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Old 07-03-2010, 01:46 AM   #1
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Keep the bus? Or too many problems?

Hi All,

We recently bought a 1989 GMC School Bus for really cheap ($700). It has 270,000 miles on it, with a 6.2L diesel engine and a TH475 3-speed trans. Itís a short bus, and weíve stripped the seats and floor in preparation for converting it to a comfy living space. The body, tires, and electrics are in great shape.

When we bought it, it wouldnít start. We got it running (FSO solenoid) and fixed the brakes (hole in brake hose from MC). Then we took it to a diesel mechanic. Their diagnosis follows:
Excessive crankcase blowby
Excessive smoke under load
Major oil leaks - dripping on the ground
Middle U-joint is bad
Both king pins are marginal

At the moment, the bus drives fine. We are trying to figure out if we should keep it, or if we should look for another bus with fewer miles and better maintenance. We are on a tight budget, so we would much rather have a $700 bus than a $2500+ bus, but we also donít want to sink our money and time into a bus that wonít survive very long.

Do folks think this bus is going to self-destruct within the next 50,000 miles? Have we reached the end of life for this engine and possibly transmission, or if we keep maintaining things, should it last a lot longer?

For those who are interested, weíll post some more details about the state of the bus and our questions below.

Thanks so much folks.

Aaron
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Old 07-03-2010, 01:47 AM   #2
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Re: Keep the bus? Or too many problems?

More detailed explanation of the issues:

When I asked the mechanic to quantify the blowby problem, he just said it means that the engine isnít as strong as it could be, and it will gradually lose power over time. Since it starts cold just fine and can pull 55mph, as I understand the problem, it canít be too bad now...but will it get worse soon?

Weíve noticed a fair bit of smoke when starting up from a stop, but not a horribly excessive amount. We havenít seen smoke issues when itís idling/cruising.

The transmission leak appears to either be the pan gasket or where the gear selector linkage goes into the trans. Itís enough of a leak that thereís maybe two to four large drops of red fluid per 24 hrs if we put cardboard under it.

I think I have traced the engine oil leak to the valve cover gaskets. There is clearly oil leaking from the bottom edges of the valve cover gaskets, enough that fresh oil accumulates on the exhaust headers after a day of sitting. Iím not sure how much it leaks, as far as actual volume though, and I guess anything below the valve cover gaskets could also be leaking and I wouldnít be able to tell due to the oil coming from above. The valve cover gaskets look like a real pain to change, and the driverís footwell gets in the way of accessing anything around the driverís side valve cover. But with that much leaking should we try and do it anyway?

Iím currently researching how to fix the U joints on our own. Iíd probably do this under the bus, since thereís reasonable clearance under there and Iíd rather not pull the whole shaft.

I donít really even know where the king pins are besides in the front steering/suspension and that Iíd have to jack the bus up to replace them.
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Old 07-03-2010, 08:10 AM   #3
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Re: Keep the bus? Or too many problems?

You are the best person to judge you mechanical abilities.

We replaced u joints in Ĺ hour in a parking lot while on a field trip Ė I think you would want to pull the shaft- we did.

No idea on the kingpin but here is link to a write up that will at least give you an idea of what it involved Ė note that the author states in for school bus it must be reamed to properly fit new king pins.

http://www.stovebolt.com/techtips/kingpin.pdf

IMHO you need to sort out a decision about your motor before you fix the KP/Unis
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Old 07-03-2010, 12:22 PM   #4
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Re: Keep the bus? Or too many problems?

drive it!, if the rest of the bus is in good shape, to your thing with it, get a cost to dothe king pins, price out a engine(used) and tranny, over time and as you can aford to do it get the stuff done, it might be 1 or 2 years before your motor goes, as long as you can use it the way it is now, I would check into the king pins as soon as you can, bit of a saftey thing there.

but with that being said, its totaly up to you and what u feel best with

thats just my 2 cents(canadian) 1.4(us)

gbstewart
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Old 07-03-2010, 02:05 PM   #5
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Re: Keep the bus? Or too many problems?

