Neglect your car and you will pay in the long run.Everyone wants to save money, but when it comes to your car, most people focus exclusively on how to save money on gas while neglecting other important areas. This is especially true now that full-service gas stations no longer exist in most areas of the country. Self-service means that basic mechanical checks are a thing of the past. If you haven't been properly maintaining your car, now is a great time to take some time to check all those small things that often get put off or overlooked. Money isn't routinely spent on your car by only buying gasoline. It's estimated that more than 5% of all vehicle accidents are the direct result of lack of vehicle maintenance resulting in approximately 2,600 deaths, 100,000 disabling injuries and $2 billion in financial losses each year. By taking the time to make sure that your car is in top working order, you will help your car last longer and improve driving safety in addition to saving money on gas. Here are nine basic maintenance checks you should make and how they can help save you money: 1. Check gas cap: Before you laugh at this one, one in six car owners on the road is spending more on gas than they need to because of their gas cap. Approximately 17% of vehicles on the road have gas caps that are either damaged, improperly placed on or missing altogether. Gas caps that aren't firmly closed allow gas vapors to escape resulting in the loss of 147 million gallons of gasoline each year which vanishes into the air. 2. Check oil: This is one of those easy tasks to do, but when is the last time you checked your oil? In a 2007 CarCare survey, more than one in four cars (26%) failed an oil inspection due to low, overfull or dirty motor oil. While it will cost you a bit of money to regularly change your oil, this will pay off in the long run by extending the life of your car's engine and helping to protect it against engine damage. The cost of a few quarts of oil is vastly less expensive than needing to replace an engine or having to buy a new car a couple of years sooner, which can be the result if you don't change your oil on a regular basis. 3. Check tires: This is another one of the gas saving tips that you hear time and again, but still a lot of people fail to follow. Low tire pressure costs you in two ways. It decreases your gas mileage and it shortens your tire life. In addition to checking tire pressure, also check tire tread wear. Not having enough tread on the tire increases the risk of losing traction on wet or snowy roads and a traffic accident will almost always be a lot more expensive than a new set of tires. 4. Check spark plugs: Dirty and worn spark plugs cause misfiring in the engine that wastes fuel, increases exhaust emissions and reduces power. Most people learn that they need to change spark plugs when their engine has a hard time starting, but they have been wasting money long before things got this bad since the wear is gradual. Most standard spark plugs need to be changed every 45,000 miles while long-lasting platinum spark plugs need replacement every 100,000 miles. 5. Check air filter: Air filters get clogged with dirt, dust and other material from the road. As the filter becomes clogged, the airflow through it decreases, which results in a "rich" mixture of too much gas and not enough air going to the engine. The result is wasted gas and a loss of engine power. Simply replacing or cleaning a badly clogged air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10%.