Christopher Rosacker

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May 9, 2013
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Leno segment spurs business for Grass Valley auto detailer

When Grass Valley resident TJ O’Brien checked his Facebook page on May 3, he found dozens of unexpected messages from strangers all over the country, and his phone began to ring off the hook, he said.

All the attention was spurred by a video of the 20-year-old that aired on Jay Leno’s website, Jay Leno’s Garage, featuring O’Brien’s use of steam to detail all the crannies of a vehicle.

While O’Brien, who operates TJ’s Auto Spa, was not surprised by the video as he had met with the veteran talk show host on March 23 to film the segment, he had not expected it to be posted online so quickly.

“I did not get any warning,” O’Brien said. “My phone blew off the hook. I actually turned my phone off and went to the Yuba River, because I was overwhelmed.”

Leno, who has hosted the “The Tonight Show” for most of 20 years, is on the cusp of being replaced by “Late Night” host Jimmy Fallon. But Leno is a car enthusiast and his website features scores of vehicles and car-related topics. Leno also describes himself as a “Steam Aficionado” in the video featuring O’Brien.

“The video turned out great,” O’Brien said of what amounts to a validation from Leno.

O’Brien’s steam-detailing business is poised to open its doors at a new location on Joerschke Drive in Grass Valley at the beginning of June. With the help of The Hub Society, a Nevada County club dedicated to passing on the skills of automotive history, the business has taken off.

A traditional running-water car detailing operation can use more than 40 gallons per vehicle; O’Brien boasts that his devices use a mere 2 to 5 gallons, depending on the level of detail.

From the mobile machine runs a hose to a gas pump-looking nozzle. Out of that nozzle billows steam, similar to a pressure washer, yet it won’t chip the paint. It will lift dirt, kill mold and polish the wheel wells, engines and interiors.

Since news of O’Brien’s Leno segment began to circulate, business has boomed, he said.

“People are digging up their sports cars,” O’Brien said. “The Corvettes are coming out to the garages, it’s a busy time of year.”

To watch the video, visit For more information about O’Brien’s business, visit or call 530-613-6708.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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The Union Updated May 10, 2013 12:07AM Published May 12, 2013 11:34AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.