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Old 09-28-2016, 08:26 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Old DT-466 or a newer model?

Hi Folks,

A couple of days ago many of you weighed in and gave me advice on engines and transmissions for a project to convert a skoolie into a toterhome to haul a 16,000 lb (loaded) 5th wheel.

That thread is here:
http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f13/th...ome-15175.html

Thank you to everyone who contributed there!

Since I am now looking at buses that don't have a Cummins 5.9 in them (and that engine seems to be all over the place, along with the small CAT engines), I am seeing a mix of older DT-466 engines and the newer DT-466E (as well as quite a few of the T444E engines).

I am finding buses that are just coming out of service, but are older buses in many cases (1992, 1996, 1997) that have these engines.

Assuming all are well maintained, would I be better off to go for one of the older "mechanical" versions of the DT-466?

Also I was reading threads here and elsewhere that seem to be about 50/50 for/against the T444E series. Most of the buses I have seen with them have upwards of 150K on them and some have said that is fairly the life of that engine.

Lastly on the transmission issue, everything I am running across seems to have the AT545 in it.

So it looks like I may have to go that route and put a transmission cooler and a separate gauge on it, then just take it easy with it.

I also do plan to put an exhaust brake or retarder on it.

As mentioned in the other thread, I am not going to be in a big hurry on this trip, so if it is a bit slower going up the mountains (and definitely so going downhill with a 16K 5th wheel!), that is fine by me. I don't need to set any land speed records.

I'm not desperate to buy one ASAP, but I'd like to be able to get my bus and get it shortened before the really cold/wet weather sets in. I can always put a heater inside and work on the inside over the winter months.

If I can't find a flat nosed (transit type front) bus with the larger engine, then I may just go with the standard nose (it does seem easier to work on the engine) despite that I would have liked to have had the extra space inside.

I'm not really wanting to take a chance on a remote auction somewhere, so I am trying to buy from some place where I can take a better look at it, drive it, etc.

Fortunately there are a fair amount of just out of services buses available right now around here (within a couple of hundred miles at best).

Keep in mind that I will probably never put more than 10K-20K max on this bus ever. In reality I should only pull the 5th wheel about 5K to 6K max.

As always - thanks in advance for your expertise, thoughts and opinions!



Charles
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Old 09-28-2016, 10:04 PM   #2
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For its worth...

My opinion is to shy away from any Diesel with Electronics. Mechanical is usually cheap and easy to fix and modify in comparison to their wattage riddled counterparts...... However, I would not, NOT buy an engine based solely on that. I have had several Diesel pickups and other items, and only one diesel bus, and I love the simplistic mechanical pumps and injectors.
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Old 09-28-2016, 10:17 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CE42 View Post
Hi Folks,

Assuming all are well maintained, would I be better off to go for one of the older "mechanical" versions of the DT-466?

If you ever want to make any more power then stock, then you want a mechanical version. Towing as much as you plan, and if you want to keep the bus long term, eventually you will probably want to make more power then stock. The DT466E you are pretty much stuck with whatever computer tune it has.

Also I was reading threads here and elsewhere that seem to be about 50/50 for/against the T444E series. Most of the buses I have seen with them have upwards of 150K on them and some have said that is fairly the life of that engine.
I would rather have a 5.9 cummins then the T444E. The 444E is pretty much a 7.3 powerstroke that came in the ford pickups.


I'm not desperate to buy one ASAP, but I'd like to be able to get my bus and get it shortened before the really cold/wet weather sets in. I can always put a heater inside and work on the inside over the winter months.

If your not that desperate, then I would hold off till you find the drivetrain you want. At least one without the 545

If I can't find a flat nosed (transit type front) bus with the larger engine, then I may just go with the standard nose (it does seem easier to work on the engine) despite that I would have liked to have had the extra space inside.

I bought my bus from this bus dealer. Hoglund Bus & Truck is a full service school bus, commercial bus and medium-duty truck dealership. |*Hoglund Bus and Truck
Not sure where you live but they were good to deal with.



