Is it all right to put 5,000 miles on a car before changing the oil?

Yes, say some in the industry. They wave off the long-time conventional recommendation that engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles.

But 60% of surveyed National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified master technicians stick with 3,000-mile standard. Twenty-nine percent of them say up to 5,000 miles before an oil change is fine.

Mechanics' acceptability of 5,000-10,000 miles before an oil change is virtually non-existent at 2%, according to the survey by Valvoline, a motor oil company.

Mechanics view oil as the lifeblood of a car engine, with 84% saying not getting a regular oil change can cause the most problems compared with other vehicle-maintenance issues.

On another survey topic, ASE technicians are divided on when they think alternative fuels might replace gasoline in most American automobiles. But all but a handful believe it will happen.

“Clearly alternative fuels are on the minds of expert mechanics, just as they are capturing public and major auto maker's attention as gas prices continue to rise and stay at higher than traditional levels,” says Bryan Emrich, Valvoline's marketing director.

Asked when most cars will be run on alternative fuels, 14% of the 300 surveyed mechanics predict within five years; 26% within five-10 years; 31% within 10-15 years; and 28% say in more than 15 years

Only 1% say it will never happen.

“Mechanics are the front line of car care and good predictors of trends. If they are right, it is a matter of when, not if, alternative fuels will be the norm, rather than the exception,” Emrich says.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of surveyed mechanics — 87% — believe American car owners are putting off routine maintenance, mostly for cost reasons. Ironically, 97% say delayed maintenance will cost an owner more in the long run, as unattended problems get worse and lead to other issues.

Finally, while 65% of the mechanics believe American vehicles are better than ever, 79% say there's still a need to improve vehicle quality. Fifty percent believe there is consumer prejudice against U.S. automakers.