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Old 11-24-2016, 10:37 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Nov 2016
Posts: 13
First Bus Choice!!

Howdy.
The other half and I are planning on buying our first bus within the next couple of weeks and wanted help on the decision, but it looks like we've made up our minds but certainly could use some experienced skoolies' knowledge and guidance on this one.

We plan to live full-time and also to actually drive it quite a bit. The idea is to drive it from where we live in Northern New Mexico to Pennsylvania and Mass then straight out to California and then up to Washington. I recognize this is a lot to ask from any vehicle, let alone a bus, but hope with little modifications and barring our options we've made a decent choice so far.

I've found a 1996 Blue Bird TC/2000 5.9, AT545, 13 Window in almost immaculate shape (perfect glass all around, perfect seats all around, good tires, great service history) with 90,XXX miles.

Now, I know about the pump on the diesel and do plan to put in a fuel pressure gauge along with auxiliary transmission oil cooler/s for the AT545 as well as a trans temp gauge.

My concerns are:
How many of YOU have this setup with your conversions? Do you agree that the use of the 5.9 for this application is so underpowered that it wears prematurely (as opposed to when its installed in it's dodge pickup cousin?)
How many miles have you gotten out of yours post conversion and with what work?

I look forward to being a member of this great community and can't wait to share my build. Thanks!!
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Old 11-24-2016, 11:10 PM   #2
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Clearlake, Northern California
Posts: 2,255
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC-2000 Frt Eng, Tranny:MT643
Engine: 5,9 Cummins
Rated Cap: 84
Welcome to the forum, Buffalo!

Depending on how much weight you stuff in that bus, you may find yourself climbing hills rather slowly. So what you do, is... adopt the mindset of truckers: The trip takes as long as it takes. 20 MPH up Donner? Relax and enjoy the scenery.

That said, an abnormally slow speed is of course a major safety hazard, so don't pile "the kitchen stove" into that bus.

Running at full power for a long time will not really hurt the engine. Sure, it will add a tiny bit more wear, but only at the academic level. Do run full synthetic oil, such as Shell Rotella Full Synthetic.

And you might want to invest in synthetic fluid for that transmission. TranSynd runs about $50 a gallon, but it is universally agreed to be superior to any other fluid in any Allison.

Back to the engine.... You might install a pyrometer. This is a temperature gauge that reflects the combustion temperature inside the combustion chambers. The danger lies in melting the top of the pistons.
This may not be necessary with stock school bus settings, but....

I have put 60,000 miles on Millicent since I bought her. She has the MT643 transmission, but these engines are fairly durable regardless of the transmission.
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Old 11-24-2016, 11:24 PM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Ohh, a Pyrometer, neat. Will certainly have to look into that. What's the labor like? Funny you're the first to reply, been following your posts for a while. You have the most recognizable bus that I've seen here on the forum! I haven't been able to find a comprehensive way of identifying values of buses and it gets tricky quickly.

What would you estimate the value of a bus like that being? I guess relative to the buses which you have seen with similar qualities/conditions. Also, I think I neglected to mention that the bus is rust-free.

The fear is always that you've paid too much and will suffer the eternal loss :{

Thanks for the warm welcome!
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Old 11-25-2016, 12:52 AM   #4
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Clearlake, Northern California
Posts: 2,255
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC-2000 Frt Eng, Tranny:MT643
Engine: 5,9 Cummins
Rated Cap: 84
(Uh oh. He has heard of me. I'm in trouble.)

A pyrometer is a self-contained system consisting of the gauge, the sending unit, and a SPECIFIC cable that goes with only that type of gauge. The cable comes in many lengths.

Only connection with "the outside world" is power to the light bulb in the gauge.

The sender can be installed in either of two places.
The easy way is to put it in the exhaust pipe right AFTER the turbocharger.
The other way is to put it in the exhaust manifold BEFORE the turbo.

Since the turbo sucks up energy (heat), the two readings are different.

Mine is AFTER the turbo, and the gauge factory suggested I use 900 F as max.

If you put it BEFORE the turbo, max is something like 1,200.

The difficult part of installing the sender BEFORE the turbo, is the risk of getting chips from the drilling and tapping into the turbo. People do it, using grease and vacuum cleaners and whatnot. But the correct way is to remove the turbo.

AFTER the turbo, you just drill a hole and you are done.

