School Bus 101, long technical post

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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Elliot » Wed Mar 26, 2014 10:55 am

:twisted:
For continued amusement, the CNG bus, mentioned above, was PUSHED 20 MILES to a refill station, with a Dodge-Cummins pickuptruck! (This was possible because the bus engine would still idle, keeping air brakes and power steering working.)

Now he has it mired to the axles in a rain-soaked farm field. (We need a facepalm smiley!)
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Tiahaar » Fri Mar 28, 2014 10:58 pm

the joys of retrieving a bus heheheh....pic needed Elliot!
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Elliot » Sat Mar 29, 2014 10:49 am

I was safely at home here in Clearlake during all this.
Word is, he is now parking on slabs of plywood to make sure he doesn't sink again. So he is learning.
Now I wonder who is going to perform the massive task of raising the roof for him? (shudder)
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby chuckularone » Sat Mar 29, 2014 2:37 pm

Elliot wrote:
Now I wonder who is going to perform the massive task of raising the roof for him? (shudder)


Is it one of the ones with the tanks on the roof? If so, how does that complicate the roof raise?
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Elliot » Sat Mar 29, 2014 3:36 pm

No, no tanks on the roof. Just an air conditioner. I'm guessing the CNG tanks are underneath between the frame rails. (Where the driveshaft and exhaust pipe would be if the engine were in the front.) But I have not seen this Thing -- only a snapshot of it.

Apparently, CNG stores at something like 3,000 PSI, so any modification is not likely to be a job for just any amateur.

The latest is that he wants to take the seats out with a Sawsall -- which I would consider an ill suited tool for the task.
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby EspressoDude » Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:46 pm

Tiahaar wrote:I was just telling Elliot about the wiring mess in my busII dash and promised a picture...isn't it beautiful (ly terrifying...)
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That was this morning, now everything but the air lines and steering column are out, including all the wood framework. Starting over from scratch. That dash was a grafted-in abomination to start with.

This rig may or may not be the playa hauler this year, will see how progress goes.


looks like whoever wired that was on acid, and I don't mean battery acid
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Tiahaar » Fri Apr 04, 2014 9:47 pm

ha yes EspressoDude. I should save it all and make a mock control station on some playa mutant machine :D

work continues, this weekend the headlight assemblies should go in, maybe start reframing the windshield area.

on that cng bus Elliot have they considered converting back to regular gas? hafta replace the intake manifold maybe or put a standard carb on? would be a pain to fuel cng. long ago I drove a company dual fuel van cng/petrol rig, was a hassle.
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Elliot » Sat Apr 05, 2014 8:28 am

Tiahaar wrote:...

on that cng bus Elliot have they considered converting back to regular gas? hafta replace the intake manifold maybe or put a standard carb on? would be a pain to fuel cng. long ago I drove a company dual fuel van cng/petrol rig, was a hassle.

I don't know about converting, but that was of course my first thought. It is a diesel engine built by John Deere, specifically for CNG. I could find out right here on the interweb, no doubt, but it's kind'a number 3 on my priority list.
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby GreyCoyote » Sat Apr 05, 2014 5:11 pm

Elliot wrote:
Tiahaar wrote:...

on that cng bus Elliot have they considered converting back to regular gas? hafta replace the intake manifold maybe or put a standard carb on? would be a pain to fuel cng. long ago I drove a company dual fuel van cng/petrol rig, was a hassle.

I don't know about converting, but that was of course my first thought. It is a diesel engine built by John Deere, specifically for CNG. I could find out right here on the interweb, no doubt, but it's kind'a number 3 on my priority list.


This has my curiosity piqued, Elliot. Is this a diesel converted to run on NG (meaning it has spark plugs and uses NG exclusively as the fuel with about 15:1 compression) or is it a "bi-fuel" diesel (injects a small amount of diesel into a 20:1 compression ratio engine to initiate the combustion event with about 80% of the power being produced by natural gas inducted via a standard Impco NG carb?)