Charles
Probably the biggest problem with school buses, is finding a perfect drivetrain for what you are looking for. I held out for a Mech DT466, 7spd manual trans. I still had to regear it, and the other problem with Internationals are the split radiator and innercooler. I have sourced parts to change that as well, but just takes time and money. Have you considered a used class 8 trucks? I love my bus, but in alot of ways, a semi would have been a lot easier option for towing.
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Old 09-28-2016, 10:23 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SDR76 View Post
My opinion is to shy away from any Diesel with Electronics. Mechanical is usually cheap and easy to fix and modify in comparison to their wattage riddled counterparts...... However, I would not, NOT buy an engine based solely on that. I have had several Diesel pickups and other items, and only one diesel bus, and I love the simplistic mechanical pumps and injectors.
Thanks for the input.

I'd talked to a couple of friends here at a local garage that services several diesel engines in garbage and straight trucks they own.

Their comments were like minded.

They said that the one remaining mechanical engine they had was cheaper and easier to service. That the electronic ones would give error codes, but that often the error codes did not always point to a bad part. More often than not it would be a faulty ground or something in the wiring harness (if not a sensor itself).

So a lot of the repair work was swap out the recommended part (based on the error), that doesn't fix it, so then they hunt for a bad sensor (or some other glitch in the matrix).

I know there are some good things with the electronics, but I do miss the simpler days when I could look under the hood of my truck and actually have some inkling that I might be able to fix the problem!



Charles
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Old 09-28-2016, 10:33 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hvbuzz View Post
Probably the biggest problem with school buses, is finding a perfect drivetrain for what you are looking for. I held out for a Mech DT466, 7spd manual trans. I still had to regear it, and the other problem with Internationals are the split radiator and innercooler. I have sourced parts to change that as well, but just takes time and money. Have you considered a used class 8 trucks? I love my bus, but in alot of ways, a semi would have been a lot easier option for towing.
Yes I have considered that option as well.

However the towing is only a small part of the end game here.

The trip to Alaska is a LONG one (I helped a niece move there a couple of years ago).

My wife does NOT like to travel (honestly, if I could give her a sedative and wake her up when we get there I would! ).

So part of the incentive for the conversion is to have a more "RV Like" way to travel up there so that we don't kill each other before we get there.

The other incentive comes after the trip up.

I plan to use the remaining interior portion of the bus as an office space for me to do my work. While we have a good sized 5th wheel, two people and four dogs in that small of a space can take it's toll on creativity after a while.

With regards to the towing part of the bus, it is really a means to an end.

If I can make the trip up there without any major problems, then the bus can rest easy knowing that it probably won't have to tow the 5th wheel again.

If it gets moved much at all, I would be using it as a mini-RV or sorts to go fishing or hunting (Alaska IS a big place after all ).

Charles
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Old 09-29-2016, 06:04 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hvbuzz View Post
Probably the biggest problem with school buses, is finding a perfect drivetrain for what you are looking for. I held out for a Mech DT466, 7spd manual trans. I still had to regear it, and the other problem with Internationals are the split radiator and innercooler. I have sourced parts to change that as well, but just takes time and money. Have you considered a used class 8 trucks? I love my bus, but in alot of ways, a semi would have been a lot easier option for towing.
Toterhomes are all over down here.
I always wonder why folks who plan to tow don't just go for the class 8 stuff.
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Old 09-29-2016, 09:12 AM   #7
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on the way down 19 last night I went by 2 such rigs.. these were medoium duty trucks... one was a 4700 series international that side 'DT-466' on the side.. it was an older truck but he was crankin along with a massive 5th wheel on it..

the other I couldnt tell as it was on the other side of the road looked like a small semi extended (but not sleeper) cab that had a massive 5th wheel on it..

the Bus makes sense if you are going to travel a lot and need the ability to have the family comfortable trip-in and trip-out but if towing the trailer is only a one time thing, I would think about a truck of some sort.. unless you seriously plan to tow the trailer alot more..

why build a complete bus only to have that space you cut out for the tow-gear to be wasted / unusable when you want to travel...

perhaps look at this as 2 different operations..