If the gauge climbs above the max, you MUST lift your foot or downshift. Max means max -- that's the whole point.

Considering the price of a diesel engine, it's a nice safeguard to obey.

The price of a decommissioned school bus can be all over the map. It's all about the old "willing seller and willing buyer".

If you already bought it... the matter is closed. Never regret anything (but often learn from it).
But you are still eye-balling this 1996 Blue Bird. So....

90,000 miles is extremely low. So that's worth money.

1996.... These engines changed from mechanical injection to electronic around this time. But there is no exact date, or even year. A mechanical engine is worth more in my book, for the simplicity and reliability.

How do you know this bus has the AT545 transmission? With only 13 windows, it is likely, but not given. A bus with the AT545 is worth less than one with the MT643.

A bus coming straight from school bus duty is far preferable. Civilians tend to do far more damage to vehicles than they improve them -- present company excepted, of course.
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Old 11-25-2016, 01:01 AM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Oh, I was completely wrong about the transmission. (we're buying this remotely)
I made the assumption that is was the 545 when now I see that it has a digital gear selector. Going to have to inquire much further as to what this is about. From what i've read only the 8.3 Cummins came with the MD3060 ( Which is what the selector appears to be from) so why it would be in this 5.9 is a little odd. Or could that be from the 643?

Hopefully this image attachment worked... anyway, looks exactly like this one
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File Type: jpg 00q0q_b7S5agiHgHO_1200x900.jpg (2.7 KB, 99 views)
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Old 11-25-2016, 01:08 AM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Oh, upon further inspection of the photos (current owner won it in an auction from school two weeks ago and has no use for it, potentially buying from him remotely by 600 miles) it appears to have a digital gear selector for the trans! akin to the MD3060 from online research and cross referencing similar looking display/selectors, though i have no idea if they used a particular selector for various models of trans...

it looks exactly like the one in this video, but is mated definitely to a 5.9 which i didn't know they did in the FE BBs, other than the 8.3...



also, it is 13 windows to the back of the bus from behind the driver***
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Old 11-25-2016, 06:22 AM   #7
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Location: hills of sw virginia
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Year: 1996
Chassis: thomas
Engine: 8.3 cummins
Rated Cap: 11 window
have you drivin this bus. it may top out at 50 mph. the 545 is made for city driving/ lots of stops not highway use. give it a good test drive
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Old 11-25-2016, 10:07 AM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Upon further inspection, looks like I was wrong about the 545! We're looking at buses remotely and will be traveling a ways to get it. The trans selector is actually a digital read-out, but doesn't look quite the same as the mt643. Unfortunately the owner won this at the school auction 2 weeks ago and can't quite confirm which transmission is in it...

the display is identical to this one


could a 1996 BB TCFE actually have a MD 3060? If so is that actually an upgrade? Thanks!
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Old 11-25-2016, 12:32 PM   #9
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Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Posts: 855
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American
Engine: Cummins 8.3/Allison MD3060
Rated Cap: 84
The TC2000 was never made with a front engine 8.3L. If it's a front engine TC with a Cummins, it's definitely a 5.9L.

And the MD3060 was definitely used behind other engines than the 8.3L. I've seen them married to 5.9's and Cats in Blue Birds.

And a digital shifter almost certainly guarantees it's an MD3060.

edit: And yes, the MD3060 is definitely an upgrade over other transmissions offered in buses. It has the lockup torque converter and strength of an MT643 with an overdrive (two overdrives if you get 6th gear unlocked.)
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Old 11-25-2016, 04:53 PM   #10
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Clearlake, Northern California
Posts: 2,255
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC-2000 Frt Eng, Tranny:MT643
Engine: 5,9 Cummins
Rated Cap: 84
We discussed digital shifters recently, with good information from Christopher and others. To summarize...

545 and 643 have a lever, marked D321.

1000-2000 can have lever or digital. Marking will be D4321 when used as a 5-speed in a school bus.

3060 is likely to have digital, also displaying D4321 in 5-speed configuration.

Regarding engines, I'm not entirely convinced the Cummins 8.3 can be ruled out. The Heavy Duty market works very differently from the passenger car market. Heavy vehicles can be special-ordered to a much greater extent.

The video rules out a 4-speed, since the shifter is digital. And you say the soon-to-be-yours bus has the same shifter.

But the only way to know anything for certain, is to inspect the actual bus in question.

May I wonder what the asking price is?
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