The current economic climate has been tough for many of us. People are looking for good ways to stretch their dollar and cut back on spending. This extends to the cars we drive, too. It makes a lot more sense for us to keep our current vehicles running in good condition than to be forced to go out and buy a new one.

1. Drive With Lighter Loads: Vehicles like heavy-duty pickup trucks typically pack big, powerful engines with a lot of torque. This is because they’re designed to tow and haul things many times their own size and weight.

If you’re concerned about what you can tow and what you can’t, always consult your owners’ manual. If you need to do some towing, make sure you have a vehicle than can handle the task at hand properly.

Besides towing, cutting back on the amount of weight you’re carrying reduces the load on the engine. It also helps you get better gas mileage. In other words, try not to drive around with lots of boxes or heavy equipment in your car.

Car Service2. Shift Gears Properly: This tip is more aimed at drivers of cars with manual transmissions. If you have an automatic transmission, shifting will take care of itself — but it’s still important to have your car in the right gear.

These tips can also apply to newer transmissions that allow a driver to select gears electronically, like with a “tiptronic” or dual-clutch transmissions.

It’s important to be in the correct gear when you’re driving. If you have manual transmission, you will likely have noticed that driving in too high a gear for your speed and RPM range causes the car to shake and move slowly, commonly known as “lugging.” Lugging creates an unnecessary strain on the engine and can damage your cylinder heads, leading to expensive repairs later on.

3. Don’t Speed: Unleashing your inner Michael Schumacher on public roads is bad for many reasons. Driving too fast wastes gas, increases emissions, and of course, puts you at the risk of getting ticketed or being involved in a wreck.

The ideal cruising speed for most cars and trucks is about 50 to 55 miles per hour (80.5 to 88.5 kilometers per hour). But to cruise at 60 miles per hour (96.6 kilometers per hour) requires about 73 percent more horsepower. And to cruise at 70 miles per hour (112.7 kilometers per hour), it requires nearly 160 percent more horsepower. Think how much harder your engine has to work to put out that kind of power.

4. Let Your Car Warm Up Properly on Cold Days: If you were about to go jogging on a 30-degree day, you would probably stretch first, right? So why drive your car on a cold day without letting it warm up first?

Cold weather is tough on a car’s engine. It takes more energy to start an engine when it’s frosty out because the battery carries a lower charge. The oil is cold and thick, which makes it harder for the moving parts to operate. In addition, gasoline is harder to burn when it’s cold.

5. Be Gentle During the Break-in Period: Owning a new car is an exciting experience. After going through the often challenging process of buying one, it’s only natural to want to enjoy it by seeing what it can do out on the highway. But it’s important to take it easy on a newly manufactured engine — initially, at least.

The “break-in period” usually refers to car’s first 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers). During this time, it’s important to keep the throttle in the lower RPM range, but also to vary your driving speed from time to time. You don’t want to be sticking to one particular speed or gear; you want to utilize the entire range of your car’s performance.