School Bus 101, long technical post

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School Bus 101, long technical post

Postby Elliot » Sun Nov 30, 2008 5:38 pm

:D
SCHOOL BUSES 101 -- BASIC INFORMATION ABOUT BUYING AN OLD SCHOOL BUS FOR CAMPING IN BLACK ROCK CITY


[19 July 2011: There is a technical problem with this post. I've tried to repair it -- no promises. Elliot]

SCHOOL BUSES 101 -- BASIC INFORMATION ABOUT BUYING AN OLD SCHOOL BUS FOR CAMPING IN BLACK ROCK CITY

Old school buses are often mentioned as possible Burning Man art-haulers and camping-vehicles, so here are some tips. “School buses 101”, you might say. What I write here is either based on my own experience and stupidity, or on the collective ramblings of the folks on the skoolie forum http://www.skoolie.net/forum/ - a few of whom are even burners.

De-commissioned school buses are a good transportation value. They have generally been maintained extremely well. They are often sold because of an age limit imposed by the school board; not because they are worn out. And school buses are built like tanks. For example, when a school bus rolls onto its roof, it is supposed to -- by law -- still look like a bus.

Supply and demand
As with everything, supply-and-demand decides the price. Based on the number of buses rotated out of service in the USA and the number of Americans who might want to buy one, a 15 to 20 year old school bus should cost 50 cents -- or scrap metal value, whichever is higher. However, there is a large market for used school buses in Central and South America, where they are put to use in everything from public transit to plowing fields, so a good bus is still worth a few thousand in the USA. For the huge amount of cargo space you get, a “skoolie” is still a fantastic value.

Where to buy
By far the best source of a good used school bus is a nearby school district. The actual transaction may be directly with the school district or with somebody else, but I recommend you get a bus directly out of school bus service. That way you avoid taking over somebody else’s bungled project.
Many school districts farm out the operation of their buses to a contractor. The biggest may be First Student, and they list their re-sale buses on their web site. If the name Laidlaw comes to mind -- First Student has bought Laidlaw. I got both my buses from First Student.
Many school districts sell their de-commissioned buses thru an auction. These days, auctions are often held on the internet. This is a perfectly good way to buy a bus, but I recommend you only bid on a bus that is near your home so you can first inspect it and maybe even talk to the bus mechanics. As for waltzing into the local bus barn and striking up a conversation... I have yet to meet a school bus employee who was anything but super friendly and helpful. Most seemed to enjoy the idea of putting an old bus to a new fun use.
You can buy a bus at a used bus dealer, but they do tend to shoot for profit.

Prices
I bought my first bus in early 2006 for $250. It was a 1981 International conventional with a gasoline engine. It had petrified tires on split rims, so I spent $2.200 on new ones.

Image

Here it is on the Playa - white with red stripe. (The KazBus -- on the left -- is a school bus also.) Drove it to Burning Man and one other event, then gifted it to the nearest scrap metal recycler. No, I kept the new tires and rims!

Its replacement, in December 2006, cost $5.500. (The tires were OK, but I had the new ones so I sold the old ones.) It is a 1992 Blue Bird flat-nose with a diesel engine. Here she is on the Playa in 2007 -- just peaking out from under a giant tarp and our Camp sign:

Image

Her name is Millicent. I love her and will probably keep her until I die. Two burns and a bunch of Kinetic Sculpture Races already. You should not need to pay more for a reliable bus. In fact, I paid “full retail” to get just the type of bus I wanted, when I wanted. There are lots of fine buses for $2000.

What to buy
The school bus industry has their own system, but I consider skoolies to exist in five forms:

1. Conventional:
This is the kind with the engine sticking out five feet in front of the windshield. The entire hood-and-front-fenders is hinged at the bumper, and it is wonderfully easy to work on the engine. The downside is that the engine compartment consumes a lot of the total length, so there is less room inside. And I have yet to see a conventional that was more than 35 feet long overall.

