AS winter approaches and we head towards dark and cold days, it’s important to make sure that our cars are in perfect condition to handle the harshest of winter conditions, especially if you intend to visit your loved ones over the Christmas period.

Your vehicle has to endure the effects of cold temperatures, icy and damp starts as well as salt and grit from the road.

This puts extra demand on a vehicle, especially with prolonged use of lights, heating and windscreen wipers.

Problems include a flat or fatigued battery, temperamental starter motor, alternator drive belt cracking under pressure, under-achieving antifreeze and low tyre pressures.

This can seriously affect your car’s reliability during the winter months.

Batteries can get tired and worn out after five years, so always check them at the start of winter to make sure they’re charged. Batteries can also take time to re-charge so, if you only use your vehicle for short journeys on cold mornings and evenings, try to make at least one longer journey a week or invest in a trickle charger.

Avoid over-stressing your electrics in winter by using them longer than necessary - turn down the fan heater and switch off the rear heater once your rear window is clear.

Allow your vehicle time to get going in the morning — when a vehicle stands idle it can take longer for the battery to revive.

Use the starter in short five-second bursts if it’s sluggish in the morning, leaving 30-second gaps between attempts to let the battery recover.

Check tyre condition, pressure and tread depth - at least 3mm of tread is recommended for winter motoring.

Always carry a working jack, wheel brace and a spare wheel, just in case.

Make sure you take your vehicle to your local car dealer for a winter check up and top up.

Maintaining your car with regular servicing and checks is vital to ensure trouble free motoring and this is particularly true during the winter.

The winter check up and top up will help reduce the chances of incident and breakdown during the harsh months ahead.