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Old 01-08-2014, 11:49 PM   #1
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Hey guys! I'm new here. I''ve been interested in converting a bus into a moterhome since early in highschool. I'm 20 now, and a professional engineer. That means I finally have enough income to attempt this project. I've been doing research for years, but only just discovered this forum dedicated to the topic. I'm pretty handy with tools, and I have a deep understanding of electrical and mechanical systems, but I cant do this alone. I need some advice.

I'm looking to get a either a pusher, or cab-over school bus, but I would prefer a cab-over so I can have a back door. the bigger the better. Must be younger than 1980, and in good mechanical shape, as I have never worked on a diesel in my life. I have a budget of $2500 to buy a bus. I really want to do this on a budget. I can do a lot of the required work on my own, and I know where to find cheap parts (it's part of my job). I can live without a lot of creature comforts. Does $7000 sound like an unreasonable overall budget?

I know the school system auctions off their busses every once in a while. Where can I find these auctions in northern California, and when do they occur? What types of motors and transmisions should I avoid? (I prefer a manual for the reliability, but I understand this is rare in a bus)

I used to work restoring cars, so I can strip a machine down and do repairs, sand and repaint rust, put down insulation and carpet, but I've never built a home. My plumbing and carpentry skills are slim. I'm confident that i can get the bus, strip it down, get it in good shape as an empty shell, but I have no idea where to go from there. How do you mount walls to the floor and ceiling? How do you attach water tanks to the underbelly? Where do you even find suitable tanks?

I've always had people tell my i'm crazy for pursuing this idea. It's great to find a whole community of people who are crazy too! Thanks!
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Old 01-10-2014, 02:58 AM   #2
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Re: Plasma

Hey, I can't help much because I'm starting out too, but I can share the little info that I know. (Maybe people will correct me too)
I was talking to a bus guy a little while ago and buses started becoming automatic aroooooouuuund 1999? I think? Mine is 1994 and is standard, but I looked at another from '99 and it was auto. I got mine for $3000, but that's after the owner sunk thousands of $$ into making sure the motor was in perfect condition and making sure the brakes were perfect as well. (I have airbrakes) He said he put in $9000 to it already, just in mechanical work itself. (though, this bus was part of a district so it was maintained yearly anyways.)
Although, for budget, it really depends. Like, I could grab a bunch of things off of the free section in craigslist and do it for super cheap, so $7000 doesnt sound unreasonable, but maybe there will be surprises that you dont expect. You are more handy than I, though, so you could probably get away with surprises without spending much!
I live in canada, and buses on Craiglist usually go between $2500 and $5000. The more expensive ones come from fleets and stuff.
Your best bet for ex-fleet buses is to contact the district and ask where they send their buses. Our buses go to ADESA to be auctioned. I dont know if that is a big enough company to be in the states though. Perhaps your best bet is to contact districts, use craigslist and kijiji and maybe even ebay. Though, when I search on craigslist, buses only pop up once every few months so searching and finding is tedious. I personally dont know how people use ebay --it sounds like a lot of trust. Haha.
I have literally no skills at all so I'm basically flying by the seat of my pants. I'm lucky my dad knows some things, and I took a program that happened to have a carpentry course so I know how to use power tools. I'm taking everything as it comes and doing things as I can. Just from reading bits on this website I've formulated plan(s), and it really depends how in-depth you want to go. For example, you can leave the bus walls and ceiling as-is, or you can check to see if there is insulation/mold. So you can leave the basics as-is and just build in it, or you can tear it apart a bit more to see if anything is having issues.
The only difference I know about buses from here and buses from warmer places is that yours will most likely have an air conditioning unit and little to no rust (no rust underneath)
where mine has heaters and could have rust underneath from driving in rainy/snowy conditions and rust from salt on the roads.
Also, my dad has a motorhome and the water tank is under the bed in the back. so having water on board is an option.
also, composting toilets are a thing, but the one I looked at is around $1000. it requires little electricity and is very small, and easy to maintain. so that doesnt require a sewage tank, but you will need a tank for dirty water I suppose.
I am also unsure about walls, but I have a feeling it may be easier than it looks.
Also, up here we have by-laws where we cant have commercial vehicles on residential property or else we get a fine, so make sure that isnt a thing where you live. Mine needs to be built and insured as an RV before I can put it on my property.
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Old 01-10-2014, 09:17 AM   #3
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Re: Plasma

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plasma
Hey guys! I'm new here. I''ve been interested in converting a bus into a moterhome since early in highschool. I'm 20 now, and a professional engineer. That means I finally have enough income to attempt this project. I've been doing research for years, but only just discovered this forum dedicated to the topic. I'm pretty handy with tools, and I have a deep understanding of electrical and mechanical systems, but I cant do this alone. I need some advice.