2. Flat Nose Front Engine:
These exist up to 40 feet long -- which is the legal limit many places. The engine is tucked into a hole in the floor under a hinged cover (“dog house”) next to the driver, and this placement maximizes interior space. However, -- and this is a Major However -- it is d#$%^&*d difficult to work on the engine. And you have to climb over the dog house to get to the driver’s seat. The dog house is impressively well sealed and insulated, but you are still mighty close to the noise and fumes.
Millicent is such a bus. I wanted maximum interior space AND I wanted to build a “garage” in the back. If I did not need the “garage”, I would not have bought a Front Engine Flat-Nose. Also called a Forward Control bus.

3 Pusher:
A “pusher” is a “Real Bus”. The engine is in the rear (“pushing the rest of the bus down the road”). These buses are quieter, ride better, and are all around better vehicles. Pushers are also up to the full 40 feet long. It’s really no contest -- if you do not need a “garage” in the back, buy a pusher. You can use the “shelf” above the engine for a bunk, and thus the engine placement does not cost you much space.

4 Vans:
There are a number of types of smaller school buses based on vans and whatnot. I don’t know much about them. But there is a section on the skoolie forum dedicated to them. I’m under the impression that they tend to cost more per foot than the bigger buses -- go figure.

5 Mid engine:
There are not many of these around anymore. To my knowledge, the only brand is Crown, which is out of business, and possibly Gillig, which took over Crown’s product line for a short while. Legend has it, Crown went out of business because their buses were too good -- they never needed replacing. Mid-engine Crowns are practically collector items now. They have large engines that are unique and expensive to repair. For advanced users only.

Brands
The chassis of a school bus is largely assembled from the same standard parts as medium duty trucks, so the brand name is not all that important. A typical bus might have engine from Cummins, transmission from Allison, rear axle from Rockwell, frame from Freightliner, and windshield wiper motors from Delco, so you will not often find yourself “orphaned” for parts, regardless of what brand of bus you buy. Need an air brake treadle valve for your Carpenter bus? Your local Freightliner truck dealer can probably fix you right up.
The school bus specific parts vary more, of course, but are seldom critical to the bus’ basic function.
Some brands have expired, and others have changed names (and presumably owners) and I don’t even try to keep up with that. Major brands with long stable histories include Blue Bird (two words) and Thomas.
(If you press me to name one brand to avoid, it would be Carpenter. Carpenter went out of business after a bus rolled over and the roof collapsed. (Luckily, there were no children onboard.) Turned out, they had built a bunch of buses with bad welds.)
Conventionals and vans carry two brand names; the name of the chassis-and-nose, and the name of the bus body. Thus you will see such combinations as “International-Ward” and “Chevrolet-Thomas”.

Engines
The choice is between diesel and gasoline (...and the occasional propane, which is a gasoline engine with a propane carburetor.)
Diesel engines are more durable, have more low-RPM power, use less fuel and are generally the “grown up” way to propel a bus down the road. Millicent gets at least 9 MPG.
Gasoline engines cost less to purchase and are easier to work on for an amateur mechanic, but they use more fuel. Sometimes much more. That first bus of mine got something like 3 or 4 MPG. And unless you have a hot rod engine, it may be horribly slow, like 20 MPH up a steep hill.
A skoolie will always be a slower vehicle than you are used to. For maximum hill climbing power (Wadsworth to Gerlach!), look for the International DT466 and the Cummins 8.3 (C-series). These engines are also famously durable. The Cummins 5.9 (B-series), same engine as in Dodge pickup-trucks, is also good, and very common. These engines are inline six cylinders -- just like in 18-wheelers.
Practically all diesels have a turbo charger, and many have an intercooler (charge cooler, after-cooler). There is no reason to consider any diesel without a turbo, and the intercooler helps too.
A word about the Screamin’ Demon. Detroit Diesel (GM) used to build two-stroke diesel engines. They are called “Screamin’ Demon” for a reason -- think two-stroke motorcycle. On rare occasions you may find one in a large school bus. As these engines are kind’a obsolete, major repairs may be expensive.

