a surge in breakdowns attended by the AA, seems an age ago. Find out how our wonderful patrols coped with the extra demand and make sure it's not your car that overheats next time the mercury rises, with our helpful maintenance advice.

Find out about the tireless campaigning our President, Edmund King, has been doing in the name of road safety, and check out our verdict on the new Mini Cooper Convertible.

We list some of the coolest outdoor swimming pools, get to know some natural beauty spots and find out what's going on around the UK this month. There's also an extract from the AA book 'On Holiday', exclusively for Hotspots subscribers.

I do hope you find 'Hotspots' interesting and informative. Please get in touch if you have any feedback or suggestions. Email me at [email protected]

Hotspots Editor
  Motoring – highlighting topical advice and the latest news from the world of motoring as seen through  
AA to the rescue
AA to the rescue Patrols rise to challenge of breakdown bonanza
Read more »
Don't overheat
Don't overheat Look after your car whenever the sun sizzles
Take a look »
Car review
Mini Cooper Convertible Stay cool in a Mini Cooper Convertible
Read more»
Car cough clinic
AA Car cough clinic What's that funny sound?
Read article »
Eco-driving tip of the month
eco driving Go greener
Tip of the month »
  Campaigns – news from the frontline as AA President Edmund King and the rest of the Public Affairs team address the big issues affecting motorists today.  
Motorists driven mad
Tailgaters Tailgaters cause the most irritation
Read more »
Safety on the agenda
Child in a car seat The AA President answers questions online
President's webchat »
President's log
Edmund King Edmund's work on child-seat safety
Read more »
Music on the move
CD image What do you listen to in the car?
Radio rocks »
Driving dangers
A road Motorists most confident on least safe roads
Call for more bypasses »
Rate it or slate it
AA ZOne logo Shout about the best and worst cars, restaurants and more
Have your say »
  Travel – home or abroad we can help you choose your destination and plan your journey.  
Swim in the sunshine
Swim outdoors Our guide to open-air pools
Swim in the sunshine »
Halcyon holidays
Halcyon holidays An exclusive extract from a nostalgic new AA book
Halcyon holidays »
Wide open spaces
Wide open spaces Get outside for National Parks Week
Wide open spaces »
What's on this month
Mille Miglia Days out inspiration
What's on this month »
Traffic news

AA to the rescue

AA to the 


We saw 40% more heat-related engine problems than usual during the heatwave at the end of June, and our patrols pulled out all the stops to get members going again.

Our roadside ambassadors attended almost 70,000 breakdowns between 25 June and 2 July – which was around 15% more than the previous week.

Most callouts related to engines overheating although the number of problems with convertible folding roofs almost doubled, and there was a 64% increase in issues with sunroofs.

Geographical hotspots included:

  • Glastonbury (85% more callouts);
  • Luton (25% more callouts);
  • London (20% more callouts);
  • Edinburgh, where temperatures hit 28-29C (18% more callouts);
  • Birmingham (17% more callouts)
  • Bournemouth and Southampton (16% more callouts)
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Don't overheat this summerDon't overheat

Research by the AA shows that around six million motorists in the UK could be risking a four-figure repair bill in hot weather, by never checking their car's coolant level.

An AA/Populus poll of more than 14,500 AA members has found that a quarter of women respondents admit to never checking their car's coolant, compared to 10 per cent of men.

And four times as many men (28%) than women (7%) do the recommended weekly check.

Drivers should get into the habit of regularly checking their car including the coolant level and fan. If you notice that the coolant has dropped, get it checked out, as modern cooling systems shouldn't really need topping-up between services.

Cooling fan
A seized cooling fan is the most common initial cause of overheating. When you get caught in traffic, the cooling fan will come on automatically and draw air through the radiator. If the fan motor has seized, say through lack of use, the coolant will get hotter until it boils and is lost from the system. If you fail to spot this and don't turn off the engine, the head gasket will probably fail causing expensive damage.

If the temperature gauge does rise
If drivers notice the temperature gauge rising, the most effective way of temporarily dealing with it is to turn the heater up full and the air conditioning on. Less than a third of female drivers (30%) and half (50%) of men knew this.

Keep yourself cool
Stewart Topp, AA patrol of the year, says: "Driving in the heat can be pretty uncomfortable if you're not properly prepared. You can dehydrate quickly, so make sure you carry plenty of drinking water – at least a litre per person, not forgetting any pets. Even if your car's got aircon it's important to take sun hats and high factor sun lotion as well as water, as if your car breaks down, there is often no shade at the roadside. With congestion likely because of the weather, it's also a good idea to make sure you have plenty of fuel – if you do get stuck, you can at least keep the air conditioning on."