I know Idaho Motor Pool had a bunch of 6.2Ls for $250 each not too long ago, still in the crate (military steel container & sealed). The 6.2s are cheap enough to find just about anywhere. But if you want more power (think Tim-The-Tool-Man-Taylor) look at a 6.5L. They are becoming cheap as well. The 6.2 is easy to fix and maintain. I have four of them and love them. Just don't over rev the engine and they'll last forever. Over rev and they'll burn up quick.
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Old 07-06-2010, 05:44 PM   #6
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Re: Keep the bus? Or too many problems?

Thanks everyone for your input!

M1031: Are those computer-controlled? I'll keep an eye on Idaho Motor Pool, they seem totally awesome! As for over-revving, I am worried that having only a 3-speed transmission (last shift is at about 35mph) means I will be over-revving it on hills or even just trying to maintain highway speeds. Are there lots of skoolies out there with only 3-speed transmissions?

Leonidas: While we are planning on making it liveable, we likely won't be doing any intense infrastructure work on it. Just sleeping, cooking, seating, cabinets. No bathroom. It would really be annoying if it totally died and we had to move everything into a new bus, but if we make things modular enough it might not be too bad.

Smitty: Yeah, we couldn't find any diesel mechanics who would come out to the sketchy lot to check out a non-running bus. I figured for $700 split between two people for a non-running bus that wasn't trashed, if we got it running we'd be in good shape, and if we didn't we could probably at least get our money back if we sold it. We've only put another $150 or so into it, and now it runs, so we're pretty happy with that at least. But I think you also touch on the main issue; we know what the problems are, and we don't know what the problems are in any of the $2500-$4000 short buses for sale out there.

Also, is there anyone out there in the Portland, OR area who can recommend a good mechanic for a bus? We want a second opinion since they also told us our transmission wouldn't go into fourth gear so it must be hosed (it's a 3-speed), and overfilled our transmission by a considerable amount because they didn't read the dipstick. They also couldn't tell us what was actually OK on the bus. Brakes, tires? "Well it's not mentioned on this report so I guess they're fine."
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Old 07-06-2010, 06:02 PM   #7
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Re: Keep the bus? Or too many problems?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MonsieurBon
Thanks everyone for your input!

M1031: Are those computer-controlled? I'll keep an eye on Idaho Motor Pool, they seem totally awesome! As for over-revving, I am worried that having only a 3-speed transmission (last shift is at about 35mph) means I will be over-revving it on hills or even just trying to maintain highway speeds. Are there lots of skoolies out there with only 3-speed transmissions?"
Nope. No military CUCVs or HMMVs before 2003 (more or less) are computerized. So your '89 is fine. I have the turbo 400 tranny in my M-series trucks. I keep the trucks running at about 60 mph. I get 25 mpg all day long with that average. I'm sure a bus will be less due to weight and areodynamics. The turbo 3 speed should keep you near 60. I hope this helps.
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Old 07-06-2010, 06:17 PM   #8
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Re: Keep the bus? Or too many problems?

Quote:
Originally Posted by M1031
Nope. No military CUCVs or HMMVs before 2003 (more or less) are computerized. So your '89 is fine. I have the turbo 400 tranny in my M-series trucks. I keep the trucks running at about 60 mph. I get 25 mpg all day long with that average. I'm sure a bus will be less due to weight and areodynamics. The turbo 3 speed should keep you near 60. I hope this helps.
Sweet! Yeah, I got it up to 55 easily. It was LOUD, which makes sense since the engine was about three feet from my ears, but it didn't seem like it was straining at all.
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Old 07-06-2010, 11:52 PM   #9
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Re: Keep the bus? Or too many problems?

Where in Portland are you? East or West? I am on the east side and quite like my mechanic.... I have a 1988 GMC diesel shorty. Leslie
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Old 07-07-2010, 12:48 AM   #10
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Re: Keep the bus? Or too many problems?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doodlebug
Where in Portland are you? East or West? I am on the east side and quite like my mechanic.... I have a 1988 GMC diesel shorty. Leslie
Northeast. Who is your mechanic? Where are they? Thanks!
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