Transmissions
Most school buses have an automatic transmission, all made by Allison (GM). For our purpose, they come in three sizes: AT545, MT643 and the HT700-series. The AT (Automatic Truck) 545 is most common and least desirable. The MT (Medium Truck) 643 is much better, primarily because its torque converter locks at cruising speed, saving fuel and improving durability. The HT (yup -- Heavy Truck) 700-series is rare in skoolies -- used only with extra large engines in buses like Crown.
Repairing an Allison is frighteningly expensive, so its condition should be a high priority. Heat is the primary enemy, so the climb from Wadsworth to Gerlach is a serious concern. An extra cooler with its own electric fan is a good idea. Clean fluid is also important to Allison longevity. They usually have an external spin-on filter -- change it often.
Unless you are a klutz with a clutch, keep an eye out for a stick shift. They are rare, but they are out there. You’ll get better fuel mileage and it won’t “melt down” in the mountains. Granted, a clutch can also wear out, but to my mind this is a lesser problem. When driving a diesel engine with a stick shift, avoid revving the engine when you start out from a standstill. Slipping the clutch is what will kill it. A diesel is much gruntier at idle than a gasoline engine, so you engage the clutch quickly with the engine at minimum speed, and then ease into the power after the clutch is all hooked up.
Some stick shift buses have a two-speed rear axle, which you shift with a little knob on top of the regular gear shifter stick. I have never driven one, and know nothing about them. Except... I’m told that it is quite easy to break them, so get knowledgeable coaching to drive it correctly.

Brakes
There are three kinds of brakes: air brakes, hydraulic brakes, and a couple of hybrid systems. Real buses have air (pneumatic) brakes, just like 18-wheelers. You need to read up on them, and get used to them, but they are definitely the way to go. (You may be surprised that large vehicles still use drum brakes.) Much info here: http://www.saferoads.com/vehicles/sbcv_airbrakes.html and here: http://www.newbiedriver.com/ABCsUpdates ... kes101.htm.
The smaller the bus, the higher the chance that it has hydraulic brakes, like an automobile. Hydraulics work fine also.
There is an oddball brake system out there, which name escapes me at the moment, and that I know nothing about, but that is to be avoided like the plague -- according to the guys on the skoolie.net forum. Maybe Lucas-Girling.

Tires
Tires are very expensive, so pay close attention to their condition. School districts sometimes put marginal tires on buses that are being sold. Commercial tire shops and big-truck wrecking yards may have used tires that can be a good deal. Don’t worry about whether you have “high profile” tires with designations like 11Rx22.5, or the “low profile” tires like 275/80Rx22.5. Their condition is much more important.
But DO make sure they are tubeless! Tubeless tire designations end in “.5”, like that 275/80Rx22.5. The bead is still right at 22 inches in diameter. But if the designation is ...22, then it is not a tubeless tire. It’s not that buses and trucks did not go down the road in the days of inner tubes, but it is now almost impossible to find mechanics who will work on them, and tires in this size range are not DIY material. Which brings us to...

Wheels
...wheels. The wheel is the steel or aluminum thing that the tire mounts on. In contrast to passenger cars and pickumup-trucks, there are several kinds of bus wheels, and all kinds of names for them. I’m going to make it simple for you:

First, about lug nuts:
If the wheel fastens to the vehicle with a small circle of lug nuts like a passenger car -- this is good. Anybody with a big enough lug wrench can change this wheel.
If the wheel instead has nuts close to the tire, with little angle-shaped steel wedges under the nuts, this is not so good. This wheel requires skill, or at least common sense, to mount properly.