I'm looking to get a either a pusher, or cab-over school bus, but I would prefer a cab-over so I can have a back door. the bigger the better. Must be younger than 1980, and in good mechanical shape, as I have never worked on a diesel in my life. I have a budget of $2500 to buy a bus. I really want to do this on a budget. I can do a lot of the required work on my own, and I know where to find cheap parts (it's part of my job). I can live without a lot of creature comforts. Does $7000 sound like an unreasonable overall budget?

I know the school system auctions off their busses every once in a while. Where can I find these auctions in northern California, and when do they occur? What types of motors and transmisions should I avoid? (I prefer a manual for the reliability, but I understand this is rare in a bus)

I used to work restoring cars, so I can strip a machine down and do repairs, sand and repaint rust, put down insulation and carpet, but I've never built a home. My plumbing and carpentry skills are slim. I'm confident that i can get the bus, strip it down, get it in good shape as an empty shell, but I have no idea where to go from there. How do you mount walls to the floor and ceiling? How do you attach water tanks to the underbelly? Where do you even find suitable tanks?

I've always had people tell my i'm crazy for pursuing this idea. It's great to find a whole community of people who are crazy too! Thanks!
Welcome!! First thing I recommend doing is read as much as you can here. It's hard to find the info you want sometimes, but just keep reading other people's build threads and you'll get a ton of good ideas on wall construction, tanks, insulation, etc... As far as buses "becoming" automatic around 1999, not sure where that came from. My bus is a 1991 international and it came with an automatic. As far as drivetrain goes, I am only going to comment on that which I am knowledgeable on. The DT466 and the Cummins 8.3 are generally viewed as the 2 most sought after engines. The DT360 and Cummins 5.9 are decent engines as well, just a little underpowered. There are good Cat engines and bad Cat engines, but I can't remember which is which I would avoid a gas engine, if I were you. Not as much power or longevity, generally speaking. For transmission, I don't much experience with manuals, but for automatics, the MT643 and the MD3060 are 2 that are pretty high up on the list. The MT643 has 4 gears plus a lockup torque converter. It does not have overdrive. On my bus at least, it is mechanically controlled. The MD3060 comes on some newer buses, and is electronically controlled. It will have either 1 or 2 overdrives and a lockup torque converter. On a bus, it seems to always just have one overdrive programmed. One to avoid is the AT545. It's weaker in general and does not have a lockup overdrive, which makes it very prone to overheating.

Your budget of 7k would probably be doable, but will likely be tight. I am probably closer to 10k on mine, but I am somewhat just guessing.
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Old 01-10-2014, 11:57 AM   #4
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Re: Plasma

Jake...show off....


I agree tho' x 2
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Old 01-10-2014, 12:29 PM   #5
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Re: Plasma

Haha!!
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Old 01-10-2014, 03:56 PM   #6
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Re: Plasma

Can anybody comment on how a cab-over transit compares to a pusher transit?
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Old 01-10-2014, 05:00 PM   #7
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Cab-over is going to be noisier and more potential for heat up front while driving. The rear pusher is quieter, which translates to a smoother riding experience in my opinion, but you loose the capability of a large back door.

One member here just reported that his pusher performed very well in snow.
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Old 01-10-2014, 08:20 PM   #8
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Re: Plasma

Does anyone know when the school systems typically cycle out their old busses? I've heard it said that they are available very cheap in the summer just after school ends. I dont want to pull the trigger on a bus now just to find a better one cheaper in the summer. Or are they sold pretty evenly all year round?

Thanks for all the great replies. To be honest, theres only two reasons i'm interested in a cab-over. One is the back door, which is handy, but the main reason is that i'm a gearhead, and the thought of riding right along side the powerplant is pretty awesome. I'm not opposed to some engine noise, but I do forsee driving in cold climates a lot. Better traction in the snow is a big plus for me.
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Old 01-10-2014, 10:19 PM   #9
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Re: Plasma

Here in California there are a lot of school districts scapping out their buses do to 2014 diesel emissions, some are getting grants to crush buses but the grants are running out, maybe start going to school district transportation offices & just ask what their doing with their buses, I just recently scored a Crown that didn't go to the crusher but Redwood City I hear is getting ready to crush 2 of them, Start by asking
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Old 01-10-2014, 10:19 PM   #10
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Re: Plasma

I'm a gearhead as well, even have my DT466 tweaked a bit and have a stack, lol... (you can see it if you look towards the end of my build thread), so I get what you are saying. I have driven a cab-over straight truck and the steady drone got REALLY old. My current bus is a dognose, which I like, but the ideal for me would still be a pusher. One thing I have noticed with pushers is that because the engine is in the rear and you don't really hear it, it makes the power feel effortless and smooth. I like that
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