1. getting the 5th wheel to alaska
2. having a camper to travel around in with the family..

as 2 separate entities.. even if you have to rent a truck to get the trailer there.. then have your bus to be your motorhome thereafter.

-Christopher
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Old 09-29-2016, 11:18 AM   #8
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Couple of those trucks in the kansas city metro area for sale right now. Honestly if I didn't already have the bus converted I'd think about getting one of these and converting a shipping container to live in...

1987 International

95 custom international truck

http://kansascity.craigslist.org/cto/5749384492.html
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Old 09-29-2016, 11:52 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by slaughridge85 View Post
Couple of those trucks in the kansas city metro area for sale right now. Honestly if I didn't already have the bus converted I'd think about getting one of these and converting a shipping container to live in...

1987 International

95 custom international truck

99 GMC TopKick 6500 w/Sleeper Cab

Thanks for the links.

If I was going for a vehicle where towing is the only concern, I could get what I need from that with a one ton dually and an extended or crew cab.

There is no way I would ever think of trying to stuff my wife and four dogs into one of those small conventional cabs for the extended trip it will take us to get to Alaska. You'd be reading about my wife murdering me in the papers!

As I mentioned before, the towing is actually the smallest part of my desire for using a bus. As long as it will get the job done and get us there safely, I am fine with it taking a longer time.

The main interest in using a bus for us is to make the trip up there easier on us AND to give me a small office that I can use for my work once we get there.

When we finally decide where in Alaska we want to put down our roots, we actually DO plan to build a shipping container home from two or three of them married together.

That way when we leave to go to town we can lock everything up from two legged and four legged critters alike and it will still be there when we get back.



Charles
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Old 09-29-2016, 01:09 PM   #10
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Toterhomes-









These will go a million miles and will be much better suited to interstate hauling than a pickup.
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Old 09-29-2016, 02:13 PM   #11
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Toterhomes-

<snip>

These will go a million miles and will be much better suited to interstate hauling than a pickup.
I have no doubt about that at all.

I'd love to be able to afford one of them, but they are all way too far out of budget.


My desire to convert a bus as described has four main objectives:

1) Be able to haul the 5th wheel on a one way (pretty much one time) trip.

2) Provide an easier "RV like" environment for that long trip.

3) Have space to use as an office after we get to Alaska and before we settle down and build our container home.

4) Spend about as much for the bus (I'll do the conversion myself for the most part) as I would for a good used one ton truck capable of pulling it.



Charles
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Old 09-29-2016, 02:21 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by CE42 View Post
I have no doubt about that at all.

I'd love to be able to afford one of them, but they are all way too far out of budget.


My desire to convert a bus as described has four main objectives:

1) Be able to haul the 5th wheel on a one way (pretty much one time) trip.

2) Provide an easier "RV like" environment for that long trip.

3) Have space to use as an office after we get to Alaska and before we settle down and build our container home.

4) Spend about as much for the bus (I'll do the conversion myself for the most part) as I would for a good used one ton truck capable of pulling it.



Charles
I can score a toter for like 10k all day here.
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Old 09-29-2016, 02:42 PM   #13
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My opinion - the T444 engine is alright, not great, not bad. It's more powerful than the 9L IH engine it replaced but there's a reason you don't find them in many (if any) medium duty trucks. They're fine for puttering around town and school routes, but not so much for moving heavy loads at interstate speeds and up hills. The DT466 will serve your needs much better, the mechanical versions being easier to DIY work on, boost the power on; the electronic versions will get a little more (stock) power and better fuel mileage.
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Old 09-29-2016, 05:25 PM   #14
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Go for a mechanical (pre 1996) DT466. If you don't mind being slow, don't worry about the transmission so much. Although as far as I know you are unable to install any kind of exhaust brake. We have a DT360 (severely underpowered but it gets us anywhere... slowly) and wanted a jake brake but (someone correct me if I'm wrong) it won't work. Also gearing down does almost nothing downhill unless you're in first gear, and that only does a little bit. Careful braking and plenty of cool down stops on long grades is the way to do it.