Second, about “split rims”:
If the little air filler valve stem that you put air into has a nut at its base, that is good. This is a tubeless wheel.
If the valve stem has no nut, and comes out of a slot in the wheel, this is bad. This is an inner tube, and the wheel may be a “split rim”. Perhaps there exist one-piece rims for inner tubes - I don’t know. But odds are this is a split rim -- two pieces that are held together by the air pressure in the tube. Run, don’t walk, away -- or to the nearest commercial tire shop and buy six tubeless wheels and tires.

Roof height
The one drawback to school buses is the ceiling height, which is usually only a couple of inches more than six feet, and that’s in the center of the vaulted ceiling. Lots of folks seem to feel that this is not much of a problem for occasional use. But some of us raise the roof. Yes, we cut the roof completely loose from the walls, jack it up a foot or two, and weld in new “studs” (window pillars). Finally, we cover the gaps and much of the old window openings with new sheet metal.
Sure, this is a lot of work, but it is not really difficult for those who have a fair amount of metal fabrication talent. The main thing is to keep the roof firmly supported while it is detached. I fabricated four telescoping steel guide posts. The actual lifting requires surprisingly little force -- car jacks or simply a handful of your buddies. There are several roof-raising jobs chronicled on the skoolie forum, including mine.
And here I am...

Image

... lifting the roof on Millicent. The “farm jacks” turned out to be overkill -- very little force was needed. The whole sordid story, with far too much extraneous prattling, is here: http://www.skoolie.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1709.
How high can you go? Millicent was about ten feet tall originally. Now she is 12. Maximum legal is 13’ 6” in some states; and 14’ in many.

Plumbing
Once the bus is safe, reliable and legal to drive, and most of the seats are out of it, you have a humongous automobile and a completely wind-proof tent. You are already “miles ahead” on the Playa. Anything else is gravy. Different people have different priorities. You may want a nuclear-power stereo. I wanted indoor plumbing. We gifted some showers in Millicent this year, and Oh Yeah, that was popular!
Now... we’ll run out of space if I keep prattling on, but one thing is important: Do NOT install a residential toilet. The water WILL splash out of it. Not only will you have a mess, but once the trap is no longer filled, fumes from the sewer tank will waft up into the interior of the bus. You must use an RV toilet, which has a mechanical valve like an airliner toilet. It installs on a normal waste flange in the floor. Thetford makes a wide spectrum, from a portable plastic “box” that you pick up and empty into a real toilet, to a $600 porcelain throne with electric flushing.
Also you must use a chemical additive in your sewer (“black water”) tank. You will be amazed at how well it works. Very little is needed, and it completely stops all odors. And single ply tissue, like in the Black Rock City JOTS (porta-potties).

Legalities.
Regulation vary by state, but generally a converted bus can be registered as a Motor Home -- commonly called an RV (Recreational Vehicle). Typically, it will be required that most of the seats have been removed, and camping equipment like bunks and cooking facilities have been installed. Photos, receipts, or possibly an inspection may be required -- or not. I simply filled out a statement on a form.
Once the thing is a Motor Home, you should not have any trouble getting liability insurance. If your regular agent can not help you, there is a whole section on the skoolie forum about such things.
A private Motor Home can generally be driven with a regular passenger car driver license, although some states may require you to get an endorsement for air brakes. Do read up on it in your state’s driver handbook.

Hot dang -- over 3000 words! I apologize. Even worse, I’ll be back to answer questions later -- whether I know the answers or not.

Oh... Last minute edit: Millicent...
Image

Image

...and why she is not a pusher.
Last edited by Elliot on Tue Jul 19, 2011 4:06 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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Postby BAS » Sun Nov 30, 2008 5:56 pm

:shock: What a post to discover when my break is nearly over! I'll have to actually read it when I get home tonight... I've been wanting to do a school bus conversion for a long time now, but getting even $5000 together to get one from Florida Church Bus has been impossible.

