An auto mechanic from the small Steuben County town of Avoca may seem like an unlikely candidate for social media stardom, but millions of video views tell a different story.
Eric Obrochta, 41, has built a YouTube channel subscriber base of nearly 600,000 people by sharing an up close view of his job as owner of South Main Auto Repair, from diagnosis through repairs, with plenty of funny slice-of-life asides along the way.
During a June 2021 video captioned “Customer says he can’t get the rotor off” Obrochta sympathizes with a Chevrolet Silverado owner who is not able to remove a front brake rotor “no matter how much he beats on it.”
After pinpointing the issue, Obrochta said, “It’s kind of comical that the bolt was forgotten, however we have all done stupid things, right? I have done it. You’ve done it. If you haven’t done stupid things, you probably haven’t done anything at all.”
A short video Obrochta posted last September entitled, “When You Think You’ve Seen It All,” has racked up more than 2 million views.
A popular 2018 video is called, “Did My Customer Get Ripped Off: $5000 Used Subaru.”
“Subarus have their own smell,” he tells viewers in the video, which has been seen by nearly a million people.
Obrochta feels like he basically grew up at 47 S. Main St., the automobile repair shop owned by his dad, Paul E. “Sonny” Obrochta.
He bought the business in 2005 (it had sat vacant for about five years) not long before he married his high school sweetheart, Vanessa Obrochta. The couple, parents of three children, will celebrate their 15th anniversary next month.
Obrochta began the South Main Auto Repair YouTube channel in 2014 as sort of a lark. He got more serious about his videos in early 2015 — and he saw his subscriber numbers grow.
To become a successful YouTuber, Obrochta has relied on:
- Know-how acquired during a lifetime of fixing cars and 15 years of growing a business from the ground up;
- Engaging presentations that make his videos accessible to both experts and novices;
- A quick wit and a firm grasp of the absurd, like when he calls his profession “male entertainer.”
During a recent day off from work, Obrochta talked to The Spectator about the growth of his YouTube channel, how he produces his videos, best practices for avoiding costly vehicle repairs, his love-hate relationship with road salt — and a possible future career in home medicine?
The questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.
What’s the secret to getting so many subscribers?
I had a friend, and he did YouTube videos. My thought was, “If this guy can do it, I can do it.”
I’m on a dirt road in downtown Avoca. Now I’m talking to people throughout the whole world, like-minded people who have similar interests in automotive repair. I started learning a few things, talking to different people, and that’s when this huge network opened up where I could see the big benefit of socializing with people from all over the world.
It’s something I couldn’t predict. I’m me. I just do what I do, and people seem to watch it. I don’t quite understand it, but that’s how it is.
Describe the types of people who subscribe to your channel
These people are like doctors, pilots, a lot of airline people working on these huge Boeing 737 jets, and the compliments they’ll give you. It’s kind of humbling to hear from them that, “You would have made a really great surgeon or have you ever thought about this?” I’m like, “Are you kidding?” I barely made it through high school.
What kind of feedback do you get?
Other shops send you their t-shirts or their stickers. They’d send you hats. For the longest time I had my Jeep hat and after 6 or 7 years it was pretty ratty, so everybody wanted to send in hats. People know I have an ice cream fetish, so they’d send ice cream or gift certificates. We’ve gotten maple syrup. If I go online and mention, “Boy, I really love milk,” a week later we’d have three cases of milk showing up. It’s interesting.
Your videos have a lot of humor. Can you describe your process?
It’s all off-the-cuff. It’s just who I am and how I work. I don’t do anything scripted. I’ve tried. I’ve had a difficult time with that. We’re just kind of working and hit record and off we go. If I go through and pre-script or pre-stage something, it seems so fake or inorganic to me that I usually end up scratching those videos.
Did anybody see this success coming in high school? Were you voted ‘Most Likely to Make People Laugh’ or ‘Class Clown?’
Ha! Maybe voted “Most Likely to Never Succeed.” I didn’t do well in high school. I suppose I didn’t apply myself. I didn’t like learning things that I thought I would never use. High school was kind of rocky for me.
Did you make people laugh back then?
Yeah, but usually that’s what got me in trouble. I might have thought something was funny when the teachers or the authority didn’t. I’ve always been a funny guy, but maybe not my timing, if you ask my parents.
How often do you release new videos?
(It’s) completely random. I have commitment issues. I hate to promise “every Tuesday at 8 p.m. or every Wednesday” (in case) I’ve got something going on. It’s always at least once a week. I like to keep people’s interest. It might come out in the morning or in the evening. It all depends on what’s going on in our lives.
Are your videos intended to help somebody who wants to try ‘DIY’ repairs and maintenance?
It’s somewhat entertainment. If someone asks, I say, “I’m a male entertainer.” I would say it’s more advanced DIY and more professional technician simply because I’m not doing it on jack stands on the ground using a car jack. Obviously, we’re a professional repair shop. We have lifts, air compressors, all the tooling, computer systems, so it is a more advanced DIY.
What’s the biggest mistake the average vehicle owner makes when it comes to maintenance and repair?
Vanessa jumps in with an answer: Doing nothing.
Eric explains: Ignoring stuff and letting it compound, so all of a sudden the inspection’s due and they bring it in and there’s a host of problems where more often than not if the problem was addressed in the moment you noticed it, it’s easier on you, easier on the mechanic to address that.
We’ll get a guy who says, “I put $15,000 in this car, and it still has problems.” They’ll bring it in, get it diagnosed, and it’s a wire that’s just $100. If you brought it in, you might have saved a thousand dollars.
Road salt: fan or not a fan?
It’s a love-hate relationship. It brings us a lot of business every time we see it snow. It’s like, “Look at that snow — more salt.” That’s because the majority of our repairs are salt-related. Salt makes electrical connections terrible. Corrosion, cars are rusting out, gas lines are rusting, suspensions are rusting, brakes.
I ask my friends down south, “What do you do? Do cars just break normally because the majority of our stuff is salt, rust, corrosion-related problems.” Here, we get rid of cars when they rust in half. When they get too rusty, you get rid of the car and the thing is usually running quite well when you take it to the junkyard. Down south, they say they get rid of it when they can’t fix the AC anymore.
What kind of video equipment do you use?
Everybody asks, “Can I see your studio?” I’m like, I have a Handycam that I bought at Walmart. That’s my equipment. I’m on my third one. They get abused pretty bad. They’re on my tool cart and they fall over and hit the floor. I can’t justify buying mega-expensive equipment. This stuff works. If I’m using a torch or if brake cleaner gets on the lens, I would feel terrible if I did that to a $4,000 camera. The editing software is pretty inexpensive that we use. It’s not really fancy. I never took any classes for video editing or any of that stuff. Fake it until you make it.
Are there YouTube channels that you follow?
I subscribe to hundreds of channels. Of course all of the automotive channels, but we have other interests. I watch a lot of YouTube.
What’s next? A cooking show? How to perform simple medical procedures at home?
Not going to brag, but I did take a lady’s cast off once. I did fix a lady’s prosthetic leg over at the laundromat. Her foot got spun around. It was a prosthetic, so I didn’t hurt her. It just had some bolts on the bottom. I straightened out her foot and sent her on her way.
One lady, I won’t mention any names, but she had a cast on, and she was sick of it, and the doctor wouldn’t take it off — probably because it wasn’t healed. She asked me if I’d cut it off. Absolutely. Got out the cut off wheel, took her cast off.
Vinnie down the street, he’s got a mobility scooter. I did a video on his. He’s a Vietnam vet. The arm broke off of the scooter he rides around on, so we brought that in and fixed that up for him.
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