Video clip – how to check coolant with AA Patrol Nick Evers

More summer motoring advice

Ten simple checks to enjoy worry-free motoring

How well do you know the standard car maintenance checks? Test yourself online

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Car review
Mini Cooper convertible

Mini Cooper convertibleMini, for all its success, was always going to have a problem improving what was already an impressive convertible variant. Predictably, the company opted to change very little that you could see. Why mess with success, after all? This second generation drop-top is essentially the same, only better, in a number of key areas.

Our ratings
Overall rating 7
Value for money 6
Costs 6
Space and practicality 7
Controls and display 9
Comfort 7
Car security 7
Car safety 8

Read the full review »

More recent car reviews »

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Car cough clinicCar cough clinic

What's that funny sound? Listen to our audio clips for help with identifying some of the most common faults that can cause problems with your car, including a faulty starter, a partially discharged battery and a timing belt issue.

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Eco Driving Tip of the Month

Combine short trips – cold starts are inefficient so it pays to combine errands such as buying the paper, dropping-off the recycling, or collecting the kids, into a single trip rather than making multiple short trips.

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Motorists driven mad


Tailgaters are the UK's most irritating road users and more needs to be done to tackle the menace of 'close following', according to a new campaign launched by the AA and Autocar to improve the standard of driving.

The habit of driving too close to the car in front was voted as the most irritating behaviour of other drivers by 36 per cent of road users, in an AA/Populus panel survey of more than 14,500 AA members. The survey was conducted to launch the Autocar/AA Drive Better Campaign, and respondents also listed the following as irritations:.

  • Talking on the mobile phone while driving 23%
  • Middle lane hogging 18%
  • Swooping 6%
  • Driving slowly 5%
  • Undertaking 4%
  • Littering 4%
  • Speeding 3%
  • Other 1%

As well as being extremely annoying, tailgating is very dangerous. The AA has found that 'close following' contributes to 16% of motorway accidents alone.

AA President Edmund King says: "Data reveals that leaving pure human error aside, tailgaters fall just behind 'loss of control' as the major cause of crashes. It's a problem not only on motorways but also on dual carriageways, country lanes and in roadworks. Some tailgate to bully drivers out of the way, others because they just don't think of the potentially tragic consequences of their actions."

The Autocar/AA Drive Better Campaign believes the route to better, safer roads is education. Motorists should familiarise themselves with the Highway Code's typical stopping distances. Autocar and the AA will also be lobbying the government for a re-think of the driving test process.

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Safety on the agenda

AA President Edmund King took part in a live webchat about road safety, on 9 July, with Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Paul Clark.

Hosted by the Number10 website, the event was held to discuss the proposals in the government's new road safety strategy consultation. The webchat saw Edmund and Paul fielding questions on a wealth of motoring topics, including:

  • Speed limits
  • Road safety education
  • Drug-driving
  • Young driver training
  • Policing of roads
  • Electric vehicles
  • Safer cycling
  • Motorists and mobile phones

Edmund said: "Road safety is something that affects everyone but there is a major gender gap with over twice as many men involved in injury accidents as women. A new strategy is something that matters to us all and will affect us all over the next 10 years. We are delighted that the Minister agreed to open up the discussion on the super highway."

What do you think?
We want to hear your views on road safety. Join in the debate in the AA Zone.

Follow Edmund on Twitter »
AA Zone »

Edmund King
AA President

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President's log

AA President Edmund King

The AA was in the news recently alongside Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, when he supported our child seat safety campaign.

I spotted some of his comments in the press a few months ago concerning a car crash where his 10-year old grandson’s injuries were made worse due to incorrect use of his seat-belt. So I wrote to Sir Alex and asked if he would support the AA child seat safety campaign.

Some of our patrols have been trained in child seat safety by Britax and helped us to take the campaign of child-seat checks to Mothercare shops across the country last month. A united effort.

I got my first letter this month addressed to Professor Edmund King. It looked strange. Had they mistaken President for Professor? Well no. It is now official as I have the great honour to have been appointed a Visiting Professor of Transport at Newcastle University. It is particularly pleasing as I graduated from Newcastle University many years ago, and indeed the AA has a great presence in the city.