Thanks for the post!
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Postby cullen » Sun Nov 30, 2008 6:10 pm

well... i think this answered a lot of my basic questions for what to shop for.
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Postby jkisha » Sun Nov 30, 2008 6:19 pm

Great post. Wish I were more mechanically inclined. :(

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Postby Elliot » Sun Nov 30, 2008 6:38 pm

BAS wrote:...to get one from Florida Church Bus...


:D
For you folks in the East... from what I have learned on the skoolie forum, Florida Church Bus is a used bus dealer with offices in Florida and Ohio. The man's name is Greg. He has a good reputation on that board. From what I understand, he buys much of his inventory in the north-east. To me, who lives where vehicles do not rust, this seems a bit alarming, but I may be overreacting.

If I were in "rust country" and had five grand for a bus, I might shop for a $4000 bus on the west coast and drive it home. But, like i said, I'm a bit goofy about rust.
:D
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Postby cullen » Sun Nov 30, 2008 6:55 pm

what about heat? what would you recommend for playa level insulation.
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Postby Elliot » Sun Nov 30, 2008 7:56 pm

cullen wrote:what about heat? what would you recommend for playa level insulation.


:D
Great question -- too bad I'm no expert on this.

Start by painting the roof white -- if it isn't already. You may have noticed that many school buses have a white roof from the factory -- this is why.

You can buy an additive to the paint that is reported to work well. It is a powder-like material that is actually tiny hollow ceramic or glass balls, and it serves to insulate and/or reflect light and heat. I have bought some, but have not painted yet. 3M makes it -- maybe others. Mine is from Hy-TechSales.com. Try US composites, also.

Next, any insulation you can add inside is obviously good. Of course, to add insulation on the ceiling, you really need to raise the roof first.

But it is important to also control the heat of the sun with shade and air circulation. Skoolie owners who have built a large deck on the roof report a noticeable drop in interior temperature. And in Black Rock City it is common practice to install an outer shade cloth above tents, with plenty of room for air circulation between the shade structure and the tent itself.
I'm toying with the idea of a lightweight framework on top of Millicent, to which I can tie a canvas and give the entire bus shade. The giant white tarp that Millicent is almost wrapped up in in the photo from 2007 would work nicely; it just needs to be lifted a foot or two off the bus for air circulation.

But even with no shade over my first bus in 2006, it did not get all that hot, so I suppose the all white paint job helped.
:D
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Postby cullen » Sun Nov 30, 2008 8:03 pm

looks like i need to improve my metal fab skills.
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Postby motskyroonmatick » Sun Nov 30, 2008 8:30 pm

Awesome post!!!

Looks like you have the world's best toy hauler!!! :!:
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Postby Sail Man » Sun Nov 30, 2008 8:34 pm

Elliot, a very nice post. A skoolie may or may not be in my future, but thank you for taking the time to post a very imformative "101"

A co-worker I used to work with had a bus with a hot tub in the rear. It was reported that it was very popular at the burn :)
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Postby Elliot » Sun Nov 30, 2008 8:46 pm

cullen wrote:looks like i need to improve my metal fab skills.


:D
Well, if you mean to raise the roof on the bus, this is certainly not necessary to get good use out of it. I just promote this operation because I feel that there are lots of folks out there who could perfectly well do it, but are afraid of encountering some obstacle that leaves the bus sitting there with no roof on it. ...Which is of course a valid concern.

And this has of course happened. One member of the skoolie forum chonicled how his roof fell partly off the bus on the first try. I'm mentioning this to emphasize that it is necessary to plan the job properly.

I fabricated all 30-some-odd window post extensions before I cut the first one. Then I fabricated the telescoping guide posts. And there is a guide at the top of each jack so it cannot tip over. With all that done in advance, the actual lifting operation was a piece of cake.

