John Hilgar started working on cars while he was still in high school: “I always messed around with cars when I was young… like all kids did back then,” he explains.

So, when he graduated from high school, he faced a choice: college or cars. He is choice was mostly pragmatic: “I couldn’t afford to go to engineering school, so I went to tech school. I knew a few diesel mechanics, and they made a lot of money, so I majored in diesel technology.

“I did become a diesel mechanic, but that only lasted about a year. My job was to fix trucks wherever they broke down: on the turnpike or wherever. I remember one time I went out on a job in December, and it was snowing and freezing… it took me a couple hours to thaw out when I got home!”

Transmission Shop Expert

John started looking for a path into auto repair. “I found a transmission shop that was looking for an installer, so that’s where I got my start. I worked my way up, from installer to rebuilder, and finally ended up running the whole shop. Then I took a job managing another shop, but there was no room for growth.”

He found a position as the manager of the Levittown Cottman. They sent him to managers’ school, where he got his first taste of Cottman’s carefully crafted processes and procedures.

That center got sold a few years later, and the new owners didn’t have a place for John. “So I moved to another Cottman,” says John. “A couple years later the Feasterville Cottman became available, so I decided it was time to stop making money for other people and become my own boss.”

But John already had a terrific automotive background, in the office and under the hood. So why did he go with Cottman? “I was very comfortable with the Cottman procedures, so when the Feasterville shop became available, it was kind of a turnkey thing: I already had the experience in place. And with Cottman, all I had to do was open the door I was ready to go.

Getting the Cottman of Feasterville, PA  store was a lucky break, because “it had a good reputation in a terrific market; it had a lot of potential.”

To what does John attribute his success? “I started out simply trying to be honest and fair with customers… to provide excellent quality repairs at a fair price.

Transmission Rebuild Services in Feasterville

“I love it when a customer comes in thinking he needs a new transmission, and it turns out to be just a seal or a sensor. A lot of the time I won’t even charge anything for fixing it. It becomes the best advertisement I could ask for; the job I didn’t charge for.”

With a business model like that, it’s no wonder John and his crew stay busy!

Contact John and his team at