The letter came from a PHD student at the University who had spotted my name on the transport section of the Department of Civil Engineering and Geosciences website. My first duty was to offer some advice on her transport project. I will be helping the University with the electric car strategy for the North-east, which the AA is supporting. I may also be asked to give a couple of lectures and seminars over the next few years.

Even though I now have the right to use the title Professor King, I think I will be sticking with Edmund.

Edmund King

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What do you listen to in the car?

A battle of the airwaves is raging on UK roads between middle-aged drivers who compete to put either BBC Radio 2 or their local independent radio station in the listeners’ top slot.

Eighty years after the introduction of the car radio, BBC Radio 2 has the edge with 20% of the13,900 AA members surveyed by AA/Populus picking it as the station they are most likely to listen to in the car. However, 18% of their fellow drivers favour their local independent station.

The biggest fans of BBC Radio 2 drive-time listening are 28% of 55-64 year olds, while local independent radio stations draw the bulk of their support (22%) from the 45-54 year olds.

BBC Radio 1 steals the show for young drivers, pulling in 50% of the 18-24-year-old audience and accounting for 18% of the total driver listenership. Meanwhile, another fifth (22%) of the late middle-aged drivers tune into BBC Radio Four while on the road.

Nearly half of women drivers share their radio time with BBC Radio Two (21%) or the local independent radio station (22%).

However there may be a problem for drivers on the road ahead as all the UK’s national radio stations and many local stations will stop broadcasting in analogue in 2015 when they go digital. “Many drivers could be left in the quiet unless they can get an adapter or digital car radio. The Government setting a deadline for the switch-over will concentrate the minds and although time-scales are tight, new cars after 2013 will be digitally compliant. The switch to digital has been driven by broadcasters but the AA is concerned that not enough thought has been given to consumers with older vehicles. Some may be able to use adapters but there are still many technical and security issues which have not been adequately addressed.

Mondeo Man will not be happy if he can’t listen to Chris Moyles or Chris Evans in five years' time.

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  Driving dangers

Many motorists are unaware of the dangers they face on different types of roads, according to the AA in response to the latest EuroRAP survey.

AA/Populus research shows that drivers are most confident when driving on the very roads that the EuroRAP study and national statistics show to be the least safe – single carriageway 'A' roads.

Read the results in full

Join the AA/Populus panel

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Rate it or slate it

Let the world know what you think of your car, vent your spleen about other road users, or simply shout about your favourite eateries, in the AA Zone.

Current hot topics include: best songs about motoring and favourite restaurants.

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Swim in the sunshine
Stay cool in the pool with our lido guide

LidoMany of the UK's lidos are enjoying a revival and several popular spots have been refurbished in recent years. Many only open during the summer months, thanks to the often inclement British weather, so there's no time like the present to sample some of the coolest open-air swimming spots on home turf.

There are well over 100 lidos around the UK, plus open-air swimming pools, luxurious rooftop spa pools and plenty of natural beauty-spots.

A lido is an outdoor swimming pool where people also enjoy additional facilities, such as eating and drinking, sunbathing and playing, and takes its name from an area of Venice renowned for bathing.

Read the full feature

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BEDHalcyon holidays

This extract, exclusively for 'Hotspots' subscribers, depicts the carefree fun of holidaying on water in days gone by. 'Messing About' is taken from the AA book 'On Holiday', which is the first in a new series of highly illustrated books that take a nostalgic look at life in the 20th century. It explores where we stayed, what we wore, where we went, how we got there and what we did while on holiday in days gone by.

Accompanied by text written by best-selling 'Antiques Roadshow' expert Paul Atterbury and using predominantly amateur photographs from family albums alongside postcards, publicity material and a range of ephemera from the Edwardian era to the 1970s, 'On Holiday' offers a delightfully evocative snapshot of holiday life in 20th-century Britain.

Click here to open 'Messing About' (Adobe Acrobat is required to open this 1MB PDF file)

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Wide open spaces

It's National Parks Week from 27 July to 2 August and this year they celebrate their 60th anniversary.

Fun events will be held across the country throughout National Parks Week, but our 14 national parks can be treasured and enjoyed all year round and have plenty to offer any visitor.

The mountains of the Cairngorms, the Lake District and Snowdonia offer a variety of challenges for walkers, scramblers and climbers. The uplands of Northumbria, Yorkshire, the Peak District and Dartmoor are uniquely rugged. And the coastal cliffs of Pembrokeshire have as much to offer as the heath and woodland of the New Forest.