Installing the skin was the "hard" part. Many hours and countless rivets! But very much worth it, in my book. Of course, I use Millicent for more than BM -- in fact, its primary purpose is Kinetic Sculpture Racing.
:D
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Postby cullen » Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:02 pm

well i'm thinking of raising it for more then insulation i'm also thinking of the increased head room and of course speakers, wiring ad maybe even shower plumbing.
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Postby Elliot » Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:03 pm

A co-worker I used to work with had a bus with a hot tub in the rear. It was reported that it was very popular at the burn


:D
That sounds like Jason. I met him in 2007 -- don't think he went in 2008. He's active on the skoolie forum. From what I understand, he has built four hot tub buses and sold them all at a profit!

And... Thank you for all the "thank-yous"! It was my pleasure to type it up. We are all supposed to share in this silly community of ours, whatever we can -- and all I can is repair bicycles, so it is good to have found something else that may be helpful to someone, even if only in terms of information and encouragement.
:D
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Postby Elliot » Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:08 pm

cullen wrote:well i'm thinking of raising it for more then insulation i'm also thinking of the increased head room and of course speakers, wiring ad maybe even shower plumbing.


And upper bunks -- a great floor-space saver. Mind you, I recommend a fence on any upper bunk, to keep from falling out.
:D
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Postby cullen » Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:24 pm

hmm a space above the bed big enough for a slide out fold down lcd tv.
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bus nuts r us

Postby Tiahaar » Sun Nov 30, 2008 10:12 pm

Wow, great bus info Elliot!! That should get more than a few mechanics drooling for their own bus to tinker with :P

Heh, I have a 'scream'n demon' Detroit 6V71 in mine. Supercharged, with an honest-to-goodness blower on top. Its my one little point of pride, will likely be the only supercharged anything I ever drive. Still underpowered up hills. Wish I had at least an 8V71 or 6V92.
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Re: bus nuts r us

Postby Elliot » Sun Nov 30, 2008 10:40 pm

Tiahaar wrote:Heh, I have a 'scream'n demon' Detroit 6V71 in mine. Supercharged, with an honest-to-goodness blower on top. Its my one little point of pride, will likely be the only supercharged anything I ever drive. Still underpowered up hills. Wish I had at least an 8V71 or 6V92.


:D
Well, there you are folks -- that's the type of model designations those two-stroke diesels have. The first number is the number of cylinders. The V means a V-shaped engine. And the last two digits are the size of one cylinder in cubic inches. They have both a supercharger ("blower") and a turbocharger -- although I suppose it is possible that some really old ones might not have the turbo (there area plenty of things I don't know!). Those supercharger are the ones that early drag racers adapted to their car engines!
:D
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Postby Captain Goddammit » Sun Nov 30, 2008 10:50 pm

Yep, the earlier ones don't have turbochargers. And, the supercharger that is on the old Detroit 2-stroke isn't to make it faster; it's there to make it run at all. It doesn't make vacuum to fill the cylinders so it uses the two-rotor "Roots" supercharger to force-feed itself.
The "Silver 92" appeared in about 1977, and certainly looked cool - a HUGE V8 diesel (8V92), with a supercharger on top, with a turbo feeding that. It made 400 HP (at only a bit over 2000 rpm... torque was in the 4 digit zone), and was a real screamer compared to the 318-horse non-turbo version. Before the Caterpillar took over as King Of Torque, that Detroit was the one to beat. I used to FLY up logging roads in an old Kenworth dump truck with one of those.
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Postby BAS » Sun Nov 30, 2008 11:58 pm

Elliot wrote:
BAS wrote:...to get one from Florida Church Bus...


:D
For you folks in the East... from what I have learned on the skoolie forum, Florida Church Bus is a used bus dealer with offices in Florida and Ohio. The man's name is Greg. He has a good reputation on that board. From what I understand, he buys much of his inventory in the north-east. To me, who lives where vehicles do not rust, this seems a bit alarming, but I may be overreacting.

If I were in "rust country" and had five grand for a bus, I might shop for a $4000 bus on the west coast and drive it home. But, like i said, I'm a bit goofy about rust.
:D


Greg seems to be pretty good about posting photographs to give you an idea about rust. A lot would depend upon whether or not it is surface rust (and not that hard to deal with), or if the metal is rusted through (which would be a lot harder to deal with).

