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Old 03-06-2019, 09:48 PM   #1
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Question How to deal with SEVERE rust around wheel wells

I bought a school bus on eBay (site unseen, a 2003 International 3000) and after getting the floor up, I've found that there is very severe rust on the wheel wells and the floor in between. Probably the bottom 2" of the wheel wells themselves are rusted away, and the floor for a couple of inches around the base of the wheel wells is gone as well (so you can see straight down at the tires and the ground).

There are numerous other holes on the floor area between the wheel wells and a couple of feet in front and back of the wells. The transverse channels underneath the floor in this area are severely corroded as well, especially the one to which the mudflaps are attached - these look rather precariously attached now as the bracket is severely corroded along with the channel, although by feel it is still very sturdy and unmoveable (so it doesn't seem as if the mudflaps are about to actually fall off).

If the transverse supporting channels were OK I would feel confident about just patching and/or replacing the sheet metal floor, but they're obviously not OK. Assuming that nothing on the bus chassis is so rusted as to make the bus hopeless (and I don't know this yet, unfortunately), is it possible to remove and rebuild this entire floor section? It seems simple conceptually at least: I would cut the entire section away, then replace the channels with 3" square steel tubing (which I think would give me the correct height) welded to the chair rail on each side and resting on the chassis beams, and then put down a new sheet floor (I'm not sure what guage would be best here for this). I would then bolt the mudflaps (with new brackets) to the tube that replaced the original channel there.

And then my really crazy question: if it's possible (and practical) to rebuild the floor in this way, would it be possible to do the same thing with pressure-treated wood 4x4s and insulate in between with polyiso foam? If this would work, it would give me a well-insulated floor section at the same height as the original bus floor, which as a six-footer would let me stand up straight in this section.

This may all be moot because of other problems, but I'm trying to keep hope alive here.
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Old 03-06-2019, 10:09 PM   #2
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Go to the UserCP in the upper left and fill out your profile, where are you from, bus info, etc. It'll help us answer your questions. Unless you see considerable rust underneath I would not associate the floor damage with anything exterior. Windows leak and the water concentrates at the wheel wells. Many of us deal with that issue. Most buses have a 3/4" plywood subfloor and a puke mat for total of about 1" of flooring for either 6'3", or high roof model at 6'6", if you frame the floor with 4x4 your losing 3" plus what ever insulation and finish floor you have.
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Old 03-06-2019, 10:22 PM   #3
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Go to the UserCP in the upper left and fill out your profile, where are you from, bus info, etc. It'll help us answer your questions. Unless you see considerable rust underneath I would not associate the floor damage with anything exterior. Windows leak and the water concentrates at the wheel wells. Many of us deal with that issue. Most buses have a 3/4" plywood subfloor and a puke mat for total of about 1" of flooring for either 6'3", or high roof model at 6'6", if you frame the floor with 4x4 your losing 3" plus what ever insulation and finish floor you have.
I edited my details (sorry, I put "International" for both coach and chassis, I'm not actually sure about the difference).

I'm not talking about putting a 4x4 frame on top of the existing metal sheet floor - I'm talking about replacing the current metal floor (meaning the sheet + the supporting channels on the underside) with a floor made of wooden 4x4s. These 4x4s would be resting directly on top of the chassis beams, so the top of this floor would be at the same height as the original metal sheet floor (which is about 3" - I'm able to measure this height by sticking my tape measure through a big hole in the floor and down to the chassis beam).

I will take some pictures of my wheel well situation tomorrow and post them here (I should have done this to begin with, sorry). But the damage is much worse than in your pictures.
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Old 03-06-2019, 10:26 PM   #4
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Keep in mind the body is a separate box that just sits on and is bolted to the frame. I'm not sure of the structural rigidity you would retain by removing the floor and replacing it all with wood. Is your bus a Genesis?
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Old 03-06-2019, 11:06 PM   #5
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Keep in mind the body is a separate box that just sits on and is bolted to the frame. I'm not sure of the structural rigidity you would retain by removing the floor and replacing it all with wood. Is your bus a Genesis?
No, it's an International 3000 (sorry, I'm new at the bus thing and don't really know who made the coach).