Very curious! :mrgreen:
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Elliot » Sat Apr 05, 2014 6:40 pm

I do not know. A friend reported he saw no spark plugs.
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby ManitoBURN » Thu May 01, 2014 10:45 am

My goal is to be at the 2017 burn. (cuz when you are broke and 3000 miles away, its an issue)
Anyway, this is the bus im planning on building (i was going to anyway) just thought id see what you guys think.
The water tank is under the sink and the electrical is under the bunk beds.
Im hoping to have the bus by next summer. I am hoping for a 10 window international/bluebird with a conventional engine.
I almost forgot, the interior will hopefully cost $0, it will be uggly but who cares?

My hopeful price list,
BUS- $2000
GET IT ON THE ROAD -$2000
Diesel to The MAN -$5000
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Tiahaar » Thu Jun 19, 2014 1:42 am

Bus thread bump! Great basic schoolie conversion plan MB, go for it. That's the great thing with these big metal shells on wheels you can build them however works for your project.

Mine gets worked on a little bit more each week, even had a visit from Elliot not long ago, who said (understatedly) 'what a project'. Heh. It still has a ways to go.

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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Vladar » Mon Jun 30, 2014 7:04 pm

Figured I would post our progress on our recent bus purchase.
So in October I will be quitting my job and we will be driving around the country in our converted school bus.
The bus we bought was already fully converted, and we will be making changes that we feel are needed. But it is nice to have it done.
The bus has 2 main gas tanks and 1 aux tank that all together hold 105 Gal of unleaded gas. The motor is a 350 V8 Chevy Small Block with only 38k miles on it. The bus all together has 142k on it.
It has full 110 and water hookup that runs throughout the bus. There is a water heater and pump so we can have pressurized water coming out of the plumbing.
The bathtub and kitchen sink are the only things that don't run to a tank at the moment, so we are going to either run them to the black water tank or just put in a grey water tank (there is plenty of room)

Unfortunetly we will not be bringing it to burning man as we can't take on that gas expense at the moment and would like get some more stuff done with it first.

In the blog posts on the website we go over a few things about what is in there. Figure I will let you read the rest there.
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Bless » Mon Jun 30, 2014 7:56 pm

Vladar, do you have more pictures of the interior?
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Vladar » Mon Jun 30, 2014 8:16 pm

Here are 3 more. It's all we have at the moment. We are going to do a video walkthrough to really let people get an idea of it. My wife will head back to storage (where we have it at the moment) and take some more wide view pictures.
Mind the mess, these were photos I took of the mess the people made that broke into our bus (the day after we bought it and parked it in the public storage). They broke the window on the door to get in :(

BTW, it is a 1967 Chevy C50 Wayne Bus

*re sized images*
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby elmostan » Mon Jul 14, 2014 4:48 pm

Hey Bus-heads,

I've been consulting this thread for the past 3 years for various reasons and it's been super helpful! I've got a question about overloading the vehicle and how flexible the GVWR is. I've got a 2001 Bluebird Mini Bird, and she's rated at 14,500lbs. After doing sweet mods (see pics in the link at the bottom), she weighs in at 12,500. I did some rough calcs, and after 6 people and their water are loaded, she'll weigh about 14,100 lbs, leaving only 400 pounds for gear.

Is that unreasonable? I'm thinking most people would have about 150lbs of stuff to haul, so 900 overall, which would put the bus at 15,000 pounds. Oops.

Has anybody overloaded their bus and gone over the Seattle mountain passes and lived to tell the tale?

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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby FIGJAM » Mon Jul 14, 2014 5:27 pm

We did that and the wheels fell off. :P
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Vladar » Sun Jul 20, 2014 6:07 pm

We updated out website a little bit with some more progress on the bus.
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Captain Goddammit » Sun Jul 20, 2014 6:40 pm

elmostan wrote:Has anybody overloaded their bus and gone over the Seattle mountain passes and lived to tell the tale?