I've been told that pusher buses can be hard to find replacement parts for-- that there is no standardization. I am not clear on what is different from bus model to bus model on them. It might be the drive train or something about the engines...? Also, I have heard that, being in the back, cooling is problematic for pushers. Have you heard anything like this?

I'm kind of curious about how you put in Millicent's back door. One of those would be handy for loading and unloading large items!
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Postby LeChatNoir » Mon Dec 01, 2008 1:27 am

I Love this thread. Now I want a bus.
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Postby cullen » Mon Dec 01, 2008 6:36 am

i know i'm already trying to figure out what i want in it.
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Postby Captain Goddammit » Mon Dec 01, 2008 7:31 am

For years I've been trying not to buy a bus; but when- oops I mean IF I do I was planning on gutting either my existing camper or some old trailer for parts like the furnace, air conditioner, water heater, pumps, power converter, stove, fridge, etc. Seems like a good way to get a low-price package deal on all that stuff. It would add up quick.

The only parts I'd NOT get that way would be water tanks, both fresh and grey/black. They're usually way too small and in a bus you have plenty of room and capacity for a much more generous supply.
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Postby Sail Man » Mon Dec 01, 2008 8:04 am

Elliot wrote:
A co-worker I used to work with had a bus with a hot tub in the rear. It was reported that it was very popular at the burn


:D
That sounds like Jason. I met him in 2007 -- don't think he went in 2008. He's active on the skoolie forum. From what I understand, he has built four hot tub buses and sold them all at a profit!

And... Thank you for all the "thank-yous"! It was my pleasure to type it up. We are all supposed to share in this silly community of ours, whatever we can -- and all I can is repair bicycles, so it is good to have found something else that may be helpful to someone, even if only in terms of information and encouragement.
:D


Elliot, you are so correct! :D Jason, aka The Bus Driver.

I met him when I worked for a county EMS system in Michigans thumb. I had gone to our Admin bldg one day for business and there was the bus. I got to check it out. I was very impressed that he was able to run it on cooking oils etc and the system he had in place to filter and heat it up prior to burning it. Of course the hot tub was a nice bonus. This was I believe in 06. He mentioned he had just came back from a trip, when asked where he told me Burning Man. I knew about the burn, hadn't made it out there yet, so he gave me the impetuous to go. He did bring the bus out to a Nascar race at Mich speedway when we were there, my wife certainly enjoyed the hot tub. I know at the time that he had gotten another bus. I wasn't aware that he was up to 4! Sounds like he has a budding business :)
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Postby LeChatNoir » Mon Dec 01, 2008 10:12 am

Sail Man wrote: Sounds like he has a budding business :)


Or a festering addiction.
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Postby Elliot » Mon Dec 01, 2008 10:12 am

:D
I've been told that pusher buses can be hard to find replacement parts for-- that there is no standardization. I am not clear on what is different from bus model to bus model on them. It might be the drive train or something about the engines...? Also, I have heard that, being in the back, cooling is problematic for pushers. Have you heard anything like this?



I know very little about pushers. My recommendation comes from the other guys on the skoolie forum. But I do know there are several types of pusher drivetrain layouts. Some quite simply have the engine and tranny backwards, with a short driveshaft to the rear axle which is also backwards. Others have the engine sideways, like many front wheel drive automobiles. Apparently, there exist some odd transmissions and related parts for this. But I suspect we are getting into the realm of highway buses like MCI and Eagle now, and city transit buses. I have seen sideways engines in those.

Also, there are some control parts that are unique to pushers -- primarily throttle and gear shift. The throttle "cable" is often pneumatic. The tranny "cable" can also be a pneumatic system. One bus that my local school district sold had been converted from pneumatic tranny selector to a push-pull cable. The mechanic said this was more reliable -- which makes sense to me.

