Meet the YouTube Grease Monkey Inspired by VWVortex

A post recently found its way onto the forum announcing a new YouTube channel covering some of the basics of car repair. Although YouTube has its fair share of how-to channels, this one caught our eye because the maker said she had been inspired by the site. Now, we here at the VW Vortex offices love nothing more than to hear about how wonderful the site is, so we immediately reached out to the maker, Jessica Chou, to ask her all about how the community had inspired her. Unfortunately, it turns out that she would have been a bad ass with or without us. Fortunately, that makes for a much better interview.

Here, our interview with Jessica Chou, of Jessicann (And You Can Too!):

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Jessica Chou. I’m 26. I’m originally from the Bay Area and now I live in Los Angeles.

When I’m not fixing cars, I’m producing things – films, digital content, live events, you name it. Most recently, I produced an award-winning documentary called A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story, and for the last two years, I ran production for a company called Women Rising which focused on producing content to empower women and girls.

Tell us about your car.
I have a 2003 Jetta 1.8T. It was the first car I ever bought on my own. I bought it off of Craigslist in 2013. Prior to that, my first car was a 1995 Honda Civic with 200,000+ miles and missing paint all along the top. So I can’t say that I’ve always been a VW fan from the get-go, but I’ve learned to love my VW dearly. We’ve been through a whole lot together. To be quite honest, I picked the Jetta because I always thought it was a cute car, and it was within my budget.

Have you always been mechanically inclined/interested in fixing things?
Growing up in an Asian household, you very quickly learn how to fix things to save money. My dad is a jack-of-all-trades. He was a full-time engineer, part-time MacGyver. Watching him fix everything around the house (even things that didn’t need fixing), I became very solution-oriented and interested in fixing things myself. My friends now call me an adult girl scout. I find a lot of joy and satisfaction in fixing things of all sorts – a rip in a dress, a loose kitchen cabinet, my car, etc.

What first got you onto the forum?
When I first bought my Jetta, I knew nothing about VWs. In fact, I knew nothing about cars. So when my car started acting up, I took to the internet and came across the goldmine that is VWVortex. There were numerous issues that brought me to the forum – electrical problems galore, broken speedometer (which remains broken to this day – so if you’ve had this problem, help a sister out!), broken sunroof, funny lock system, etc. However, my proudest fix of all time would be replacing my fuel pump. My car was dead for an entire week before I figured out the issue. I was distraught and combed through the forum day and night, until alas, I came across a thread about fuel pumps. Someone mentioned that the fuel pumps in 2003 Jettas make a start-up sound upon opening the driver-side door. I vividly remember rushing out of my apartment, opening up my car door, and of course – there was no noise! So I bought a new fuel pump, a tool to remove the old fuel pump, and in a couple of hours, my car was brought back to life! It was by far the most victorious moment I’ve shared with my Jetta.

What made you want to make these videos?
I had a very defining moment a few months back. As I was fixing my spark plugs, a man walked by and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was replacing my spark plugs. He looked at me very surprisedly and asked, “…by yourself?” I don’t think I’ve ever felt more empowered than when I enthusiastically replied, “Yes, by myself!” I knew that I wanted to capture that feeling of pride and empowerment in some way to share with my girlfriends. So I thought what better way to do that than to show them that they too can fix their own cars.

What’s your mission in making these videos?
My mission is simple – to show women that we can do these things too. I’m not here to take a stand and say that we don’t need the help of men. In fact, I’m a firm believer that the conversation around gender equality and female empowerment very much involves men. When that man on the street asked me what I was doing, I wasn’t offended, I was proud. Proud that the number one man in my life, my dad, taught me to trust in my abilities. In turn, my mission is to inspire women to feel confident in their own abilities to do things that traditionally we didn’t think we could – like fixing cars.

What’s your next project/video going to be about?
So far, I’ve made videos on replacing spark plugs and brake lights. My next video will be about changing oil [ed. note: This video is now up]. It’s something that has always intimidated me. Every time I get an oil change, I always leave feeling like I got jipped. That they sold me on some fancy schmancy oil, and then ten other fixes later, I’m short $100. So I knew I definitely wanted to work a DIY oil change into my video tutorials.