But as far as ease of repairs, mechanical engines are so simple that we were able to rebuild our engine with no previous experience. Also, our bus is pug nose, which is nice alternative because we did our overhaul from INSIDE the cab of the bus.
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Old 09-29-2016, 05:37 PM   #15
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even the DT-466E can be rebuilt in-frame of need-be.. although the electronics make it trickier to troubleshoot issues

onenation is right though on fixing things, the mechanicals are much easier to work on.. I really dont hear of a lot of peoiple having issues other than the normal stuff that can happen to any engine, like oil leaks, and NEVER get ANY DT-360 or DT-466 over-heated.. things go bad really quick...

we do hear of issues on some of the electronic engines.. however all of these have been around a long time that theres a Ton of youtube videos, forum posts on other truck forums, etc.. chances are, any engine you get that is commonly used there will be help you can get online.. parts cost more for electronic engines..

mechanical engines *CAN* be 'cranked up' to make more power if need-be... even a DT-360 can easily be turned up to push 210 HP easily... (perhaps at the loss of longevity)....

I personally find in a short bus my DT-360 is plenty powerful... takes me a little time to get up to speed but it does run down the highway... my new bus is a lighter-duty unit and has the electronic T-444E and it feels like a power-house.. but that electronic T444E doesnt feel nearly as "brute and rugged" as that DT engine does..
-Christopher
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Old 09-29-2016, 08:14 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad_SwiftFur View Post
My opinion - the T444 engine is alright, not great, not bad. It's more powerful than the 9L IH engine it replaced but there's a reason you don't find them in many (if any) medium duty trucks. They're fine for puttering around town and school routes, but not so much for moving heavy loads at interstate speeds and up hills. The DT466 will serve your needs much better, the mechanical versions being easier to DIY work on, boost the power on; the electronic versions will get a little more (stock) power and better fuel mileage.
Thanks for the info Brad!

Charles
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Old 09-29-2016, 08:30 PM   #17
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its interestiung .. DT vs V8...

i drove both busses today one right after the other... the T444E and then my DT-360..

what I noticed is the T444E likes its power more high end... and the DT-360 is a torque monster right off the line... granted the new bus is Much lighter than my 91..

it feels like my DT-360 at low RPM could easily beat the new bus.. but at high speed the new Bus would beat the DT... I dont know on hills... my guess is that T444E would run out of steam pretty quickly.. it just doesnt seem like the heavy duty Big-tough-man feel that a DT does...

for a light bus and what im planning to use it for.. (a bus...) it will be fine.. but in a heavy full size bus I definitely would want something with more brute...

plus from a repair standpiont.. when i look under the hood of the mechanical DT i can recognize everything and access everything... on the T444E theres not only wires and controllers like crazy.. theres a lot of things I just plain dont recognize.... would make fixing it harder..

on the UPside a computer CAN help you fix a broken engine.. running a full-time scanner on the engine you can learn how all the parameters look when its running right.. and then notice if soimething looks out of whack.. theres a lot of data... and thus you may be able to predict a failure or be more prepared for something and catch it early rather than just.. well.. kablooey.. and that wiould be the same for a DT-466E ..
-Christopher
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Old 09-29-2016, 08:39 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onenationundergoat View Post
Go for a mechanical (pre 1996) DT466. If you don't mind being slow, don't worry about the transmission so much. Although as far as I know you are unable to install any kind of exhaust brake. We have a DT360 (severely underpowered but it gets us anywhere... slowly) and wanted a jake brake but (someone correct me if I'm wrong) it won't work. Also gearing down does almost nothing downhill unless you're in first gear, and that only does a little bit. Careful braking and plenty of cool down stops on long grades is the way to do it.

But as far as ease of repairs, mechanical engines are so simple that we were able to rebuild our engine with no previous experience. Also, our bus is pug nose, which is nice alternative because we did our overhaul from INSIDE the cab of the bus.
Thanks for your input (that is an interesting crew you have there - makes me feel better about our four dogs!).

I've seen a few pug nose buses so it is nice to talk to someone who has one.