Any pusher-bus unique parts could indeed be harder to get. But many other parts that might wear out, such as brakes and steering, would still be standardized.

As for cooling, yes I have also heard that they are sensitive to cooling problems -- which makes sense. Typically, the radiator is mounted sideways on the left side of the bus, which means that the air flow is not as natural as when it is facing the air at the front of the bus. (The fan is often driven hydraulically, unless the engine is also sideways.) So cooling system maintenance is probably more important than other buses. It might also be a good idea to upgrade with a self-contained tranny cooler and such goodies.

I'll post this question on the skoolie forum, and we'll see what the guys who own pushers have to say.
:D
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Postby Elliot » Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:10 am

:D

QUOTE:
“â€
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Postby HalfNHalf » Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:11 am

I'm currently renovating a camper-trailer specifically for my virgin exodus to BMan '09 and this post makes me wanna scrap it and get a bus!!
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Postby BAS » Mon Dec 01, 2008 12:46 pm

Darn! Now I need to figure out how to get a few thousand dollars...

Did you ever see the "Top Gear" episode where they tried racing motor homes? All of the big ones fell apart on the track! So I guess it is no surprise that camper trailers can be pull apart by (nearly) bare hands.

I'm not familiar with air freight skids, but it does look like a big, strong hunk of metal. I once saw a school bus conversion for sale on eBay with a tailgate like that. The bus had been converted to carry two race cars, and had the ability to tow a third! I don't recall them saying anything about what sort of fuel mileage they got while doing that.

I suppose I should develop some sort of metal working skill before attempting anything like raising a bus roof or putting in a tailgate... (I don't know as I would raise the roof-- I'm about 5'8" so there would be a few inches of clearance.)
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Postby Toolmaker » Mon Dec 01, 2008 1:12 pm

Funny you should post this today..

On the way here from Illinois is a 97 International by Thomas. Its a Diesel T444 with about 180K miles AND it was purchased for UNDER $5K. Too bad its for a customer and not for me. Basically my design is much like the other skoolies, RV style appliances and a lift of the roof to 12 1/2 ft. IMO a roof lift is a MUST if you plan on spending serious time "indoors". I haven't done a garage door like Elliot yet but have been dreaming about it for years.

Midwest Transit has some good deals for those in the middle of the US and towards the west coast, I think they are in Indiana or Illinois or somesuch. They had some of those Ford Eldorados for 1K or so and some busses for 2K that need some work.

Another good place to look is Treasury Dept auctions for your state where they dump the occasional bus, every state handles getting rid of their vehicles different. As Elliot mentioned the busses are often sold seperate from the cop cars so not all those auctions will have the busses there. Alot of these bus dealers like FL churchbus are just reselling for a little more.

Personally I prefer the busses without the engine inside.. the ease of repair outweighs the need for space, but than again I don't need to haul what Elliot does. Consideration should be placed in your personal needs and desires before getting into it. I ONLY do diesels for the fuel flexibility these days, while I have a couple gas vehicles I plan on getting rid of them in favor of diesel in the near future.

The BEST thing about bus conversions is that no two are exactly alike! Every conversion is a work of art in its own right.. just look at the sexy grills folks are adding to change the look.
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Postby BAS » Mon Dec 01, 2008 1:42 pm

Okay, I give up! I've registered with skoolie.net! :lol:

I plan on shopping around when/if I can get into a financial position to buy a bus. Right now I don't have the money and can't get a loan because I don't have the money... :(

The State of Wisconsin has an online auction site where used vehicles show up, but the ones I have seen on there have all been cars, trucks, and vans which were so worn out that they could no longer be operated legally on public roads. MAYBE one could be used for a mutant vehicle, but otherwise.... I haven't seen any buses or cop cars, so it might not be the only place/right place to look for a bus...?

I'd like to replace my gas burning car with a diesel at some point so I could go the waste veggie oil route. (Of course, that would require a source for waste veggie oil..., and this city might already be tapped out! :? )
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