It doesn't seem right now that the existing floor channels are providing any structural rigidity because of how corroded they are. I kind of got the impression from looking at the bus underneath that there are much stronger channels every 8 feet or so (equally distant from the front and back of the wells) and that these are supporting the chair rails and hence the walls and roof, but the smaller channels in between are more just stiffeners for the floor sheet. I'm definitely not sure of this, but if those channels are significant weight-bearers I'm in trouble given their condition (although I think you were referring to the stiffness and not necessarily the load bearing).

I have a lot to learn about this stuff, but it's fun.
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Old 03-06-2019, 11:25 PM   #6
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Keep in mind the body is a separate box that just sits on and is bolted to the frame. I'm not sure of the structural rigidity you would retain by removing the floor and replacing it all with wood. Is your bus a Genesis?
Also I'm not suggesting replacing the entire floor this way, just maybe an 8-foot section around the wheel wells.
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Old 03-06-2019, 11:25 PM   #7
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Is yours an FE or RE? Looks like the 3000 ended in 2002 and the 03 would have been an IC RE/RC 300

With a welder and a grinder all things are possible.:thumb Post a pic if you can of the bad spots under the bus.
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Old 03-06-2019, 11:37 PM   #8
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Is yours an FE or RE? Looks like the 3000 ended in 2002 and the 03 would have been an IC RE/RC 300

With a welder and a grinder all things are possible.:thumb Post a pic if you can of the bad spots under the bus.
Here's the eBay listing, which says it's an "International 3000": https://www.ebay.com/itm/International-/132918827108

The NY title has year 2003, make/model "AM/TR". I feel like I should know what the hell my own bus is but I don't. When I went to do the title transfer the DMV person asked me what "AM/TR" meant and I had to go find out before they would do the transfer.

I thought an FE has the engine in front but also a flat front? I think mine is a CE (I don't know what that stands for) - is my bus actually a CE 300?
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Old 03-06-2019, 11:39 PM   #9
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Is yours an FE or RE? Looks like the 3000 ended in 2002 and the 03 would have been an IC RE/RC 300

With a welder and a grinder all things are possible.:thumb Post a pic if you can of the bad spots under the bus.
I tried to post the eBay auction for my bus, but I guess that needs to be mod-approved. I think my bus is actually a CE 300, maybe.
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Old 03-06-2019, 11:45 PM   #10
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I tried to post the eBay auction for my bus, but I guess that needs to be mod-approved. I think my bus is actually a CE 300, maybe.
That sounds right. Front engine , dog nose. Good bus. What tranny?
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Old 03-07-2019, 01:21 AM   #11
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I do not know if your International is built like our Thomas ... but if it is, the floor is an inverted "U" shape with the ends of the floor pieces bent down then inward. All of these floor pieces are then welded together to form the I-beam-like floor supports. The floor pieces are attached to the frame via bushings.


You may get a clearer picture of the damaged area by looking forward of the damaged area where the floor is nor corroded. Pictures of the "good" area would be helpful as well as shots of the damaged area. Shots needed are of the underneath the vehicle.
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Old 03-07-2019, 04:55 AM   #12
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Floor construction video

I found this You Tube video that shows how a school bus floor is manufactured. Granted, each manufacturer might do it a bit differently, this video gives the viewer a really good view on how it done.

Fast forward to 3:08 minutes into the video, that is where it shows the floor being made.

Hope this info helps you with your journey.

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Old 03-07-2019, 04:57 AM   #13
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Here is part 2 of that video with more "how it made" info.

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Old 03-07-2019, 06:06 AM   #14
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I found this You Tube video that shows how a school bus floor is manufactured. Granted, each manufacturer might do it a bit differently, this video gives the viewer a really good view on how it done.

Fast forward to 3:08 minutes into the video, that is where it shows the floor being made.

Hope this info helps you with your journey.

Wow, fantastic video. I realized I watched that video a couple of years ago but I had 0 interest in buses at the time.

Yes, that is definitely exactly how my bus is constructed (it even explains what the occasional black screws in the channels right above the windows are for - the workers rest the ceiling panels on them for a second before pushing them up into place). I see now that what I thought was a "stronger channel" of sorts is actually the seam between two panels, with the edges bent into a C and joined together.