I haven't done it in a Mini Bluebird, but I've been traveling those mountains between Seattle and BRC (man we have a tough road to the playa!) in various heavily loaded rigs including three different Chevy one-ton trucks and a motorhome with a Chevy chassis, towing a 9500-pound trailer.
Things have gone wrong, most notably the motorhome I lost somewhere on a mountain pass in Oregon in 2008.
I'm usually at around 12,000 on the truck and 9500 on the trailer.
The chassis you have will take the 15000 pounds, but you should go out and read the tire weight ratings on the sidewalls. The important thing is to not overload your tires. You need to put your rig on a scale so you have a good idea of how much is on the front and how much is on the back.
The best way around it if you're just too heavy is to pull a trailer... then you get more tires to carry more weight, and another set of brakes.
Next big priority for traveling heavy over the mountains is the transmission, which I'm assuming is an automatic. They make a lot of heat and you need to get rid of it. Buy a large (not medium or small, get a big one) transmission cooler. They aren't super expensive and are pretty easy to install.
Engine heat can be an issue too. I've been on the side of the road on this trip more than once because of it... it's not exactly free, but if the rig is new-to-you, I wouldn't head over the hills heavy without either a new radiator or taking the existing one to a radiator shop to get redone.
Big, powerful electric fans are good too. The problem is, you end up working the hell out of the engine powering up those mountains, making tons of heat, but you're going slow and not getting very much breeze through the radiator to cool it. Big electric fans are expensive - unless you go to the junkyard! Most are set up as "puller" fans that sit behind the radiator, but you want "pusher" fans that go in front of it. I found that Volvos at wrecking yards have excellent pusher fans that are easy to mount wherever you want. You'll need heavy gauge wiring, they're pretty heavy-duty.
Driving style is a big variable. DON'T just leave it in "Drive" and floor it up the mountains. That's when you blow it up. Shift down and ease up, go a little slower than you could go, don't kill the thing. If you're in a hurry, leave earlier. It's WAY more important to arrive on the playa at all!
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby elmostan » Sun Jul 20, 2014 11:25 pm

Captain Goddammit wrote:You need to put your rig on a scale so you have a good idea of how much is on the front and how much is on the back.


Is there a quick and dirty way to do this? The one time I weighed my bus was when I was doing a haul to the dump. Are the weigh stations I see periodically on the highway free for public use?

I forgot to mention that I made the trip last year with 4 people in the bus, and I made it with no problems! I didn't end up weighing it because we had a bit of a late start and there wasn't much I'd be able to do if we were over the limit. This year I'm attempting it with 6 people, so 800-1000 extra pounds. (Maybe I should get rid of the wheelchair lift....) For comparison sake, I did measure how far my bumper dropped after being loaded, so I can see how much worse it ends up being this year.

I typically drive at night so I have more freedom to drive as slow as I want to, and I stay in lower gears on those hills. There's one pass between Alturas and Cedarville where the bus peaks at 19 MPH.

Of the modifications you listed, the trailer would probably be the best option. I don't have a hitch installed, and I haven't found any good tutorials on how to do a custom one. Know of any?

All in all, it should be fine. I'm an engineer and when we design stuff at work, we generally write the rating at 10% below the actual limits of what we're working with. I'll just take it easy and slow.
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Jackass » Sun Jul 20, 2014 11:46 pm

elmostan wrote: Are the weigh stations I see periodically on the highway free for public use?



I would NOT pull into one of those, unless ORDERED to do so...

Truck stops have certified scales that you can weigh at for a small fee.
Sooner or later, it will get real strange...

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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Captain Goddammit » Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:38 am

They aren't for public use when open but you can stop and weigh when they are closed.
They leave the scales on and you can get out and look in the windows. Often they even turn the display around toward the window to make it easier.
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Elliot » Mon Jul 21, 2014 8:40 am

Captain Goddammit wrote:They aren't for public use when open but you can stop and weigh when they are closed.
They leave the scales on and you can get out and look in the windows. Often they even turn the display around toward the window to make it easier.

