DRIVING home for Christmas is set to be stressful enough, but breaking down on the road is not exactly the icing on your festive cake.
With UK roads set to be bumper-to-bumper in the run-up to Christmas this week, give yourself the best chance against a sputtering exhaust on the road.
RAC breakdown spokesperson Rod Dennis said: "As well as adding to the traffic jams, just a single breakdown has the potential to ruin Christmas.
"Popular days for travel are often busy days for breakdowns, so following our advice to avoid a breakdown in the first place is arguably more important than ever this year."
Here are the eight car checks you must do before you set off.
Charge your battery
Checking your battery is always important when it comes to vehicle maintenance, but especially in cold weather or when your car isn't being used very often.
The AA said more than a quarter of breakdowns (27%) last winter were a direct result of issues with the car battery.
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So for your sake and everyone else on the UK's crammed roads this week, check you've got plenty of charge under the bonnet.
You can do this by opening the bonnet and attaching a multimeter to your battery – which should measure 12.6V or above.
Most mechanics offer a quick, inexpensive battery check, too.
And if you drive an electric car, your battery should last 10 to 20 years before it needs replaced.
Top up your engine oil
One in three vehicles checked by UK mechanics have "dangerously low" levels of oil, according to the RAC.
That could cause massive engine damage or a breakdown in the middle of your journey.
A two-minute check is easy to do and doesn't require professional help, either.
Just pull out your car's dipstick and – if it's below the line indicator – top up your oil.
Add de-icer to your screen wash
Winter brings the offer of plenty of life hacks for solving a frosty windscreen – ignore them.
De-icing your windscreen is best done the old-fashioned way – with a good ice scraper and some de-icing liquid mixed into your screen wash.
This will ensure your windscreen doesn't freeze up in sub-zero temperatures.
Pouring boiling water on the glass can cause it to crack or shatter, and could cost you hundreds of pounds or even land you a fine if you drive with your vision obscured.
Pump your tyres
It's the law to have properly inflated tyres with a tread depth of 1.6mm in the UK and Europe.
And during the winter months, it's recommended that your minimum tread depth is 3mm.
That's a route to sensible driving – and a way of avoiding punitive fines up to £2,500 per tyre if they don't conform to the law.
Tyres need to be at the right pressure too, or you could risk skidding or not being able to stop on a wet or icy road.
Find out your tyre pressure with an air machine check at the petrol station.
It will also be listed in your vehicle manual and most often on the sill of the driver's door.
Wipers can't be faulty
Snow, ice and grit can not only damage your wipers but also impact your visibility on the roads.
Run your fingers along the blades to look out for any splits – if you find any, it's best to replace them as soon as you can before they cause damage.
Plus, driving with broken wipers could see you hit with a £50 fixed penalty.
Cool your engines
Engine coolant is one of the most important ingredients in your car this winter.
It's a mixture of water and antifreeze and is needed to help keep your engine from overheating on the road.
The RAC advises: "This does a vital job in ensuring the engine runs at the right temperature.
"If it’s not between the ‘min’ and ‘max’ levels, this could be the sign of a problem, so contact a good garage without delay."
That's a simple dashboard warning light check for most vehicles.
You should also be able to find out manually on your expansion tank under the bonnet.
Check your lights
With days now at their shortest, your front and rear headlights are your best friend out on the road.
Don’t forget to check your indicators are also working and replace any bulbs that need changing.
And worse still, faulty headlights could see motorists slapped with a fine of £100 on the spot.
Fuel a safe journey
Breaking down in the middle of the road is bad enough.
But if it's because you've simply run out of fuel, your conversation with a mechanic could be pretty awkward.
And if you grind to a halt in the middle of a busy road you could be slapped with an unlimited fine and nine points on your licence for dangerous driving.
So top up early in your journey and don't get left out in the cold.
UK motorways are set to be busier this week than at any point since 2015 as families rush home for Christmas.
Winter driving can be a challenge in an automatic or a manual, so make sure you read our advice before you hit the road.
And here are our winter driving tips to avoid fines of up to £10,000.
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