The jump from Part 1 to Part 2 seems to omit mention of the long "chair rail" beams at the base of the walls on each side. The channel ribs are attached to this and then the rails are affixed (welded?) on to the ends of the floor panels. So essentially (I assume) in this way the whole floor supports the whole wall/ceiling unit, such that if you removed a couple of the floor sheet units entirely (like I'm contemplating and like rust has already started on) the whole structure will stay intact, but the remaining floor panels will each bear more of the overall weight of the structure.

So, let's say that I wanted to entirely remove the special floor panel built around the wheel wells, plus one panel (seems to be about 3' wide or so?) in front of that. If I then placed a transverse 3" square tube on each end of this space, running from side-to-side and welded (?) to the chair rail, these two "beams" would replace the weight-bearing capacity of the removed panels (assuming they were of thick enough material) and the body would be just as strong as before despite being wide-open to the chassis and the ground in this area (these beams would not entirely replace the stiffening of the floor but I think maybe that would not be a huge problem since it wouldn't be for the entire floor).

In this open floor area, I could then build a replacement floor with 4x4s (and 2x4s in some parts) and polyiso that rested on the chassis beams and was attached to the chair rails on each side (not sure how, maybe L-clips screwed into the 4x4 ends and welded to the chair rail). This floor would come up to about the same height as the metal floor still on the rest of the bus, but this would be an area that I would not have to build additional insulated sub-floor on top of, so the inside there would be tall enough for me (and then I'll add a skylight between the two exit hatches, so I have plenty of places in the bus to stand up fully). This replacement floor would also add at least some weight-bearing capacity although I wouldn't count on that.

I do recognize how kinda insane this sounds, but I'd already accepted that there would be considerable additional time and expense from raising a portion of my roof, and this floor thing would get me out of having to do that while costing nearly nothing in terms of materials (relatively speaking, since this replacement floor would use about the same amount of wood and insulation that I would have to use for the subfloor in that area anyway).

I would probably underclad this wooden floor with sheet metal or cover it in some kind of rubberized coating, mainly so that I don't have to explain to any inspector why my bus is partially made out of wood. For longevity I suspect the pressure-treated wood would last longer than the rest of the bus.
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Old 03-07-2019, 07:28 AM   #15
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For me the best way to deal with "severe" rust is Craigslist or FB Marketplace.
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Old 03-07-2019, 08:38 AM   #16
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Cut out the bad steel and weld new steel in is the preferred method. Although wood has been used in the auto industry for many years (model A for instance). I once used wood to shore up a sagging Jeep Wagoneer body mount and it work well. Dude you are from the rust belt, I'm sure a lot of people in your area that can tackle the rust.
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Old 03-07-2019, 09:03 AM   #17
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Cut out the bad steel and weld new steel in is the preferred method. Although wood has been used in the auto industry for many years (model A for instance). I once used wood to shore up a sagging Jeep Wagoneer body mount and it work well. Dude you are from the rust belt, I'm sure a lot of people in your area that can tackle the rust.
Well, I suspect I'm already going to have to pay a lot to get the chassis fixed up as far as rust is concerned if it's even fixable at all (along with general mechanically issues), so I'm trying to do as much as possible myself. I've done a lot of carpentry but basically no metal fabrication, so this approach is more in my wheelhouse anyway. And again, saving myself a roof raise would be huge.

The bus is from the Buffalo area originally, so buying this bus was obviously my first mistake. But I'm doing this as much for a learning experience as anything else, so I might as well explore what I can do to make it work.
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Old 03-07-2019, 09:04 AM   #18
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Cut out the bad steel and weld new steel in is the preferred method. Although wood has been used in the auto industry for many years (model A for instance). I once used wood to shore up a sagging Jeep Wagoneer body mount and it work well. Dude you are from the rust belt, I'm sure a lot of people in your area that can tackle the rust.
Cuyahoga Falls, holy heck! I'm from Kent originally.
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Old 03-07-2019, 09:05 AM   #19
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For me the best way to deal with "severe" rust is Craigslist or FB Marketplace.
I assume you mean "look for a new bus"?
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Old 03-07-2019, 09:38 AM   #20
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Cut out the bad steel and weld new steel in is the preferred method.

I would have to agree with this, cut out the bad and weld in the new.

If you have carpentry skills then you can obviously measure and cut.
Steel is harder than wood but the same principles and practices apply.

The welding part.... is part of the journey on building a bus so either get yourself a low price mig welder and practice away !!!!
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