Some states leave the scales on, but other do not. California does not.
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby elmostan » Fri Aug 15, 2014 9:03 am

After checking the tire rating I decided that something needed to be done to reduce weight, so I asked a couple people in the ride share if they could find an alternate way and they immediately panicked, it's too late in the game for them to figure out a different way of getting to the playa. So I bought an adjustable hitch from my local Big-Box store.

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After many hours of finaggling and guesswork I got it in! In hind sight, I should have taken it to a shop and them just weld in a bar (Or learn how to weld on my own time) It cost me about 140 for the bar, and me and a friend a total of 9 hours over the course of a couple of days. I'm picking up a harbor freight trailer tomorrow, I just need to wire in a trailer plug and I'll be all set!
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Elliot » Fri Aug 15, 2014 9:38 am

:shock:
A Harbor Freight trailer??? You are not talking about the $300 folding trailer, are you? Because I would not trust one of those across my back yard. And I have one of those in my back yard. It was given to me after the owner hauled a golf cart on it, and the triangular tongue collapsed under the weight.

Also, the tires are a rather small size. Of course, you should buy a spare or two.
And I would not leave home without first packing the wheel bearings properly.

If you are concerned about a couple thousand pounds of weight in the bus, I feel you are only making the situation worse if you transfer that weight to a crappy trailer.
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby GreyCoyote » Fri Aug 15, 2014 10:10 am

Busses are built like a tank. I would prefer to overload a bus slightly (given its robust construction and massive amount of regulation and structural requirements) than to load any bumper pull trailer to its rated weight.

YMMV, of course, and there may be other advantages to a trailer that you are considering, but be careful of offloading your weight to any small trailer.
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Elliot » Fri Aug 15, 2014 10:49 am

What sort of bus is this? You call it a Mini Bird, and you say the GVWR is only 14,500 pounds. My full size bus is rated 31.000 pounds. Is this some sort of van chassis?
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Tin Halo » Tue Sep 23, 2014 10:03 pm

Just found this thread, and it's a little late for me to be cruising it through 21 pages, so I'll go ahead and ask if there are any logistic issues in using a decommissioned city bus, like gearing, etc? I pass by an RTD service yard on my way into Boulder and they have these shorter versions of the usual transit buses, meant for short hops across certain areas of town. I have long-wondered if those were viable candidates...
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Tin Halo » Tue Sep 23, 2014 10:34 pm

gyre wrote:My ford van is an older 351W with C6 and 9" rear end.
It will run long after the newer ones are all gone.


Hear, hear! We had a '72 Ford Supervan that had hefty miles on it when we bought it (from one of Dad's friends), and heftier miles on it when we sold it (which Dad regretted later). Even the guy we bought it from regretted selling it.
I find myself missing that beast, on occasion.
One weird thing we had with it: One day, I went out to start it up and go somewhere, but I accidentally stuck the '78 Pinto wagon's key in the ignition instead.
It was a perfect match.
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Re: School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Elliot » Wed Sep 24, 2014 9:16 am

Tin Halo wrote:Just found this thread, and it's a little late for me to be cruising it through 21 pages, so I'll go ahead and ask if there are any logistic issues in using a decommissioned city bus, like gearing, etc? I pass by an RTD service yard on my way into Boulder and they have these shorter versions of the usual transit buses, meant for short hops across certain areas of town. I have long-wondered if those were viable candidates...

(RTD = Regional Transit District)

I know very little about them, but "anything is possible".

In contrast to mass-produced automobiles, buses are often ordered to the buyer's specifications, and a transit district, or school district, would order buses to suit their intended use. So the buses you see in Boulder could have any gearing. Gearing can also be changed later, but not cheaply.

Transit buses have a low floor and no cargo space underneath. Highway buses have the floor up high with big luggage compartments underneath. I would consider that a key decision you would need to make.

Also, both kinds are built as "uni-bodies" -- that is, there is no traditional frame with a body bolted on top. Instead, the whole body serves as the frame. School buses have a traditional frame and separate body.

Highway buses are by far the more common for conversions, and there is a wealth of information on the interweb. There are also components available, such as taller fiberglass roof caps for raising the roof. Transit buses, not much.
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