Here’s EricTheCarGuy at the Ferrari garage at the Monterey Grand Prix.
Image courtesy of EricTheCarGuy.
If you’ve ever sought assistance online in repairing your own car, or have searched for exactly what an auto repair entails, odds are you’ve come across EricTheCarGuy. This automotive technician-turned-YouTube star has racked up more subscribers than there are people living in Atlanta and Miami combined.
We called EricTheCarGuy to learn more about how his humble beginnings as an artist and a young father motivated him to the world of producing DIY auto-repair videos, and being recognized by automotive fans everywhere. It’s been a long journey – his first YouTube earnings check was a mere 11¢ – here’s (the short version) of his story.
What’s your background?
After I graduated high school, I went to art school in Buffalo, and quickly came to realize that, after graduation, I’d either have to go into designing greeting cards or become an art teacher, or do something really boring. So I then moved to Pittsburgh to go to school for special-effects, because I liked sci-fi and horror, and figured it was more engaging than making greeting cards.
At the time, I was on my own financially, and after one year in school, I ran out of money. I was in my early 20s, wasn’t fully mature, and had been doing a bunch of eclectic jobs, like painting houses. I knew I needed a career, and it had to be something more than just “another job,” because I’ve been a father since I was 19, and was committed to being good father to my son.
I’d always been good at working with my hands, and had been fixing cars a bit, because I’d always driven crappy cars, and needed to fix them to get from point A to point B. When I was in art school, I’d sometimes repair cars for friends. So when it came time to make some money and get a career, not just an odd job, I decided to go to school to become an auto technician.
I was so broke that I’d paid for my application to Rosedale in rolled-up change. The school’s financial-aid department was really awesome, and had started the 18-month-long program as a means to an end, but as soon as I started, I got serious. Auto repair was something I took to; I understood it. I did really well, and graduated at the top of my class. My main motivation at the time was to support my son, and I’ll always remember the great moment that he was sitting in the audience when I graduated from Rosedale. My son is now 26 and he has a seven-year old.
After graduating, in the mid-90s, I worked in Pittsburgh at an independent repair shop as a technician. I was engaged to girl who wound up getting a job in Cincinnati, so we moved, and my automotive career took root there. I worked at an Acura dealership for a while, and had found the dealership work to be very repetitive. It wasn’t really doing it for me, and I found myself longing to do more artistic things.
How did you make the jump from working as an automotive tech to YouTube?
One day, I went to a computer store with a friend, and I sat in front of a computer that had iMovie on it, and I fell in love immediately. I hadn’t even had a computer up until that point, and iMovie inspired me to get one. I think video is the ultimate art form, and taught myself to make and edit videos.
Eventually, I got to a place where I wanted to produce videos professionally, on the side, in addition to being an auto mechanic. So I’ve done weddings, events, and some corporate work. At the same time, I was getting into real estate, as a landlord. I’d buy houses and fix them up, then rent them.
One day in 2008, I lost my job as an auto mechanic with the Acura dealer, and thought, “I’m tired of this,” and figured it was a good time to get my video-production business off the ground.
I remembered having seen an old “David’s Farm” video, with him holding a check for $7-8,000 from YouTube, from one-month’s worth of videos. I put two-and-two together, and figured there was nobody out there doing automotive how-to videos. I planned to make some DIY-automotive videos, getting more detailed, and going further with it than what he was doing.
I’m lucky to have found a niche on YouTube very early on, in 2009, when How-To videos were still relatively new. By now, the market is very saturated, so it’s a more difficult time to start out today.
Back then, I didn’t have a plan other than, “If you build it, they will come.” All I knew was I didn’t want to go back and get a “real” job, so I was highly motivated. It took a lot of time – from 2009-2012, it was very lean. The first earnings I’d received from YouTube was a check for 11¢! In 2013, things finally started to take off.
Now (August 2016), you have about 835,000 YouTube followers. What did you do to grow?
I’m like a social-network octopus. At the same time I got the YouTube channel, I bought the domain name for EricTheCarGuy, and they work in concert with each other. My web site has a forum for people to get answers, and a big FAQ section, so that anyone with automotive questions can get answers on my web site. I’d answer all comments, all questions, and was willing to promote myself every way, shape and form. Some activity was monetary, while with others, it was about a mutual exchange of exposure, and creating alliances.
Got any advice for would-be YouTubers?
Follow your passions and dreams. How you put yourself out there, to the market, is up to you. Some people have mechanical knowledge, but they have little knowledge about how to create a viable video. They have a lot to learn, and I’d challenge them to try that.
If there’s one thing worth working on, it’s production quality. I have video-production experience, so even in the early days, when my lighting and camera weren’t great, I was able to put videos together in a cohesive manner.
A useful trick I have is to try to make it so that you can watch, without understanding what’s being said, and still walk away with something. Consider the fact that the world-wide market is not speaking English. Think about what the viewer is seeing, and structure the video so you’re able to provide value, even without the audio. That’s a great video-production trick. It helps that I see the artistic side of things. Art is a form of communication, and video is the ultimate form.
Who composes your audience?
The audience is mainly people who have some sort of automotive interest. I get a lot of 18-55yo males, but am also known to people from different walks of life. Then there are the ones who make it to my “Meet Up,” and those are the die-hards. They drive for hours and hours to get to the shop.
YouTube has allowed a lot of different cultural subsets to exist. These days, the journey to my page comes from many directions – car reviews, repairs, tool reviews. … Television is dead. YouTube, and things like it, are the future. Everyones’ noses are buried in phones and iPads. And the world is wide open.
Here’s EricTheCarGuy at his 2016 “Meet Up,” which some of his fans drive hours to attend.
Image courtesy of EricTheCarGuy.
Any car advice you wish more people took?
When purchasing a used car, have it checked by a technician beforehand.
On several occasions, people have brought me vehicles they’ve just purchased, and those cars have had several reasons why I would have advised them not to purchase it. I’ve found myself saying, “I could have helped you before you bought this car.”
For people who already own a car, change your oil on a regular basis.
It’s amazing how just that one maintenance procedure can open so many doors to so many systems. If you have it serviced with someone regularly, any decent mechanic is going to give it a once-over, and they’ll point out potential issues.
Changing the oil can indicate how people treat their vehicles. The average person changes oil on a regular basis. Changing the oil every 3,000 miles is excessive. If you’re in 4-5,000-mile range for traditional oil, that’s OK.
I tend to recommend checking the oil every other time you fill up your gas. It really depends on the vehicle. If you drive something like a ‘92 Camry, you’d better keep an eye on the oil. If you have a 2012 Civic, maybe you don’t have to check it as often; it depends how well the vehicle is maintained.
When it ages, oil in the engine turns to sulfuric and carbonic acid. It’s sludgy stuff, and it hardens up. Lot of bad things can happen when oil gets old. If you keep your engine happy, it’ll run better.
Two big reasons oil changes are critical:
- Bringing the vehicle to someone you trust, if you’re not mechanically inclined, will have eyes on the vehicle, and they will indicate additional issues that might need attention.
- It’s important to maintain the machine itself. Vehicles have gotten to a quality level, where they’ve never been in the past. With basic maintenance, they’ll run for hundreds of thousands of miles.
Is there any auto expert who deserves a shout-out?
The first person who comes to mind is Edd China, from Wheeler Dealers, on Velocity. The premise of the show is one guy finds vehicles to purchase, then fix up and resell – they’re flipping cars. The car is brought to the mechanic, and Edd China is the mechanic. I enjoy watching his work. It’s similar to what I’ve ended up doing. He does step-by-step repairs, and explains what he’s doing. Plus, he’s got good hair!
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