The nights are drawing in, the leaves have fallen from the trees and there's a distinct chill in the air. Winter is around the corner, and it's a challenging time of year for your pride and joy.

With that in mind we've put together a quick checklist to make sure your car's in the best possible shape for winter.

1. Fit winter tyres

When temperatures fall below seven degrees, winter tyres provide more grip than normal rubber, and their performance in snowy and wet conditions is vastly superior.

In fact, they can make such a difference that countries including our European neighbours Germany and Austria have made them compulsory during the winter months.

Beware, though, that you'll need to keep your summer tyres for when the weather improves, because above seven degrees, winter rubber becomes less effective.

Rather than changing the tyres themselves, it's often easiest to put winter tyres on some cheap steel wheels and simply run the car on those between December and April before swapping back to your nice, shiny alloys.

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2. Snow chains

Snow chains are rarely useful in the UK, but if you plan to take your car abroad, you'll find they're often a legal requirement.

Don't use them unless you absolutely have to, though, because they tear up roads and offer far less grip than winter tyres unless there's snow under the wheels.

It's also worth noting that some modern cars can't accommodate snow chains thanks to their huge alloy wheels, and that some alternatives, such as snow socks, are illegal in some countries.

3. Keep blankets and warm clothing

Getting stuck by the side of the road due to a breakdown or an accident is never a pleasant experience, but it's far worse in the depths of winter.

It's important, therefore, that you carry some blankets and warm clothing to keep your body temperature up if you get stuck.

4. Check your lights

With days getting shorter, now is a good time to make sure your lights are working.

Switch the headlights on and walk around the car checking each bulb in turn, then ensure that the indicators are working and use a reflective surface such as a window or garage door to make sure the brake lights work.

Many people forget that lights are not just for seeing with - it's important that you can be seen easily by other road users.

If the weather turns snowy, rainy or foggy, turn your lights on to make sure everyone else knows you're there.

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5. Top up vital fluids

Winter's salty roads and inclement weather mean you're likely to use far more windscreen washer fluid than normal, so make sure you've got plenty in the bottle. In the summer, you can use more water than washer fluid, but the fluid should be less dilute in winter because the fluid has an anti-freezing agent in it.

It's also worth checking all the car's other vital fluids, such as oil and coolant - you don't want to break down if you can possibly avoid it.

What are your tips for driving in winter? Let us know in the Comments section below.