9 Summer Driving Tips

Hottest months of the year can be brutal on your car.

June 19. 2011 —, 2011 -- Audi's R8 GT Spyder is lighter, faster and more powerful than its hardtop counterpart.

Its chiseled body and carbon fiber spoilers, along with jagged air vents and a gaping grille, allude to guaranteed highway dominance. Case in point: It has a 560-horsepower engine that goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.8 seconds--and it tops out at nearly 200 mph.

It's the perfect convertible to drive up the coast this summer. Just be sure to empty the trunk and check your tire pressure before you go.

By the Numbers

Here's why: Summer's a big time for drivers--more than 35 million travelers will hit the road over the Fourth of July weekend this year, according to the American Automobile Association. And July 4 is the biggest single day for emergency roadside assistance calls: AAA says it will likely rescue 520,000 stranded motorists during the holiday weekend. All told, 8.7 million cars will break down sometime between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

In Pictures: Summer Driving Tips

Battery troubles pose the single biggest reason for AAA response calls during the summer, according to AAA. Another common problem is overheated vehicles--especially big rigs towing boats, say, or ATVs. The combination of running the A/C, driving at highway speeds and towing a 3,500-pound trailer on a hot summer day is a lot to handle, even for the best engine. But it doesn't have to be.

"The biggest mistake we see is people just aren't planning ahead," says Christie Hyde, a spokesperson for AAA. Separating long hauls with enough time to let the engine cool between legs will save money by staving off unexpected trips to the mechanic, she says.

On the other hand, visiting a mechanic before the summer months does much to ensure long days at the lake rather than at the auto shop. Make sure a technician tops off the windshield-wiper fluid, changes the oil and checks the brake fluid before you depart. The air conditioning solvents should also be in good working order.

Drive Safely, Save Money

There are other common-sense things you can do to make your summer driving more efficient. For one, drive sensibly (admittedly, it'll be difficult in that R8 GT). Rapidly accelerating and braking reduces gas mileage by a third; changing speed at sensible rates can boost fuel economy by 5% in the city and 33% on the highway. That's the same as saving $0.14 per gallon in the city and $0.94 per gallon on the highway.

Removing extra stuff from the truck and top of your car (ski racks, cat-litter, snow shovels) will save about 2% more gas for every 100 pounds removed. That's $0.30 to $0.60 cents per gallon of gas.

Combining trips to save money on gas (especially if gas prices are better across town) and rotating your tires will also save cash--an important consideration even though gas prices aren't at all-time highs.

"People are still driving despite higher gas prices during summer months," Hyde says. "It's a mental thing--we haven't hit the $4 mark in a lot of the country. It's not as bad as being in the $3.00 to $3.80 range as it is being $4.02."In Pictures: Summer Driving Tips

One last note about saving money this summer: Resist the urge to buy a convertible. You'll get a much better deal buying during the off-season (October/November/December) when dealers are trying to clear their lots for new models.

That's the problem with the R8 GT. Only 333 of them will be made--and they're sure to be sold out by autumn

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