From what I read here after a quick search:
Exhaust brake for a DT360 w/AT545 - TheDieselGarage.com

You do have options for a retarder for your DT360, so you might want to look into that.

Charles
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Old 09-29-2016, 08:50 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
even the DT-466E can be rebuilt in-frame of need-be.. although the electronics make it trickier to troubleshoot issues

onenation is right though on fixing things, the mechanicals are much easier to work on.. I really dont hear of a lot of peoiple having issues other than the normal stuff that can happen to any engine, like oil leaks, and NEVER get ANY DT-360 or DT-466 over-heated.. things go bad really quick...

we do hear of issues on some of the electronic engines.. however all of these have been around a long time that theres a Ton of youtube videos, forum posts on other truck forums, etc.. chances are, any engine you get that is commonly used there will be help you can get online.. parts cost more for electronic engines..

mechanical engines *CAN* be 'cranked up' to make more power if need-be... even a DT-360 can easily be turned up to push 210 HP easily... (perhaps at the loss of longevity)....

I personally find in a short bus my DT-360 is plenty powerful... takes me a little time to get up to speed but it does run down the highway... my new bus is a lighter-duty unit and has the electronic T-444E and it feels like a power-house.. but that electronic T444E doesnt feel nearly as "brute and rugged" as that DT engine does..
-Christopher
Thanks Christopher!

Today I visited the head of one of the local school bus garages and spent some time talking with him about the project.

He said that as far as International engines go, that I should try to avoid anything 2007 or newer if possible. He said that they seem to have gone overboard with the electronics to the point where there are a lot of problems and even troubleshooting costs a lot more since you have to swap things out to see if the fix is in (which is not always the case).

It was interesting that he said from their experience (and he has been head of the bus garage for something like 20 years) that the DT-466, T444E and Cumins were all roughly the same. No one was particularly better or worse as long as you understood the nuances of the engines.

He liked the DT-466's (especially the mechanical ones), but said that the drivers who took care of the T444Es and did not overheat them ended up having less problems than the 466's.

He said that these days they try to buy Cummins in most everything.

On the transmission side of things, he said I was going to have a really hard time finding a reasonably priced bus that did not have the 545 (at least in the Southern part of the country) since that was what most schools had been ordering down here for a long time.

Still it was a good conversation and he was good enough to put me onto another county (even providing a contact and phone number) that was about to retire some flat nosed buses.

I don't have any idea what they have yet, but I will be talking to them tomorrow.

It would be nice to cut the middleman out of the sales price!



Charles
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Old 09-29-2016, 09:04 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
its interestiung .. DT vs V8...

i drove both busses today one right after the other... the T444E and then my DT-360..

what I noticed is the T444E likes its power more high end... and the DT-360 is a torque monster right off the line... granted the new bus is Much lighter than my 91..

it feels like my DT-360 at low RPM could easily beat the new bus.. but at high speed the new Bus would beat the DT... I dont know on hills... my guess is that T444E would run out of steam pretty quickly.. it just doesnt seem like the heavy duty Big-tough-man feel that a DT does...

for a light bus and what im planning to use it for.. (a bus...) it will be fine.. but in a heavy full size bus I definitely would want something with more brute...

plus from a repair standpiont.. when i look under the hood of the mechanical DT i can recognize everything and access everything... on the T444E theres not only wires and controllers like crazy.. theres a lot of things I just plain dont recognize.... would make fixing it harder..

on the UPside a computer CAN help you fix a broken engine.. running a full-time scanner on the engine you can learn how all the parameters look when its running right.. and then notice if soimething looks out of whack.. theres a lot of data... and thus you may be able to predict a failure or be more prepared for something and catch it early rather than just.. well.. kablooey.. and that wiould be the same for a DT-466E ..
-Christopher
VERY interesting - thanks for the data.

One of the comments the bus garage head had to say about the mechanical DT-466's (or any older engine) is that the young mechanics fresh out of school are mostly totally lost on them.

They all can run the computers and do the diagnostics and repairs well enough, but most only scratched their heads otherwise.

Charles
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