The Humble Mechanic: UTI Student to YouTube Star


Charles Sanville is known to the world as YouTube’s Humble Mechanic.

As you might expect from his moniker, he loves cars. The bulletin board in his office has his collection of still-in-the-box Hot Wheels cars pinned to it, a yellow toolbox is plastered with stickers of car and tool brands, and his garage holds two of his own cars.

He grew up outside Chicago, but not as the kid who had car posters up on his bedroom walls. “I didn’t know every model of Ferrari or anything,” he says. He was much more interested in taking things apart and putting them back together’ and more interested in the practicality of it all.

The radio in his Jeep was particularly terrible and one day he decided to do something about it. This project piqued his interest in car audio. He worked on his car. Then he worked on his friends’ cars. Then, he found UTI.

Mechanic removing screw to replace axle.

The Humble Mechanic Finds Universal Technical Institute

Charles had no formal tech school training until UTI. He admits anything that had more than three or four screws was outside his purview. “I knew as little about the technical side of cars as you possibly can,” he says.

But because he thought he was behind the rest of the class, he worked extra hard to make sure he was learning and absorbing all the information. He was never behind, but this mindset was to his benefit.

Charles fell in love with Volkswagens. When asked why, he laughs—cloth heated seats and indigo blue. He says this in jest, but also in seriousness. At the time, these features weren’t found across all car makes. They caught his eye.

Mechanic inspecting a car part.

Why the Humble Mechanic Chose Volkswagen

After finishing the core curriculum at UTI, Charles completed the Manufacturer Specific Advanced Training (MSAT) for Volkswagen. He chose VW over more luxury car brands because he knew getting a job would be easier.

“It might sound cooler to work for Porsche, but VW has more cars on the road and more dealerships,” he notes. His plan panned out and he started working for a dealership soon after graduation.6

Charles’ time at the dealership gave him the expertise needed to help his audience with their car problems. He took that knowledge and built what is the Humble Mechanic YouTube channel today.

Mechanic showing where the struts attach to the car.

A YouTube Star is Born

In September 2014, Charles propped up his iPhone 3 and made his first YouTube video about how to change a tire. He posted it and began his brand as The Humble Mechanic.

Even four years into the YouTubing business, he still gets comments on this first video that light up his day. “I was on the side of the road and I watched your video and it bailed me out.” This is the best feedback, Charles says.

The Humble Mechanic YouTube channel has taken on a life of its own. He’d never planned to be an influencer. Actually, he says, speaking in front of the camera was intimidating, at least at first.

But Charles was motivated by helping others make better decisions about their cars—whether to buy a tool or not buy a tool, whether to do it yourself or pay someone to do it, to help people spend responsibly. He’s been working off this premise ever since.

Student tighten screws on a brake drum

The Secret Life of a YouTuber

Along with some teaching opportunities, Charles makes a living as a YouTuber. He loves the freedom to do what he wants, though his days are far from lazy ventures. In fact, he says he probably works about 15 hours each day. He likes that he has time in the morning with his wife and daughter rather than running off to a dealership or shop somewhere.

Usually his working day starts with emails or editing and publishing a video. Not one to sit at a computer for hours at time, he makes his way to his garage, where he’ll dig into a tool or tinker around with a process, trying to make it more efficient.

He reviews products too, though never promotes anything he doesn’t use himself. Then he’ll return to the computer for another round of emails. He receives no shortage of viewer questions.

Mechanic changing brake pads on a new rotor.

How to Deal with Opinions

Charles has some interesting caveats on his website.

One: Don’t get after him for grammar. He’d rather get better at things he’s good at rather than things he doesn’t care about.

Two: Just because he says “guys” doesn’t mean he’s sexist and doesn’t want to upset anybody. Three: There’s no difference between a technician and a mechanic in his mind. It’s just a name and he uses the terms interchangeably.

Ultimately, whatever you call it, he fixes something for a living. He’s learned to put these things out in the open because people on the Internet have an opinion about everything. It doesn’t keep him from writing or doing his thing though.

Student using diagnostic tool to test vehicle

Fame Didn’t Change the Humble Mechanic’s Passion

Charles loves the feeling of fixing really hard problems. Fine-tuning a method for a certain repair or finding another way to do a job that’s different from the manual; this is the best, he says.

Also high on his list is building relationships with people based on integrity. Charles says the ultimate success is when, rather than panic, a customer or viewer, says “Something’s wrong with my car. I need to see Charles.”

Mechanic? Technician? YouTuber? The “guy with good beard game”? Whatever—Charles fixes stuff. Sometimes he does it on TV.
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