THE country doesn’t completely shut down for three or four days over Christmas anymore.

For proof of this, think back to the time you or somebody you know had to make a desperate December 25 dash to a corner shop or filling station in search of foil or some other overlooked essential.

Most businesses do shut down for the duration, though, and this is bad news if you need something rather more complex than foil.

For one thing, the few firms remaining open are likely to be swamped with emergency custom. For another, they understandably charge a heavy premium for working when most other people are enjoying the festivities. If you don’t want to be left facing a crisis or a huge unexpected bill over Christmas, now is the time to make sure the likeliest causes are attended to.

Make sure your vehicle, your home heating system and your security arrangements are in order and you’ll find you can sleep more easily.

Your vehicle is the most important of these, as a defect could lead to something far more tragic than being unable to ferry yourself and your loved ones to each others’ homes.

If you haven’t checked your oil and coolant lately, it’s vital that you do so. Five minutes checking fuel levels every so often can make the difference between years of trouble-free motoring and a repair bill running into hundreds of pounds.

Check tyres and lights, too. Tyres are your vehicle’s only point of contact with the road and lights are your only means of announcing your presence in conditions of darkness and poor visibility. If tyre treads are worn, don’t take a chance: change them now. Worn tyres reduce grip dramatically, which is bad enough in dry conditions, let alone wintry ones. Remember, also that brakes should be serviced as soon as you feel they’re losing efficiency.

At home, your boiler is the last thing you want to go wrong over the Christmas season, as freezing water and freezing rooms don’t do much for festive spirit. If yours has been making some unusual noises lately, or even if it’s simply been due a service for a while, it’s better to act now.

Ask friends and family for recommendations. The best tradespeople thrive on word-of-mouth and have little or no need to advertise.

Christmas is also a time when we should think about home security, assuming we haven’t done so before. At a time when all manner of attractive things are to be found around trees in people’s houses, thieves are often on the prowl.