The following walks take you to the very heart of these natural playgrounds.

Dartmoor's Highest Tors
Meldon, near Okehampton, Devon
Almost everything that Dartmoor has to offer – a tranquil reservoir, a waterfall tumbling though a tree-lined valley, open moorland, oak woodland, and a great view of the highest tors – without expending too much effort.

Heddon Valley on Exmoor, Near Trentishoe, Devon
Hanging oak woods, rushing waters, and some of the highest cliffs in England – the deep Heddon valley leads to Heddon's Mouth, one of the most-spectacular sights in the county.

Treasures in the New Forest, Minstead, Hampshire
The enchanting village of Minstead, with picture-postcard thatched cottages set among pasture, scattered woodland and the surrounding ancient forest, seems completely isolated from the outside world.

Breydon Water in the Broads, Burgh Castle, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
Vast skies and endless reed-fringed marshes make you feel very small in this fascinating landscape. At the start of the walk near Burgh Roman fort the River Yare begins to widen until it forms the vast silt flats of Breydon Water.

Brecon Beacons

Back to Nature - the Brecon Beacons
Near Libanus, Powys
This short walk offers fine views to the true kings of the national park, Pen y Fan and Corn Du, and the daunting crags of Craig Cerrig-gleisiad, one of the Beacons' best-known nature reserves.

A Rocky Ramble Around St David's Head
Near St David's, Pembrokeshire
Steeped in legend, peppered with the evidence of ancient people, and scenically stunning, it's difficult to imagine a more atmospheric place than St David's Head on the Pembrokeshire Coast, one of mainland Britain's most westerly points.

Bala's Lake - Llyn Tegid in Snowdonia
Bala, Gwynedd
Climb above Bala to get the best view of Wales' largest natural lake. To the north and west rise the high peaks of Snowdonia.

Caverns of the Peak
Castleton, Derbyshire
Castleton is the last settlement before the Hope Valley narrows into the rocky ravine of Winnats. It's also where the shales and gritstone of the Dark Peak and the limestone plateau of the White Peak meet.

A Riverside Circuit High in the Yorkshire Dales
Keld, North Yorkshire
Set at the head of Swaledale, the remote village of Keld is a centre for some of the most spectacular walks in North Yorkshire.

R osedale of the North York Moors
Thorgill, North Yorkshire
Rosedale is a peaceful valley that pushes north-west into the heart of the North York Moors. Reminders of the former iron industry are all around you on this route near Rosedale Abbey.

Around Buttermere
Buttermere, Cumbria
A relaxing walk in one of the Lake District's most attractive valleys. Much has been written about Buttermere – the dale, the village and the lake – but it remains, as it has been since Victorian times, a popular place displaying 'nature's art for art's sake', as WG Collingwood described it in 'The Lake Counties' (1902).

Lake District National Park

The Simonsides
Near Rothbury, Northumberland
The Simonside Hills are not the highest in Northumberland, but they are the most distinctive. The plateau summit of Simonside, with its craggy edges, is recognisable from as far south as Newcastle and parts of County Durham.

Between Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
Aberfoyle, Stirling
This walk crosses the Highland Boundary Fault, a geological line stretching across the country from Arran to Stonehaven just south of Aberdeen. It is one of Britain's most important geological features and it separates the Highlands from the Lowlands.

Moorland on Morrone
Braemar, Aberdeenshire
Morrone Hill south of Braemar gives a taste of the Cairngorms. Coming down the back of the hill you descend through several different plant zones, and the home ground of two distinctive Grampian birds.

Fi nd more walks in national parks
Find hotels, B&Bs, cottages and campsites
Find places to eat and drink

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What's on this month

The Big 


Fancy a day trip or a weekend away but stuck for ideas? Why not travel to one of the following events around the UK? Find and book a hotel online

Nantwich International Cheese Show 28-29 July

Sandringham Flower Show 29 July

Big Green Gathering 29 July - 2 Aug

Cardiff Big Weekend 31 Jul - 2 Aug

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 6-9 August

Glastonbury Children's Festival 7-9 August

The Big Chill Festival 7-9 August

Anglesey Agricultural Show 11-12 August

Oasis at V Festival

Bristol International Festival of Kites & Air Creations 12-13 August

Royal Windsor Beer and Jazz Festival 12-16 August

Summer Sundae Weekender 14-16 August

Manchester Pride 21-31 August

V Festival 22-23 August

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